News, and previous news released

Sign Africa evolving into international venue

Posted Aug. 13, 2013.

Already major international manufacturers such as HP, Mimaki, Epson, Roland, Xerox have booths at this crucial expo. Now that for 2014 this venue will become FESPA Africa, we feel that more manufacturers will realize it is a good investment to have a booth presence at the FESPA Africa expansion for 2014.

FLAAR has been a guest and speaker at Sign Africa for many years, so we are familiar with the capability of the expo organizers and their experience in the wide-format and signage industries both throughout the continent of Africa. FLAAR has quietly watched the alliances of trade show organizers around the world for many years. We welcome the fact that FESPA capabilities have been joined together with the team of Sign Africa to create a joint expansion in the coming year. The primary advantage of this alliance is that Sign Africa already exists and is already the main expo in this part of the world.

We at FLAAR hope to see you at Sign Africa 2013,
21-23 August and at FESPA Africa in 2014.

ISA Sign Expo

Updated April 5, Posted March 5, 2013

Four of us are attending ISA 2013 Sign Expo, plus FLAAR has a booth.

ISA is successful in a crucial respect: LOTS of exhibitors. LOTS of brands.

A complete range of products to cover the entire sigage workflow.

Plus, several Chinese brands of printers which seldom exhibited at USA earlier.

The organizers of ISA have done a great job and exhibitors are happy with the results.

First printer expo of the year: SGI Dubai (Sign Middle East)

Updated March 5, 2013. Posted Jan. 2, 2013

Two of us from FLAAR attended Sign Middle East (SGI, Sign & Graphics Imaging Middle East, Dubai, Jan 20-22, 2013).

For printshop owners and managers, distributors; for manufacturers in China, Korea, and Taiwan, attending SGI in Dubai is essential (it is the largest printer expo in this part of the world).

We at FLAAR wish success to every expo in each country, but expos are becoming regional. In Turkey, for example, Sign Istanbul is the largest and most successful expo in the entire region, larger now than most VISCOM expos in Western Europe. Sign Africa is strong in Johannesburg. We at FLAAR Reports are working with Sign Istanbul, with Sign Africa, with ISA (in USA), with Graphics of the Americas (in USA) and with SGI Dubai. We are also considering assisting key expos in China.

As a non-profit institute, with worldwide coverage of over a million readers a year, we bring tips, suggestions, consulting, and lecture topics to the expos. And we bring day-by-day news about wide-format printers, inks, media, laminators, cutters to our readers around the world.

If your printer, digital photo, signage, graphics, or 3D imaging expo would like to receive our assistance, since we are a non-profit institute, the fee to receive all the services from FLAAR is reasonable.

Sign Istanbul had remarkable attendance

Updated Dec 11th. Posted Nov. 13, 2012

Sign Istanbul is worth visiting for many reasons: Turkey is a growing economy. 2nd: Istanbul is a friendly and hospitable city. 3rd: the museums and historical architecture of Istanbul make a trip worthwhile even if there were not also a printer trade show to attract you.

Two from us at FLAAR Reports were flown to Sign Istanbul by the expo organizers, iFO. We have enjoyed visiting Turkey over many years and thus many distributors and printshop owners and managers utilize the FLAAR Reports to make their decisions.

Attendance was good the first two days and extraordinary the next two days. Sign Istanbul is the largest I have seen it, and significantly better than its competitor in past years Indoor & Outdoor.

FLAAR Reports on SGIA being updated.

Updated Dec 3, Nov. 13, first posted Oct. 23, 2012

Since last week there is now a double-length update photo-essay version of our free report on SGIA.

We are also still hard at work on the UV-cured printer TRENDs report, to summarize 2012 and discuss progress into 2013.

Our textile report will also mention TRENDs, such as the new textile printer by a major international brand (but sorry, we yawn a bit since that brand is defintely not from the world of textile printing). We recommend sticking to a company who knows textile printing inside out for many years.

Our TRENDs report on latex and resin ink will discuss the new physical printer being attempted by Sepiax: we discuss the totally new curing system; and then the separate printer itself (each is manufactured in a different factory then brought together).

This new report on latex ink TRENDs discusses the potential for latex ink to print on thick and rigid materials. You can order this full color report by asking to be invoiced; e-mail FrontDesk "at"

We also discuss how to avoid potentially misleading claims when a company simply props the words "latex ink" on an ink which most chemists do not accept as really such an ink.

Textile printers Site-visit Case Study in Europe

Posted Dec 3, 2012

As part of our increased reviews and evaluations of textile printers, today in Europe FLAAR inspected two 3.2 meter ATPColor printers.

