Don't get caught in the ink storm

Do I think things will improve in 2011?" ponders Tudor Morgan, Fujifilm Europe group marketing manager, graphics and wide format, when asked if the upwardly mobile ink prices of 2010 will continue their ascent this year. He pauses. It is a pause full of the uncertainty in which the industry is currently immersed when it comes to the cost of inks. And then: "I'm not really the man to ask, but I bloody hope so."

Printers will no doubt echo the sentiment, but the problem is that, for them, hoping may not be enough. Ink prices rose in some cases by up to 25% last year and all the indications are that they will continue in an upward trajectory. Where before ink manufacturers absorbed raw material price hikes through greater efficiencies in the


For those of a particularly pessimistic persuasion, an attribute sometimes levelled at printers - here is something to cheer your cold, printer's heart. While much of the print industry is suffering with a drop in demand as rival media and tighter budgets work to reduce volumes, one sector is providing a glimmer of hope by not just maintaining an even keel but growing as demand for its products increases. That sector is rigid board.

Unlike elsewhere in the print market, which has largely seen a

To infinity and beyond

Why would anyone in their right mind spend money on printing units that will be sitting around idle half the time? Well, for some companies this apparent contradiction will be a price worth paying in order to achieve the Holy Grail of zero makeready times and continuous production.

There’s a printing plant in St Petersburg, Florida, where such a nirvana already exists. Cox Target Media invested some $220m two-and-a-half years ago in a brand-new facility set up specifically to produce

Finishing line is on the move

The finishing department used to be such a predictable place. Dull, even, with a standard range of equipment doing all that unremarkable fold, stitch and trim stuff.

However, Madonna-like, finishing has reinvented itself in the digital age, and is now likely to be viewed as a powerful profit centre. It's an area that's certainly the focus of an enormous amount of invention. Witness the dazzling range of devices on display at Ipex, in particular, the kit targeted at digital printers. A host of

Keeping it consistent

Colour accuracy and consistency are becoming increasingly important. In the offset world, the move is towards print produced to the ISO 12647 colour standard.

The problem for anyone producing digital print is that there are no standards for digital colour – neither toner nor inkjet. The ISO 12647 specification is process-specific and, while the most common part of the standard, ISO 12647-2, refers to offset reproduction, there are other parts of the standard that relate to other

The heat is on

Ask a printer to explain to you the environmental performance of his presses and, without pause, he will be able to regale you for several hours on the subject. Ask him, however, about how green his building is and he'll probably just look puzzled. For when it comes to print and the environment, the focus is all on print and not the building in which the process happens.

According to Dominic Burbridge, a senior advisor at the Carbon Trust, this means printers are missing a massive opportunity

Cracking codes

The Thing’ sounds like the sort of 1950s B-movie monster whose presence is accompanied by the eerie sound of a Theremin to add extra spookiness. However, in this instance it refers to the Great Seal bug, an eavesdropping device that the Russians sneaked into the US Embassy in Moscow. Presented by schoolchildren, The Thing was a cunning device designed to pick up what was being said and transmit it by radio for interception. By coincidence, it was designed by Léon

A need for speed

One of the most important changes heralded in part by digital print, but also due to the changing dynamic in the wider world and a desire for immediate gratification, is the switch from high-value high-volume work to low-value low-volume work. Before you can even get an order you need to get the customer a price.

"Lead times are vanishing," says director of digital printer Cypher Digital Paul Calland. "Customers want quotes in minutes or hours because they've left the job to the last minute

Digital goes heavy metal

For all digital print’s many advantages, there are some applications that have remained stubbornly the preserve of more conventional processes. And this is a problem for anyone wanting to produce short-run jobs economically, while exploiting print’s unique tactile and aesthetic qualities.

For print to compete with other media, it needs to play to its sensory strengths while addressing its cost weaknesses. If you want to add value to short runs, then you need to be able to do so

Taking the tablets

In 2010, print is a 24/7 industry. This makes anytime, anywhere availability of information vitally important. But until the 1980s and the advent of management information systems (MIS), it was virtually impossible to achieve this. Prior to the 80s, if you wanted to check the progress of a job you had to walk onto the pressroom floor and ask the press minder. MIS was the game changer in terms of enabling business owners to keep tabs on the ebb and flow of jobs going through their presses

Pimp your press

You wouldn’t put diesel in a Ferrari,” argued Tottenham Hotspur FC manager Harry Redknapp earlier this month. The analogy is apt; his view was that Premier League footballers should avoid alcohol in order to prolong their careers. The Spurs boss could easily have been talking about a press; giving it the kind of care normally reserved for a high performance car will ensure that it doesn’t behave as erratically as a drunken footballer after a night on the town.

It is an

Jon Severs investigates the recession impact

At first glance, you may think that TV makeover guru Gok Wan has little relevance to the macho world of printing. Indeed, your average printer probably hasn't even seen Gok's particular iteration of the makeover format. However, following the recent release of the Heidelberg Speedmaster CX 102 and the Komori Enthrone, the fashionista's philosophy of creating a 'new you' by doing nothing more than putting the subject in different clothes may strike a chord among printers. For rather than

Digital print steps up to the plate

Improvements in technology and deteriorating market conditions have meant that whereas once   newspaper publishers shunned digital, they are now clamouring to use it

It recently transpired that when newspaper giant News International was in the planning stages of what would eventually lead to a web press investment at its UK sites, it seriously considered including digital presses in the spend.

