Functional Ink Innovator Develops Anti-Microbial Face Mask for General Use

Liquid X, a manufacturer of functional metallic inks for e-textiles, is using their proprietary, OEKO-TEX certified particle-free silver ink to create the ComforTeX line of washable, reusable, and comfortable face masks. Designed for general use, the anti-microbial face masks remove over 95% of the tiny droplets and particles suspended in the air (aerosols).

Each mask includes a pocket for the SecruiTeX filter insert which features an antimicrobial coating for extra protection against micrororganisms. The coating is produced with Liquid X metallic inks that have inherent antimicrobial properties.

Over the past year, Liquid X has been using their inks to develop smart textiles for the automotive, aviation, and medical industries. Because the the company’s metallic inks use silver, zinc, and copper metals that have inherent anti-microbial properties, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Liquid X to begin offering non-conductive textiles that would help limit the spread of the virus. The Liquid X particle inks conformally coat the textile to keep pathogens from growing on the fabric.

A scanning electronic microscope (SEM) captured this 250X magnification of a woven polyester fabric coated with Liquid X’s particle-free ink. The ink uniformly coats each thread, creating smooth, flexible textiles that offer conductive properties or inhibit the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms.

“Typically our inks functionalize a textile to create an electronic device that can bend and flex in ways that traditional electronic devices cannot,” explains Beth Vasy, vice president of operations at Liquid X. “We can also use derivatives of our ink formulations to create low-cost, even transparent, anti-microbial coatings for high-touch surfaces, medical gowns, hospital curtains, automotive upholstery, and more.”

OEKO-TEX-Certification

In June, Liquid X received the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Certification for their silver ink. The world-renowned OEKO-TEX label lets consumers know that non-woven polyester textiles treated with the ink have been tested to be free of carcinogens and heavy metals and are safe for contact with skin. Liquid X earned the strictest, baby-safe rating.

“With the new OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Certification, our inks can now enable wearable applications that require contact with skin and the ability to withstand sweat and/or saliva,” said Bill Babe, sales and marketing manager at Liquid X. For example, medical-device manufacturers can use the ink to design wearable electronics for health and wellness monitoring.

During the pandemic, “We initially started making masks and antimicrobial filter inserts for our employees, friends, and familes as a way to provide an increased level of protection,” says Vasy. The feedback about the breathability and comfort of the masks was overwhelmingly positive, so Liquid X decided to offer the masks to the public: “We want to provide a way for people to protect themselves when the other person isn’t wearing a mask.”

Liquid X CEO Greg Babe wears the ComforTeX face mask.

Adult-size masks costs $5.99 and come with one anti-microbial insert. A 10-pack of additional inserts can be purchased for $10.99. Visit: https://liquid-x-printed-metals-inc.myshopify.com

The antimicrobial insert should be removed before the mask is washed. A replacement insert should be used after every three washes of the mask. The mask can be washed up to 10 times.

About Liquid X

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Liquid X is an advanced material manufacturer that can take an application for functional metallic inks from prorotype to production. Liquid X partners with manufacturers within the electronics industry to develop and print functional components such as sensors, heating elements, and smart textiles. They use additive manufactuing techniques to take an application from concept to commercialization. Visit: http://www.liquid-x.com

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SpeedPro’s Smart Signage Technology Connects Printed Graphics to Digital Content

Over the years, printer manufacturers have demonstrated various methods of connecting printed graphics with updatable content on a smartphone. The goal is to create “smart signage” that integrates printed materials into measurable, multi-channel communications programs.

Recently, SpeedPro introduced a smart-signage solution called InfoLnkx. It takes advantage of the fact millions of consumers now carry smartphones that can automatically read tags programmed for NFC (near-field communications). This means consumers don’t have to download an app or use a camera to scan a QR code to open the connection from the printed piece to the online content.

SpeedPro is a network of more than 170 studios in the U.S. and Canada that provides a variety of printed products, including large-format graphics. SpeedPro studios can use InfoLnkx to help buyers of graphics for stores, restaurants, stadiums, and events improve the customer experience.

For example, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Breckenridge-Wynkoop Restaurant Group is using InfoLnkx technology to eliminate the need for customers to touch menus. When restaurant visitors put their smartphones near a tabletop sign, they can read the menu on their phone screens. The restaurant can update to digital content to show daily specials or suggest alternatives to beers or other menu items that are temporarily unavailable.

The Denver-based Breckenridge Wynkoop Restaurant Group used InfoLnkx technology in Wynkoop Brewing and both locations of Cherry Cricket restaurant. (Photo: SpeedPro)

“Signage is playing a bigger and more critical role in our restaurants than it ever has before. It’s involved in almost every aspect of the new guest experience and is helping to guide our teams and guests on how to navigate this new normal,” says Alex Bunn, Director of Marketing for the Breckenridge-Wynkoop Group. “Touchless menus create safer dining out experiences for us all.”

How It Works

InfoLnkx uses programmable NFC tags applied to printed graphics. When sign viewers place their smartphones near a designated portion of the graphic, they will immediately see the on-screen messaging. The NFC tags can connect viewers to whatever type of digital messaging the client wants to provide, including audio or video files.

The graphics could be posted in a variety of locations, including posters in high-traffic entryway or on graphics applied to tables, stadium seats, or elevator doors.

