To all of the un-loved project managers out there

The trials and tribulations of developing inkjet products and processes


Some say being a project manager is the worst job in the world, where you just can’t win. You’ve been given a budget and resources, probably in your mind nowhere near enough. By now you have probably proven the feasibility of a new printer or printing process. Marketing has been talking to a lot of potential end users and has agreed with you the specification of what’s needed. Oh, and they also gave you the deadline of when the product is needed, probably for a trade show coming up in the next year.

So now the impossibility of what you need to achieve becomes clear. How can you please everyone? There’s a lot of risk associated with the project; if there wasn’t it probably won’t be competitive by the time it’s launched. And time is not going to be on your side. You and your team will need to work hard to complete the design, test it and carry out further development.

But along the way there will be problems. Some ideas that worked with the prototype may not suit the full-scale machine. Of course the requirements have probably also evolved during the feasibility phase. You may therefore have to question everything you have decided in the past. Am I using the most suitable printheads for this application? Is our ink supplier the best choice for moving forward? How do I redesign the curing system to work at double the process speed? It’s probably a long list.

There is in fact a whole industry of companies whose business is to help you through this process. These days there are many sources of components and consumables. Some companies specialise in inkjet integration. New ink development specialists are springing up all the time. And they are there to help.

Many years ago I used to work as a project manager so I know what you are going through. At IMI Europe we organise conferences and courses focusing on inkjet printing, and for 13 years we’ve been running an event called the Inkjet Technology Showcase, especially designed for the inkjet development community. It has been interesting to see the growth of inkjet for industrial printing in Europe, as almost all of the new adopters have been to our events at an early stage in their developments.

At the Inkjet Technology Showcase we have keynote speakers to explain how the different industrial inkjet markets are evolving, and to give case studies of how they have grown successful businesses from nothing. We have technical experts giving a range of Tech Talks, passing on useful tips and information you can take back with you and immediately use.

But most importantly we have the suppliers to the inkjet community who give short product presentations to bring you up to speed with their offerings. Unlike other events we don’t expect the speakers to dress up their talks as technical presentations; here they focus on what they and their products do and how they can help you. At the end of each session at the breaks, lunches and receptions you have the chance to visit their table-top displays and have follow-up discussions. So you get the chance to meet existing and new suppliers who can help you, as well as the latest information, all packed into two intensive days.

This year the Industrial Inkjet Technology Showcase is in Munich on 24-25 June 2015. As a bonus, for the first half day we have invited Frazer Chesterman and Marcus Timson, the organisers of the InPrint industrial print trade show, to hold the InPrint Industrial Print Forum, where a series of experts will discuss the state of the art of decor, textile, packaging, industrial and 3D printing.

In addition on the 2 preceding days we are holding an edition of the Inkjet Summer School, featuring three of our most popular courses – the Inkjet Academy, Inkjet Ink Manufacturing, and Jetting Functional Fluids.

So project managers, here at IMI Europe we love you, and we hope to see you in June!

Mike Willis, IMI Europe