It’s not surprising that the SGIA Expo has become one of the largest printing trade shows in the U.S. This show floor features endless opportunities for print-business entrepreneurs who understand that “printing” today is about much more than putting words and pictures on paper.
Digital printing is alive and well and enabling the production of all sorts of products, including: customized garments; custom labels and packaging; graphics-wrapped vehicles; fast fashion; print-on-demand wallcoverings; interactive clothing and other objects; photo gifts and merchandise; promotional products; and unique environments for stores, restaurants, hotels, healthcare facilities, schools, and offices.
The 2016 SGIA Expo September 14-16 in Las Vegas attracted more than 24,000 visitors. About 65 percent were currently involved in graphics printing or installation, 25 percent were garment decorators, 9 percent were involved with industrial printing, and 2 percent were working with in the emerging field of printed electronics for the Internet of Things.
Roughly, 46 percent of the 2016 SGIA Expo visitors were first-time attendees. For example Kathy Gonzalez of Dancing Dog Productions said, “I bought my shop four months ago, and I’m completely new.” She said the experts at SGIA education sessions were helpful and knowledgeable: “The wealth of information is amazing.”
What Makes SGIA Expo Different?
The SGIA Expo is organized by an association that began as the Screenprinting and Graphic Imaging Association. When wide-format printing equipment was first introduced, most screen-printing companies were already involved with producing relatively short runs of garments, advertising graphics, vehicle markings, art reproductions, textiles, glassware, ceramics, and promotional products.
In 2003, after merging with the Digital Printing and Imaging (DPI) Association, SGIA rebranded itself as the Specialty Graphics and Imaging Association. Today, SGIA welcomes any business that uses digital and/or analog printing processes to create new products or enhance existing ones.
The leaders of SGIA include entrepreneurs who were among the first to build businesses around wide-format inkjet printing. As early adopters of the first slow, low-resolution color wide-format inkjet printers, SGIA and DPI members dealt with the technical glitches that come with any new technology. They also had to show customers what these early wide-format and superwide-format inkjet printers could do.
With support from the printer and media manufacturers, SGIA members developed the demand for digitally printed large-format graphics in fields as diverse as outdoor advertising, fine art reproduction, retail displays, trade-show graphics, museum exhibitions, interior decor, and staged events. When competition within one market segment intensified, SGIA members simply diversified into a different niche or market segment.
Some long-time SGIA members started out as commercial photo labs or prepress service bureaus. They started producing large-format graphics when the demand for film processing and film-based color separations began to decline.
Now, representatives of commercial printing companies come to SGIA Expo to find large-format graphics printing equipment that can help them offset the declining demand for large print runs of marketing collateral and other documents.
Printing Entrepreneurs Enable Other Entrepreneurs
SGIA Expo also attracts owners of digital printing start-ups that don’t have any previous experience in printing.
Some of these entrepreneurs are using wide-format printing systems and digital presses to fulfill online orders for small runs of customized products, such as custom-designed wallpaper, T-shirts, or gift wrap. With their web-to-print operations, some start-up printing firms are creating new-business opportunities for photographers, designers, and artists who want to license their images or launch their own brands of products.
In Search of The Next Big Thing
Entrepreneurs understand that a business model that works today might easily be disrupted within a year or two. New businesses must find ways to become efficient and profitable fast while keeping abreast of opportunities to grow and differentiate their companies.
So, you never know what type of technology or materials you might find at SGIA Expo. In the short time I spent in the SGIA Expo aisles, I saw:
—Massivit’s large-format 3D printer for making props and objects for use in visual merchandising, themed environments, and outdoor advertising;
—Durst’s 5-meter Rhotex 500 inkjet fabric printer for companies that want to make gigantic backdrops for theaters, arenas, concert venues, trade shows, and public spaces.
—Digital signs showing 3D content (without requiring the viewer to wear glasses);
—On-demand box-making equipment for shipping print-on-demand products; and
—A preview of Canon’s innovative UVgel printing technology for roll-to-roll printers.
–Automated finishing equipment that can convert printed corrugated boards into three-dimensional displays.
Judging from the number of first-time attendees and diversity of the exhibitors, the SGIA Expo has earned a reputation as a printing show for entrepreneurs and early adopters.
“The SGIA Expo has provided a dramatic increase in new customer opportunities for us,” reports Chris Guyett of Durst Image Technology US LLC. “The attendees we were able to speak with showed great interest and desire to build their business with Durst.”
James Raffel, CEO of ColorMetrix Technologies LLC told SGIA Expo organizers, “You guys are on fire — this marketplace is full of opportunity right now.”
The 2017 SGIA Expo will be held October 10-12 at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.