“We knew this touchless technology would change the customer experience,”said SpeedPro CEO Larry Oberly. “We were developing it prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but expedited the launch of the technology in order to aid businesses that were re-opening and seeking innovative ways meet new public health requirements.”

A Versatile Solution

SpeedPro studio owners are working with their clients to explore other ways to use the technology, such as reducing long lines at stadium concession stands by enabling in-seat ordering or helping non-profit agencies connect people with disabilities to online communities.

Museum visitors concerned about touching an interactive digital kiosk that has been repeatedly touched by other people could scan InfoLnkx-enabled posters to get wayfinding or exhibit information delivered to their smartphones.

Focused Innovation

While print-service providers routinely research innovative materials and applications, most smaller print shops don’t have the time or staff to thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons of implementing different options for smart-signage technology.

SpeedPro’s corporate group worked with the EdgeDweller business-growth consultancy to develop and build a system that all SpeedPro studios could use.

Lauren Ziegler, who owns SpeedPro Innovations in Reading, Pennsylvania, helped source NFC chips that would work with typical large-format graphics applications. She says InfoLnkx technology is easy to implement once you learn how to interact with the tags.

For More Information

Click this link to visit a landing page about InfoLnkx: SpeedPro Website: Smart Signage

This link takes you to an article on the Wide-Format Impressions website: SpeedPro Smart Signage Technology Helps Restaurants Improve Customer Safety and Experience

See how the technology works by watching this YouTube video: SpeedPro Smart Signage | Near Field Communication (NFC) | InfoLnkx

Roland TrueVis-VF2-640 Eco-Solvent Printer Has Wider Color Gamut for More Spot Colors

The Roland TrueVIS™ VF2-640 is an 8-color, 64-inch wide-format eco-solvent inkjet printer built to print color-accurate signs, vehicle graphics, labels, decals, and heat-transfer apparel. The first “print-only” model in Roland’s DG’s TrueVIS series of devices that use eco-solvent inks, the VF2-640 inherits many features from Roland’s TrueVIS VG2 series of printer/cutters.

“The VF2 is an unbeatable machine for those who prefer a ‘print-then-cut’ workflow,” explains Daniel Valade, Roland DGA Product Manager of Digital Print. “It offers incredible color and quality across a variety of media substrates, plus the productivity and legendary Roland DG reliability needed in the most demanding print environments.”

With the orange and green inks on the TrueVIS VF2-640, print-service providers can expand both their wide-format color gamut printing capabilities and product offerings. (Photo: Roland DGA)

The VF2 can be seamlessly paired with Roland DG’s GR-640 large-format cutter, or a Roland DG Pro series cutter, for the high-productivity, precision cutting of decals, labels, heat transfers, and other print and cut applications. Print/cut data can be automatically processed by the included VersaWorks® 6 RIP software, for maximum production efficiency.

Inks for Wider Color Gamuts and More Spot Colors

Orange and Green Inks: The VF2 comes with a new TR2 Green ink. Combining the new green ink with the previous orange ink and CMYK inks makes it possible to achieve challenging hues of purples and reds.

A new True Rich Color 2 Preset maximizes the wide-gamut potential of the TrueVIS VF2-640. It enables users to combine vibrant colors with neutral grays, smooth gradations, and natural skin tones to produce vivid, photorealistic output.

The expansion of Green colors in the True Rich Color 2 preset makes it possible to produce more process colors. To enhance color matching and reproduction, a Green Roland DG Color System Library includes 142 newly available spot colors.

The multi-process color function on the VF2-640 makes it possible use the Orange and Green inks as process colors.

Because print-service providers specialize in different types of advertising, decor, or photographic art prints, the VF2-640 can be configured to run different combinations of ink colors, including:

  • Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, Light Black, Orange, Green and White
  • Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Light Black, and White
  • Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Light Black, and Orange

The machine can also run with 7 colors (without the white) or with two 4-color sets of ink (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black).

Because the TR2 inks are UL GREENGUARD Gold certified for low chemical emissions, the inks can be used to produce indoor wall graphics that won’t adversely affecting the building’s indoor air quality.

Other Features

Performance Warranties: Many buyers of outdoor signage and vehicle wraps want assurance that the graphics will last for several years. Graphics printed with TR2 inks on select 3M media qualify for the 3M™ MCS™ Warranty and graphics produced with selected Avery materials can be provided with the Avery Dennison™ ICS Performance Guarantee.

Four FlexFire™ Piezo Printheads provide vibrant colors and outstanding detail, even in high-speed modes.

TU4 Media Take-up Reel offers two modes to handle everything from thin films to heavy canvas materials. The improved stability of media take-up improves the efficiency and accuracy of post-print processes such as cutting or laminating.

Newly Designed Pinch Roller System simplifies media loading and improves tracking accuracy.

Roland DG Mobile 2 app lets you test-print, clean and troubleshoot your printer from your tablet or smartphone.

Two-Year Trouble-Free Warranty with customer service and support from Roland DGA.

To learn more about the new TrueVIS VF2-640 wide-format printer, visit www.rolanddga.com/vf2. For more information on the complete Roland DGA product line, visit www.rolanddga.com.

The Roland TrueVIS VF2-640 printer was announced June 11, 2020.

Agfa to Host Virtual Event about Offset Printing Technologies June 18-26

Agfa has announced Studio 4D48, a six-session virtual event that will coincide with the original June dates for the drupa 2020 international print technology exposition. From June 18 to June 26, Agfa will conduct sessions that can help printing companies worldwide navigate current business challenges and plan for the future.