The printshop (in Europe) was frankly quite large and what was the most impressive is that all their other printers were exclusively all top-tier brands. I rarely see a printshop with such a range of UV-cured, flatbed cutters, RIP software, and even the top spectrophotometer brand (more sophisticated than Gretag or X-Rite).

All the equipment elsewhere in this sophisticated printing company, and as far as I could note, all the ink and media, came from USA and Western Europe.

The owner and productions manager were helpful and hospitable. It was especially informative to speak with the production manager to understand why they selected this direct-to-fabric ink chemistry, and why they selected this brand over the other options available. All this we will discuss in the update to our evaluation of the ATPColor grand-format (3.2 meter) direct to fabric printer.

ATPColor invites FLAAR Reports team to visit

Updated again Nov 13, Posted 20 Sept 2012. Updated 23 Sept. 2012.

Dr Nicholas and Sofia were guests of ATPColor in Milano. We took the train from Cologne, after Photokina. We visited ATPColor to inspect and evaluate their textile printer facilities and products.

We have been noticing the textile printers of ATPColor over the years and with the rising interest in textile printers around the world now is a good time to visit the major players in this industry.

Next week, en route to Sign Istanbul expo in Turkey, we will stop in Frankfurt to visit the manufacturer of metallic inks. Then we will take the train to Munich and visit a printshop which is using the grand format size of direct-to-fabric textile printer from ATPColor. This is the best way to learn the pros and cons of a printer brand and model: speak with the owner, managers, and separately with the printer operator, to find out how the printer really functions out in the real world.

Sign Africa was in late August

Posted Aug 2, 2012. Updated Sept. 23, 2012

Sign Africa was a successful expo. We will have our reports out shortly (the September expo season is burying us with so many other expos).

FLAAR attends Sign Africa every year in Johannesburg. We look forward to returning in 2013.

FLAAR Reports provided expanded services to ISA sign expo 2012

Most recently updated March 14, 2012; first Posted Feb 29, 2012

Last year FLAAR provided an innovative floor-plan map, based on printers, cutters, inks and media. We copyrighted this jointly with ISA (we had to smile when we saw that FESPA had a similar map this year (with no citation to the FLAAR site plan of last year), since FLAAR Reports produced one independently for attendees to FESPA last year).

Our goal is to work together with all wide-format printer and photography and 3D imaging expo organizers to improve benefits for exhibitors and attendees.

So here is the download of the first draft of the FLAAR+ISA pre-expo innovation. The goal is to assist end-users (printshop owners, managers, and printer operators) as well as to assist distributors. 

The first draft is obviously made in advance, before we can see what printer models are actually on the floor. So we will revise this list on the last set-up day so a more realistic list is available on the three days of the expo.

Download Now

Please realize this is not a list of what product categories a company includes in the exhibitor catalog, but a rather a real-world list of what specific products are actually on view in the actual booth in the expo hall in Orlando.

We will try to add water-based printers if time and budget allow. We will also add which printers are in the booth of distributors. This is not realistic to know two weeks before the expo starts.

FLAAR sent a video photographer to ISA with the latest Manfrotto video head atop a pro-level Gitzo tripod.


Graphics of the Americas was a successful expo

Updated March 3, 2012, First Posted Feb 29, 2012.

Two from FLAAR Reports were at Graphics of the Americas all three days.

Lots of UV-cured printers; lots of Canon and Epson printers; lots of Mutoh as well (no significant presence from Mimaki, why did their dealiers not show up?).

GOA Graphics of the Americas, 2012 exhibitor list 2012 reviews

But KIP and many other products were exhibited (two brands with MemJet technology).

Graphics of Americas Report

Requires latest version of Adobe Flash player.GoA Flip Style

Even though I had to fly here all the way from Beijing (FLAAR has a six week project in China this quarter), I am glad I attended GoA. The lecture this afternoon had lots of contended attendees.

We hope to see you at GoA 2013, which I believe will alternate with a location in Orlando.


What about FESPA 2012 expo in Barcelona?

First Posted Feb 23, 2012

Lots of textile printers were at FESPA this year: more than in any signage expo in North America.

More brands of dye sublimation transfer paper than any other signage expo in Europe.

Several major RIP software brands and color management software exhibited.

Scores of printer manufacturers (though yes, Durst and others were conspicuously absent). But there were enough printer manufactures for printshop owners from Europe, Africa, Middle East, and elsewhere to fly to beautiful Barcelona for several days.

Dozens of ink companies and scores of media and substrate manufacturers and distributors.

So even though I had to fly all the way from Guangzhou (via Beijing and Frankfurt) to get here, and even though I now fly back to USA (to lecture at Graphics of the Americas), I felt the flights were worth it.

