Spice it up with hybrid printing

Remembering my billionaire mentor, he did have chain of businesses and used real estate to build his assets. He loved block of flats because he could get rents from a lot more people at a time, but his son was back home after studying abroad and he took over managing the estates. He changed the plan and started investing on behalf of his father in building terrace houses in an estate setting. This didn’t only attract quality tenants but also brought additional income by him managing each estate, tenants paid management fee and billionaire mentor really liked the idea. We were with him when he first enlightened us that indeed business must be structured to accommodate both old and new thinking… in his words hybrid is a way to go as you can swing to both sides. I see the printing industry like a big mansion with many doors, any door you open leads to opportunities in varying sector.A dimension however is clear in each door, this dimension caters for either large or small volumes (or as we say in printing long or short run), today it’s all about conventional or digital. I have heard people ask which is the best? Basically, there is no best, they are created to meet different needs. Will the gap between the conventional and digital close up one day? Till then let’s harness the benefits and the understanding that they complement each other. Many years ago some friends and I went off to Belgium to visit the Xeikon factory in Lier, on that trip we were opportune to visit a company in Holland, a family business with 3 lines of 8 colours Flexo printing presses. This equipment were configured to print labels. It was a family business which was in the process of transitioning to a new generation.

This new management realise that they were losing out on small and medium volumes so they approached Xeikon for a 5 colours toner based digital label press. They were already negotiating the second as at that visit. This brings us to the concept of Hybrid Printing which I will describe as “the best of both”. Increasing demand for shorter lead time, the reality of reduced job print run length, and the constant pricing pressure is leading the industry down the path of Hybrid Printing. The pandemic has postponed DRUPA otherwise I was sure by following the trend in equipment manufacturing that we would have seen some bold innovation in this direction. We would have seen offset presses with inkjet printing possibilities, in fact companies like M&R already launched their digital squeegee which is literarily an automatic screen printing press with a Direct to Garment infused on the press. The benefit is combining the flexibility of brilliant colours and variable printing capabilities with the speed of screen printing, also leveraging of the low cost of screen printing inks, especially the white ink needed as an under-base while printing dark shirts. In any case till the hybrid printing equipment appear in full maturity, we must first get used to the concept of running the conventional and digital process to complement each other. Let’s look at some benefits of hybrid printing; 1. Hybrid printing expands printing market segment because one can combine several printing techniques and utilize the advantages. For example, in flexo you can add variable data, and cold foil digitally, while the printing itself is done conventional. 2. Cost effective sample prints, the example of a screen printer who has a Uv large format, can run samples with the digital machine and then run the real production on the graphics screen printing press 3. It’s an opportunity to build multiple streams of income without totally diversifying the business. Quick print in low quantities can become the everyday business which could be linked to an ecommerce site to build a consistent cash flow while the conventional is positioned for the volumes and gains from here geared towards projects while the everyday money is used for the day to day running 4. Hybrid is a good way to position the printing business for the next generation. You can imagine that the children of today will prefer smarter ways of working than the old tedious way. The former American president, Barack Obama said during his presidential campaign that “He doesn’t care whether you drive a hybrid or SUV, if you are heading for a cliff you should change direction”. So for those who are feeling bored and think they might be heading to the end of their printing business career, it might be time to spice it up with HYBRID. Thoughts from: Akin Oduwole CE @ Technology Global

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