The targeted educational webinars will discuss market and technology trends and how printing companies can benefit from Agfa’s latest made-to-measure printing innovations for the offset printing industry. These include printing plates, hardware, and a range of workflow, color management, print standardization and screening software. All of them underpin Agfa’s ECO³ approach, aimed at making print operations more economical, ecological and extra convenient.

“4D48 would have been our booth number at drupa,” says Guy Desmet, Head of Marketing for Agfa’s business division Offset Solutions. “Drupa and other trade shows may have been postponed or even cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but our commitment to the printing industry stands strong. We want to inspire and engage printing companies. In Studio 4D48, our experts will give them an update on our offering, and how it can move their businesses forward in a cost-effective way.”

Six webinars will be conducted twice a day, focusing on specific market segments, such as commercial heatset and sheet-fed printing, offset packaging, and newspaper print production. Common threads will include various kinds of automation, efficiency increases, and cost reductions.

All webinars will be streamed in English from Agfa’s headquarters in Belgium. Each webinar will last between 30 and 45 minutes each.

To see the full list of Studio 4D48 sessions and to register, visit www.studio4d48.com. Links to the recordings will be made available at the conclusion of the event.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the drupa printing equipment exhibition originally scheduled for June 16-26, 2020 in Dusseldorf, Germany was rescheduled for April 20-30, 2021.

How OOH Agencies Aided Local Communities During COVID-19 Crisis

When COVID-19 stay-at-home mandates reduced the number of commuters, travelers, and event-goers exposed to out-of-home messages in urban centers, OOH agencies quickly adapted. They posted public health messages, supported small businesses, and thanked the frontline heroes in hospitals. They also provided data and insights to help brands understand some of the changes in audience movements and behaviors. Here are a few examples:

Amplifying the Ad Council’s COVID-19 Messaging

In March, the Ad Council, White House, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convened OOH industry leaders to bring critical COVID-19 safety messaging to the American public.

By donating ad space on premium out-of-home advertising billboards, kiosks, and car tops, the OOH industry helped amplify the important Ad Council messages that were also being broadcast on TV and promoted through social media.

OAAA (Out-of-Home Advertising Association of America) published a landing page from which members downloaded the Ad Council’s creative assets for COVID-19 campaigns. While each OOH company provided customized support, all Ad Council’s creative assets were designed to drive audiences to www.coronavirus.gov, the centralized information resource from HHS and the CDC.

The Out-of-Home Division of Circle Graphics donated printing and placement services to get the Ad Council’s creative assets in markets that have limited availability of digital OOH signs.

“The American public looks to the Ad Council in times of crises, and Circle Graphics hopes getting printed materials strategically placed by our partners Clear Channel, Lamar Advertising, Outfront and others extends the reach of these life-saving messages,” said Rod Rackley, president of Out of Home at Circle Graphics.

Clear Channel Outdoor created OOH “stay-at-home” content for the #AloneTogether social distancing campaign and featured it on digital billboards across their entire network. (Photo: Ad Council)

“Out of home has historically played an essential role in informing our communities and residents on how to stay safe during times of uncertainty and crisis,” said Scott Wells, Chief Executive Officers, Clear Channel Outdoor Americas.

Other OOH companies that supported Ad Council messaging included Firefly, Intersection, Lightbox, Octopus Interactive, and ReachTV.

Firefly supported COVID-19 work across their platform on digital screens topping ride-share vehicles and taxis in major markets.

Intersection ran the creative on their assets in New York City and worked with the Ad Council to launch multiple distribution efforts nationally.

The Lightbox OOH video network ran public service announcements across their video screens in malls across the U.S.

Octopus Interactive activated its nationwide network of digital displays inside ride-share vehicles to deliver the Ad Council campaign’s ads to passengers.

ReachTV launched the Ad Council’s COVID-19 public service announcements on TVs in 90 different airports and posted videos on the ReachTV Celebrity Fan pages on Facebook and Instagram.

Uber activated its cartop OOH ad space technology to bring the campaign’s messaging to multiple markets across the U.S.

“We’re incredibly grateful to all of our extraordinary out-of-home partners who are ensuring that these critical messages are being seen by the American people,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council.

Using Vehicle Advertising to Support Gig Workers

Wrapify is a fast-growing OOH company that enables gig-economy workers to earn extra money by displaying ad messages on cars they drive for ride-share and delivery services such as Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, and Postmates.

The “Delivery Drives Relief” vehicle wraps featured space for the logos of 10 local restaurants or other businesses. Campaign profits went directly into the pockets of participating delivery drivers. (Photo: Wrapify)

On March 24, Wrapify announced an 8-week “Delivery Drives Relief” campaign to help gig economy workers who transitioned from driving passengers to delivering meals, groceries, and supplies to millions of home-bound workers and their families. While ride-share use dropped as much as 70% during the COVID-19 shutdown, drivers hoped to replace some of that income by making deliveries for restaurants and other local businesses.

The wrap graphics Wrapify designed for brand partners encouraged people to “Flatten the Curve: Get It Delivered.” The campaign was conducted on 1,900 gig-work/delivery vehicles in cities in which restaurants were hit hard by the COVID-19, such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Savannah, Georgia.

Promoting Hyper-local OOH Advertising

Billups is an advertising technology company that uses data analytics to help OOH and DOOH advertisers plan and measure campaigns in a manner that meshes with digital advertising campaigns.

