Benefits of attending a Sign & Printer Expo
There are several ways to learn about the world of printers, inks, substrates, cutters, RIP software, and all the equipment and techniques of the workflow of printers for signage.
- trial-and-error in your own facility
- Visiting successful print shops who have already mastered everything
- Visiting the local distributor demo rooms
- Visiting the factory demo rooms
- Visiting printer expos
- Attending specialized courses
- Hiring a consultant
I mention all these since we at FLAAR have utilized each aspect starting in the late 1990’s and then for many subsequent years.
Attending specialized courses
IMI conferences are a great way to learn about printheads and inks. I have attended these conferences multiple times in Europe and USA when I was beginning my learning curve. In 2017 we look forward to sending other members of the FLAAR Reports evaluation team to have this learning experience at IMI conferences. Their web site is www.imiconf.com.
Now IMI is adding specialized textile training courses, with one in beautiful Tokyo. Ironically the first FLAAR Reports were written in Osaka, while I was a visiting professor and consultant (in digital imaging technology) for six months, on a fellowship at the leading ethnography-ethnology museum in Osaka. We recommend both IMI and experiencing Japan.
There are other companies and universities organizing inkjet printer conferences around the world, but since I have attended many IMI conferences and not yet any of the others, I can’t yet know the added benefits of others. Keep in mind that all IMI events are focused on their topics, plus are attended by leading specialists and printing and ink managers. So networking opportunities are outstanding.
Hiring a Consultant
Yes, even we at FLAAR have hired a consultant, two in fact, but over 15 years ago. Now it is our teams who are hired as consultants. We work all over the world: Dubai, USA, China, Korea, Taiwan, and other countries. But there are also several other knowledgeable consultants that we would recommend, such as Dr Ray Work for questions on ink.
Visiting local distributor demo rooms
The major distributors in the UAE have their demo rooms. With an appointment you can visit these facilities and have samples printed for you (so you can see potential equipment at work in a relaxed atmosphere). But first, be sure to attend the local trade show SGI.
The importance of attending the printer expo in Dubai is so you can decide which of the major distributors you wish to start with.
Visiting factory demo rooms
We suggest doing a visit to local demo rooms before reserving a visit to the factory demo room. We at FLAAR have been to the VUTEk factory, to Durst nine times (five times in Italy, four times in adjacent southern Austria), to Zund in Switzerland, RTZ Flora in Shenzhen, JFH-Leopard-Vista in Beijing, Oce near Vancouver, and will be in the Chinese ink factory of TrendVision in a few days. We have also visited paper and media factories in Europe, Korea, and China (three times to the PE as technical textile factory of Yeung Jeou (ARIA media). Xaar printhead company has taken us to several printer factories in China and of course we have visited factories in Taiwan and Korea. We have also been to the Xaar headquarters in the UK.
But always start with the trade show, to become familiar with the brands and workflow.
Visiting successful print shops who have already mastered everything
We have visited printing companies in Vietnam, China, Europe, UAE, and USA. The best way to learn is to speak with the manager(s) and owner(s) in one session. And then speak with the printer operator separately (as they can discretely tell you the actual factory reality of the printer, inks and software).
One obstacle to visiting print shops is that understandably most do not want to reveal what equipment or software is their “secret weapon” of success in doing a better job. Since we at FLAAR are not printing competitors, it is easier to get access (since the print shop realizes they will learn a lot from us, since we provide free consulting on-the-spot while we are also learning from them).
It may be easier to visit print shops in a country which is far from your own, as this way you are not viewed as local competition. When you go to your printer trade show, you can ask the international or regional managers of the products you are considering buying, for them to suggest how to access print shops in another country which is easy for you to visit. Or in some cases, local printing companies may in fact be accessible to you (but it is better in a country where your increased knowledge will not make you a competitor to the host).
Don’t forget Color Management, Cutters, Laminators, etc.
It is natural to think first of the printer. But don’t forget everything that makes the printer do an even better job: RIP software, color management tools and software, cutters, laminators, and coaters? What is the difference between a laminator and a coater? Here is another great reason for visiting your local trade show and learning about the pros and cons of each. I have visited Caldera RIP headquarters in France, Wasatch in the USA, and the most sophisticated color management company, Barbieri in northern Italy (same city as Durst factory).
Trial-and-Error in your own Facility
I like this method too, but I can’t say that I would always recommend it. FLAAR was in charge of two printer, ink, RIP and color management testing and valuation facilities: one at BGSU university in Ohio; the other at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala. Now that UV printers are a focus, it is not realistic to have these printers shipped to a university! So we have continued independently and find it best to visit factory demo rooms, local distributor demo rooms and especially trade shows. I visited SIX international trade shows in a row just last month (starting with FESPA Africa 2016 and continuing through SGIA (USA), Glasstec and Photokina (Germany), Tecnargilla for printing on ceramic tiles (Italy) and then Sign Istanbul). It took 74,000 kilometers of travel last month but I learned a lot, especially about all the inks other than UV-curing for printing on glass and on ceramic tiles. I write this article at the airport en route to visiting an ink factory then two giant expos in Shanghai (at two different convention centers).
Helpful Tip from 18 Years Experience
Have I not learned enough from 18 years printer, ink, and media experience? Actually, it is the excitement of learning even more that keeps me traveling. For example, there is so much happening in textile printing such as in the booth of efi VUTEk or learning about the new Panasonic printheads for textile printers in the Mimaki booth. I look forward to learning about textile printers and workflow equipment in other booths at the upcoming SGI 2017 in Dubai in mid-January.
So to get started in the trend towards textile printing, SGI demonstrates that a local expo is essential.
For UV-curing printers you can experience many brands, plus latex of HP.
And don’t forget printable media and substrates. For cutters you could learn about Aristo, Esko Kongsberg, Zund, and a dozen CNC routers, CO2 laser engravers from around the world. I have visited the Zund and the MultiCam factories and look forward to visiting the Aristo cutter factory in 2017.
So for many reasons it is a good learning experience to visit SGI. I have enjoyed attending SGI for many years and hope to see you here in January.