Highlights from the 2018 Sign Expo

What we heard on the show floor? Shops continue to look for ways to do more.

More than 20,000 sign and print shop guys and gals traveled to Orlando, Florida for the 2018 ISA International Sign Expo March 22-24. With 221,000 square feet of show floor hosting nearly 600 exhibitors, it wasn’t difficult for each attendee to find a new product, technology, or innovation to get excited about.

The show floor offered ideas for shops of all shapes and sizes. Shops looking to expand their offerings and client base could explore entry- and mid-level machines for applications ranging from 3D printing (the Massivit 1500 and Mimaki’s 3DUJ-553) to laser decoration (Roland’s LD-80 laser decorator) to wide-format signage (HP’s Print and Cut Solution range, Canon’s Océ Colorado 1640 with UVgel ink, and the Agfa Jeti Tauro LED), textile and dye sub printing (M&R’s Textura 1800), DTG garment decoration (the Ricoh Ri 6000 and Epson’s SureColor F2100), and beyond. Machines and a smorgasbord of applications were on display at nearly every booth we visited. While the goal at tradeshows may be to sell equipment, one could argue that manufacturers are actually selling applications: the world of possibilities each machine (or software package) offers a shop and its clients.

We heard words like “efficiency,” “productivity,” and “cost effective” at booth after booth, as each company shared their vision for how to simplify their customers’ workflow and production processes. Some manufacturers focused on eliminating or reducing steps (like laminating or finishing) in production; others showcased machines that can “do it all,” offering an end-to-end solution for applications like wide-format signage and textile printing; a few companies embraced the future of technology and added a focus on automation, augmented and virtual reality, and the integration of mobile apps into the workflow process; and other manufacturers stressed the strategic partnerships they’ve formed with different companies to offer their customers everything they need to run a shop, from software and color management to printer and finishing equipment.

One thing is certain: Users are asking for equipment and software that can do more, and manufacturers are listening. The printing industry is anything but stagnant – what will we see next?

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