The Rise of Customer Experience Design Affects Ad Agencies

According to a 2016 SGIA Industry Survey Report, 15.6 percent of graphics producers rated ad agencies as their top declining market. In contrast, the four biggest growth markets were interior decorators/designers (55.7 percent), health care institutions (55.6 percent), environmental graphics (53.5 percent) and hospitality services (46.6 percent).

In my opinion, the decline of ad agencies as growth customers reflects three interrelated trends: (1) the rise of customer experience design; (2) the growth of in-house design teams; and (3) the emergence of different types of agencies for new types of creative services.

As I researched career opportunities for designers for my Creatives at Work blog, I discovered several articles that suggested the traditional advertising agency business model is archaic.

Instead of hiring ad agencies to buy ad space and design campaigns, companies today are hiring multiple agencies to help their in-house teams with specific elements of “customer experience design.”

Customer experience design determines how customers discover a product, learn more about it, buy it, and use it. The goal of delivering a consistently great customer experience is to build a following of loyal customers who will recommend a company’s products to colleagues, friends, and families.

CustomerExperienceWhile paid advertising plays a role in customer experience design, it’s becoming less important. Customer experience is also affected by product performance, packaging, and ease of use as well as customer support, and in-person interactions in stores and at events. Other customer experience tools include personalized communications and the delivery of educational content that is relevant to the customer’s interests.

Recommended Reading

In the article “Are Branding Agencies Still Relevant?” on, Paul Woods argues that the traditional top-down “brand-development” strategy is a waste of time: “Increasingly, a brand is defined by what a product actually delivers, not by how the marketers tell us how we should feel about it.”

He points out that many startups forgo lengthy brand-definition processes in favor of getting their products out into the marketplace. After the product is launched, the goal is to deliver positive customer experiences that can help build a community of fans. The start-up can then use real customer insights to refine the products and articulate the brand.

In UX magazine, Chuck Longanecker explains why “Customer Experience is the Future of Design.” He writes: “Experience design (XD) is not just a medium, like an advertising campaign or online app, but rather a strategy to keep customers engaged with a brand through impactful interactions.” It’s a strategy in which everyone in at the company must deliver a unified customer experience: “The idea is to wow customers at every point in their journey.”

Kevin Kelly's cover story on Hypervision appears in the the May 2016 issue of Wired.
Kevin Kelly’s cover story on Hypervision appears in the May 2016 issue of Wired.

The ultimate customer experience may involve virtual reality. In Kevin Kelly’s fantastic Wired magazine article about virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality, he quotes an neuroscience expert who says, “VR talks to our subconscious mind like no other media.”

Kelly writes that virtual reality technology “forces you to be present — in a way that flat screens do not —so you gain authentic experiences, as authentic as real life. People remember VR experiences not as a memory, but as something that happened to them.”

New Types of Agencies Are Forming

While many companies are becoming less reliant on paid advertising and ad agencies, most businesses do need help navigating the many complexities and opportunities in customer experience design.

New types of agencies (and print-service providers) are stepping up to help manage complex projects, test emerging technologies, or provide specialized skills.

Today, some agencies focus on creating digital products such as apps, websites, videos, and virtual reality experiences. Others coordinate the design, execution, measurement, and analysis of integrated multi-channel marketing campaigns.

Members of the Society for Experiential Graphic Design collaborate with architects and interior designers to shape content-rich, experiential spaces for stores, airports, museums, campuses, healthcare facilities, and offices. They blend printed and digital signage, artwork, displays, and information kiosks into buildings and public spaces in a way that ensures a consistently positive experience for visitors and employees. (Note: The Society for Experiential Graphic Design was formerly known as the The Society for Environmental Graphic Design. The update from “environmental” to “experiential”  indicates how quickly agencies and design studios are evolving.)

A Talent Drain

With so many new opportunities emerging on in-house teams or for new-era agencies, it’s not surprising that many young designers are leaving traditional advertising agencies behind. One industry analyst believes entrenched Boomer-age executives in ad agencies have been slow to adopt new business models and capitalize on changing technologies.

In a column for Communications Arts magazine, designer Ernie Schenck asks: “If Advertising Is So Great, Why Are We So Unhappy?”

Schenk writes: “An increasing number of young creatives are turning not to advertising, but to companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, companies where creative freedom is virtually infinite, where their ideas are more likely to result in something tangible, and where, rightly or wrongly, there’s a sense of purpose – compared with the frequently suffocating atmosphere of agencies.”

