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Who and What is FLAAR?

The digital aspects of our program were initiated by Japan’s Ministry of Education circa 1996. They awarded the FLAAR director, Dr Nicholas Hellmuth, a position in Japan as Visiting Professor for this period. This entailed a feasibility study of digital imaging hardware and software for the Latin American photography section of Japan’s National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. FLAAR itself is fully American, though the primary research is in Latin America. FLAAR has maintained an office and staff in Guatemala for many years. Indeed we evaluate wide-format printers at most of the sign shops in this city.

 

That same year (1996-1997) FLAAR received another grant of $100,000 from an American foundation likewise to do a feasibility study of digital imaging, primarily scanning and digital printing. FLAAR established the Digital Imaging Technology Center with the aid of the Japanese and the American funding. Our headquarters moved from a community college in Florida where we were for six years to a university in Latin America. When our office area was torn down to build another building on that campus we set up our own institute off campus and continue totally independently. Indeed we find it is more efficient to be independent.

For seven years we had an additional and larger evaluation center at BGSU in the USA. This center tested, evaluated, and published on large format printers, media, RIPs, and associated digital imaging hardware and software. Wide format scanners and digital storage are also included in this program. Since the building is being torn down on campus by 2007 or 2008, and since the new generation of UV-cured printers are too large to bring onto campus even if we did have a building, we began to move reviews to site-visit case studies and factory visits in 2006. By 2008 we will do all our evaluations off-campus. Indeed last week we did a site-visit case study of two HP Designjet 9000S printers in Guatemala, at a sign, banner, and billboard printing company. We also evaluate digital imaging equipment world wide at leading industry trade shows, especially when we are asked to lecture at these shows. In the last year we have lectured (and done research) twice in Istanbul (two different events) and twice in Dubai (two different events) and twice in Amsterdam (again, two different events at different times of the year).

The web site network began as the reports on the equipment that we found useful in our own search for the national museum and in our own facilities. FLAAR has its own archive of 50,000 photographs that we need to scan and some of which we need to print. We figured as long as we did all this background research (a quarter of a million dollars worth) we might as well share the results with others.

The popularity of these FLAAR evaluations is based on several factors:

  • First: we use end-user reports from other photographers as well as from architects, repro shops, sign shops, and fine art studios.
  • Second, we analyze hardware, software and media at the leading trade shows all over the world.
  • Third, in addition to all those sources of information we also undertake our own tests in our own facilities.
  • fourth, we make the effort to go out and visit the factories, demo-rooms, and headquarters of as many of the printer manufacturers as possible, even when they are in foreign countries.
  • fifth, when funds are available we inspect digital printing companies, screenprinting shops, franchise sign shops to evaluate printers in real-world situations.

All these careful studies reassure the readers because rather obviously FLAAR will use and have in its own facility only the optimal equipment for each given job. Our global reach means that we get feedback from every imaginable kind of end-user. We have received over one thousand e-mail from end users just in the last few months. Some of these end-user reports discuss every detail of what their printers do well, and where the few glitches are. Not many trade magazines; no other web site has such a wealth of fresh information pouring in every day. Readers recognize the richness of our reviews, and comment about the benefits of reading the FLAAR Reports.

But the main reason why the FLAAR Reports are successful is because we are really interested in learning about advances in digital imaging technology and then in preparing this knowledge to be available to our readers.

 

Last updated: May 14, 2007.
Previous updates: Feb. 4, 2003, Oct. 20, 2001.

 
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As of December 2014, Dr Nicholas and FLAAR had 1,308 contacts in LinkedIn (and over half a million readers worldwide on the FLAAR network).

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