The inaugural PRINTING United in Dallas was a show of unity, vitality and innovation. As digital printing technologies erase the distinct boundaries that once separated commercial, screen and photo printing, 2019 was the perfect time for SGIA and NAPCO Media to introduce a unified trade show for the entire printing industry.
Nearly 30,000 attendees came to Dallas to see more than 680 exhibits of printing and finishing equipment, inks, materials and software that could print almost any type or size of document, sign, apparel, décor product, promotional item, label or packaging you could imagine.
Writing a 1,500-word PRINTING United show wrap up for the SGIA Journal was challenging, because the show was jam-packed with new products and business-growth ideas. How you perceived the show depended on whether you were a long-time SGIA Expo attendee or a first-time visitor from the commercial, in-plant or package printing fields.
The first SGIA show I attended was in Dallas in the mid-1990s. I was being trained to help ST Media Group launch a new magazine about the emerging field of large-format color graphics. Other ST publications such as Signs of the Times, Visual Merchandising and Store Display, and Screen Printing magazine were already starting to publish large-format digital printing news. So, if wide-format printing was going to affect so many industries, why not launch a new magazine devoted to large-format color digital printing?
My technical editor at the new Big Picture magazine had walked me around the SGIA show floor and introduced me to some innovators in wide-format graphics. At that time, SGIA was still the Screen Printing and Graphic Imaging Association, so 95% of the equipment at that expo was screen printing-related. As I recall, fewer than 10 exhibits were related to digital printing or computer-driven vinyl cutters (“cutting plotters”).
Other than Gerber, I can’t recall exactly which exhibitors I met at that SGIA Expo. While startup companies such as Encad, Colorspan, Onyx, Raster Graphics and Vutek were probably there, established corporations such as HP, Canon, Konica Minolta, Agfa, Fujifilm and Ricoh hadn’t yet entered the color wide-format inkjet arena. And, EFI was known solely as a developer of Fiery color print servers (“hardware RIPs” or controllers) for the new breed of color copiers.
What impressed me at PRINTING United is how rapidly digital printing technologies and printing businesses have evolved since my first SGIA Expo.
While screen printing and offset presses anchored each end of the massive 720,000 square feet of exhibit space at PRINTING United, the heart of the show floor was dominated by the dozens of different digital printing and finishing devices that can be networked and automated to create almost any type of printed product a customer might want.
I did my best to try to convey the diversity of printing equipment exhibited at PRINTING United, but I know I overlooked many important exhibitors. But I am sure that news and ideas from PRINTING United will continue flowing from SGIA and NAPCO Media for months to come.
If you haven’t yet joined SGIA, now is a great time to do so. On SGIA’s new PRINTERLink platform, you can share PRINTING United insights with your peers in one of SGIA’s 10 communities: apparel decoration, commercial printing, digital textiles, functional printing, graphics production, installation, packaging and labels, women in print, students and educators, and young professionals.
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