Friday, December 31, 2010

Predictions for 2011 - well, specifically about the print industry

Interestingly there don't seem to be many pundits going out on a limb and making predictions for what will be the big issues in print in 2011. So I've gathered what little I could find (even if they're a bit weird), edited them for brevity, and added a few of my own.

Gartner: Predictions for 2011 an [sic] Beyond

Each year Gartner puts the focus on the decline in pages and stagnation of printer shipments, but yet they state “the value of print continues to increase. When done well, print is a key revenue-generating component of multimedia communications.”

Key Predictions:

• Cloud Printing Services (CPS) "anywhere, anytime access" will drive rapid acceptance by global 1,000 companies.
• More and more, the growth of electronic communications, especially voice and video, will also cut directly into the print market, reducing its revenue by 10% by the end of 2014. By 2014, 90% of global 1,000 companies will implement CPS for mobile personnel.
• In the office environment, managed print services (MPS), which reduce costs and improve workflows, is accelerating growth to the point that more than 50% of large organizations worldwide will employ MPS by 2015 to purchase and manage their print assets.
• Combined with other practices such as "pull printing," CPS can simplify IT support requirements and drive cost savings as well as user acceptance by effectively separating a computer's or mobile device's operating system from the print function. By 2015, 50% of office printing will entirely or partially circumvent the queuing and routing in Windows or another OS.
• By 2014, screen and application sharing and increased voice and video content will decrease printed page volumes by 10%.

2012 Doomsday Predictions: 2009-2012 Development Trend of Global Printing Industry

• By 2011, North America and Europe print market share will drop to 28% and 31%. Asia and other parts of the market share will increase to 30% and 11%, while the total value will exceed 720 billion U.S. dollars.
• In 2010, digital printing's share of the total increased to 14%. By 2020, about half of the world’s printed materials will go to digital presses for production. Variable data printing will be the main driving force for the industry.

Print Asia - Speculative predictions for the next decade

• The industry continues to be fragmented and without coherent leadership. By 2014 the industry will actually put forward a new generation of real print industry leaders that can think about the industry from beyond their own individualistic point of view.

Kendall Press Blog - 2011 Predictions for Marketing, Printing and Business Communications

1. People wanting to talk to people.
Out- impersonal phone trees and online form fill ins
In - tools - old and new that let individuals connect quickly and directly.

2. Customers Rule
Out - marketers pushing product, cookie cutter approaches, preaching
In - listening, helping, providing content of value to the consumer, preferably free but always fast ("in real time") and accurate - predictions for 2011 (desktop printers)

• The future is in the cloud. You won’t just be able to create and edit documents stored in the cloud, but you’ll also be able to send them to any printer you have permission to print on, from wherever you are located.
• There are additional features planned for printers such as newspaper feeds, where you can subscribe to your desired newspaper and have it printed at home ready for your morning cup of tea.
• Some new printers now have a high definition a digital camera built in. These can scan pages in less than a second, so look out for them in the next year.
• Expect the next year to be focused on smartphone and tablet connectivity.

My own predictions for 2011

I'm not sure if these are predictions or wishes for the new year or just rants.

• Desktop inkjet printer sales will go down as consumers do not replace the ones they have bought but don't use because of the ridiculous price of ink. I recycled my Epson printer in 2010 and do not intend to replace it since I can't afford the ink it takes to unclog the thing.
• Truth in advertising will continue to fail the consumer when it comes to marketing desktop printers.
• Government labeling regulations will continue to fail the consumer when it comes to desktop printer ink cartridge contents.
• Government anti-monopoly regulations will continue to fail the consumer when it comes to having a choice in ink suppliers.
• By 2012 the peak in large digital press sales will have occurred. Printers that were in the market to buy one have already done so. Vendors, banking on the sale of those large presses, will not be happy.
• The vendor and industry pundit mantra that the only future for print shops is in becoming a "full marketing services supplier" will be recognized to be the marketing hype that it is.
• Industry professional organizations will continue to fumble about and make member golf outings their priority.
• What few graphic arts schools will continue to graduate students prepared for jobs that vanished the day they first enrolled.
• By 2015 there will no longer be any print trade shows in North America.
• Graphic equipment vendors will hit the technical wall - it's not going to get any better because it's good enough as it is, and it's fast enough already, and even if it was cheaper no one can afford it anyway.
• QR codes will finally take root in North America (and won't need an explanation when they're printed).
• More people will quit Facebook than sign up.
• The "cloud" will arrive, settle, put everyone in a fog and when it dissipates it won't be mist.
• Most print shops will quietly go on with business as usual.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Calcium carbonate - the problem with better quality paper

