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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

During this time, I also took a pass on a couple of print technologies that were being touted as the NBT. I can’t say I wasn’t tempted. One melted colored wax pucks to squirt onto vinyl; the other ran colored thermal ribbons and was geared toward vehicle wraps. Blazing speed and no need for lamination were the hooks (probably because you couldn’t laminate the prints). These two technologies ended up not being the NBT some folks had projected, so I was glad I passed here.

I don’t want to offend the manufacturers (or embarrass myself) by telling you about the stupidest pieces of equipment I ever bought. I will tell you that I have some very expensive and very heavy pieces of equipment that now do an excellent job of gathering the desert dust and holding down the floor in our warehouse. Meanwhile, some less-expensive missteps came from my quest to have the best color reproduction in the industry. These efforts included buying the ink and configuring a printer and RIP to print in true 12 colors. Two other “color faux pas” on my part included spending time and money on a CMYKOG setup, and messing with spot colors we never used.

The next NBTs
Sometimes all it takes for an existing technology to become the NBT is to make a technological leap. For instance, consider solvent inkjet, which many consider passé. Then someone comes out with a solvent printer you can run in your bedroom without ventilation and has print quality good enough to print a postage stamp. If you are a giclee printer, this is the NBT for you. Here’s my take on four possible NBT categories:

* Soft signage: Fabric printing will continue to be a growth area in our industry, not only in terms of sales, but also in expanding product offerings and opening new markets. Direct-print sublimation seems to be the Holy Grail. Will the variables of a soft hand, wrinkle resistance, and tight dot gain catch up to paper/calendar printing? What about printing to fabric other than polyester? Will there be technologies that will eliminate some of the finishing issues associated with natural fabric printing?