April '22

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1 2 G R A P H I C S P R O A P R I L 2 0 2 2 G R A PH I C S - PR O.C O M (Image courtesy Agfa) S I G N A G E & P R I N T I N G T he wide-format printing industry was already moving toward more automation, but the pandemic and its restrictions moved up the timeline. Print shops of all sizes have struggled to nd and keep workers because of COVID, and the pandemic has changed the way many industries do business, with much of it moving from brick- and-mortar storefronts to robust e-commerce sites. To do that, the technology had to advance more rapidly than expected. Automation was "something we were moving toward way prior to COVID and the pandemic but, like so many various areas of the market, it really sped things up quite a bit," says Becky McConnell, Fujilm North America Corp. From add-ons to existing printing presses to more robust printing and workow software, the largest manufacturers have had to adapt quickly. Much of this technology was already available in the marketplace, but only the highest production shops were taking advantage of it. Now, printing equipment manufacturers are seeing a trickledown eect to smaller-vol- ume shops. "There is a drive toward automation," says Deborah Hutcheson, Agfa Corp. European countries were quick to adopt automation because they were looking to minimize their dependency on people. Now that the U.S. is experienc- ing labor shortages, it is "driving a lot of people to reconsider automation on their equipment. Also, as brands accelerate their time to market and look at shorter runs, she says that also is driving the need for automation. Hands-Off Handling THE BENEFITS OF AUTOMATED WORKFLOW IN WIDE-FORMAT PRINTING B Y P A U L A A V E N G L A D Y C H B Y P A U L A A V E N

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