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Jun 1, 1997 12:00 AM

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It's almost here. The big one. The show of shows. The printing show of the year. Yes, you guessed it: Print 97.

September 3-10 are the dates. Chicago's McCormick Place is the place, and everyone in the graphic arts community will be exhibiting or attending.

This massive show promises to be a showcase of new technology and the latest gimmicks and gizmos to attract printers and converters from across the country and the world. Not since 1991 have U.S. printers seen a Print show in Chicago. That's right, it's been six years since the last one. And in today's graphic arts world, six years can be the equivalent of six decades in terms of technical development and innovation.

One million sq. ft. of printing, converting and digital technology will make up the Print 97 show floor. (Bring your sneakers!) Over 1,000 exhibitors from around the world will make up the Print 97/Converflex-USA exhibition hall. And 100 educational seminars will supplement the mammoth show floor efforts.

Heidelberg USA alone has reserved more than 86,000 net sq. ft., making it the largest contiguous space ever occupied by a single vendor in any U.S. trade show. Joining Heidelberg will be MAN Roland with 32,000 sq. ft., Komori America, opting for 16,000 sq. ft., Goss Graphic Systems with 15,400 sq. ft. and KBA Planeta/KBA Group occupying 14,300 sq. ft.

A strong digital presence also will be on hand with Agfa, Polychrome, Fuji Photo Film USA, Konica Imaging, Scitex America and Apple occupying a total of 32,800 sq. ft.

What are the logistics you need to be aware of when you decide to attend?

As for the show itself, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, September 3 through Tuesday, September 9; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, September 10. An exhibits admission badge will admit attendees to all eight days of both Print and Converflex. Advance registration, which is available until July 28, is only $20, half the price of the $40 on-site registration.

If you have questions about registration, call 703/264-7208 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Taking our crystal ball in hand, the editors of american printer have tried to imagine what new technologies Print 97 will hold in store.

There is no doubt that the trend toward computer-to-plate (CTP) will continue at a heightened pace. Look for more types of CTP devices aimed at mid-sized printers. For example, Linotype-Hell (by Print, Heidelberg Prepress) is expected to be showing a four-page version of its Gutenberg system.

In addition, by Print 97 we will see the re-emergence of industry leaders into the mainstream of CTP. Agfa will undoubtedly be demonstrating its Galileo eight-up platesetter, which features a cassette design that allows printers to configure the machine for two-up, four-up or eight-up applications. Also expected to be an aggressive player in the computer-to-plate world is Scitex. And don't forget about both Gerber and Creo, the current market leaders. By September, these companies should have some tricks up their sleeves that continue to make CTP a viable option for all types and sizes of graphic arts firms.

Plate manufacturers themselves will aid in promoting the CTP effort. Expect to see at least nine plate vendors showing thermal plates; some of these introductions will be second generation thermal plates with improved performance characteristics.

Kodak in particular will unveil new versions of its Direct Image thermal printing plates. New generation thermal plates reportedly do not require a preheat processing step. In addition, look for thermal plates with a spectral sensitivity at 1064 nm, making them suitable for internal drum platesetters.

Neck-in-neck with developments in the CTP arena will be digital printing/press introductions. Close on the heels of the Xerox introduction of the DocuColor 70, based on the Xeikon engine, Xeikon will exhibit a new printing unit featuring a wider web, making the system more versatile. Xeikon now offers a variety of configurations, included a single-sided printing device and models suitable for the label market.

Indigo will be adding enhancements to its established E-Print Plus digital press. By September, products such as V-Link (a personalization application that provides a direct link to databases), will be commercially available. Look to Indigo for more enhancements to its variable data capabilities and also a wider color palette will be on the docket.

Entrants into the digital press arena will include a new joint venture between Scitex and KBA. At Print 97, attendees will be able to see demos of a four-page 201U2 x 29-inch digital press that is rated at 10,000 iph. Capable of handling screens up to 275 lines, the new digital press features Scitex imaging technology and uses processless, waterless plates from Presstek. Doug Clott, North American marketing manager for the Digital Offset Systems Div. of Scitex, claims the configuration features a 10 to 12 minute makeready, which includes washup and imaging the metal plates.