In Adweek, Jason Zada explains “Why It’s Time to Kill Advertising as We Know It and Start Building ‘StoryWorlds.” Zada believes ad agencies should think like Hollywood and hire “dreamers and executors” who can create story-worlds that play out a story narrative across multiple platforms.

Instead of producing TV commercials or negotiating product placements in TV shows or movies made by Hollywood, ad-agency creative teams could help brands produce their own feature films, short series, live streaming events, virtual-reality experiences, experiential events, museum exhibits, and more.

The creative team might include a producer, writer, director, designer, story architect, and technologist.

Print-service providers should pay close attention to shifting business models within all sorts of creative services agencies, because printed graphics will continue to be needed.

As brands become more active in creating entertaining and educational experiences for customers, print-service providers that can produce a full range of large-format graphics, custom interiors and backdrops, digital signage, and 3D printed objects may be well-positioned to benefit.

Epson Screen Print Editions of Two SureColor Printers Are Now Available

Epson Screen Print Editions

Earlier this year, Epson announced that they had worked with the screen-printing software experts at Freehand Graphics to develop Epson Screen Print Editions of two of their newest desktop and wide-format inkjet systems.

The 17-inch SureColor® P800 Screen Print Edition and the 24-inch SureColor T3270 Screen Print Edition were developed specifically for producing high-quality screen film positives for the screen printing process. The Epson Screen Print editions come bundled with AccuRIP Black Pearl SE™ software by Freehand Graphics and Epson Screen Positive Film.

Epson Screen Print Editions

For the Maker Generation

Epson recently announced that the two Screen Print Editions have begun shipping and can be purchased from screen-printing equipment resellers such as Garston, Graphic Solution Group, Lawson Screen & Digital Products, Nazdar Source One, and Ryonet.

This news should be welcomed by the many young artists, designers, and makers who are enthusiastically using entry-level screen printing equipment to make gig posters, T-shirts, and gifts items for sale on Etsy and at maker fairs.

When I wrote an article about the resurgence of “Old-School Screen Printing in the Digital Age” for the SGIA Journal, the owner of a co-op screen-printing studio told me that many young designers who grew up with computers and automated digital printing enjoy messing around with the inks and getting their hands dirty crafting prints that aren’t as slick and “perfect” as digital prints have become. With screen-printing, applying multiple layers of ink can result in prints that look and feel more like paintings.

But that doesn’t mean every step in the screen-printing process must be done manually. Younger artists who grew up using Adobe design software and professional inkjet printers for printing and proofing aren’t likely to revert to imagesetters and film-processing equipment. Some screen-printing start-ups I visited were using antiquated Epson Stylus Pro inkjet printers retrofitted with third-party ink systems and specialty software.

What’s a Film Positive for Screen Printing?

One key step in the screen-making prepress process is to make an opaque film positive for each color ink in the design. The film positive is placed on a screen coated with light-sensitive emulsions and exposed to UV light. The light activates the emulsions, which harden to become impermeable and form stencils on the screens. The stencils determine which parts of the print surface will receive ink as it is squeegeed through the screen mesh.

For optimal image quality, the density and placement of the black inks on the film positives must be properly controlled. This is particularly true when reproducing photos or complex designs.

The Epson Screen Print Editions

With Epson UltraChrome® HD Ink and UltraChrome XD pigment inks, the Epson SureColor P800SP and T3270SP produce high-quality solid and halftone films up to 65 lines-per-inch (lpi) with high UV opacity and an exceptional black density up to 4.0 Dmax.

The screen-printing studios who upgrade to these new “Screen Print Editions” can also use these film-positive printers to print full-color posters and graphics.

SureColor P800 Screen Print Edition

This 17-inch desktop borderless printer (MSRP: $1,795) is ideal for small screen-printing shops and maker studios that specialize in screen-printing small runs of T-shirts, tote bags, gig posters, and art prints.

The SureColor P800 uses Epson MicroPiezo AMC printhead technology with Precision ink drop control and eight colors of Epson UltraChrome HD ink. (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Light Black, Light Light Black, Matte Black and Photo Black). The density of pigments in the Photo Black ink is 1.5 greater than in Epson’s previous-generation inks.

The SureColor P800SP delivers resolutions of up to 2800 x 1440 dpi for outstanding clarity and sharpness.

