The In-Store Asia show at the Bombay Exhibition Centre in February was what a boutique show should be. Beguilingly aesthetic stalls, awards and a conference. If the previous edition saw stalls showcasing paper-based substrates. This year was about doing interesting things with that paper-based substrate, but it was much more like Resync's virtual mannequin for the Windows 8 launch.
As Sameer Musale, the director and business head of Resync, progressive Retail Solutions says, "Developments in wide-format print and substrates have meant that a whole new world of potential has opened up to marketers, with the capacity to print directly onto everything from snowboards to bike wheels, leather to glass, wood to plastics – the sheer breadth of printable materials is mind-blowing."
The question that one grappled while sifting through the award gallery at the show, however, is how best to use this stunning new capability.
Macromedia: Re-aligning targets
Naresh Kumar of Macromedia Digital who spoke to us on the sidelines of the show, " The temptation would be to push the technology as far as it can go and to do as much of it as possible. While certainly lucrative for the printer that is not necessarily the profitable right course of action. To fully understand how to use the new capability of this new-age printing for marketing, one has to first have to fully understand the context and limitations of that capability."
Macromedia which has multi-locations in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Cochin and Visakhapatnam were one of the early movers with their initiatives in digital printing. They had targetted retail with POS and POP segment but withdrew from the space.
Now, Macromedia has allied with ProPack to scale-up in the POP and POS segment. The $ 2 million investment includes a HP Scitex FB7600 industrial press and a roll-to-roll UV super-wide printer with UV ink from Vutek.
With these two presses in a dedicated unit in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Macromedia can focus on visual merchandising for retail, which Kumar says "is the future, and sky is the limit". He says, "The key attractions to printing direct on to multiple materials, rather than printing onto a substrate that is then stuck onto other materials, are cost and quality. Until the latest generation of presses came along, printers looking to impose an image on a non-paper surface would typically have to print the image on to an adhesive substrate that would then have to be applied to the intended finished article. This took a lot of time and energy and also required a huge amount of space – to mount a two metre board you might typically need mounting tables that could take up as much as four metres of precious floor space."
Naresh Kumar feels using direct-to-substrate devices significantly cuts down the amount of processes required to finish a print job, which offers all manner of savings and applications.
"You no longer have to print media and then mount onto another material, which saves time and reduces ink and media costs because printers don’t have to buy expensive self-adhesive materials," explains Kumar. "Another really important point is that cutting down the processing reduces the risk of mistakes being made. For instance, if an error is made in the mounting – such as a ripple or a crease in the material – you have to start the printing process all over again and that, potentially, can double the costs," he adds.
The finished result when printing direct-to-substrate is also of a better quality and more durable, claims Kumar, who has done lots of work in the sign and display market. "Printing directly to a rigid substrate can often eradicate eventualities like cracking or peeling that may occur when applying a flexible media," says Kumar.
He adds, "More importantly, as an operation, we can focus on engineering, client relationship and top quality."
Spectrum Scan: New markets
One company that doesn’t need to be convinced of the aforementioned benefits is Spectrum Scan, which has invested in a intradeck- six-colour + coater (28-inch x 40-inch) Roland press and a new thermo-forming machine. Since then Spectrum’s business hasn’t looked back and this year the firm had added an additional 45000 sq/ft, and so a total working area of 90,000 sq/ft as told by its head, Amit Shah.
"We installed a 5’x10’ thermoforming machine at our new site in Vasai, which predominantly will be used for print and form backlit signage. This will allow us to screen print on PET G acrylic and poly-carbonate on the reverse side and then be thermofoamed. This technology has opened up new markets and opportunities and we are now looking at the next exciting investment," says Shah.
Shah is hopeful this product will “change the signage industry in India”. He says, “This product is highly technical from pre-press to mould-making, we have every process under one roof. It took us two years, to develop this from an idea stage to the final product stage which includes the time taken to manufacture our customised thermoforming machine.
So far Shah hasn’t found any limitation in terms of the type of substrate the press is capable of printing on – as long as the material is "flat and no thicker than 25mm, the machine can handle it, adds Shah.
Whether its innovative signage for Vodafone and ICICI Bank or new developments for Cadbury's Shah says brand managers and marketers are beginning to seize on the technology in a big way. Plus the emphasis on new technologies has been truly revolutionary with lots of high-street brands entering the traditional print product: point-of-sale (POS) items.
For this, Spectrum Scan has created a 2,500 sq/ft bazaar of POP and POS items along with kirana shops, paan kiosks, ice-cream parlours, and a supermarket. This is a unique concept where you get total experience of bazaar at one go, and so, brands can have a real look and feel of their POP items. During In-Store Asia, Spectrum Scan drove product managers and key customers to Vasai for a plant visit as well as spent time with them at the bazaar.
"I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that most people who say they will spend an hour at the bazaar; end up investing a day to understand the POS items kept there," says Shah. "Especially now, when these Brands can cost-effectively innovate solution for their personalised and regionalised campaigns."