Calcium carbonate is used as a filler in the basesheet and in the paper coating as a pigment. It provides brightness and a more blue-white shade than clay does. Calcium carbonate is used in neutral or alkaline paper making, which results in a more permanent sheet than acid paper making by reducing the yellowing and brittleness of paper as it ages.
Trace amounts of calcium carbonate can even be found in some ink formulations where it is used as an extender. Higher levels are typically present in magenta ink. Calcium carbonate buidup on the blanket often shows up as a hole in the center of halftone dots - especially in smaller, or highlight, dots as in the example above.

The upside in the move from acid (clay filler) to alkaline (calcium carbonate filler)
Unsurprisingly, the benefits of calcium carbonate has resulted in a move, that began in Europe, from acid paper toward alkaline paper.

Alkaline paper provide several advantages over acid paper:

• It's less polluting to the environment
• Has better permanence
• Provides improved sheet strength
• Uses fewer trees per ton of paper produced
• Has increased opacity and brightness
• Faster ink set for quicker turn around
• A more cost-effective paper manufacturing process

Today, almost all of the North American uncoated wood-free sheet capacity uses an alkaline or neutral papermaking process with calcium carbonate as a filler and pigment.

The downside
However, alkaline papers can create a whole set of printing issues for printers. Calcium compounds can leach out of the paper during the printing process. This leaching out can be exacerbated by highly acidic or overly aggressive fountain solutions especially on uncoated papers. When this happens, the calcium carbonate pigments migrate to the upper form roller. Once there, they are milled into the ink and dispersed throughout the dampening system build up and may overwhelm the printing system.

The impact of calcium carbonate leaching can include:

• Tinting on the printed sheets
• Toning on the plate
• Blanket piling and picture framing effect
• Build-up on non-image area of the plate weakening receptivity of water (scumming)
• Roller glazing
• Contamination of fountain solution and increase pH and conductivity
• On negative plates, the calcium carbonate crystals from the paper (two to three microns in diameter) may accumulate on small dots and cause blinding.

Calcium carbonate issues are most often experienced in high volume web printing with uncoated paper where calcium carbonate is used as a relatively unsealed basestock filler.

Symptoms of calcium carbonate contamination may include:

• Progressively poor ink transfer usually seen as dot sharpening
• Ink roller stripping
• Fountain solution progressively becoming more alkaline (if it's not buffered for alkalinity).
• High conductivity gain of fountain solution
• Excessive foaming of fountain solution.
• Build-up of calcium on the ink rollers. This typically appears as a white haze which is not easily removed with conventional roller wash.
• Calcium deposition on the blanket surface (a white haze which cannot easily be removed by plain water) which interferes with the ability of the blanket to transfer ink properly and print a sharp dot with clean background.
• Build-up or piling in the non-image area of the blanket.
• Progressive toning or scumming as a result of increased alkalinity, poor water receptivity, poor ink transfer, and accelerated plate wear.
• The sizing particles attached to the calcium carbonate pigments may activate the ink driers prematurely, resulting in either plate scumming or plate blinding with blanket and roller glaze impeding the transfer of ink which in turn necessitate frequent, but ineffective, wash-ups.
• Problems specifically with magenta or red pigmented inks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

TRONitized - the influence of TRON on graphic art (well mine anyway)

In 1982 Disney released the seminal movie TRON, a film which wasn't a large commercial success but did become a cult favorite.It was a very different world back then. Mobile phones were the size of briefcases and very few people had access to a "real" computer but settled instead for machines like the Commodore VIC-20 and the Atari 400/800. If you didn't know what a spreadsheet or word processor was, then at least you play video games on the device.

TRON was the first film to really expose people to the potential of computer graphics and at the time had a big impact on my graphic design and illustration work.
State of the art computer graphics when TRON was released.

