Smart graphics products
Shirts that monitor their wearers’ vital signs as they exercise, packaging that lights up on the supermarket shelf, smart labels that warn you that the date on your food is about to expire, or ultra-thin, flexible LCD screens.
Not long ago, these products would have seemed like science-fiction, but they are the latest innovations in the printing industry. They are made using the traditional methods of printing (screen printing, offset, flexography, rotogravure and inkjet) combined with conductive thermochromic or functional inks, and smart materials. They result in advanced printing products that offer interesting business opportunities for the traditional graphics arts sector.
The printing industry is undergoing a dizzying transformation as it adapts to the boom in digital media, new consumption habits and the deep financial crisis that has eliminated 40% of the country’s printing companies. This is the context for the Graphispag fair, an event which showcases new perspectives for the printing business, focusing on innovation, services and products with greater added value, and the printing applications available for different industrial sectors.
Functional printing, an option for the future
“With a change in mentality, a different business model and an appropriate sales network, the graphic design sector can spearhead a new kind of printing industry featuring innovative technologies, inks, materials and applications for a range of industries”, claims Susana Otero, responsible for advanced printing and coatings for Aido. “It is a technically-viable alternative with enormous growth potential”, says Otero, who is a member of 3Neo, the Spanish Technology Platform for Advanced Printing which brings together universities, technology and business associations and centres that are exploring these new possibilities.
3D Printing, advantages to be explored
3D printing has also come of age, offering a range of applications for many sectors of industry. It is a new technology that offers printing on demand, full customisation of the product and access to a global market while simplifying or eliminating intermediate phases so that the design can be sent directly to the client anywhere in the world. Suppliers of printing technology, such as Hewlett Packard and Roland DG already have three-dimensional printers on the market, while new 3D printer manufacturers are emerging with prices ranging from 1,000 euros for a domestic version, to one million euros for professionals. These system will enable many industrial companies to explore new business lines.
What about traditional printing products?
Nobody questions their survival. Books, magazines, invitations, calendars. Leaflets, catalogues, posters, billboards, labels, packaging…will always be things in everyday use. However, they will have to offer the user greater value and impact because competition with digital media is getting harder all the time.
The experts agree: the key to success lies in the finish and how the printed product interacts with digital media through the use of QR codes, augmented reality, smart tags or anti-piracy systems. The use of on-demand digital printing and web-to-print services will also spread and increase as final users connect with the printing company online, enabling them to create, commission, and print the products they need with professional quality.
“40% of what we will be printing in Europe in 2018 will not be on paper”, says Ángel Artola, president of Graphispag and managing director of Agfa Graphics in Iberia and Italy. The revolution in materials, and supports will enable printing applications to take off in a number of sectors, including decoration and interior decoration, furniture design, household appliances, textiles, fashion, advertising, photography and sign writing, among many others.
There are no limits to imagination: Today, almost everything can be customised: washing machines with the Manhattan skyline; photos of the kids on your tableware; an image of Marilyn on your headboard; autumn scenery on walls and curtains; your city’s metro layout pictured on your floor tiles…