Special Sunday Column: Connecting Las Vegas
"We're blessed to be back here again. We couldn't be more thrilled," said EFI's CEO Jeff Jacobson, while kicking off his keynote address on 18 January 2022. The 22nd annual Connect conference returned to the Wynn Las Vegas Resort; and is being hosted in-person in Las Vegas, USA, this year. In 2021 the EFI Connect was a virtual event.
23 Jan 2022 | By Noel D'Cunha
EFI's CEO Jeff Jacobson, who will complete 35 years in the print industry this April, shrugged off the traditional solo addresses keynote speech, instead, bringing in an element of fun. During his fireside chat with UPS CMO Kevin Warren, they talked about driving purpose with a robust diversity and inclusion program, and the success of the UPS' Proudly Unstoppable' campaign. The digital innovator and UPS CMO Warren said, "We always will talk about seeing around the corner, anticipating where the puck is going versus where it is… I knew digital could be a really good play for UPS."
There was a lot more.
EFI made an announcement last week, about the sale of EFI's Productivity Software division. Portraying the sale, with the aid of print elephant graphics, as the "elephant in the room", Jacobson invited Gaby Matsliach, the new CEO of eProductivity Software, to join him on the stage and introduced him to the audience.
Stating that a lot has changed in the last two years, particularly in how we operate, Jacobson said that inflation and employment issues, plus the supply-chain issues, have impacted print. "The analogue to digital conversion is something that EFI kept the focus on, and has been doing over the last 30 years."
Next on stage, Jacobson invited Marco Boer, vice president of IT Strategies, to join him, to talk about the present print scenario. "First of all, I think the whole Covid pandemic has exposed the underbelly of our supply chains, and it's become very apparent. Now we're short on paper. We're short on chips. We're short on labour. And it affects the print industry in many different ways. Some negatively, but some positively. So if you look at the negative trends, you can imagine that nobody's photocopying things and printing things in offices. Still, there are some really interesting bright spots that you probably wouldn't necessarily recognise. One of my favourite ones is books. You wouldn't have guessed ten years ago, but printed books (trade books) have been growing for the last five years. And during the pandemic, there's only so much Netflix anybody wants to watch. And so book sales have gone up," Boer said.
Jeff Jacobson with Marco Boer
The two further went on to discuss opportunities in print applications such as décor, textiles, and eCommerce packaging.
Doug Edwards, EFI CTO and EFI vice president for worldwide marketing, and Ken Henulec then took to stage to talk about EFI's inkjet progress.
Jacobson said, "In my 35 years, I have never seen an opportunity as I see with Fiery, with the productivity set software, but I can tell you with what we see in the industrial markets and industrial inkjet, and the analogue to digital conversion, I have never been more excited. And when I think about the four segments – display graphics, building material, textile, and packaging, I couldn't be more excited."
Edward added that EFI had introduced nine new printers last year. "EFI has a tradition and history of being able to leverage technology. We have done this in single-pass now for ceramic, leather, packaging, and display graphics printing, and more recently moved into metal decoration too."
Edwards also highlighted the potential for water-based inkjet. He said 2022 would be a big year for new products, particularly Nozomi, with 50% fewer parts and its footprint reduced by 10-feet.
EFI is showcasing a new entry-level wide-format printer – EFI Pro 30h. The yet-to-be-launched kit is a hybrid printer, capable of roll-to-roll and flatbed printing. It prints at up to 1,200dpi in CYMK and has two channels for white printing. The 3.2-mtr wide Pro 30h can print on rigid as well as flexible substrates. The wide-format printer has been fitted with a Ricoh Gen5 printhead.
Highlights from the four-day event
With 130 break-out sessions, EFI Connect presented the latest tips and trends across all the industry segments that EFI supports. This includes sessions addressing the growing analogue-to-digital transformation opportunities using EFI’s industrial corrugated and packaging, textile, and building materials/décor solutions.
EFI Connect also marked the debut of an innovative prepress product for display graphics businesses, EFI Fiery Prep-it software for the preparation, layout, and automated production of print-for-cut jobs.
"As the industry works to regain its footing after a tough couple of years, EFI customers and partners are coming to Connect to learn about the actionable strategies and important tech developments that could be essential to their future success," said Ken Hanulec, vice president of worldwide marketing, EFI. "And, more than anything, this year's conference reflects the community, collaboration, and innovation that print businesses can use to capture the growing opportunities of the industry's analogue-to-digital transformation."
New kit to watch out for
- The EFI Pro 30h is a 126-inch-wide UV LED printer capable of printing up to 2,477 square feet per hour. The hybrid flatbed/roll-to-roll superwide-format solution is aimed at businesses targeting production display graphics as a growth opportunity.
- The FS500 Pro platform is scheduled for release this quarter with new office and cut-sheet production systems from many of the world's leading digital printer manufacturers. According to EFI, the advanced, new DFE platform for commercial and cut-sheet digital printing RIPs graphics-intensive jobs up to 50% faster than previous EFI Fiery DFEs. And, a Fiery JobExpert feature for the DFE can streamline job prep tasks, saving valuable time by automatically choosing the correct colour and imaging settings. Fiery FS500 Pro also provides an extensive collection of additional, innovative new features that address top challenges print businesses face, such as shorter runs, faster turnaround times, less experienced staff, increased security standards, and the need to reduce costs.
- The Fiery Impress DFE can drive entry-level, mid-range, or high-volume inkjet equipment on a range of hardware platforms. For example, users can output TIFFs to a storage location for entry-level CMYK digital presses, or produce rapid, RIP-while-printing output of variable-data content to high-volume, continuous-feed seven-colour digital presses.
As EFI Fiery COO Toby Weiss said, "A lot of people are doing their jobs for the first time. He added, "It means it takes a longer time and mistakes are made." Fiery's automation alleviates human error, fills gaps in expertise and improves processing speed.
"We put the effort in, and the new Fiery S500 processes files 50% faster than before. If something took five minutes, it might take two-and-a-half now," Weiss said.