AVT, GMI, and the future of press controls

Andy Tribute, of Attribute Associates, wrote a short article today on WhatTheyThink.com, one of printing’s original web news sources. In his article he poses a question on the future of press control based on AVT‘s recent acquisition of GMI.

The article doesn’t offer much in the way of meat, but Andy does get around to describing the histories of both companies, contrasting their markets, and then theorizes that the ultimate solution for a press control is to combine AVT’s inspection products with GMI’s color and register control products into one control product that does everything. He says that no such systems exist today. That’s not exactly true, but surely no such product is sweeping the market.

There are good reasons why such a product hasn’t been successfully introduced in the past:

  1. Inspection products are popular in roll-to-roll processes where it’s not possible to grab a sample to inspect. However in sheetfed and web-to-folder applications it’s easy to grab sample copies for inspection and quality assurance purposes. Why buy a product to automate sample-grabbing when you’ve got a press operator there to do it anyway?
  2. Color control isn’t the same kind of beast on Flexo that it is on Offset – see Dr. John Anderson’s excellent article Adding Flexo to an Offset Operation in the September issue of Flexo magazine for details – so bolting ColorQuick onto a flexo press isn’t going to work.
  3. Register control is also a different beast on Flexo label presses with much less space between units and different cutoff needs.
  4. Flexo label presses generally cost less than GMI’s typical host press, which means the ceiling for the total cost of controls is lower. This means a do-everything product needs to cost a lot less than the sum of its parts. Both companies make Cadillac products, and turning two Cadillacs into a Hyundai is no easy task.
  5. GMI’s strength has always been their use of a spectrophotometer to give true spectral data. However their Spectrophotometer doesn’t provide images, and AVT’s camera doesn’t provide true spectra data, so to get both spectral data and an image for inspection you really end up with both sensor packages. Even so, nothing is preventing anyone from buying both systems and installing them both on a press today. Anyone know of such an installation?
  6. AVT’s label product, PrintVision/Helios, already does die cut registration and color deviation. What is ColorQuick going to add?
  7. Last but not least AVT needs to digest GMI’s US and Indian development operations and get everyone working together, not always an easy task.

I don’t think a combined product is in AVT’s plans. There just isn’t much bang for the buck in such a system, even if they could make one affordable for the labels market. It’s seductive to think a “total image control system” is the ultimate product that everyone will want to buy, but unless such a product removes a body from the press line (care to guess how many operators are on a typical inline labels press?) or saves enough waste to earn its keep, folks aren’t going to buy it.

I think AVT needed to grow to meet expectations, and GMI provided a convenient way to do that and provide some adjacent market access at the same time.

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2 thoughts on “AVT, GMI, and the future of press controls

  1. I agree with most of your comments. From my perspective, it looks like a poor purchase in the sense that AVT has bought a pile of technology which much of it has to be changed. They also bought a group of technicians who have not really come up with any reeally special technology and that group I doubt can be changed either. This is of course due to AVT’s lack of knowledge of the fundamental colour control problem in offset presses.

    As for Flexo vs Offset, it is my opinion that offset has much more potential to be developed into a more consistant and predictable process than flexo, as far as colour control goes.

    If AVT was a bit smarter, they could have investigated the fundamentals of the problem before going ahead and purchasing an existing company. But as I have found out for over ten years, there is no interest in doing that.

    Best of luck to AVT.

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  2. Thanks Steve

    Your comments are very interesting and I agree fully with them. As you say there is a difference in current technologies in that AVT is video based and GMI spectral based and the two don’t link so separate approaches would be necessary. The key in future may be the development of a new type of scanning head that can provide inputs to both solutions. Also as you say the flexo market at this time has never gone for colour correction on press largely because of the problems with variability of plates and the structure of the press. I see the combined technologies more in the web offset area and possibly even moving into sheetfed as the pressure comes more for CIM with minimal staffing levels. This is obviously an area to watch with interest.

    Regards

    Andy

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