SureColor T327o Screen Print Edition

The fast 24-inch T3270 Screen Print Edition ($3,495) can be used in screen-printing shops that use more automated equipment to produce longer runs of garments and posters. Its more robust print engine can output up to 40 16 x 20-inch  films per hour.

The SureColor T3270 uses Epson’s latest PrecisionCore TFP production-grade inkjet printhead with five colors of specially formulated Epson UltraChrome XD pigment ink (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, Matte Black, and Photo Black).

The UltraChrome XD inks were formulated for the fast production of high-precision technical drawings on the Epson SureColor T series of wide-format inkjet printers.

UltraChrome XD inks deliver brilliant color and crisp lines on virtually any paper type and are extremely resistant to smudges and water. The UltraChrome XD inks are sold in three cartridge sizes: 110 ml, 350 ml, or 700 ml. Companies that primarily use black inks to make film positives can use 700 ml cartridges of black ink and smaller cartridges for the color inks.

Specialized Software and Film

The AccuRIP Black Pearl SE software that comes with the Screen Print Editions was developed by Freehand Graphics, a New York-based screen printing business that has been delivering prepress products for more than three decades.

AccuRIP Black Pearl SE software works with all Adobe PostScript design software and has been optimized to provide superior solids and halftone control for textile applications. The easy-to-use interface offers simple ink density controls and one-click pop-down menus for top-quality results with Epson Screen Print Edition printers and Epson Screen Positive Film.

“The team at Freehand is excited to be an integral part of delivering these special screen-print editions to users who appreciate the value of a fast, professional turnkey solution,” said Charlie Facini, CEO of Freehand Graphics.

Epson Screen Positive film is a dimensionally stable, 5-mil clear PET film with a microporous coating optimized for Epson UltraChrome HD inks. Even with the high ink densities required for the solid, opaque blacks in film positives, the inkjet printed films dry instantly.

This means the ink on the film positive doesn’t transfer or stick to the emulsion on the screen. It’s also possible to expose the screen as soon as the positive comes off the printer. Available in cut sheets and rolls, Epson Screen Positive Film delivers a DMAX over 4.0 for precise text and sharp edges, on even the smallet type.

While Epson’s Screen-Print-Editions will appeal to screen-printing start-ups and studios, the printers will also be used in well-established screen-printing firms.

Brad Nichols, art director for Insta Graphic Systems, says the Epson SureColor T3270SP is “an ideal printer that combines production speed, exceptional quality, and extraordinary simplicity —all at a great value.” He said the company had been seeking a quality, cost-effective system that could replace an outdated imagesetter and produce high-resolution film separations for custom print orders.

“Epson is committed to bringing the most advanced solutions to market for proofing, graphic arts, photography, and screen printing professionals,” said Matt Kochalowski, product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America, Inc. “The new SureColor P800 and T3270 Screen Print Editions combine our most sophisticated graphics printing technologies with the powerful, intuitive AccuRIP Black Pearl SE software to create amazing proofs and exceptional-quality screen positives at incredibly fast speeds.”

InPrint USA Show Will Feature Industrial Inkjet Printing, 3D Printing, and More

InPrint USA Industrial Printing Show

Following the successful 2014 launch and continued growth of the InPrint: Industrial Print Show in Europe, FM Brooks of the Mack Brooks Exhibitions Group is launching InPrint USA. The industrial printing show will feature cutting-edge technologies in industrial inkjet printing, screen printing, specialty printing, digital printing, and 3D printing.

The first InPrint USA show will take place April 25-27, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

InPrint Show USA
Manufacturers who want to incorporate industrial print technologies into their production lines will attend the first InPrint USA show, April 25-27, 2017 in Orlando Florida. (

Since 2014, the InPrint Show in Europe has been providing a high-quality exchange of ideas for the development of industrial printing technologies for a diverse range of industries, including packaging, pharmaceuticals, automotive, aeronautics, consumer electronics, and interior decor.

A recent survey FM Brooks conducted in partnership with I.T. Strategies showed that demand for industrial printing technology has accelerated worldwide, particularly in North America.

“North America is one of the world’s most important manufacturing regions and a market leader in the field of industrial printing,” explains In Print co-founder Frazer Chesterman.

Companies that have already reserved space on the show floor include Heidelberg, Fujifilm, Thieme, Sensient, Mimaki, Wikoff, Nazdar, Phoseon Technology, TTP Meteor, INX Digital, SPT, Kuei, Metis, Colorgate, ImageXpert, DPS Innovations, and Alchemie.