In April, they published research about how COVID-19 shutdowns had affected exposure to OOH campaigns. The study found that while airports, restaurants, hotels, malls, and other sites experienced significant decreases in foot traffic, essential businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and general merchandise stores were seeing higher numbers of visitors.

To enable brands to stay connected to their audiences, Billups recommended shifting OOH ads from traditional high-traffic sites such as highways and urban transit platforms to hyper-local OOH sites in neighborhoods.

For example, Billups suggested that brands place empathetic COVID-19 messaging on neighborhood street furniture or on signs near grocery-store entrances. They even proposed reaching consumers at home through printed door-hangers or advertising inserts with pizza, restaurant takeout, or Amazon delivery boxes.

Helping Local Businesses

Some OOH companies, such as do-it-outdoors promoted their ability post brand messages on mobile hand-washing stations or trucks used to deliver products to neighborhoods.

During the week of April 13th, they also ran three of their largest mobile billboard units along routes that passed every grocery store, healthcare clinic, hospital, and pharmacy in York, PA. The graphics featured eye-catching ‘Thank You’ messages targeted toward essential local grocery and healthcare workers.

Rachel Frock, the in-house graphic designer for do-it-outdoors, created the brightly colored graphics that emphasized “Not All Heroes Wear Capes.” (Photo: do-it-outdoors)

Orange Barrel Media and its sister company IKE Smart City donated airtime on their digital signage platforms to local businesses and non-profit groups in 18 major cities.

Small businesses and non-profits placed ads on Interactive street-level kiosks from IKE Smart City. The kiosks feature full-motion touchscreens that help city residents and visitors learn more about local attractions and businesses. Shown here is a kiosk in San Antonio, TX. (Photo: Orange Barrel Media/IKE Smart City)

“What would our cities be without the local and independent merchants and restaurants, arts organizations, and non-profits that define the culture of our communities? These organizations not only employ more than 50% of US workers, they enrich our lives and make our cities unique. We must support one another as we navigate the devastating effects of COVID-19,” said Pete Scantland, CEO of Orange Barrel Media and IKE Smart City. “Our mission is to utilize our media platform to improve lives in cities, and we are committed to leveraging our assets to help those who are suffering during this time.”

Lessons Learned

As the COVID-19 crisis intensified in March, brands had to quickly shift their ad messaging to be more empathetic to consumers whose lives have been disrupted. OOH advertising companies demonstrated how quickly they could help brands pivot. They also showed how OOH advertising can be a measurable, real-world component to social-media and other other online marketing campaigns.

While many brands cancelled previously scheduled OOH campaigns for March and April, OOH companies encouraged them to plan ahead and reserve prime OOH space for the late summer and fall months as business gets back to normal.

Recommended Reading

The Importance of Brand Awareness During a Crisis.
This post on Medium explains why it’s important for companies to maintain brand awareness and trust during a crisis.

Hyperlocal is the New High Profile
In an OAAA Thought Leadership post, Jan Jeff of Billups notes that “The traditional experience of OOH has completely changed in our current situation. It is normally seen as something to be experienced concurrently, with billboards that reach many people simultaneously, and on a large scale. But, with the seclusion of audiences to their homes and neighborhoods, hyperlocal, which features types of OOH media like bus shelters, street furniture, transit, package inserts, kiosks, and more, all have a unique ability to reach audiences on a more personal level.”

The Printing Community Got Creative During COVID-19 Shutdown

As COVID-19 shutdowns disrupted the demand for event and advertising graphics, print-service providers quickly found ways to create new products for businesses and individuals coping with different phases of the crisis.

Below are a few examples of the types of helpful products printing-related businesses offered to produce for medical professionals, remote working novices, home-schooled students, and temporarily shuttered local businesses.

Photo Stickers for Medical Workers

To help patients feel more relaxed in the presence of medical personnel garbed in personal protective equipment, two medical students in Israel started a Facebook movement to add photos to protective suits used by medical workers. The page attracted the attention of HP Indigo team employees who helped launch the project by supporting the printing of the first 70,000 photo stickers.

Medical workers in protective gear don’t look quite so intimidating when patients can see photos of the professionals who are caring for them. Photo: HP

Each 5.8 x 8.3 inch photo sticker featured a smiling photo of the medical worker along with their name and function. The medical workers added the prints to their protective gowns and disposed of them at the end of each shift. By early May, HP and its print partners produced and donated 200,000 photo stickers to medical personnel at 16 hospitals in Israel.

Thank You Cards to Healthcare Professionals

Postable, a web-to-print greeting card company offered an online service through which people could create and mail thank-you cards to healthcare workers at the front lines on the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors to the Postable site picked a design, selected a hospital from a list of hard-hit areas, and typed a message of love and encouragement to the medical workers.

Postable donated 100% of the profits from these cards to the Frontline Responders Fund which helped get critical supplies to front-line hospital workers. The cards were printed on HP Indigo digital presses at Mercury Printing in Memphis. Photo: HP

Sealed Delivery Boxes for Restaurant Take-Out Orders

CompanyBox in Charlotte, NC, developed takeout boxes and bakery boxes that made it easier for local restaurants to shift from operating dine-in operations to fulfilling orders for curbside or home-delivery. The specialty boxes featured a single-use seal that kept the food securely inside the box until the recipient removed the adhesive tear strip. The boxes were printed on an HP PageWide C500 Press with water-based inks approved for food packaging.