FESPA 2012 Barcelona

Requires latest version of Adobe Flash player.FESPA Flip Style

I am glad I came to this FESPA, and you could see thousands upon thousands of other visitors also enjoying the products which were available for us all to inspect.

Considering this is a "DRUPA Year" and being aware that the economy of Spain is low (and of the rest of the world is a tad down also), I think FESPA did well.

SignAfrica, South Africa 2011

August 4, 2011. Updated August 31, 2011.

Nicholas attended SignAfrica as invited guest, and lectured on printing on innovative materials other than PVC and foam board.

Dr Hellmuth presented two lectures in Johannesburg during this late August expo: one on Inks that print on anything and everything: Reality Check (but yes, they are really magic inks).

How to survive with a print shop

When low-bid banners and billboards evaporate your profit

What YOU can still print, to stay in business (and prosper). In other words, there is more than signage that you can print, if you have the appropriate printer and learn the workflow.

Nicholas Hellmuth Conference at the Sign Africa Expo 2011

This lecture will discuss Jetbest ink, Sepiax ink, and Hongsam wallpaper ink.

A second lecture discussed printing on glass.

FLAAR Reports takes pleasure in announcing that Nicholas will be speaking at the Sign Africa Expo Conference about "Printing on Glass: Discussion of workflow and many kinds of ink that work on glass".

While at SignAfrica Nicholas will be making a list of all inks and all distributors who offer inks and media.

Plus a list of all textile printers. And a list of all flatbed cutters manufactured in Europe, North America or Japan (such as Kongsberg, Zund, Aristo and comparable quality).

We will also update our FLAAR Reports on wide-format inkjet distributors in South Africa.

New reports from FLAAR will cover all Chinese-made printers which use Epson DX5 and DX7 printheads.

The FLAAR Report on SignAfrica will, as every year, also feature all the UV-cured printer brands and models, plus the major brands of solvent printers.

The major publication will be on TRENDs, including whether MEMJET is a functional printhead technology, or just a PR hype like Foveon (a digital sensor that was 100% PR releases and less than 3% substance). CrystalJet ten years ago, and the Kodak 5260 printer were other ¨¨fabulous technologies" that survived only in PR releases, sham reviews, and dubious ´´Success Stories.¨ A printer of insignificant size with MEMJET printheads was at SignAfrica in a miscellaneous booth.

Three from FLAAR were at the two simultaneous Spring expos in China

March 1, 2011; updated March 9th.

D-PES 2011 in Dongguan and Sign China Expo in Guangzhou the same week (last week). For the first time in industry history we are making lists of all the Chinese printers which utilize Lexmark, Lenovo, and Epson printheads (so printers other than Mimaki, Mutoh, and Roland).

Plus FLAAR will produce one of the first comprehensive lists of all after-market inks available from China (yes, we are aware of the situation for third-party inks; but we have visited the ink factories of three inks so far so can begin to tell the difference between different brands).

Nicholas Hellmuth inaguration ceremony
Click to zoom
Here is Nicholas in the inauguration ceremony.

Today was hosted by Lawrence Chung, to visit his CrystalJet headquarters in Guangzhou (third largest city in China) and then to headquarters of his other firm, Gateway. Very informative. FLAAR Reports can provide better tips about printers and inks because we have access to personal inspection of the actual companies.

Consulting Services from FLAAR Reports in Australia

March 24, 2011

For any distributor or print shop owner, manager or printer operator in Australia, who would like an opporunity for consulting services in Australia, Dr Nicholas Hellmuth will be there for several days this spring. Visual Impact Expo, Sydney, Australia, and PrintEx11, co-located with Visual Impact, both 4 to 6 May is the opportunity. If you wish or need Dr Hellmuth to visit your printshop, or visit your company (if you wish help in deciding which printer or other part of the workflow to consider), contact [email protected] and ask for the consulting brochure.

Lots worth seeing at ISA sign expo.

April 4, 2011

Every year for a over a decade I have attended ISA, and for the first time, FLAAR will have a booth here. ISA is a good place to see the entire workflow: inks, media, cutters, coaters in addition to printers.

FLAAR at FESPA Americas + Graphics of the Americas (GoA)

February, 2011

FLAAR was at FESPA Americas and Graphics of the Americas (GOA), 24-26 February, 2011 in Orlando. FLAAR was at booth 1807 at FESPA Americas and Dr. Nicholas Hellmuth will be lecturing at GoA and FESPA Americas.

Lectures at GoA:

Feb 24: 12:30 PM-2:00 PM (New Technologies in Wide Format Printers)
Feb 25: 12:30 PM-2:00 PM ( Wide Format Opportunities with resin ink Technology)

Lectures at FESPA

Feb 25: 3:00 - 4:00 Cartón con estructura de nido de abeja: Materiales innovadores y amigables con el medio ambiente (Honeycomb sandwich board: Re-board (Design Force), Falconboard (Hexacomb Pregis), etc.)

