North America’s latest – and largest – printing show, Printing United took place in Texas in October. We spoke to Ford Bowers, president and CEO of SGIA, the show’s organisers, about this inaugural event while industry veteran Rick Roth shares his takeaways from the event

With nearly 30,000 registrants and more than 680 exhibitors filling the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Printing United, built on the platform of the SGIA Expos, is officially the largest printing show in North America. More importantly, it’s the first event to bring to life the phenomenon of convergence – the shifting industry dynamic as digital technologies change how, and for whom, print service providers (PSPs) do business. The show included everything from direct-to-garment (DTG) printers; screen printing equipment; advances in wide-format graphics, textiles, and dye sublimation; to offset printing, production inkjet and toner presses.
“Seeing so many types of printing at one site reminded attendees that analogue and digital printing can be combined to print all types and volumes of garments, textiles, signs, displays, packaging, labels and promotional products,” noted SGIA, the show’s organisers.

The 4,000sq ft Printing United Experience Zone was a highlight of the expansive show floor. This physical structure allowed attendees to move through simulated home, retail, restaurant and outdoor environments, and highlighted print’s presence in everyday life.

The new heat press for caps from Stahls’ []

“The feedback we continuously received throughout the show, and following the event from both exhibitors and attendees, has been overwhelmingly positive and powerful,” said Ford Bowers, president and CEO, SGIA. “Many commented on how revitalising it was to see such a full, and comprehensive, event. We were most thrilled about all the buying taking place on the show floor. This is the best testament that our industry, indeed, is thriving. We just needed the right model, and we are confident that we have produced that with Printing United.”

Rick’s takeaways

Industry veteran Rick Roth, of The Ink Kitchen Blog and owner of Mirror Image print shop, walked the aisles and visited the booths to share his observations on the show with Images readers.

Two things stood out for me at the Printing United show: the advances in digital printing on every front – a casual attendee might think it was almost an entirely digital print show. To this end, ink and emulsion companies were in short supply. And the realisation by some that, at least in textiles, close to 95% of the printing is still screen printing and not digital printing. So, what was I most excited to see?

Saati demonstrated its laser exposure unit []

Attendees could learn about DTG printers, screen printing equipment and dye sublimation

The OvalJet is a mechanical oval press which utilises heat presses, jets for pre-treat, flash cure units and high speed digital print heads to print full-colour images at a rate of up to 240 pieces an hour with one operator. This is truly revolutionary stuff. Another innovation was their presentation: a gigantic wall projection screen with a live feed from a real factory with a camera crew streaming the press in action doing real jobs. Kudos to Hirsch International for such a novel and dynamic approach to selling the machines.

There are also many new developments in digital printing on shirts. Aeoon has high-speed, high-quality printers, Kornit has a machine printing polyester shirts, and MHM, Roq, and M&R all have machines combining screen printing and digital on the same presses.

Hirsch had a live feed of an OvalJet working in a real factory []

Presentations at three amphitheatres supplemented the Printing United educational sessions

With the industry rapidly moving towards (but still only a fraction of it using) DTS (direct-to-screen), also known as CTS (computer-to-screen), others are already moving beyond the current technology. Saati was showing a laser exposure unit that is affordable and practical – it will no doubt be at the leading edge of the next wave. MHM, Roq, and M&R were all presenting their solutions to getting jobs up and down quickly thanks to integration with both pre-press and packaging after printing.

Transfers continue to be on the rise in the States, and FM Expressions had their vintage transfers, which are nearly indistinguishable from a full-front screen print on a shirt. I was also interested to see that Stahls’ has an innovative new heat press for caps which makes it easier to apply transfers to any cap, but particularly unstructured ones.

From wide format to DTG, all print sectors were covered []

Fears of an entire digital takeover at the show were alarmist []

The overall spirit of the show was very positive. Fears of an entire digital takeover are now known to be alarmist and instead it seems that many folks realise they are ‘decorators’. As decorators we have customers that want decoration on their garments – and that might be digital, a transfer, a vast array of screen print inks and techniques, a patch, embroidery, laser etching or some combination of any or all of these. That’s all the more reason to go to shows like this, see all there is to see and to figure out how it all can work together.