InPrint USA Industrial Printing Show


“Heidelberg supports the launch of InPrint USA 2017,” says Jason Oliver of Heidelberg. “At InPrint 2015 we showcased Heidelberg’s direct-to-shape technology, the Omnifire 250, and generated a huge response. We expect the same kind of response at InPrint 2016 in Milan for the launch of the Omnifire 1000. The U.S. marketplace is significant both in its size and it innovative culture. We believe our technology will suit the fast developing nature of the market. InPrint is an event that is needed in order for us to connect our ideas and technology to the right kind of people —those focused on industrial print.”

InPrint USA will be co-located with ICE USA, an event dedicated to the conversion of paper, film, foil, nonwovens, and other flexible web-based materials in the Americas.”

For more information about InPrint USA visit or contact Mack Brook Exhibitions by phone at 777-358-0330 or via email at

To get a taste for the type of information to be covered, visit the Industrial Printing blog or download one of the white papers available from the organizers of InPrint USA. Recent white papers have covered topics such as “Why Is Industrial Printing Booming?” and “What is Industrial Printing?”




B2B Social Platform Helps Commercial Building Designers Discover Products

Printing companies marketing decor products or services to architects, interior designers, and remodelers of commercial buildings may want to join to the Dezignwall community.

Dezignwall is a B2B social market network created exclusively for professionals involved in the design and construction of everything from local nail salons and coffee shops to world-class restaurants, hotels, casinos, and entertainment venues.



The Houzz-like platform functions like a cross between the professional networking site LinkedIn and photo-sharing sites like Pinterest and Instagram.

The social-sharing tools on the Dezignwall platform make it easy for commercial developers and design teams to find sources of inspiration, engage with manufacturers of products, and work collaboratively in a virtual and mobile environment.

Dezignwall’s mission is to help commercial businesses “close the gap between initial discovery and final purchase” of products and services.

Joseph Haecker, the CEO and founder of Dezignwall, understands the commercial design and building industry because he was head of product design for a company that sold custom lighting for hotels and casinos. He saw how difficult it was for product manufacturers to get their products and services in the right hands from the conception of a development project through the purchase order. He believes current advertising methods (sales reps, catalogs, print media, trade shows) lack real-time accessibility and mobile usability.

“I realized that my commercial design colleagues were in need of a Houzz-like website specifically for our commercial needs,” says Haecker.”During the recession, I saw businesses close because they could not engage clients outside of their current marketing reach. What makes Dezignwall different is that we are a business-to-business solution specifically for global commercial professionals.”


Dezignwall seeks to change how commercial design professionals engage, collaborate, and find inspiration. This includes finding and share commercial design products such as custom wallcoverings, textiles, window shades, glass, ceramics, and many other products that can be digitally printed.

Creating a business profile and publishing your product/project photos is free.


Ad Beacon Helps Advertisers Measure Effectiveness of Printed Displays

AdMobilize is a venture-backed technology company headquartered in Miami, with offices in Washington, London, and Bogota. The company's mission is to provide advanced analytics solutions and integrated platforms for the physical world. (PRNewsFoto/AdMobilize, LLC)
AdMobilize is a venture-backed technology company headquartered in Miami, with offices in Washington, London, and Bogota. The company’s mission is to provide advanced analytics solutions and integrated platforms for the physical world. (PRNewsFoto/AdMobilize, LLC)

Although brands spend $7 billion a year on street-level advertising such as bus shelters and digital signage, it remains a challenge for marketers and agencies to accurately track how effective those campaigns are.

“The out-of-home advertising industry is struggling to find ways to have better analytics as to who and when consumers are most likely to see their ads,” said out-of-home advertising expert Nick Coston.

Tracking solutions that do exist are extremely difficult to install and configure, requiring huge amounts of time, money, and personnel.

With the AdBeacon® device from AdMobilize, out-of-home advertisers and retailers can gather viewership data from both printed graphics and digital signs. The all-in-one hardware and software solution can be configured in two minutes and used by anyone, even people without technical skills.


About the size of an iPhone 5, AdBeacon uses a camera sensor to collect viewership data about printed graphics in physical spaces. For digital signage that already has built-in camera sensors, AdMobilize offers a seamless API solution.

Advertisers can use AdBeacon to track dwell time, gaze ratio, demographics, emotions and more. Using the browser-based AdDashboard, they can access real-time performance data by location, time, audience, engagement, demographics and other key factors.

AdBeaconMarketers can use this data to adjust campaign strategy to maximize outdoor, out of home, and retail advertising returns, optimize store layouts, and fine-tune the content on digital signs.