CompanyBox started a program to donate the first 100 boxes to local restaurants and planned to produce 100,000 boxes in total. (Photo: HP)

Fabric Face Masks with a Designer Touch

Spoonflower.com is a global marketplace that connects makers and consumers with artists worldwide. A pioneer in short-run digital textile printing, Spoonflower uses digital textile printing equipment from HP, Kornit, and Durst to bring on-demand, eco-friendly, sustainable and scalable manufacturing processes to the textile industry.

By early May, Spoonflower had produced more than 5,800 yards of fabrics that mask makers around the world used to sew an estimated 70,000 face masks.

The Spoonflower team mobilized its in-house sewing team to design patterns that members of the Spoonflower design community could use to sew knit gaiter or double-layer cotton face masks to prevent the prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The ColorCasters color-management consulting firm supplemented their income during the COVID-19 shutdown by using the dye-sublimation printing equipment in their testing lab to make protective face and neck gaiters.

In an April 26 blog post about why ColorCasters pivoted from color management consulting to dye-sublimation printing, Jim Raffel explained that their firm had missed out on the first round of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program design to help small businesses: “We had hoped that it would help us through a few more months until we could travel again.”

ColorCasters already operated an e-commerce store through which they sold color-management training, software, and devices. So they added their line of ChroMasks gaiter style face coverings to their store and started promoting it to their community through social media. “The most amazing thing happened,” Raffel wrote. “Business colleagues from our community purchased large quantities of gaiters for their employees.”  

Although they had to quickly make some adjustments to handle all the orders, ColorCasters doesn’t plan to become a print-service provider full time. “When this is all done – we’re going back to being color management consultants and trainers. It’s who we are, it’s what we do.”

Home Conferencing Backdrops

During the first week of the shutdown, many people who formerly worked from offices suddenly had to adapt to working from home. The Britten visual branding company in Traverse, MI, was quick to promote their ability to produce easy-to-set-up conference-call backdrops/privacy screens for entire teams of employees. They offered to produce color logos or custom designs on hemmed fabric or vinyl that could easily be slipped onto a study, steel adjustable frame that could be set up or torn down in minutes without tools.

Soon, Britten had set up a landing page highlighting the many different products they could produce for hospitals, city planners, grocery stores, and others affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companies could provide customized backdrops to employees who would be conducting video conference calls from home. Photo: Britten

Structures and Supplies for Temporary Medical Facilities

Graphics companies equipped to sew soft signage and design custom trade show booths promoted their ability to create temporary medical facilities and other supplies.

D’Andrea Visual Communications showed concepts for custom-built temporary medical facilities (above) and movable privacy partitions (below).
Privacy screen designed by D’Andrea Visual Communications

D’Andrea Visual Communications published a COVID-19 product catalog to promote their ability to build temporary structures, privacy stands, or hospital beds as well as free-standing hand-wipe dispensers or hand sanitizers complete with safety signage.

In a blog post entitled “Fabrication During Troubled Times,” Britten discussed how they could make temporary medical testing stations, cough barriers, hospital isolation gowns, and hand-washing stations in areas without access to running water.

Graduation Light Pole Banners

For Kingsley High School in Kingsley, Michigan, Britten produced Graduation Light Pole Banners that featured photos of each of the school’s 2020 graduates. Parents and administrators wanted to do something special to honor the 88 graduating seniors who wouldn’t have a traditional graduation ceremony. Each student will receive their 24 x 48 in. banner as a memento, after the light-pole banners are prominently displayed along city streets.

Educational Graphics and Safety and Wayfinding Signs

As retailers and businesses began to adapt to new methods of doing business, print-service providers such as 40 Visuals, eSigns, Signs.com, and KDM started promoting their ability to produce new types of signs and graphics for retailers, restaurants, and manufacturing plants.

On March 13, the Houston-based online sign and banner company eSigns.com added new hand-washing sign products and designs to its workplace signage offerings.

“We’ve always offered signs and designs that provide various safety warnings and information,” said eSigns CEO Roy Marsh. Some of the first COVID-19 hand-washing signs they printed were for their own eSigns warehouses and production facilities.

eSigns.com was one of the first print-service providers to promote hand-washing sign designs during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis. (PHOTO: eSigns.com)

Signs.com offered free downloadable templates that companies could use to quickly print their own temporary health and closure safety signs. Or, website visitors could order custom-printed masks and different types of signs promoting thank you messages, social distancing or store-capacity requirements, and curbside pick-up locations.

40 Visuals published a blog post illustrating the Five Essential Types of COVID-19 Safety and Social Distancing Signs. The blog included photos of: parking-lot pavement graphics; floor graphics for aisle traffic flow and social distancing; stickers on sanitation stations, waste disposal bins, or sanitized products; and wellness barriers for salons and restaurant take-out counters.

KDM typically supplies retail marketing solutions such as in-store branding and custom point-of-purchase displays. They were quick to promote solutions as restaurants and grocery stores adjusted their standard operations. As states started to relax their shutdown orders, KDM published a blog post that discussed how retail signage could help companies safely re-open for business.

