Sunday, February 13, 2011

“Disruptive” Technologies? Game-changers, opportunity-drivers?

In my opinion, there have been several “disruptive” technologies that have affected the reprographics business and industry:

· Diazo printing (replaced wet-process “blueprinting”)

· CAD software and CAD systems (made obsolete “overlay drafting” and pin-bar photographic work)

· The very first digital plotter (I don’t recall which plotter came first)

· The very first HP DesignJet plotter (first really-low-cost digital plotter)

· The Shacoh 920 (over time, seriously eroded engineering photo services revenues)

· The OCE 9800 – truly a game changer – forced reprographers, over time, to eliminate “photo” departments, caused pricing for “plots vs. prints” to consolidate, eliminated the distinction between “large-format copying” (diazo and xerographic) and “large-format plotting”.

· The first large-format RIP (enabled “short-run”, large-format, photo-realistic digital printing) (Was that the Cactus RIP?)

· The first small-format RIP (enabled “short=run”, small-format, digital color printing (I don’t recall which RIP was first, perhaps Fiery?)

· Electronic “planrooms” and other software and services for “document management” and project-participant collaboration.

· Software for electronic permitting

· Software for electronic estimating

· The Internet, of course

Some new technologies created opportunities for reprographers, but some changed completely the way reprographers operated their businesses and, over time, had dramatic effects on pricing for services offered by reprographers.

What’s the “next” “disruptive” technology on the horizon? And, how will it affect the reprographics business and industry?

Sometime within the next two years, will there really come to market an ultra-fast, wide-format, black & white and color printer capable of generating 1,400 E1-size (30 x 42) A/E prints per hour, meaning output at up to 12,600 sq ft per hour and with 800 x 1600 dpi resolution?

[[[ 12,600 sq ft per hour, CAD drawings (technical documents) in color!; people, that’s significantly faster than the black & white print output capabilities of OCE, KIP and Xerox large-format black & white printing systems! ]]]

And, will it be sold at a price at which no reprographer will want to pay, or will it be sold at a price that will (comparatively speaking, of course) rock our (reprographics) world?

And, will the operating/running costs (service, ink, paper) be low enough to enable a reprographer, if the reprographer wanted to, to sell A/E/C (drawing) printing services in color (or in b/w) for the same price that the reprographer now sells b/w printing services?

Hmmmm? I think these are thought provoking questions. But, of course, that’s only my own personal opinion.

Yesterday, I visited and watched a video presentation from Andy Tribute. (At the very end of this post, I’ve placed Andy’s bio. After I watched the video, I looked for information about him, just to make sure that he isn’t a looney-tune. Apparently, he is an expert in the printing industry.)

Now, I’m going to give you the link to that video, BUT PLEASE NOTE – IF YOU WANT TO WATCH THE VIDEO YOU WILL NEED TO BUY A DAY-PASS FOR $4.95, since the video is considered “premium content”. EVEN IF you do want to watch the video, I encourage you to read the rest of my post before you watch the video.

Immediately hereafter is the beginning part of the multi-page typed transcript that appeared in the article (Andy Tribute’s article) on (I cannot give you the entire transcript, since it, like the video is considered premium content.)

Andy Tribute: Memjet - The latest disruptive technology

Published on February 9, 2011

Andy Tribute looks at the impact of disruptive technologies on the printing and publishing industries, and discusses how Memjet's inkjet technology will be the next disruptive technology to impact on the industry.

Hello, this is Andy Tribute. I want to talk today about disruptive technologies because Disruptive Technologies are ones that change industries. Disruptive technologies happened within our industry many times. We’ve had the change in color workstations coming in, in 1979 with Sign Techs that largely changed the offset market and made color much easier. We had the major change that happened with desktop publishing that came in, in ’84 and ’85 and basically this in a sense killed the typesetting industry and created the design for print industry where we eliminated a large slice of the market where now designers created the work and it went straight to print. We had the same thing happen when we saw the digital print market starting. And again, this changed the way people considered printing where suddenly you could do short runs very economically and you could start doing one-to-one marketing with personalization.