“Real-time data and analytics drive online advertising and marketing for a reason – they generate incredible ROI,” said Rodolfo Saccoman, CEO and founder of AdMobilize. With AdBeacon 2.0, AdMobilize gives outdoor advertisers and brick-and-mortar businesses the same level of analytics that e-commerce companies use.

The AdRemote apps for Android or iPhone devices can be used to remotely configure and adjust the AdBeacons.

The AdRemote app can also display key metrics that quantify advertising effectiveness. With just one tap, these results can be shared with agency clients or campaign partners.



Learn How 3D Printing Will Rock the World

With the steady flood of news items related to 3D printing for consumers, for schools, for healthcare, and for businesses, it can be difficult to gain perspective on what it all means.

3D Printing Will Rock the WorldEarlier this year, John Hornick of the Finnegan IP (intellectual property) law firm summarized some of his own predictions in a new book entitled “3D Printing Will Rock the World.”

In the book’s 10 chapters, he presents specific examples of how 3D printing might:

  • revolutionize manufacturing
  • reinvent design
  • make us all makers again
  • bring jobs back to the U.S.
  • disrupt “business-as-usual”
  • create jobs we haven’t even thought of
  • merge science and nature
  • create new types of crimes
  • threaten brand ownership of “genuine” products
  • change the way our kids learn, work, and live

Throughout the book, he cites numerous examples of how industry observers and analysts have different answers to these types of questions:

Will every home have a 3D printer? Or will independent fabrication labs (“fabs”) or large corporations will 3D print most of what we want or need?

Will 3D printers replace mass production? Or will they be just one more machine on a factory floor? Will companies sell designs instead of products? Or will companies make mass-customized products or send designs to their own local factories for printing?

Will 3D printers create jobs or destroy them?

Hornick believes, “It’s entirely possible that all of this will happen and more.”

Before presenting some of his own visions for how 3D printing will change our world, Hornick summarizes existing technologies and potentially disruptive advances, such as HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology and the Composite-Based Additive Manufacturing process developed by Impossible Objects . He also talks about some of the advanced materials being developed that will make it possible to 3D print items as diverse as human organs, medicines, electronics, buildings, weapons, home goods, and machine parts.

When all this will come to fruition is anyone’s guess. Hornick agrees with an observation Bill Gates made in 2008 that we tend to overestimate what things can happen in two years, and underestimate what things will happen in ten. (Anyone who has followed forecasts for the adoption of digital printing technologies knows how true this statement is.)

This is a thought-provoking book if you are considering how your business might benefit from adding 3D printing as a service. Here are some points to keep in mind:

3D Printing vs. Additive Manufacturing: The term “3D printing” covers many different technologies and processes. While the first adopters of 3D printers still prefer terms such as “rapid prototyping” or “additive manufacturing,” the simpler term “3D printing” makes the concept much easier for everyone to visualize. That will help drive faster adoption.

Product Liability: Because 3D printing blurs the line between manufacturer, designer, and customer, it may not always be clear who is responsible for 3D-printed product safety and who will be liable for 3D printed product injuries.

As 3D printers become common in industry, schools, fab centers, and homes, they will create a worldwide spiderweb of design and manufacturing . The question “Is the product genuine?” will become harder to answer and possibly meaningless. Some faulty 3D-printed products will have been made by consumers or hobbyists, not by manufacturers.

Intellectual Property: The rise of 3D printing will also affect intellectual property laws. According to Hornick, “Current IP laws probably will be inadequate to address the challenges of 3D printing.” Even though IP rights-owners will petition legislators for new laws, anyone with a sophisticated 3D scanner will be able to copy a product and tweak the results. Many 3D printers will be used outside of control of the law.

He believes companies will transition to non-IP-rights based business models that will make printable files easily and cheaply so customers are encouraged to buy the files instead of stealing the designs.

Innovation in Design: 3D printers will allow us to make products and designs that look and feel very different from products used today. Just because a product is made from 20 to 25 materials today doesn’t mean it can’t be printed from 3 or 4 materials tomorrow.

Hornick believes that continuing advances in 3D printing could ultimately be as disruptive as other significant technological developments in human history. When humans first began using fire, the wheel, the steam engine, computers, and the Internet, no one really foresaw their full potential. We’re just beginning to imagine what might be possible with 3D printing.