During the COVID-19 shutdown, KDM’s newsletter showed how retailers could use KDM signage and branding solutions to attract online shoppers to new curbside pickup locations. Photo: KDM Retail Marketing Solutions

As businesses re-opened, D’Andrea Visual Communications promoted their ability to fabricate acrylic shields for retailers, restaurants, and the workplace. The company offers kits for making shields that could be hung from ceilings, mounted on countertops, or inserted in a freestanding, portable display frames. They also offer custom printed, re-usable face masks that companies could order for groups of employees.

Lessons Learned

Print-service providers equipped with a web-to-print ordering capabilities and an extensive combination of digital printing, finishing, and fabrication equipment rose to the challenge of making new types of products during each phase of the COVID-19 crisis.

But selling these new types of products also required marketing agility. Companies that already had effective digital marketing programs in place seemed best prepared to demonstrate why printing should be regarded as an essential service during crises such as pandemics.

Joint Venture Leads to Durable, Flexible, Washable E-Textiles for Smart Garments

Powercast Corporation and Liquid X have teamed up to enable cost-effective manufacturing of durable, flexible, washable e-textiles that could be wirelessly recharged. Using e-textiles made with printed electronics, garment manufacturers could embed battery-powered health and wealth features, movement monitoring, or LED-based illumination directly into garments.

Liquid X and Powercast showcased a wirelessly rechargeable smart athletic shirt prototype at CES in January 2020. The shirt illuminates using printed electronics, embedded power harvesting technology, and LEDs powered over the air up to 10 feet away from the wireless transmitter.

Unlike smart garments that use snap-on electronics and battery packs that must be detached before the garment is washed, the electronics made with these e-textiles could be washed without the extra battery-removal step

Using Liquid X’s proprietary ink technology, manufacturers can print circuitry directly onto a garment, add Powercast’s wireless power technology and a battery, and seal it all into the garment during the manufacturing process.

First, circuitry is printed on the fabric using Liquid X’s proprietary particle-free ink, including Powercast’s RF wireless receiving antenna.

Next, Powercast’s Powerharvester® RF wireless power receiver chip, a battery, and other components are mounted onto the printed traces.

Finally, an encapsulant provides a high strength waterproof bond to seal in all of the electronics.

To recharge the battery, consumers simply place a Powercast RF transmitter in the closet or drawer where they store their smart garment. It transmits RF energy over the air to the RF receiver embedded in the wearable, which then converts it to direct current (DC) to charge the battery.

About Powercast: Powercast, established in 2003, is the leading provider of RF-based wireless power technologies that work in the far field (up to 80 feet) to provide power-over-distance, eliminate or reduce the need for batteries, and power or charge devices without wires and connectors. For more information: www.powercastco.com.

About Liquid X: Liquid X is an advanced manufacturer of functional metallic inks. The company partners with manufacturers in the electronics industry to develop and print functional components for devices such as sensors, heating elements, and smart textiles. Using proprietary particle-free inks, printing capabilities and technical expertise, Liquid X takes an application from concept to commercialization using additive manufacturing techniques. For more information: www.liquid-x.com

SGIA and PIA Merge to Form Printing United Alliance

Just as new types of printing and multimedia companies have been formed through mergers and acquisitions, long-time printing associations are joining forces to better serve the owners and employees of 21st century printing businesses.

The newest consolidation of associations was announced May 1, 2020 when the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA) and the Printing Industries of America (PIA) officially combined to create PRINTING United Alliance. The new alliance is the largest, most comprehensive member-based printing and graphic arts association in the United States.

Members of PRINTING United Alliance will have access to extensive education, training, workshops, events, and research as well as government and legislative representation and guidance on safety and environmental sustainability issues. Plus, PRINTING United Alliance members can tap into the resources of NAPCO Media, which SGIA acquired in August 2019.

SGIA CEO Ford Bowers was elevated to President and CEO of the PRINTING United Alliance. The President and CEO of Printing Industries of America Michael Makin is now the Executive Vice President of the unified organization

“PRINTING United Alliance is a reflection of the invaluable partnerships and industry convergence that has evolved over time,” said Bowers.

“PIA is thrilled to join forces with SGIA, combining resources to serve every segment of the printing industry,” said Makin. “Pooling the extensive talent of both organizations, along with the media expertise of NAPCO Media, is a game-changer.”

Printing United Alliance logo

PRINTING United Alliance brings together two forward-thinking associations that have long histories of adapting to ongoing changes in printing technologies and markets.

SGIA History

Founded as a screen-printing association in 1948, SGIA was among the first to recognize how the evolution of short-run, on-demand printing technologies might affect the graphic, textile, apparel, and product decoration markets traditionally served by screen printing firms. First, they changed their name from the Screen Printing Association to Screen Printing & Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA).

After consolidating the Digital Printing and Imaging Association and the Screen Printing Technical Foundation, the SGIA became the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association and broadened its membership to include early adopters of wide-format digital printing equipment.

Today, SGIA membership includes professionals from multiple types of printing businesses, including industrial, graphic, garment, textile, printed electronics, packaging, and commercial.

In 2019, SGIA acquired NAPCO Media, a business-to-business publishing company serving the printing, packaging, publishing, marketing, retail, non-profit, and promotional products markets. NAPCO builds community between its clients and audiences through integrated media programs, research, video services, events, marketing services, and e-learning.

SGIA worked with NAPCO Media in 2018 and 2019 to produce the first PRINTING United expo, Oct. 23-25 in Dallas, TX. PRINTING United was an immediate hit, attracting more 680 exhibitors and 30,000 attendees from all segments of the printing business.