Feb 26: 12:00 - 1:00 Impresión sobre todo tipo de materiales: La impresión decorativa para sobresalir ante su competencia (Printing on everything. Beyond signage: print decor to get ahead of your competition.)

Mutoh ValueJet


If your expo or conference elsewhere in the world would like Dr Hellmuth to speak, he can lecture in Spanish, German, and English.


First major international trade show of the year was in Dubai, Jan 24-26, 2011

January 7, 2011

Every year FLAAR is flown to Dubai by the expo organizers. Some years to lecture; other years as VIP guest, and for 2011 Dr Nicholas Hellmuth is also head of the team to select the best signage in Dubai: best inkjet prints; best LCD or LED signage; and best booth display at SGI Sign and Graphics Imaging expo.

We show here the exhibitor list for UV-cured printers for last year,plus the first report for 2011 . Here is also the Distributor List. For 2011 there will be year 2011 updates of both these, plus a new list of after-market inks and list of substrates and media distributors for Dubai.

These reports can be ordered via PayPal, Credit Card or invoice with bank transfer.

For the upcoming expo this year, FLAAR will also have a booth in Dubai for the first time.


Every ink type is good for some applications but can't print on other substances. The first ink that can print on “everything” was UV-cured. But, this ink requires expensive curing lamps. And UV ink works best in expensive printheads. In comparison, the wholesale value of an Epson head is probably less than $300!

So ink company after ink company has tried to produce an ink that is as useful as UV-cured but does not have the downsides.

Then a company in Austria revealed that they have been discretely creating an even more innovative new ink, named Sepiax AquaRes, a resin water-based ink. FLAAR spent about 16 months researching this ink and our report came out a few months ago.

FLAAR at SGIA 2010, Las Vegas, Nevada

November 12, 2010

We were at SGIA trade show in Las Vegas Convention Center. Also we had a booth.

During this year FLAAR had the opportunity to have booths in other trade shows such as FESPA Mexico 2010.

We look forward to having a booth at SGIA 2011.

Latex ink after-market

November 12, 2010

Almost 4000 latex ink printers have been sold worldwide and many people have asked for a FLAAR evaluation. But there are so many new UV-cured and new Sepiax printers coming out that our staff have been booked solid. Plus we need access to be able to study the latex ink printer in-person. Finally this access was possible so Dr Hellmuth flew to Singapore to spend several days in front of an L25500 that has been in a printshop now for several months. Our evaluation provides actual factual knowledge of this printer.

But most importantly, this report is based on user-experiences; so this FLAAR Report is not about how greenwashing latex ink is; and as you would expect of a FLAAR Report, this is not the kind of Success Story that a PR agency would dare release. The new review should be finished in one or two weeks. Plus, this unique perspective comments on whether, or not, after-market latex ink functions in the L25500.

Eco-Solvent Printers, Mild-Solvent Printers

We cover these Mutoh, Mimaki, Roland, and Seiko ColorPainter printers primarily on our sister site, Large-format-printers.org. We bring information on eco-solvent printers from ISA and other signage trade shows. We have three new titles on the Roland SolJet, based on three different site-visit case studies. We also cover Mutoh, HP 9000s, HP 8000s, and all the mild-solvent printers too (pros and cons with warnings about misleading advertising claims). We are updating our coverage of the Mutoh Toucan LT and its hybrid flatbed also.

However since we at FLAAR are professional photographers, come from an architectural background, and are dedicated to fine art giclee, we ourselves still have a deep interest in the new generations of water-based printers. So we find the new aqueous-based resin ink chemisty exciting. However even with the advent of Sepiax resin water-based inks, there are still printshops for whom a Seiko ColorPainter, Mutoh, Mimaki, or Roland solvent printer are a valid option to look at.

It is all ink

Printer ink

If you understand what inks are being tested in ink labs around the world you can prepare for competition. If half the world sticks with solvent inks (of all flavors), you can offer services in your city that your competitors can't match if you have learned from FLAAR, before your competitors, what new inks will offer an advantage as we move into autumn and winter 2010.

FLAAR acquires HP Z3200 ps to evaluate

Nicholas Hellmuth

Here at FLAAR we either inspect a printer inside a photo studio or giclee atelier or a printshop, or we test the printer ourselves in-house. For larger printers and for textile printers we test them in demo rooms at the factory (since there are too many printers to realistically expect to have them all in-house).

But for the HP Designjet Z3200 ps Photography, we are doing in-house testing. Here is a shot of Nicholas checking the installation. The printer arrived on October 2009 and we had the first comments on the Z3200 out within one week.

First posted May 9, 2011