Agfa Graphics Adds Features to Jeti Tauro and Jeti Mira UV Inkjet Printers

Agfa Graphics Jeti Tauro

At ISA’s  Sign Expo 2016, Agfa Graphics demonstrated new automation and feature enhancements for the Jeti Tauro and Jeti Mira UV inkjet printers.

The Jeti Tauro is a six-color hybrid UV inkjet printer for creating high-quality indoor and outdoor signs on rigid or flexible materials. Its media tables can accommodate rigid materials such as cardboards, foam board, composite aluminum, and acrylic. Its integrated roll-to-roll system handles flexible substrates such as backlit film, UV-curable textiles, paper, PVC banners, mesh (with liner) and vinyl. The Jeti Tauro prints to widths as great as 2.54 meters (8.33 ft.) and can accommodate rigid media up to 4.0 meters (13.12 ft.) long.

Agfa Graphics Jeti Tauro
The 98-inch (2.5 meter) Agfa Graphics Jeti Tauro is designed for high-quality, high-productivity printing on both rigid and flexible material.

At Sign Expo, Agfa Graphics demonstrated an advanced Automatic Board Feeder (ABF) for more efficient throughput of rigid substrates.

The Jeti Mira is a true flatbed UV inkjet printer, with a moving gantry that prints on the x- and y-axes with pinpoint precision. It produces industry-leading quality in six colors and white with optional varnish or primer. The 7pl droplet size produces stunning detail and razor-sharp text. Even copy as small as 4-point type can be read in both positive and negative.

The Jeti Mira is available with a table depth of either 1.6 m (5.25 ft.) or 3.2 m (10.5 ft.)against a width of 2.69 m (8.825 ft.). While the Jeti Mira S is equipped with one row of print heads, the Jeti Mira HS has two rows, offering even higher productivity.

The ‘Print & Prepare’ technology on the Jeti Mira allows you to load new media while the printer is still working.

Agfa Graphics Jeti Mira
The Jeti Mira is a 2.69 meter (105.9-inch) flatbed printer built for heavy, industrial workloads.

At Sign Expo, Agfa Graphics demonstrated a dockable roll-to-roll system that attaches to the front of the flatbed table of the Jeti Mira. Reducing the distance the media must travel reduces wasted media and improves accuracy by reducing the potential for skewing.

According to Deborah Hutcheson, director of marketing for Agfa Graphics North America, the new options on the Jeti Tauro and Jeti Mira will enable sign shops and other print-service providers to achieve higher efficiencies and expand their markets: “The options increase productivity, reduce media waste, and offer outstanding print quality on a variety of substrates. We are proud to deliver the most robust portfolio of award-winning inkjet printing systems to any size print provider — from entry-level to high-end industrial market segments.”

Wide-Format Workflow Software

Both the Jeti Tauro and Jeti Mira are driven by Asanti, Agfa Graphics’ wide-format workflow software. As a true production hub, Asanti controls the entire process from prepress to production to finishing. Asanti’s comprehensive integration of file handling, color management, and preflighting reduces the risk of mistakes and makes the complete system more productive.

Asanti is complemented by Asanti Storefront, Agfa Graphics’ web-to-print solution that seamlessly manages online stores for automatically processes print orders for print-service providers.

For more information about Agfa Graphics’ full portfolio of graphic communications products, visit


Esko Offers Automated Finishing Solutions for Sign and Display Shops

At ISA Sign Expo 2016, Esko showed highly automated digital finishing systems that can convert large-format graphics into signs, creative displays, and packaging. The systems include software features that can make sign shops more productive and profitable.

According to John Giardina, president, Esko Americas, the integrated end-to-end systems can help businesses large and small.

Automated Digital Finishing Systems

Esko showcased two models from its Kongsberg family of digital finishing systems.

The Kongsberg C64 is a state-of-the-art superwide (126 x 126 in.) digital finisher. Its unique carbon composite transverse beam supports the precision and productivity required to cut printed graphics that over 10 feet wide. The Kongsberg C64 is the only superwide finisher with a continuous-duty high-performance milling unit.

Esko Kongsberg C64 with Autofeeder
Esko Kongsberg C64 with Autofeeder

At ISA Sign Expo, the Kongsberg C64 was demonstrated with an automated system that feeds printed or blank boards onto the cutting table. Material is loaded with a fork truck or pallet jack—in either portrait or landscape mode. The Kongsberg C64 can also be equipped with an optional roll feeder.

