Print market, technology perspectives

Graphical Arts Technical Foundation forcasts print markets, while a book from the Foundation of Flexographic Technical Assn. reflects recent changes in flexogrphic printing

Nationwide printing sales are expected to grow at a 3.5% to 4.5% rate this year, a slight slowdown from last year. That's according to Paul Moravec, economist with the National Assn. of Printers & Lithographers. Moravec reports on "Performance Trends in the Printing Industry" in the 1999 GATF Technology Forecast.

The Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (Sewickley, PA) publishes the forecast annually. The 64-page publication (shown) is available for $10 plus shipping (discount rates are offered for bulk orders).

Looking at economic and market trends for printers, Moravec says the economy and weak corporate profits will hinder printing growth in general. He says the strongest economies will be in the mountain, plains and southern states, with weaker economic prospects in the mid-Atlantic and New England states.

The publication projects growth by print segment, forecasting that inserts/coupons and labels/wrappers will grow at a modest 2% to 4% rate. Growth in press sales reflects a healthy, optimistic market, according to Regis Delmontagne, president of NPES, the Assn. for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies. In the book, he reports that "the prevalence of all-digital workflows means that package designs are being executed from the same basic data as brochures, magazine ads, posters, Web pages and other promotional material." He believes that packaging will be one area of printing that will grow quicker than the overall Gross Domestic Product between now and 2005.

The report analyzes the current state of print processes, including sheet-fed litho, web offset, flexographic, gravure, screen, on-demand and digital printing. It also looks into materials such as ink, paper and coatings, as well as prepress process changes.

This publication does not focus on package printing, but rather all aspects of printing. To its credit, 1999 GATF Technology Forecast does include several helpful charts and graphs that add spice. We wish it used more art elements and less copy throughout the publication. We realize this isn't a consumer publication competing for attention at a newsstand, but a cursory count of the publication finds that half the pages carry nothing but two columns of type with green headlines and subheads. That's not especially reader-friendly. Still, the report should appeal to professionals involved in printing as it includes 37 articles, with 10 of them covering the latest in prepress technology including digital photography, scanners, computer-to-plate and digital proofing.

Focus on flexography

Another publication that will address printing is expected to be released in late August by the Foundation of Flexographic Technical Assn. (Ronkonkoma, NY). The 5th edition of Flexography: Principles & Practices is being printed in color for the first time. In addition, every chapter has been rewritten to reflect recent technology changes. The six-volume edition covers several topics, including:

* Design, prepress, process color

* Environment and safety, bar-code symbology, quality

* Plates, mounting and proofing

* Ink and substrates

* Presses/press equipment, pressroom practices

The perfect-bound volumes, says the association, will allow for individual updates as flexographic technology changes. "This also means that you no longer need to repurchase the entire book," says FTA's press release introducing the book. "When a topic is updated and rewritten, you'll need only to purchase the individual volume at a preferred price." The book is now being sold at a special prepublication rate of $95 for FTA members/$145 for non-members. It may be ordered by calling the association at the number below, or by visiting FTA's Web site at www.fta-ffta.org.

Separately, FTA is releasing an addition to its FlexSys(TM) training CD-ROM series. Flexo Print Station Operations and Functionality explores the operation and function of the print station for central impression, in-line and presses for corrugated paper. It allows the user to enter set-up and print run costs on a spreadsheet that can be saved and adjusted. (JB)

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