The plan centred on placing machines to produce The Sun and The Times in commercial

Finding the right plate chemistry

The charge levelled against processless, chemistry-free or low-chemistry plates is that they can't cope with long-run jobs. The case for the prosecution centres on two main issues - cost and technology - and the perceived wisdom is that larger B1 outfits are better off with conventional plates because they're cheaper and more durable.

However, the case for the defence is gathering some momentum. The environmental benefits are considerable and the cost of processless plates is coming down

Print gets some new material

Paper’s environmental credentials are central to the sustainability of commercial print jobs, but what about other print applications and the media they use? In the signage and display sectors, plastics are as likely to be used as paper and board and the provenance and disposal of those plastics is becoming as important to those markets as  those of paper in general print.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl, is a ubiquitous material, but its use is under threat in many

Keeping track of food on the move

In the not-too-distant future, the humble milk carton could carry a printed code, which, when scanned with a mobile phone, will direct the consumer to a website containing information on the brand, a promotion and details of the farm where the milk was produced - and maybe even the name of the cow.

The idea that consumers want to know that it was Daisy, rather than Buttercup, who has whitened their morning cuppas may be bizarre, but the technology to make it happen exists. Such codes have been

New era for consumables

Superior solutions and environmental considerations have put a huge premium on consumables, but it still pays not to go cheap

On-press consumables for offset presses have changed almost beyond recognition in the past 10 years. The general formulas of fount solution, inks and washes, together with the materials used to make blankets and roller coverings, have undergone dramatic changes to cope with developments in both press technology and the new, more exacting

Fabrics a la mode

Textile printing is in fashion at the moment. Wherever you look, advertising hoardings and high-street stores are covered with a glittering patterns. But whereas historically these results were achieved using screen presses, increasingly the in-vogue method of choice is digital.

Fabric on Demand is one example of this burgeoning trend. This California-based company allows customers to create their own fabric designs and get them digitally printed via a simple step-by-step submission process on

The Lesser of Two Evils

While international trends are leaning more and more towards the use of environmentally-products, printers and print buyers in the Middle East are also starting to see its relevance - making the shift to the use of recycled paper and now, environmentally-friendly inks.

 But to what extent is this trend paying off?

 Are vegetable oil-based inks finally getting ahead of the more hazardous mineral oil-based inks?

 “Our customers have been asking for vegetable-based

Where will ink's future run?

In the past two years, the mass closure of print firms has put enormous pressure on the ink market. Bad debt coupled with fluctuating raw material prices has created incredibly challenging trading conditions, making it difficult for the ink industry to plot a strategy for the future. Despite this bleak outlook, some suppliers have coped admirably, reorganising their businesses in an attempt to differentiate themselves from the competition.

But what does the future hold for the sector in general

One stop printer's shop

Historically, if you wanted to buy a printing press you would go to a printing press manufacturer or licensed dealer; if you wanted to purchase consumables for that same press then you would strike a deal with the company who sold you the machine or alternatively you would set up an account with a consumables specialist; and if you wanted to buy paper then you would go to a paper merchant.
You could drill down even further into these sectors and separate digital press dealers from

Pressing changes

In December last year, press manufacturer KBA announced that it would diversify "into emerging areas to create sustainable successful business activities" that would "complement its press manufacturing tradition". Dissect this rather complicated sentence and the message is quite simple: diversification away from its core offset presses business is on the agenda.

And KBA is not alone. Other offset press manufacturers seem to be going down a similar route, with recent reports suggesting

Q&A with Rima Alsaleh, regional sales manager - GCC Region, OKI Europe

How did you get into printing?
Having started my experience in IT field -specifically in the printing industry- showed me the high demand of digital printing and its day-to-day innovation elements, so it clicked for me!

What do you like about your job?
The challenges we face daily and how we should proactively solve them. This ignites the creativity to handle changes and coming up with new solutions, not to forget how it makes the personality stronger and more adapting.

What would be your dream

Can you bank on print's future?

Settle down in your living room and, while surfing the web on your wide-screen TV, why not check the health of your bank account?

When you click on the link, a virtual bank clerk appears and tells you your current balance and advises you on any pre-approved or special offers. The new ISA deal sounds attractive, so you decide to book a face-to-face meeting with an advisor at your local branch, but you don't have to leave the comfort of your chair - the meeting will take place in your front room

Grocery bag wrapping paper

There’s no need to purchase wrapping paper when you can make your own out of brown paper grocery bags. The results are unique and the process is fun and quick. In this article you’ll learn to decorate the wrapping paper with patterns using a felt pen and acrylic paint. For that you’ll need brown paper bag(s), acrylic paints, black felt pen, paint brushes, paint tray and scissors.

Begin cutting the bag in one of the corners seams. Cut down the length of the bag until you get to the bottom. Then

MIS: some assembly required

Some people have a problem with letting go. “I’m just an old-fashioned printer who wants to do everything, even sweep the yard,” explains Peter Arnel, joint managing director at the White Horse Press. That desire to do as much as possible has filtered its way to the company’s management information system (MIS). Buying an off-the-shelf product from an MIS vendor was never an option; Arnel started working on his system as far back as the early 1970s.

“Then in