To see the different types of finishing processes that the Kongsberg can handle, with this video: YouTube: Esko Kongsberg C Cutting and Milling a Range of Materials

The Kongsberg XN is built for versatility. Its wide range of specialty tools can be used to cut and mill many types of materials, including vinyl, corrugated, folding carton, foamboards, solid boards, wood, and a long list of plastics.

Kongsberg XN 1
Kongsberg XN


It comes with industry standard print-to-cut registration, a camera system for vision cutting, and many other features. The Kongsberg XN24 shown in the Sign Expo booth will be 66 x 126 inches. The XN product family is available in seven different sizes from 66 x 50 inches to 87 x 258 inches.

i-cut Production Console

The i-cut Production Console (iPC) drives all of the functions of the Kongsberg table, including camera control, machine set up, tool recognition, calibration, and tool adjustments.

Kongsberg HP Milling Spindle600p


Esko recently announced new features to the front-end operating system that will make production planning for digital finishing operations easier to manage. The new features makes it more efficient to run a higher number of short run jobs.

With the integration of a complete materials database, Esko has bundled decades of digital finishing expertise into a system that can take some of the guesswork out job set-up. The system advises the operator on which tools and knives to select for the type of materials to be finished on the next job. This advice can reduce the changeover time between jobs, improve consistency over time, and lessen the risk of damaging expensive materials.

Esko has also integrated its Kongsberg tables with its workflow automation software, Automation Engine.

Automation Engine’s Device Manager gives better control over finishing production. On the display screen, the operator can clearly see the status of work in progress and queues of all connected devices. The software determines optimal sheet nesting to increase production capacity. Operators use an intuitive drag-and-drop interface to prioritize table queues, insert rush jobs, and even balance workloads between tables.

The new Kongsberg Estimating module can give business owners a more accurate estimate of how long each job will take to produce. This is important when preparing quotes for customers — particularly in an environment in which the margins on short run digital print work are tightening. With accurate job estimates, companies can communicate better quotes and forecast more accurate delivery times to their customers.

The new Kongsberg Estimating Software module generates production estimates automatically based on production metadata such as the substrate type and thickness of materials specified in designs for packaging, signage, and display jobs.

Esko’s i-cut Suite is a collection of prepress and pre-production software solutions. The i-cut Suite helps eliminate errors, save time, and reduce waste by automating tasks such as preflighting and editing design files, nesting graphics, and setting up cutting paths.

Esko ArtiosCAD and Studio software supports the 3D design of displays made from rigid sheets. Dedicated tools streamline structural design, graphic development, virtual prototyping, and manufacturing of the approved designs.

Automation Engine isn’t just for finishing operations. It can also serve as the heart of prepress production and manage workflows that are constantly being updated or rescheduled. Automation Engine can also be set up for automated color management on multiple types of printers.

Esko believes all of their innovative and scalable workflow and finishing solutions can empower sign and display companies to attract new business. Their newest workflow improvements are designed to take digital finishing efficiency and simplicity to the next level.

Epson Ships New SureColor Printers for Signs, Vehicle Graphics, Art Prints

The new Epson® SureColor® S-Series of 64-inch roll-to-roll, production solvent inkjet printers is now shipping. Featuring advanced imaging technologies, the new Epson SureColor printers were engineered to bring higher levels of productivity and image quality to the signage, vehicle graphics, and fine art reproduction markets.

The three models now available for purchase through authorized resellers include:

Innovative Features

“Innovations in imaging technology, coupled with the latest Epson UltraChrome® GS3 ink system, provide the ultimate combination of performance and photographic quality. These printers enable print shops of any size to get the job done, on time and beyond expectations.” said Matt McCausland, product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America, Inc. “The SureColor S80600 redefines image quality expectations in the signage market.”

All four printers feature newly formulated fast-drying UltraChrome CS3 inks and new Epson Dual-Array PrecisionCore TFP printheads. The Dual-Array PrecisionCore TFP printhead provides high performance and consistency and variable-size ink droplet technology for remarkable photographic quality.

A new precision media-feeding system with automatic tension control provides extremely accurate, motorized roll-to-roll media handling.

An automatic media alignment and setup system allows for faster switching between media types.

Automatic print-head cleaning significantly reduces the need for manual printhead maintenance. The air circulation system keeps the printhead cleaner for extended performance in high-production environments.

The ONYX® GamaPrint Pro software bundled with the printers features simple tools for sizing, cropping, tiling, and nesting and easy-to-install Epson profiles for the top-selling media for solvent ink printers. Sign shops and vehicle-graphics specialists can use the true Pantone® spot-color matching capabilities to produce brand colors for their clients.


