Shelf Space: So you went to a trade show. What did you see?
The end of summer puts the kids back in school, adds traffic to the morning commute, and is the beginning of trade show season. And that means there will be lots of new things to talk and think about as we head toward 2015.
These dog and pony shows are where suppliers can show off, strut their stuff, and plant the seeds of desire in attendees. And that's important, because there really is an abundance of great equipment and software on the market and much of it represents a marked improvement over products released just a few years ago. This fall, several new presses are making their debut, along with new versions of software in a host of categories.
With respect to presses, there are compelling options from conventional and digital vendors alike. On the digital side, look for more speed, more substrate flexibility, and in some cases additional print widths. Digital presses may still only account for a fraction of the packaging market, but this is likely to change over the next two to three years as speeds increase and as more presses come to offer inline finishing capabilities. One big change for digital—and we'll see more of this at the fall shows—is digital presses intended for flexible packaging. Already happening on a small scale, the advent of such machines may be leading to a kind of tipping point at which digital presses gain more traction in the packaging space.
Not to be outdone, conventional press makers are paying attention to the rising interest in digital. If you go to the shows, expect to get up close and personal with hybrid presses that combine flexography and inkjet. There are no real technical barriers to combining these technologies on a single press, and those already on the market are just the beginning. In my opinion, within five years the majority of shops with flexo presses will have at least one OEM flexo/inkjet hybrid press, or will have a third-party full color inkjet system on one or more flexo presses.