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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: 3 Printing Surprises in the Past Year

I recently read four “end-of-the-year” articles noting trends in industrial custom printing and book printing (or magazine printing). I thought you might find their content both intriguing and encouraging.

Ink-Jet Printed Circuits

The first article by the Atmel Corporation is called “Printing Circuit Boards with the Atmel-Powered EX1.” It showcases the capabilities of the EX1 to layer silver nano-particles onto paper, fabric, plastic, glass, wood, silicone, or practically any other surface to create a printed circuit board.

In fact, one of the photos accompanying the article shows two alligator clips attached to a small cloth rectangle onto which a circuit board has been printed. If you look closely, you will also see a black rectangular integrated circuit sitting up on the raised circuit pattern.

Apparently the EX1 printer jets out two separate chemicals from two inkjet-like containers, and when the chemicals mix they produce silver nano-particles on the substrate.

What makes this new technology intriguing is its potential for creating wearable electronics. (Imagine smart-clothing containing electronic circuits.)

Advances in 3D Custom Printing

The second article is “Core77 2013 Year in Review: Digital Fabrication, Part 2 – Materials, Processes, and Business Developments” (Core77.com, 12/27/13, by Rain Noe).

In addition to a reference to the bioengineered, digitally-printed meat from Modern Meadow, which I had mentioned in a PIE blog many months ago, this Core77 article highlights a new wooden 3D printing substance (LAYWOO-D3) that can be jetted into any form and then cut, sanded, and painted. The printing filament is composed of 40 percent recycled wood.

The article then goes on to describe an inkjetted spray composed of metal particles, which can restore the surfaces of worn metal parts giving them new life (imagine gears and other metal parts within an engine, or perhaps a plumbing application). The GE Research Center’s Coating and Surface Technologies Lab is working to develop this new inkjet technology.

Another item of note in the Core77 review of 2013 inkjet technology is a new jet-printing material created by Materialise (a Belgian digital fabrication company). Their product (TPU 92A-1) is “flexible, durable, abrasion-, and tear-resistant,” and when it is produced in “a matrix-like form,” it will hold its “memory” (i.e., once compressed and then released, the substance will come back to its original form).

A third article (“3D-Printed Room Looks Like Gaudi on Steroids, Could Signal a New Age of Architecture” (International Science Times, isciencetimes.com, 12/30/13, by Ben Wolford) showcases “an impossibly ornate room [created] entirely from 3D-printed blocks.” The sandstone art piece (called “Digital Grotesque”), created by architects in Zurich, was jet printed in 64 blocks from digital blueprints. The hollow pieces were then assembled into a 172-square foot room with 10-foot high walls.

According to the article, what makes this particularly interesting—other than the fact that the architectural display has 260 million distinct surfaces—is that these complex surfaces cost no more to make, and took no more time to fabricate, than a plain box.

In essence, there’s no cost premium or time premium for a more ornate structure, or a more personalized structure, and this will have a dramatic effect on the business of architectural jet printing.

The Rise of “Bookazines”

As newspaper and magazine sales have declined over the past several years, a new category of custom printing, or book printing, has actually had increasing sales. DeadTreeEdition.blogspot.com takes note of this movement in “A Glimmer of Growth Amidst the Newsstand’s Gloom” (12/10/13).

Bookazines (also known as special issues) are usually single-topic publications produced by magazine brands on high quality custom printing stock with specialized content. According to the article, subject matter includes “tributes to dead celebrities, in-depth looks at a single topic, and recipe books.”

To put this in perspective,

  1. “Bookazines accounted for more than 10% of total newsstand sales last year, and that share seems to be growing rapidly.” (DeadTreeEdition)
  2. “Unit sales of the special issues in the U.S. and Canada grew at nearly an 11% annual rate from 2008 to 2012, with annual revenue up 80%.” (DeadTreeEdition)
  3. “During the same period, total unit sales of magazines decreased about 10% annually.” (DeadTreeEdition)

The big question is why people will spend $10.00 or more for information they can access on the Internet. Apparently, there’s more to a print book than its content.

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