Epson SureColor S60600
Epson SureColor S60600

Fast-Drying Inks for Same-Day Job Delivery

Previous generation solvent inks typically require 24 to 48 hours of drying time. The UltraChrome GS3 inks in the SC-S80600, SC-S60600 and SC-S40600 require only about six hours of drying time before they can be laminated. Laminating graphics just a few hours after printing enables sign shop owners to offer same-day project delivery. This is particularly important with vehicle graphics.

Inkset Options

The SureColor S40600 (ERP: $15,995) features one set of CMYK inks and can print banners at speeds of up to 215 sq. ft./hr. and vinyl at 170 sq. ft./hr.

The SureColor S60600 (ERP: $22,995) uses two sets of CMYK inks to print banners at up to 550 sq. ft./hr. and vinyl at 310 sq. ft./hr.

The SureColor S80600 (ERP: $24,995) uses eight different colors of ink. Many sign shops will choose to use CMYK with light cyan, light magenta, light black, orange and red inks. The all-new GS3 Red ink produces vivid output with an expansive color gamut and outstanding color vibrancy. For best-in-class photographic output, users can use the optional white and/or metallic silver inks instead of the orange and red inks(?).

Customer Feedback

“We use the Epson SureColor S80600 to tackle a variety of applications, ranging from artist canvas and textile reproductions to wallpaper and an assortment of wall art, all at up to 75-percent better production,” said John McPherson, technical director, Marco Fine Arts. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with this machine. Not only does it require less maintenance, it offers the best color gamut available in any solvent printer out there, along with incredible ease-of-use, better output quality and faster print speeds.”

“Epson has outdone itself again! With the Epson SureColor S80600 solvent printer, we continue to provide unparalleled excellence in high quality and accurate print products on a variety of substrates – canvas, poster board, metal, plastic, and more,” said Monica Denosta, president and chief operating officer, Picture it on Canvas. “And now it’s even faster. The ability to adjust print speeds based on required detail affords us the ability to offer different levels of service. Even at its slowest speed, it’s faster than its predecessor.”


The SureColor S80600 is currently available for $24,995 MSRP through authorized Epson Professional Imaging resellers. The SureColor S-Series offers a standard Epson Preferred Limited Warranty, a one-year program that includes toll-free advanced telephone access Monday through Friday and usually next business-day on-site service in the unlikely event of any hardware failure.

Epson Preferred Plus service plans are available that cover both the hardware and software for up to two additional years.

For more information, visit

Kornit Adds Two New Direct-to-Garment Printing Systems

Kornit Storm 1000

Kornit Digital has launched two new industrial-grade direct-to-garment printing systems for medium-size producers of decorated garments or promotional T-shirts: the Kornit Storm Hexa and Kornit Storm 1000.

The Storm 1000 is the standard configuration of the new product family and features 12 printheads in a CMYK and White configuration. In high productivity mode, the Storm 1000 decorates up to 170 garments per hour including inline pretreatment. It covers a print area up to 50 x 70 cm / 20 x 28 in.

Kornit Storm 1000
Kornit Storm 1000


The Kornit Storm Hexa is for color conscious applications such as brand-related and promotional garments. This printer has 16 printheads and two additional colors for full CMYK, Red, Green and White support. It also can produce up to 170 garments per hour in high productivity mode.

Both printers feature recirculating ink systems to reduce ink consumption and optimize reliability. For increased productivity, both printers feature twice as many nozzles as previous Storm configurations.

Both systems are based on Kornit’s NeoPigment™ printing process and are equipped with a built-in pretreatment system, a quick-replace pallet mechanism, a 4-liter bulk ink system, an integrated humidity system, and a backup power system for a quick and easy system start.

All Kornit printing systems are compatible with a variety of fabrics (cotton, polyester, blends, denim, silk wool and more) and are geared towards industrial mass-customization.

“The Storm series of direct-to-garment systems have been Kornit’s signature product for more than a decade,” says Guy Zimmerman, Kornit’s Vice President of Marketing Business Development. “The Storm II is the best-selling industrial direct-to-garment printing system in the market. Launching a new and improved generation of Storm printers is an important milestone for us.”

Zimmerman calls the Storm 1000 and Storm Hexa “perfect production tools for a broad range of applications.” The new Storm configurations show drastically improved throughput, reductions in ink consumption, and excellent print quality.