Since the acquisition, SGIA has operated NAPCO Media as an independent media arm. NAPCO publishes Printing Impressions, Wide-Format Impressions, In-Plant Impressions, and Packaging Impressions. as well as Promo Marketing, and Total Retail.

PIA Background

Founded in 1897, the Printing Industries of America and its local affiliated associations deliver services and products that enhance the knowledge, growth, and profitability of members through advocacy, research, education, and networking.

In 1999, PIA consolidated resources with the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF), the premier research, technical, and education association in the commercial printing industry.

PRINTING United Alliance Board of Directors

The new PRINTING United Alliance board of directors reflects combined leadership from the previous SGIA and PIA boards of directors, and compromises the following industry executives:

  • Chairman of the Board: Scott Crosby, Transcontinental Holland & Crosby;
  • First Vice Chair: Paul Cousineau,Dow Jones and Company, Inc.;
  • Second Vice Chair: Christopher Bernat, Vapor Apparel/Source Substrates LLC;
  • Third Vice Chair: Michael Marcian, Corporate Communications Group;
  • Treasurer: Dean DeMarco, IDL Worldwide;
  • Secretary: Brooke Hamilton, NPI;
  • Immediate Past Chair: Thomas Cooper III, WestRock;
  • Chair of Chairmen’s Advisory Council: Edward Cook, Jr., ECI Screen Print Inc.;
  • Associate Vice Chair: Scott Schinlever, Gerber Technology;
  • Ex Officio: Ford Bowers, President and CEO, PRINTING United Alliance.

Directors at-large include:

  • Brian Adam, Olympus Group;
  • Nick Buettner, American Cut and Sew;
  • Roger Chamberlain, The Cincinnati Insurance Company;
  • Kristen Danson, MitoGraphics Inc.;
  • Chris Feryn, Premier Press;
  • Kevin Gazdag, KG Graphics Décor;
  • Bryan Hall, Graphic Visual Solutions;
  • Lane Hickey-Wiggins, Douglass Screen Printers Inc. dba DPRINT;
  • Brian Hite, Image Options;
  • Michael Magerl, Trabon Group;
  • Brent Moncrief, FUJIFILM;
  • Joseph Olivo, Perfect Communications;
  • Edward Pidcock, Chillybears;
  • Heather Poulin, Ricoh USA;
  • Timothy Saur, Durst Imaging Technology US LLC;
  • Elaine Scrima, GSP Companies;
  • Michael Wagner, Butler Technologies Inc.;
  • and Joseph Lyman, President, Great Lakes Graphics Association, serving as Affiliate manager.

“In this time of consolidation, printer members and the supplier community at large are looking for a unified solution to the challenges they face in this era of rapid change,” said Scott Crosby, Chairman of the Board of PRINTING United Alliance. “The new Association will become the place to find answers for everything related to printing. It is a great honor and privilege for me to serve the industry as we look forward to a new beginning.”

PRINTING United 2020

Meet leaders of PRINTING United Alliance and see the results of their merger by attending the PRINTING United 2020 show October 23-25 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

You can also expect to see the widest array of printing technologies at any U.S. expo, including printing, and finishing equipment, supplies, and prepress and workflow software for commercial, functional, textile, apparel, wide-format, and package printing.

Whether you are seeking printing equipment for an in-plant printing shop or full-service integrated printing and marketing company, you will find plenty of options and ideas at PRINTING United. For more information about the Expo, visit https://www.printingunited.com/

Additional Information Sources

What they Think: Alphabet Soup of Trade Association Mergers by Mark Hahn

Printing Impressions VIDEO: Ford Bowers and Michael Makin Discuss Merger of SGIA and PIA

Two Virtual Print Industry Events Scheduled for June

The postponement of print-industry networking and product-launch events such as Drupa, FESPA, and ISA Sign Expo has prompted the launch of “virtual events” conducted exclusively online. Events scheduled for June include The Future Print Virtual Summit organized by the FM Future strategic consultancy and the year-round Printing Expo Virtual Exhibition hosted by Resolve Business Management.

FuturePrint Virtual Summit

FM Future will host a FuturePrint Virtual Summit, June 2 to 4, 2020. This not-for-profit online conference for the print community is designed to share essential knowledge, best practice, and inspiration for successful business recovery beyond COVID-19. The summit will bring together global experts and thought leaders from the worlds of commercial, packaging, wide format, and industrial printing.

The conference program will include more than 20 unique sessions and more than 30 speakers from Europe and the US.  There is no charge to attend the summit.

This FuturePrint Virtual Summit June 2-4, 2020 will include presentations in Commercial Print, Wide Format Print, Industrial Print ,and Packaging.

The virtual summit is being organized by two print-industry conference veterans. Co-directors Frazer Chesterman and Marcus Timson ran the FESPA printing shows in Europe from 2003 to 2011 and the EcoPrint and InPrint shows for FM Brooks. They established the strategic consultancy FM Future in 2019 to help print and events businesses improve their communications and storytelling.

“We have been blown away by the hugely positive response that we are receiving for the Virtual Summit,” says Timson. “It’s inspiring to see so many of our industry’s most influential speakers so keen to be involved. We are proud to play our part in helping the industry come together, share knowledge, and stay connected to colleagues and peers during this challenging period.” 

