After spending a day at Photokina in Cologne, it is of course appropriate for me to review what I saw on behalf of those, who won’t visit the trade fair or have yet to do so. So what was on show and what’s new to interest the market player with an affinity to print?
To start with I should say that this show did not have particularly much to offer as far as online print is concerned. I was also somewhat disappointed to discover that almost nothing has happened in terms of direct-to-shape photo printing, which means nothing more than direct printing of digital photos on to 3-dimensional surfaces. I had expected more from several of the printing press manufacturers, especially in this segment. But it wasn’t a wasted day, because I still managed to find a couple of really interesting, occasionally even innovative solutions focusing on print or rather print processing.
There was a software specialist at the show, who handles development, sales and aftersales service of the software platform that is frequently used to produce photobooks and other photo items. As a software provider with global operations, Taopix supplies applications that enable photo products to be customised on any kind of end device. Its clients include both retailers and photo labs that require a sales tool as well as other businesses that process photos into other products. The company maintains partnerships with, for example, HP, Canon or Imaging Solutions (see below) – who are responsible for the hardware.
The company’s pretty large range of products includes its E-Commerce Control Centre (a browser-based administration platform), the design applications, which also facilitate mobile product customization and Taopix Production, which is aimed at generally improving workflows, e.g. data transmission between various end devices. To aid integration into existing systems, individual modules can be incorporated into existing in-system APIs. Another interesting feature is the option of a link to existing image collections. As far as the customized production of photo products software is concerned, the business customer has a choice of a comprehensive software package or various modules as options to enable them to enter or expand their photo products online sales business.
Imaging Solutions, in particular, caught my eye with regard to technical implementation of photo product production. This Swiss engineering company, which works for the photo and print industry, focuses on the bookbinding aspect of processing photos into photobooks. Its latest product, the fastBook Professional book block system for Layflat formats of up to 457 mm x 457 mm (!), which was launched at Photokina, could be inspected at the booth. This unit enables panoramic spread (open book) photobooks featuring a width of 914 mm to be produced –and the bookbinding technology that delivers non-camber lay properties enables double-page spreads, e.g. panoramas, to be depicted without any loss in quality.
The Swiss manufacturer of course also has other machinery for the industrial production of photobooks in its portfolio. The new fastBook system’s manufacturing process is indeed based to a very large extent on existing technology. But it is the combination – visually speaking – of the size of the photobook and the particular lay characteristics of the open pages that really make an impact. Anybody, who wants their premium photobook made in this way, will also treat themselves to cardboard inserts between the choice of genuine photo-paper or digital-print-paper pages to enhance the haptic quality of the book. The individual sheets are guttered, folded, pressed and glued to form a Layflat book block in one single operation.
As far as print production is concerned, Imaging Solutions cooperates, for example, with Fuji; the photobook software is sourced from another collaborative partner, namely Taopix (see above.). I shall be taking a more detailed look at the topic of online print product finishing and the Layflat properties of printed books in this blog in the near future.
“Be it digital printing press manufacturers or software service providers, the established players had fewer innovations of interest to the online print sector to showcase at Photokina than expected. And that’s the case even in a broad segment like photo products and gifts.” – Bernd Zipper
A familiar champion of innovative print ideas in the business card segment was also represented. The team from Moo had brought three new business card finishes or accents as they call them, which all belong to the new Tailored Collection, with them to Photokina.
Spot finishing is a familiar technique from the packaging sector and now used in other applications. These glossy Spot UV finishes contrast with the business card’s matt substrate and get more intense, depending on what angle you view them from. Added to that is the fact when you touch the card you notice the differences in height and frictional resistance on the surface of the card even more. So it’s a good idea to use existing technology to create an even stronger link between the visual and the tactile on business cards.
There is now also the option of having sections of the business card covered in gold foil, in order to – as the photo shows – convey a distinctly gilt-edged impression or alternatively add gold foil detail for example just to lettering or individual letters. This provides subtle and at the same time effective accentuation.
Similar to Spot Gloss, the new third option, Raised Spot Gloss, also focuses on providing a tactile experience. This works particularly effectively on unprinted sections of the card. Business cards are also available in each of these three finishes in a square format.
My take: there were indeed a few interesting solutions on show at Photokina. But if your focus is on online print processes and technology, there was not much there this time round that we don’t already know. Perhaps Photokina 2018 has got more up its sleeves, let’s wait and see…