What impressed most people about TRON were the glow effects. That is what they thought were the computer effects. But in reality the glow effects were done with old-fashioned non-digital methods which I was able to recreate in my basement photo studio.
Recreating the TRON glow: from left bottom layer to right top layer: lith film negative, 1/4" thick frosted glass, colored acetate gel, lith film positive.

Photographing all the layers in register from directly overhead using an old vegetable crate turned into a lightbox created the glow "computer graphic" effect.

If needed, a second exposure (with a lith film mask) using a special lens filter (sometimes homemade using nylon stockings) would add a little sparkle.

It was a vary tedious process as I first had to plan then create the artwork. I used 2 1/4" x 2 3/4" film in a special holder on my 4"x5" view camera. Each image required several exposures depending on the complexity of the final effect. There was no way to preview how the final image would look, so the exposed film would be taken for processing late at night so that it would be ready for viewing the next morning. If anything was wrong, any small error in registration, or exposure, or a spec of dust in the image meant that it would have to be reshot.

Despite the complexity of the process, my illustration style based on this technique:
Was used for corporate brochures:
As well as the early promotions for Vancouver's 1986 World's Fair:
And product brochures:
Magazine covers:
And various editorial illustration applications:
Universally, art directors thought that I was a real wizard of computer graphics and was able to give them the high-tech look they were after - even though, secretly, all I used was hand drawn art mixed in with some old-school photographic film trickery.

TRON: Legacy will be released to theaters December 17, 2010.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A billion dollar printing fiasco - U.S. $100 bills made worthless by a "printing" error.

Was it a failure of basic print quality control?

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing has identified a problem in the new security enhanced $100 note. Apparently the notes have blank patches caused by "sporadic creasing of the paper" which were discovered only after the printing was completed.
The Bureau's current visual print quality control system may be inadequate for the demands of this new level of security printing.

1.1 billion of the new bills have been printed but officials don’t know exactly how many of those bills are flawed. There is, however, speculation that as many as 30% of the bills are affected. It's estimated by officials that sorting the bills by hand could take 20-30 years. While sorting using a mechanized system may cut the time down to just one year.

Fed officials are working with staff from Crane and Co, suppliers to the US government of currency paper since 1879, to solve the problem. Crane and Co. have denied that the paper they supplied is the cause of the Fed's troubles.

Although the Bureau is now looking into automated inspection to find the defective bills, it does seem strange that, apparently, they don't already use an automated inline full press sheet inspection system.

Printing, inspecting, and packaging of defective $100 bills at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

This problem means that the Federal Reserve will not have sufficient inventories to begin distributing the new $100 notes as planned and will instead be printing more of the old style bills in order to meet demand. One only hopes that the Fed will implement more stringent quality controls when reprinting the old style notes.
The old style bills will be pressed back into service until the defective new bills are found and destroyed.

"I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong."
Benjamin Franklin - whose portrait graces the $100 bill was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a noted author, inventor, and most importantly a printer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Printing plates

Inspired by the previous post I've continued on the automotive theme and discovered personalized car license plates - a.k.a. "vanity" plates. They are a great way to publicize your deep involvement in the graphics communications industry. Here are a few examples to inspire:
Here are a few more sent to me from Dan Pierce. Thank you!
And courtesy of Kevin P. Keane at IAPHC, The Graphic Professionals Resource Network:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If car manufacturing was toleranced the same way as printing color.

No manufacturing process can be absolutely 100% perfect - so every manufacturing process allows for some degree of variation from specifications. For practical and economic reasons, they all have a certain "tolerance for variation."

So, what if car manufacturing was toleranced the same way as printing color?

Car salesman to purchaser: "You've made a great choice of car model!

Now, this model does come in a choice of parts manufacturing tolerance. First off we offer "pleasing parts fit." It's our best price/value option - after all who cares about real precision except those calculator obsessed engineers anyway? Forget Delta E - we're talking Delta Wheee! with this baby.

The next level up in fit quality is our popular "memory parts fit" model. This puppy is based on our assembler's memory of how the parts should fit. You can be confident about our memory parts fit option because all of our parts assemblers are memory-tested by the factory certified psychiatrist and must have memorized their multiplication tables up to at least 5 times 5. They also need to repeat from memory, with no outside help or notes, at least one of two telephone numbers.