Ben Dodson of the Bespoke marketing and PR agency for graphic-arts companies notes the FuturePrint summit isn’t designed to replace trade shows that couldn’t run in 2020. Instead, “It will be a one-off source of help to stimulate ideas and enable businesses to make critical changes and smart plans for a successful reboot once life returns to normal.”

Partners of the FuturePrint Virtual Summit include: Ricoh, Integration Technology, Bespoke Marketing and PR, Sun Chemical, Meteor Inkjet, Inca Digital, Kao Collins, Memjet, Global Inkjet Systems, Kavalan, Sihl, and InPrint Show.

Content and Supporting Partners include: VIGC, SGIA, ThePackHub, Inkish, LMNS, IMI Europe, TCM, Keypoint Intelligence, IDC, IT Strategies, and PICON. A full schedule of the event will be available shortly. 

“COVID-19 has had a very significant short-term effect on the printing industry. So now we need to come together, via the FuturePrint Virtual Summit to discuss the best possible ways to navigate the future,” explains Arnaud Linquette, Senior Vice President, EMEA, Memjet. “We see a very positive future for Inkjet and when the lockdown eases, we will undoubtedly see an increase in adoption as demand returns.”

To register your interest in participating, visit https://futureprint.tech/futureprintvirtualsummit.

Printing Expo Virtual Exhibition

Resolve Business Management is organizing the Printing Expo Virtual Exhibition. The virtual trade show for printers is scheduled to open in June 2020 and will remain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Anyone can visit the show from anywhere in the world without the cost of flights and hotels.

The Printing Expo Virtual Exhibition will work the same way a live exhibition does, except that anyone can visit the show 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere in the world without incurring travel expenses. (Photo: Resolve Business Management)

Show Directors Wayne Beckett and Chris Watson believe the time is right to launch a virtual print show — not only because of current travel restrictions, but also because a virtual event offers sustainability advantages and accessibility for more visitors.

“We know.a lot of companies are geared up for new product launches later this year,” said Beckett. “The expo is designed to give suppliers a regular stream of inquiries throughout the year.” Exhibitors can also use the URLs for their exhibits for advertising and marketing opportunities outside of the Printing Expo Virtual Exhibition.

Each exhibit space will be real physical dimensions in a 10,000 square meter venue. When the show opens in June, registered visitors can navigate through the hall and see 3D products and HD videos in the booths they visit. They can download literature and submit real-time sales inquiries.

Throughout the year, exhibitors can update the products on their stands with a range of interactive content that visitors can explore and download. Through the admin back office of each virtual booth, exhibitors can change the content of videos and brochures as required.

Printing Expo Virtual Exhibition will run a monthly conference program, through which exhibitors can run seminars and demonstrations to a global market.

The inaugural Printing Expo Virtual Exhibition is co-locating with another virtual trade show, IndustryExpo, which opened in January 2020. Printing Expo Virtual Exhibition will be located in Hall 2 on the V-Ex Virtual Exhibition Platform.

For more information, visit: https://www.printing-expo.online/

Inkcups Wins Award for Helix Hi-Fi Direct-to-Shape Inkjet Printer

The 6-color Helix® Hi-Fi photorealistic digital rotary printer manufactured by Inkcups has earned a 2019 SGIA Product of the Year award in the non-flatbed, Direct-to-Shape Printers category.

Ideal for promotional and retail markets, the Helix® Hi-Fi prints multi-color graphics and photos on straight-walled cylinders, tapers, and objects with limited wall curvatures.

Inkcups Helix Hi-Fi digital rotary printer


The Helix® Hi-Fi uses UV LED ink and prints 360 degrees with a maximum resolution of 1200 dpi. The machine’s printable area is 8.6 inches; the system can print on items up to 12 inches in length with a diameter ranging from 2-5 inches.

The new Hi-Fi version of the Helix printer adds light cyan and light magenta inks to the CMYK and white inks on the standard model.

The two light inks enables the printer to produce realistic skin tones on cylindrical objects that will be personalized with facial images.

While the standard Helix® already delivers the best image quality in the industry, the addition of the light colors brings output quality to a new level. The benefits are most dramatic in printing skin tones where true photorealistic images are generated with smoother tone transitions, less graininess, and higher resolution edge effects.

Helix® Hi-Fi can import a series of unique image files and produce high-resolution photo gifts, such as glass candle holders and drinkware such as stemless wine glasses, stainless steel tumblers, and pint glasses.

A built-in programmable tilt system reduces product change-over time and eliminates the need to optimize print recipes for each SKU change.

The Helix® Hi-Fi is delivered as a turnkey package that includes software to integrate with web-based production solutions as well as warranty and service coverage.

The company offers multiple pre-treatment options, inks and other supplies, along with application testing and sample prints upon request.

Metals, glass, plastics, and ceramics are all validated for image durability from handling and washing.

“The Helix® Hi-Fi is unmatched in price and performance,” said Ben Adner, CEO of Inkcups. “The addition of these two inks are a game changer for customers looking to achieve high-quality personalized results. Inkcups has always had a strong business with promotional printing, and we are pleased to lead the industry in the personalization category.”

The Helix® Hi-Fi is engineered and manufactured in the U.S. It will be displayed at the 2019 Printing United show, Oct. 23-25, in Dallas, TX.

About Inkcups

Inkcups manufactures inkjet printing equipment, pad printing equipment, laser plate-makers and corresponding supplies. Their equipment is used in companies that serve the apparel, drinkware, promotional, electronics, medical, sporting goods and automotive markets.