Because we can or because we should? Evaluating trends in printing technology.

Famous British mountaineer George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, an expedition that seemed fated for disaster. Mallory famously replied, “Because it’s there.”

Today’s innovators could very well revise this quote to “Because we can.” Technology has advanced at an exponential rate over the last century, and printing is no different. In fact, at the upcoming drupa 2012 conference, HP Indigo founder Benny Landa plans to announce an all-new process called nanographic printing. This technology promises some impressive results, with abrasion and scratch resistance, the ability to print on any substrate, and images that are only 500 nanometers thick. Landa will introduce a stable of nanographic printers at the conference, and they’ll certainly make a big splash on the industry.

The printing industry has existed for hundreds of years, and offset printing has been around since 1875. During the 20th century, screen printing, laser printing, inkjet printing and thermal printing all burst onto the scene. Digital printing itself is a technology that is less than 20 years old, and the HP Indigo partnership formed about 11 years ago. In the technological industry, those numbers would be considered ancient, especially with new and improved products launching every month, so it should seem natural that an entirely new printing process is about to be unveiled.

Or should it? Should we spend our time wondering what’s next or spend more time trying to answer why we are doing it? Should we be jacks of all trades, masters of none? Changes to the marketplace are always welcome, and inevitable, but it can be easy to get caught up in the current craze and forget everything you’d learned before. And in a society with an increasingly short attention span, it’s easier than ever to fall into this trap.

Sometimes the best way to create a successful business is by marketing a consistent product from a staff of knowledgeable partners with years in one industry. Specialty stores that market to a specific niche – coffee shops, for example – often outlive stores that try to do a bit of everything, like sell everything from batteries and bacon to espresso and earplugs. And jumping on a trend just for the sake of  it can quickly oversaturate the market – the recent gourmet burger trend comes to mind.

Nanotechnology is an exciting prospect, and to be sure many printing companies will stop what they’re doing to get a piece of the new devices. But that will also require a lot of time and money spent learning the new process and perfecting a new craft. It might also lead to a lot of failures and a lot of loss along the way. Vibrant Graphics has always lived on the cutting edge, not the bleeding edge, and we’ll keep an eye on nanotechnology over the next few months. In the meantime, we’ll keep perfecting our own digital printing craft, which we’re still learning new things about each day. We’ve established a solid customer base through our timely, consistent services, and we’ll innovate for the sake of improvement, not solely for the sake of innovating.

It’s easy to feel successful by hitching your wagon to the latest and greatest technology. It’s a lot harder to actually be successful, and that takes years of patience and determination. We’re proud of our work at Vibrant, and if we can continue to innovate in our current craft, then we’ll quietly keep on giving our customers brilliant results – outside of the spotlight.

We’d like to hear from you – is it important to stay on top of new trends, no matter what? Or is there more value in evaluating the marketplace and your customers’ needs before taking the leap?

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Filed under Digital Printing, New Technology, Vibrant Graphics

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