2014 ERA Convention Wrap Up
The technology that will power reprographics in the future was on display at the ERA/IRgA Convention in Baltimore April 3-5. The event was attended by 141 people, including reprographers and personnel from the 27 exhibitors.
Reprographics: Stewards of Data
Paul Doherty, architect and visionary, opened the educational sessions with a keynote address focusing on the fact that the AEC industry – and the world created by the AEC industry – is increasingly dominated by data, and that reprographics firms are uniquely positioned to be stewards of that data.
For example, Doherty noted that the “smart cities” concept – which involves interactive representations of buildings, infrastructure, and countless other urban elements – relies on data such as current as-builts and municipal plans. Therefore, companies that can harness that data, such as reprographics firms, are essential to the future of smart cities.
“The magic happens at the reprographics firm,” Doherty said, while demonstrating how the mayor of a city was able to persuade local landowners to go along with a major project by using an interactive simulation based on “smart city” data.
Another data-hungry market is building management, Doherty said. While most reprographics shops are content managing drawings during construction, a much longer-lasting market is the building ownership, who need constantly updated information that incorporates the flood of data coming from smart appliances, utilities, infrastructure, nanotechnology-empowered surfaces, and countless other data sources.
“Now a bathroom with nanotechnology on its surfaces can tell the maintenance department that it needs service,” he noted.
Reprographics-related data management can even extend to emergency services, Doherty said. For example, one company has developed fire department masks that project floorplans onto the insides of the masks, so firefighters can “see” where they’re going in a dark, smoky building. A reprographics firm provided the necessary floorplans.
To download Doherty’s PowerPoint presentation, click here.
Achim Carius, executive director of Motio, the German reprographics association, gave an enlightening presentation about the state of the reprographics industry in Europe.
Carius explained that as in the United States, reprographics was dominated by family-owned firms until the last decade. Then chain-owned businesses began moving in, and many family firms sold out. However, the various European associations have worked to maintain the health of the independent firms.
For example, in Germany, Carius’ association formed go4copy.net, which is a cooperative of 31 independent firms that successfully competes against chain-owned firms. The cooperative generates annual sales exceeding $96 million.
Carius also outlined the structure of the European associations and the largest firms in each country.
He has agreed to allow IRgA members to read his presentation, with the caveat that they not post it online. To receive a copy, please request it from IRgA Managing Director Ed Avis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3D printing is a hot topic in the reprographics industry, with many firms angling to get a piece of the action. Two presenters – Phil Magenheim of Direct Dimensions and Brenda Smith of 3D Systems – explored opportunities in that field.
Magenheim noted that reprographics firms are well positioned to create models for the AEC industry, which is one of several large potential markets. He emphasized the importance of file preparation. Magenheim’s presentation will be available for viewing next week; if you would like a copy, please email Ed Avis now and he will alert you when it’s been posted.
Smith presented information about 3D Systems’ range of products, from small models suitable for home use to giant production-level models. She explained that her company has acquired many other companies in the field and has established itself as an industry leader. She noted that the company is seeking resellers, and has many opportunities in that area.
John Switzer, founder of DigiPrint Academy, discussed the value of Memjet printing. He described how the technology’s speed and color capabilities make it suitable for a wide variety of graphics and reprographics applications.
Memjet printers – currently available from RTI, Océ, and Xerox -- use a single-pass, four-color inkjet head. The printers range in cost from $110,000 for the RTI Vortex to $160,000 for the Océ ColorWave 900. Read a comparison of these machines by clicking here.
View Switzer’s presentation by clicking here.
Ed Avis, managing director of IRgA, provided five tips for reprographics shops interested in expanding their social media marketing. He emphasized the importance of establishing a presence on the platforms AEC clients are using, such as Twitter and Instagram, and the value of measuring social media effectiveness. Read an article based on his presentation here, and view his presentation here.
Twenty-seven leading vendors to the reprographics industry exhibited their products and equipment in the Trade Show. For a list of exhibitors and links to their websites, click here.
Social Events/Networking/Bukovsky Dinner
The socializing and networking at the convention were the highlights for many attendees. The Bukovsky Award was presented to Bob Roperti, Bob Christy, and Gary Wilbur during a banquet on Friday night. Click here for details about the winners.