So, we’ve had disruptive technologies for some time in this industry and we now have another disruptive technology. This is a technology that’s going to change the inkjet marketplace. Now, inkjet is well-established. We’ve got the continuous feed inkjet machines that everyone’s very excited about at the moment, but we’ve had wide format inkjet for years, and the whole signage business has changed. But we’ve now got a disruptive technology that’s going to seriously impact in this area.

As I said, this (the above) was only the introductory part of the transcript.

Now, for the rest of my comments.

I was aware of Memjet-technology before I watched the video of Andy on, perhaps as much as 3 or 3.5 years before. Come to think of it, I think I was still working at NGI when I first heard and read about Memjet-technology. The question back then was, and, even today, still is, ……. “will we ever see memjet-technology-enabled wide-format printers come to market, or is this something that’s just going to be talked about for years and years and years?”

Andy refers to “Memjet” as a potentially “disruptive” technology. He says that in reference to the ink-jet market, and, as to reprographers, that means “wide-format” ink-jet.

But, Andy isn’t a “reprographer” and, although he has considerable experience in the “printing” industry, there are, as we in the reprographics industry know, differences between the reprographics business and the printing business.

If a Memjet-enabled wide-format printer does come out on the market, it could well prove to be a “game changer” for the reprographics business and industry - - - and a truly astounding game changer at that, one that would not just affect “ink-jet” printing, but toner-based printing as well.

What if I said to you, “there may soon come a time when reprographers are no longer printing plans in black & white, all are going to be printing plans in color, and only in color?”

You would probably think I’m nuts. (There are already a number of people who think I’m nuts.) But in spite of that, that may well be what happens, if Memjet-enabled wide-format printers are introduced to the reprographics industry and provided they are not prohibitively priced, provided they are reliable, and provided that the operating/running costs are not prohibitive.

When I first heard (and read) about Memjet technology a few years ago, I said to industry friends and associates that, even if Memjet’s technology was fabulous, Memjet may have an insurmountable hurdle in bringing its technology into the wide-format equipment marketplace. That’s because Memjet isn’t going to manufacture equipment. Memjet’s business model is based on licensing its technology to wide-format equipment manufacturers. Because of that, Memjet’s efforts could be stymied if the likes of HP, Canon, OCE, KIP and Xerox decide not to license Memjet technology. Why would an existing wide-format equipment manufacturer want to promote (and manufacture and sell) a new technology that would (or, I guess I should say, could), for all intents and purposes, obsolete all of its wide-format equipment products? Why would a reprographer want to acquire an OCE TDS 860 and an OCE ColorWave 600, when “one” Memjet device could do the work of both of those OCE systems and do that work faster than either of the OCE systems? Same question for a reprographer who acquires KIP b/w systems and HP DesignJet plotters (instead of OCE equipment.) And, the same applies to Xerox systems as well.

After I watched Andy Tribute’s video-presentation (and re-read the transcript of that video), I went to Memjet’s web-site. (

Although there are some interesting short videos (I’m speaking of the wide-format videos), I was unable to find any Memjet “partners” who are in the “wide-format” equipment manufacturing business. So, apparently, Memjet has not yet signed up any wide-format equipment manufacturers to manufacture Memjet-enabled wide-format printers. The BIG question is, “will that EVER happen?”

If that does, at some point, happen, it could end up being a real big “game changer” for reprographers and for the reprographics industry as a whole.


Oh, here’s the information about Andy Tribute from the INFOTRENDS web-site Associate Consultant

Andrew Tribute is an industry analyst, and is widely regarded as one of the leading industry experts in the printing and publishing field. He is Managing Partner of Attributes Associates, a specialist consultancy organisation for the print, publishing and media industries. Attributes' clients include many of the leading suppliers to the industry, as well as major publishers throughout the world. He has worked in the area of applying digital technology into these industries for over thirty years. He graduated in printing management from the London College of Printing in 1964, and has worked in print or print related industries since then. After a career working for both users and vendors of equipment he established Attributes in 1984. In 1985 he started to write about digital technology and applications for The Seybold Report, and later worked in association with them as their International Editor. He gave up this role in September 2000.

In addition to his consultancy business, he writes a monthly syndicated column, Tribute’s View, which is published by a large number of printing magazines and online publications throughout the world. He also speaks regularly at conferences and seminars, often as keynote speaker. This is for both public and vendor sponsored events.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Printing in the UK.

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