From Way Up On Top of the Carpet Padding...
Just like the opportunity for voters to find new users of the official White House stemware, the mammoth Print 09 trade show blows into the windy city every four years. Chicago's cavernous McCormick Place was once again the site for the six day event that showcases press, converting and finishing equipment manufacturers along with premedia and prepress service providers.
From most of the exhibitors that I talked to, attendance during the event started off slow on Friday, but picked up as the show progressed. Many did think that overall the attendance was down substantially from Print 05. However, when I was there on Monday (day 4), it was at times difficult to talk with some of the vendors, as many booths I visited were packed with attendees. I suspect the same would not have been true on Saturday or Sunday given the beautiful weather in Chicago.
Whether it is Graph Expo or Print, I think the square footage of the floor space that some companies occupy is in direct proportion to the amount of padding that is placed under the carpeting in their booth. Take a few of the larger exhibitors like Heidelberg, Xerox, or HP for example. I actually had to use a rope ladder to climb onto their floor space. Once I was up there, I had to crouch my 6' 4" frame at times to keep my head from coming in contact with the structural support joists for the McCormick Place roof. And then it was like walking on a Tempurpedic mattress. 24 feet of memory foam under foot takes its toll eventually. I heard several people were taken to the hospital for falling off of the carpeting.
Okay, on a more semi-serious note, here is some random thoughts from just a few of the 650+ exhibitors that occupied the more than 460,000 square feet of floor space...
A lot of the buzz I heard was based not on what was there, but what was NOT there. Namely any equipment from Kodak. In a bold move, they instead chose to fill their booth with a bunch of interactive information kiosks. They also had a large set, called the K-Zone, where they conducted interviews of various industry leaders in a talk show format. It was exactly like "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien", except a lot less funny. I thought the Kodak booth was well designed and it seemed to be pretty crowded every time I walked through it. Some people where a bit put off that they did not show any equipment. I give them credit for at least trying something different. At the very least, they generated a lot of buzz throughout the show.
Kodak also had a pretty cool handout at the show...Their magazine called "One" had a 5 mil clear polyester outer cover printed on a Gallus EM 510 S press. What was unique about it was that it showed an image on the outside printed (from the inside) with 20 micron stochastic screening and another image printed with a 200 line screen on the inside. It was essentially four color process, two hits of white, and another four color process on top of that. A nice flexo project showcasing their Flexcel NX Digital Flexographic System.
FineEye Color Solutions (formerly known as Chromaticity) introduced the ICE (intelligent color engine) technology in the form of the ICEserver. The ICEserver is a Mac based application that processes PDF files before imaging on a CTP, inkjet or color controller RIP. It takes a different approach for converting files from RGB to CMYK. It recalculates color conversions with new algorithms, accounting for paper color values. Programmed Color Reformulation (PCR) is built into the ICEserver which functions in a way like GCR - replacing some CMY with black. They claim ICE yields a 20% increase in gamut with existing CMYK inks; 25% average reduction in ink use; increase in dynamic range and contrast; faster makereadies and it equals gray balance and tonality of GRACoL and SWOP. The before/after color samples they displayed in their booth were impressive. They intend to have another ICE product out early next year - ICEmaker which will be a Photoshop plug in using the same technology for color separation. Hmmm, that makes me think... maybe Widen should OEM their ICE technology and incorporate it into our digital asset management software. We'll call it ICEdam. And we'll call our Widen Appliance server ICEcube. And then there will be ICEberg to sink large ocean liners carrying Leonardo DiCaprio, and... Okay, I'll stop now.
What was the deal with the AT&T coverage in the McCormick Place exhibit halls? Can't a guy get a decent Internet connection on his iPhone so he can tweet? And don't get me started on the $12 burger in the Plate Room food court that tasted like a sweaty shin guard.
Just Normlicht, the German manufacturer of light booths and desktop viewers was showing off their new LED Color Viewing Light. The desktop viewer uses new LED technology to replicate almost any standardized light source. The new LED technology also offers the ability to simulate any light source with or without the UV spectrum allowing for easy viewing of the effects of optical brightening agents found in many commercially available substrates. The consistent color in these booths can be maintained for 25,000 hours - 10 times as long as a standard booth containing fluorescent tubes. They had these new LED products on display along with their line of Just colorCommunicator booths which are equipped with a USB interface for calibrating the intensity of the standardized lighting along with the monitor. For more information on the pricey new Just LED booths, see my previous blog post called, Let there be LED.
GMG introduced the ColorServer Plus - A new color management solution specifically designed to allow companies to consistently print to an industry standard (GRACoL) on a digital press to achieve color accuracy. At Print 09, GMG announced the use of GMG ColorServer Plus driving an HP Indigo press. ColorServer Plus uses GMG’s iterative profiling approach to establish a precise calibration state of the digital printer as well as conformance to a specific industry or in-house print standard.
I think I'll skip the $12 burger at Graph Expo 2010.