food printer cornell university

The Food Printer from Cornell in Action

We watched in awe as Star Trek magically materialized food through the use of its replicators and protein resequencers. While that sort of technology may still be light years away, engineers at Cornell University have geared up to launch the next generation in foodie technology-the 3-D food printer.

The 3-D food printer uses pastes rather than ink to create designs using precision well beyond what’s possible using the naked eye and the human hand. And while the thought of a mushy turkey paste sitting on the table come Thanksgiving doesn’t necessarily fill our hearts with joy, adding chocolate, white chocolate and a little bit of frosting to these machines creates culinary possibilities guaranteed to make your taste buds dance with joy.

Or salivate like Pavlov’s dog. Whatever.

Check it out!

Food Printer from Cornell on YouTube

The really cool thing is that right now, this is an open source project. That means that all of you out there rubbing your hands together and trying to figure out how to get your hands on one before your mother-in-law comes to visit next Christmas will soon be able to go online, download the blueprints and build one yourself.

If you don’t want to put your gadgetry skills to the test (or if, like me, you just plain don’t have any) the printer is expected to retail commercially for about $1,000 when launch day comes around. Whenever that day may be…

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The greatest asset any company can have is an employee that knows how to connect with their customers. They get to know them on a personal level. They spend time talking to them. They introduce them to their products and work side-by-side with them to integrate those products into their business and their daily lives.

But that takes time, and as companies are steadily cutting back on their sales force time is something they just don’t have. What if your company could do the same thing using variable digital printing?

The Day “Old-School” Variable Digital Printing Died and a Revolution Began

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, variable digital printing (also known as variable data printing, variable information printing, or VDP) is the practice of “personalizing” your correspondence by personalizing part of the content.

The simplest example? Adding your client’s name in the greeting rather than typing “Dear Friend”, or “Dear Customer”.

Now, once upon a time this sort of personalized header would be enough to have your customers smiling. Hey, a corporation actually knows their name! They must care, they took the time to put their name in instead of sending out some generic letter that wouldn’t know them from a hole in the ground.

Then people started catching on. They learned about technology that takes the name from a gigantic database of names and plugs it into the line. There wasn’t a real person writing that after all! Just another clever attempt by corporate America to make customers believe they were after more than the bottom line.

Enter the next generation of variable digital printing.

Designing for Variable Digital Printing (Or, What Are You Really Trying to Do With It?)

Using today’s variable digital printing technology you can personalize your printed marketing materials to personally reach out and touch each and every one of your customers. You can alter your graphics, along with huge hunks of text, to make it as applicable to them, personally, as possible.


“Personal” is the magical key word of the variable digital printing world. Why? Because the key to building a successful customer base is making your products and services as personal to them, personally, as humanly possible-and if you can wander into the realm of the inhumanly possible, well, that’s even better!

It isn’t enough just to make nice, personalized pieces, however. That’s easy. What’s hard is designing those pieces with a goal in mind. As with any marketing piece, you need to ask yourself what it is you’re trying to achieve? What are you trying to accomplish?

What do I want the customer to do?

If you want your customers to buy more of your product, your variable print needs to be targeted toward getting them to buy more of your product. If you want your customers to upgrade their services, your variable print needs to be targeted toward getting them to upgrade their services.

Remember, telling them they should do it isn’t going to close the sale. Above all, it needs to tell them why they should do it.

The purpose behind variable digital printing is to take generic marketing pieces out of the equation. Remember, VDP isn’t going to personalize itself. It’s up to you to get to know your customers and make sure your printed marketing materials can close the gap.

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A professional printer represents two things to today’s businesses. Quality, and the ability to manufacture huge volumes of memos, brochures, posters, flyers and other materials without driving  the office printer to go on strike.

Have you ever asked an ordinary desktop printer for 1000 copies of anything? Mine didn’t speak to me for a week afterward, and that was only black and white! 

But there’s something new and incredibly cool that printers are doing for companies looking for less than 1,000 copies of just about anything, and that’s pumping up the power of digital printing.

The Star Studded Side of Digital Printing

Digital printing is beating the pants off offset printing for these short run printing jobs because:

  • You’ll never have to wallpaper your storage room with leftover brochures again. It actually makes sense to order them in smaller quantities and just re-order as needed.


  • Whether you’re a one-man band or a Fortune 500 corporation, your marketing materials look smooth. Really smooth. Digital printing brings colorful graphics and precise detail down into the price range of the Average Joe so that even a first time entrepreneur working out of their living room can hold their own in a competitive market.


  • Pieces can be personalized. Ever wonder how your credit card company knew to put your name at the top of their sales letter? They didn’t hand type each and every one of those. Instead, they used variable digital printing to program the printer and customize their materials. When personalization increases your ROI and keeps your materials out of the trash and in the hands of people who matter, why would you say no?

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When you’re knee deep in digital printing projects all day long, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is going to know whether they should go with digital printing or bob and weave to the sounds of a traditional offset press. With that in mind, and the sound of the digital printer whirring in my ear, I thought I’d kick off the week with a quick run-down of the pros and cons of digital printing.

The Pros:

1) It’s cheap-relatively speaking. Since all the cost is upfront with offset printing, up to a certain point you’re going to pay a lower price per piece for digitally printed products.

