By Barry Eitel

Printing equipment is expensive and the needs of today’s customers go far beyond what the industry of yesteryear could only imagine. For printers that are always looking to maximize the use of their equipment, these factors point to an essential strategy: diversification. In order to beat the competition, printers need to offer different sizes, different technology and different formats. They need to think beyond paper – many companies today are printing on a variety of substrates, from wood to glass.
Here are a handful ideas about how you can earn extra revenue by diversifying your offerings. The latest in print technologies, substrates and applications will be featured at ISA International Sign Expo 2017 in Las Vegas this April, which brings together thought leaders, innovators and printers from across the world to explore the future of printing and signage.

Size Up Different Sizes
Size is probably the most obvious way a printer can switch up their offerings, attracting new customers while better serving existing customers. With the new digital printers available on the market, printers can sell everything from labels to oversized graphics. Since most business printing needs are marketing related, printers can reposition themselves as a one-stop advertising shop for businesses of all sizes. To capture the opportunities in this market, you need to make sure that your equipment can easily take on these diverse needs.

Box it Up!
In an age of Amazon and popular subscription boxes like Blue Apron and Dollar Shave Club, printing customized packaging is heating up. By printing packaging with new digital and flexo technologies, printers can easily enter this expanding market. In fact, signage and packaging are almost synonymous in many printers’ minds by now, and the industries are integrated like never before.
A recent survey by analyst firm WhatTheyThink detailing the state of the printing industry in 2016 found that a large number of printers are moving into packaging.

“Short-run packaging is one of the most talked-about topics in the industry right now, and even if our own survey didn’t give the indication that a lot of general commercial printers have much interest in moving into that area, those who do already produce packaging will have a lot more tools at their disposal to take advantage of digital printing. I’ve also seen some very cool direct-to-shape applications,” wrote analyst Richard Romano.

Occurring simultaneously with ISA Sign Expo, the co-location with the CPP Expo provides business development opportunities through educational programs and networking with all sectors involved in the packaging production supply chain.

New Tech, New Revenue
The latest printers, whether they are inkjet, digital, flexo, hybrid or wide-format, often have features that easily allow their owners to chase new markets. Printer manufacturer Roland, for example, has a fleet of new inkjet printers that can produce vibrant colors on many scales. These machines can also communicate with the latest smartphones and tablets, an important feature that many manufacturers are including. Next generation UV printers are available from Flora that bring stunning color, impressive speed and, because the wide-format printers are UV, a final printed product that is extremely attractive to the eye.

These two manufacturers and many more are coming to ISA Sign Expo, making it the premier event for any printer looking to improve their hardware, software or substrates.

Print On Anything
The latest wide-format printers can tackle all sorts of substrates, from paper to metal to golf balls to glass. Textiles and soft material for signs are also huge new revenue streams for printers.

“Textile printing has been growing for a few years now, and soft signage continues to be the top application, at least in our corner of the world,” Romano writes of textile printing in 2016. “Direct-to-fabric is starting to penetrate, as it were, and can be a good technology for signage applications.”

The technology driving this ability is becoming more and more available to printers across the world. Many flatbed printers can now print on anything that is up to four inches thick – an astounding achievement that has only been available to smaller operations for the last few years. Sourcing these technologies has never been easier with events like ISA Sign Expo. Not only will the printer manufacturers be exhibiting, but so will vendors selling unique substrates, adhesives, fabrication equipment and more. For example, Magnum Magnetics can help you enter the printed magnet business, while color management firm GMG Americas allows you to simply bring the vibrant colors of a customer’s marketing materials to a whole array of printed media, and all the colors will be consistent.

Synergies Coming to Printing
The dynamic possibilities offered by a raft of new technologies are impossible to ignore for printers looking to grow their business beyond the traditional page. Textiles, signs, packaging and new substrates are all options now for motivated companies. The new opportunities come at a cost as the companies have to be willing to invest in new printers, software and supplies, but the diverse new customer base is poised to pay for itself. Printers should look at themselves as marketers and ask what the businesses of tomorrow will want printed.

One of the best ways to find new synergies is to network and discover how the industry is evolving. With the trade show, panel discussions and networking events, ISA Sign Expo is a terrific way to do this. And since attendees also receive entry to the CPP event, there’s never been more reason to go.

Want to explore the future of printing? Then you’ll want to check out all the exhibits at ISA Sign Expo, set for April 20-22 in Las Vegas.