Also probable at Print 97 is a new digital "press" growing out of an alliance between Linotype-Hell and Canon. Currently announced in Europe is a Linotype-Hell front-end configuration to drive the Canon 700 and 800, but plans include adding the Canon 1000 unit to this alliance. Observers who have seen output from these configurations claim the quality is much improved over current levels.

From Barco, you will be able to see demonstrations of its VIPLine 2.0 and VIPDesigner. VIPLine is a prepress tool for the layout of customized documents and VIPDesigner is a script on top of QuarkXPress that makes it easy for designers to define customized or personalized documents.

In the pressroom, look for more and more blurring between the printing function and prepress and the bindery. As the industry slowly moves toward computer-integrated manufacturing, we can expect to see presses that use digital data to set ink keys plus other important print functions.

There will be presses offering automatic makeready, electronic preset and digital job data to program everything except the cream in your coffee.

The automated bindery also will be much in evidence at Print 97. With further inroads being made into production environments by digital "presses" and high-speed electronic output devices, bindery manufacturers are developing a wealth of finishing devices designed to enhance these new technologies. Of special interest will be finishing systems that attach to digital output devices of all kinds. Folders, trimmers, collators and stitchers will take prominence in this still emerging market.

The use of computer controls and increased electronic sophistication will dominate in new bindery offerings. Expect to see equipment that provides new flexibility in shorter runs and all types of technology to help printers customize printing. Then, too, don't forget the importance of automated distribution; many of these systems will be introduced during Print 97. Manufacturers promise increased modularity, faster makereadies and quick changeovers for customized printing production.

Whatever your expertise and interest, Print 97 has something for you. It is where the graphic arts industry reinvents itself into the future and takes a reality check on the present.

Running concurrently with Print 97 is Converflex USA, bringing together paper, film and foil converters, box and cartonmakers, and commercial printers under one roof. As a result, we have asked the editors of our sister publications Boxboard Containers and Paper, Film and Foil Converter to provide their views on this innovative approach.Greg Kishbaugh, publisher/editor, Boxboard Containers: "Print 97 and Converflex USA will undoubtedly have a slightly different look than the industry shows converters are accustomed to attending throughout the year. Most shows in the box and cartonmaking industries are very narrowly focused. These shows are extremely important, and the scope of their presentations and attendees should not be tampered with.

"But by bringing boxmakers, cartonmakers, commercial printers and a host of other film and foil converters together under one roof, the educational possibilities could prove interesting.

"As far as graphics are concerned, what better way to discover the latest trends and methods of high-quality printing than from the commercial printing sector? And in terms of small-flute, both corrugators and cartonmakers have much to gain simply by studying one another and the products produced in those markets. Rarely do both box and cartonmakers gather for the same show, but small-flute has thrown them into the same competitive marketplace so they need to begin the process of learning from each other.

"It is too early to tell the impact of this show or how important it will be for box and cartonmakers, but it is certain that paperboard converters who actively seek different paths of information will be rewarded."

Yolanda Simonsis, associate publisher/editor, Paper, Film and Foil Converter: "There is a new show for converters this year. The combined trade exhibitions of Print 97 and Converflex USA promise to provide attendees with information not previously available at some of the traditional venues we've attended. The difference, claims the Graphic Arts Show Co., the show producer, is that 'converters can visit both shows and come away with a far more valuable trade show experience.'

"GASC reports that aspects of converting to be covered at this first-time combined show will include printing, diecutting, embossing, foil stamping, creasing, folding, gluing, cutting, slitting, sheeting, trimming, gathering and folding machines, as well as banding, shrinkwrapping and packaging systems.

"Four leading converting-related associations will conduct sessions under the Converflex name, including the Flexible Packaging Assn. (FPA), the Foil Stamping and Embossing Assn. (FSEA), the Gravure Assn. of America (GAA) and the Technical Assn. of the Pulp & Paper Industry (TAPPI).

"The more choices, the more decisions. But isn't making tough choices what successful business people do all the time?"