2) You wind up with considerably less waste. One of my absolute favorite things about digital printing is the fact that you can print your pieces to order. So while you may pay more per piece to order 300 instead of 1,000, you won’t find yourself throwing away 700 brochures/flyers/guidebooks because they’re outdated either.

3) Personalization isn’t as far away as you think. Have you ever heard of variable digital printing, or variable data printing? Welcome to the power of the digital press. Insert your customer’s names and account numbers, personalize entire paragraphs and send out custom pieces to your entire mailing list with the press of a button.

4) Professional appearance without the professional cost. Remember how we said digital printing was cheap? The best thing about digital printing is that you sacrifice absolutely nothing in terms of quality, so small business owners can look as professional as a Fortune 500 corporation.

Digital printing

The Cons:

1) More cost per piece. Offset presses are designed to run huge volumes of printed products at one time, which means that once you creep past that 1,000 pieces+ mark you may pay less on a per piece basis than you would using a digital press.

2) Fewer mediums. Digital printing presses are quickly catching up to offset presses in terms of what they can and can’t print on, but we’re not there yet! So if you want to print on wood, rock or cloth, an offset press may be your best bet. For a few more years, anyway…

3) Um…um…nope, I’ve got nothing!

What do you love/dislike/despise about digital printing?

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Welcome back! I’m hoping the reason you’re here is that you tuned in yesterday for our discussion on direct mail marketing and catching your neighbors’ eye. If you missed out on yesterday’s post, make sure you stop by there after you’re finished here. In the meantime, here are the highlights:

1) No one really has time to get to know every business owner in town personally the way they used to.

2) Businesses are all looking for that personal connection when they’re looking for someone to do business with.

3) Direct mail marketing offers the best of both worlds; an easy, hands-off way to reach local businesses and a venue with which to express your willingness to build a personal relationship with your clients from the very beginning.

So How Do You Turn Your Average Direct Mail Postcard into a Paragon of Modern Marketing?

It’s the million dollar question-literally. Direct mail materials can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in business, but only if you know what you’re doing. With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to turn your direct mail marketing materials into million(ish) dollar money makers:

• Choose an image that your target audience is going to relate to. Using your company image on the cover might sound like a good idea, but it’s not going to inspire the same irresistible urge to flip the postcard over and sneak a peek at the back as a postcard bearing an image from their industry.

• Talk to your customers, not at them. Yes, granted, it’s not like you’re going to get a whole lot of immediate feedback from a direct mail marketing piece, but that doesn’t mean your customers need to feel like they’re trapped in a used car lot with a rabid car salesman and nowhere to run!

• Be personable while remaining professional. There seems to be a mistaken belief out there that when you create a direct mail marketing piece you have to be a cut-and-dried professional. There’s plenty of room out there for warm, friendly sales teams, so don’t let the opportunity pass you by!

• Be true to your brand. The whole point of personal service and building a relationship with your clients is to convince them that you’ve got what they want. There’s no possible way you’re going to be able to do that if your direct mail marketing pieces don’t reflect who you and your company really are!

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Event posters are the single best way I know to spread the word on a broad scale when you’ve got an event coming up. They’re big, they’re eye catching, they sit on walls and bulletin boards and attract attention. If you’ve done your design work right, your event posters are already drawing in plenty of potential attendees for your next big event.

Now comes the hard part. How do you close the deal?

With summer in full swing organizations and groups across the country are creating posters for concerts, sales and other big events. I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell everyone when they start asking what information they should put on their event posters. Event posters aren’t brochures, and they aren’t book covers. Your event poster should have the basics as prominently displayed as possible.

What do I mean by the basics? Do the 5 W’s ring a bell? (Who, what, when, where, why)

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re a sports booster group hosting a car wash as a fundraiser for your local cheerleading squad. You decide you want to print up some event posters and tack them up, since the girls are headed to the state championships and you want to make sure as many people as possible know about it! Your poster should have a great picture of the girls on the field, as well as:

The team name

What kind of fundraiser you’re hosting (in this case, a car wash)

The date and time of the car wash

The location of the car wash

What the money’s going to be used for

And, of course, somewhere on there you’re going to want to put the price per car wash. It’s just good manners.


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Hi, and welcome to East Ridge Printing! Inside our four walls we’re your one-stop shop for commercial printing projects of all shapes and sizes. Out on the web, we’re that and so much more. We work with educational facilities, non-profit organizations, healthcare service providers and businesses of all shapes and sizes to design customized marketing solutions guaranteed to stand out in any crowd, no matter how competitive that crowd happens to be!

When you subscribe to Business Innovation you’ll have a front row seat for tips, hints and pro secrets to help your business thrive Since 1979 we’ve worked with businesses just like yours, putting our creative energy directly behind your company’s marketing campaign. Here at East Ridge we don’t believe in cookie-cutter advertising. We specialize in providing custom marketing solutions, from stunningly unique logos to customizable direct mail marketing postcards and full color digital posters.

At East Ridge you’ll find some of the best marketing minds in the business working toward one goal and one goal only: Developing a complete personal brand for your business. So subscribe using the link on the right, pay us a visit at and stay tuned for the hottest business innovations for today’s business!

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