This has been a strange year, with nothing really noteworthy, just more of the same and a vague hope that everything will get better next year. This is particularly true of digital packaging printing, where we’ve seen a number of inkjet presses amid the belief that this is the next great frontier, and yet it still seems to me that everyone is waiting for the next, faster generation of printheads. Continue reading “Look back in dismay”
Earlier this year I had a run-in with a press vendor over a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. It’s a fairly common business practice for companies to ask people to sign such agreements before sharing confidential information.
The start of a new year always feels like a good time to pause and look at where we as an industry are heading; well, at least it gives us something to do in between waiting for the holiday hangovers to pass and work to get started properly!
Leap in the dark
This week Britons are being asked to vote on whether or not the country should stay part of the EU. Other countries have been giving referendum votes to determine whether or not the EU should adopt major treaty changes. But instead we are being asked to make a decision that will have profound implications for our future, without any explanation as to what either option entails.
I shall vote to stay in the EU, partly because I think it’s better for our economy, but mainly because I believe in the underlying principles of the EU, namely that trading with our European partners is better than fighting with them. It’s worth remembering that before we feared Eastern European migrants we feared the Warsaw pact.
But the EU is a deeply flawed institution, which explains why no one has defended it, or argued passionately that we should want to remain part of it. So perhaps Brexit will be the best thing for millions of other Europeans, if it finally gives their politicians the kick up the backside necessary to reform the EU.
Then again, the Leave campaign have offered us nothing other than a vague promise about taking back control. But one glance at the politicians lining up to lead us out of the EU suggests that they couldn’t control a tram on rails let alone an economy in freefall.
Still, could be worse – at least we don’t have to choose between Clinton and Trump.
One of the themes that emerged from the recent round of pre-Drupa press briefings was for greater use of cloud computing. It’s not a new concept – we’ve all been making greater use of web services and cloud storage but many vendors are now proposing a much closer integration between their production and admin systems and their cloud services.
That’s all well and good so long as you can easily access the Internet. But having suffered several days of turmoil thanks to multiple failures from my service provider’s network I’m inclined to be a bit cautious when it comes to relying on web-hosted services for anything that we might regard as mission-critical. But maintaining any redundant alternatives could easily wipe out the savings from using the cloud in the first place!
Last of the Independent
The Independent, together with its Sunday sibling, has ceased print production and is henceforth only to be available through its website. This could simply be the way of modern media, given that many of us now read our news through smartphones and tablets – thus saving on the cover price of the printed edition and ensuring that the news is up to date.
It takes a certain amount of money to keep a newspaper in print – as the Independent’s owners have discovered – but that investment grounds the paper and without it the Independent risks losing the gravitas that sets a broadsheet newspaper apart from other media. So we could also see this as a large scale experiment on the links between printed and online editions. Of course it would be better if the Independent had a decent website, one that wasn’t obscured by advertising.
Scientists working for the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry have officially added four new man-made elements to the periodic table, filling in its seventh row, and simultaneously rendering a great many school text books obsolete. This follows two elements that were added to the table in 2011, with a Japanese team at the Riken Institute planning to look for yet another element – 119 – having already found 113, which will become the first element to be named in Asia.
In the process, these same scientists have also demonstrated a powerful argument for digitally-printed text books. Not only will any new textbooks printed now have to include these new elements, but the table will have to be updated in a few months time when the new elements are actually named.
Out of the fire
Several European companies have released their Q3 figures in the last few days, all showing a general improvement in their fortunes. In every case this has followed a radical restructuring and heavy cost cutting together with investment in inkjet print technology and a renewed focus on packaging printing.
However, some of these profits are down to favourable currency movements – which have tripped up some US-based companies on the wrong side it. So it will be at least another quarter or two before we can breathe easily about the state of the industry. Just in time for Drupa.
This week sees the second outing of the InPrint show, this time in Munich, starting on Tuesday. It’s hard to define industrial printing. It includes conventional print technologies such as screen and wide format, but also more niche elements like 3D printing and some novel approaches to inkjet. It covers a wide market, from automotive, electronics and white goods to interior décor, as well as a fair bit of packaging.
There’s a technical conference with some 60 sessions and a second show, Productronica, which covers electronic manufacturing. I’ll be there so look out for a report later this week.
In the bag
Now that the 5p levy on plastic bags has been running in England for a couple of weeks, we can safely say that reports of high street chaos were greatly overstated. Consumers may not be happy about the levy, and quite a few seem to have been surprised that it affects plastic bags for all goods rather than just food, but by and large people have learned to cope. And a good thing too, given the amount of plastic floating around the oceans and contaminating our food chain.
But I’m surprised that printers don’t seem to have jumped onto the opportunity this has created. There’s an obvious need for bags of some kind, which in the first instance should mean a lot of printing to cheap cotton and other textiles to create handy, durable bags. There should also be a market for more paper bags and presumably for decorating better quality bags. So hopefully this 5p levy will lead to better design as well as being better for the environment.