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The Quest for the ‘Next Big Thing’

(May 2011) posted on Tue May 10, 2011

Exploring the wants and needs for the Next Big Thing.

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By Craig Miller

Keep in mind that the Next Big Thing is not only hard to predict, it’s often hard to recognize. In my 17 years in this industry I’ve often been among the first, if not the first, to own what I guessed was the NBT. This has sometimes resulted in me looking like the smartest guy in the room. It has also made me look like the stupidest.

Hits and misses
In 1996, I was chomping at the bit to get into dye-sublimation. Some of the pioneers of dye-sub helped me see the light, assisting me with the essential ingredients to create this NBT: equipment, paper, ink, and fabric. These companies and individuals not only helped us to jump ahead of the curve, but they expanded our industry by creating new products and markets. In the 16 years since, we have transitioned from electrostatic dye-sublimation to inkjet (boy do I miss that e-stat speed). We have made millions of dollars with dye-sublimation printing and it still not only drives business to our door, but remains a growth area for us.

A year later, we bought a heavy-duty router table and a wide vinyl cutter with an optical positioning sensor. This put us in the business of contour cutting rigid and roll-to-roll digital prints. Yes, this was before flatbeds, so we had to mount the prints to the boards before we cut them and we didn’t have i-cut technology. But we ended up doing great with it and having a capability before our competitors again drove quite a bit of business to our doors.

In 1999, my wife and I went to Drupa in Düsseldorf to see the very first UV flatbed printers, accompanying a group of like-minded colleges from around the world who were part of Global Imaging Group (GIGA). We were all on a quest for the NBT. As a result of this trip, by 2002 our company had ordered our first UV hybrid printer, the first in our region. That was a very good decision.