And finally, we offer our very best parts fit option, the "critical fit." This is for the truly discerning buyer. Perhaps someone like you? For critical fit we use the best instruments available to assure a parts fit that meets, and even exceeds industry standards and specifications. Of course, purchasing this option is a bit more complex than our other parts fit, because we will need to work together to determine whether you would like the instruments to use the 1975, 1998, 2001, Six Degrees of Observer, perceptually measured or absolutely measured parts fit method. But, just between you and me, I have to disclose that our parts assemblers do sometimes ignore any standard reference you might embed in the purchase order. However, I'm sure that, in the unlikely case that you are not satisfied with the fit of all the parts in your car, a small discount in price will be sure to remedy your concerns and gain acceptance of final delivery!

We can assure you that with any option you choose we offer a World Class product that has been extensively tested, accredited and delivered around the globe. If the label on the box has our name, you are guaranteed the same high performance every time. Our competition cannot match us! They have no idea how we do it. And because you are such a nice person, we're going to throw in, absolutely free* an over all gloss finish** that'll really make it shine!***. So let's sit down and figure out just what it's going to take to put you in the presswork driver's seat."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

E Ink Color Display - handicapped because of a fundamental color mistake?

E Ink Inc. whose Pearl greyscale displays are used in all the major e-reader devices have introduced a color e-paper display. If successful it may also compete against the new class of tablet computers such as Apple's iPad.

But is the color display handicapped because its engineers made a fundamental mistake in color technology?

E Ink's new Triton display will come in 5-, 7-, and 10-inch varieties, and E Ink seems to think that it will be instrumental in establishing digital newspapers and periodicals.It is claimed to be able to display “thousands of colors,” specifically 4096. However the color is extremely desaturated even in their carefully presented marketing materials. The display's lack of color saturation may actually reveal the cause of the problem.

How the display works

E Ink is short for “electrophoretic ink”. Technically speaking, charged pigments suspended in a clear liquid micro-capsule respond to a voltage that moves black or white pigments to the screen’s foreground.The technology differs from traditional displays because electrophoretic displays reflect light, rather than emitting it. Whereas computer displays and mobile phone screens rely on a backlight to illuminate pixels of different colors, E Ink technology leverages ambient light just like ink on paper.

With the E Ink Triton color configuration, a thin transparent colored filter array (CFA) is added in front of the black and white display. Now the display can also reflect color.The CFA consists four sub-pixels – red, green, blue, and
white – that are combined to create a full-color pixel. The result? A low-power, direct-sunlight, readable color ePaper display.

So what's the problem?

Emissive color displays like those used in LCD computer displays and televisions are based on the additive color model and use red, green, and blue light to produce the other colors. Combining one of these additive primary colors with another in equal amounts produces the additive secondary colors cyan, magenta, and yellow. Combining all three primary lights (colors) in equal intensities produces white. Varying the luminosity of each light (color) eventually reveals the full gamut of those three lights (colors).
The additive color model used by emissive color displays uses combinations of red, green, and blue primaries.

On the other hand, reflective color displays like newspapers and magazines use the subtractive color model which starts with light, presumably white light. Colored inks, or filters, between the viewer and the reflective surface subtract wavelengths from the light, giving it color. In most color printing, the primary ink colors used are cyan, magenta, and yellow.
The subtractive color model used by reflective color displays uses combinations of cyan, magenta, and yellow primaries.

E Ink's Triton color display, although a reflective device, uses the primary colors of emissive devices - red, green, and blue rather than cyan, magenta, and yellow. The result is very poor color saturation and very much reduced color gamut.
Triton color display screen captures - note the absence of Yellow - a color that cannot be achieved with combinations of red, green, and blue filters in a reflective, subtractive color-based display system.

An E Ink video explaining the RGB(!) display technology.

Did the engineers made a fundamental mistake in their choice of color technology?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Odd spot - The graphic arts reflected in crate labels

I was rummaging through images of vintage vegetable and fruit crate labels when I suddenly realized that a number of them reflected topics related to the graphic arts topics. Weird or what?