It’s been 25 years since Glendale-based FutureLogic Inc. became a force in the thermal printing industry. What’s responsible for the company’s longevity? Technological innovation, according to Nick Micalizzi, FutureLogic’s vice president of sales and marketing. As its name suggests, thermal printing is a process by which heat is applied to specially treated paper to create images. “It’s a very economical technology and, from a standpoint of low maintenance, or, in some cases, no maintenance, it’s the best technology out there,” Micalizzi said. “There’s really no moving parts to it.” When it developed the first Ticket In, Ticket Out gaming printer, FutureLogic broke new ground. The printer eliminated the need for coins at casino slot machines, producing instead a bar-coded slip to be redeemed for cash or inserted into compatible slot machines. Micalizzi estimates that more than four billion tickets are printed annually across the globe using the machines. FutureLogic started out on a different path,electronic design consulting. In 1995, the company created its first custom printer for the medical device market. FutureLogic printers also helped usher in the supermarket coupon systems used to retain and reward shoppers. The company has also found a niche designing and manufacturing thermal printers for electronic ballots and gas pumps. “We deal in industries that are very highly regulated and require very special equipment,” Micalizzi said. Question: How did the company go from an electronic design consulting business to making the first medical device custom printer for the medical market? Answer: Our first venture into the market other than consultancy was with medical companies. And I would point out that all of our printers and everything we do from a board standpoint,it’s all custom. I think that one of the things that forms such a strong relationship between FutureLogic and its customers is the ability to look at what the customers’ unique needs are and be able to fulfill them. And there was just a natural evolution from that point into the specialty printer market. Today our core market is gaming, working with casinos and slot manufacturers. We’re still very involved with medical accounts. We’re also in electronic voting. We work with two of the larger voting machine companies in the world. Q: Since the 2000 election, there’s been so much concern about voting procedures. A: A lot of it is hung up in legislation right now, and a number of things have yet to be resolved, but I think this going away from punch cards and things like we had in the Florida election will become quite widespread, and people will be going to more high-tech machines to cast ballots. Q: You also had a role in developing the supermarket coupon systems. A: That’s what we got our start in, in what I would call promotional couponing, back actually in the late ’80s. We helped [a company] develop a system for printing promotional coupons in a supermarket, and, by that, I mean, you’ve probably been in a supermarket where you get the little receipt that has the red stripe on it. Basically, if you’re buying, let’s say, Huggies, that you would get a coupon from the register that would give you money off on a competing brand. Q: How did you branch out into casino gaming? A: We got involved in that in 1999, when there was a lot of discussion among the manufacturers about doing away with the coin drop in slot machines. Much of the expense in the casino was the management of money. We got involved in 1999 with IGT, International Game Technology, who is the largest slot machine manufacturer in the world. They asked us to come in, along with some others, and take a look at their requirements, and we were fortunate enough to be the winning company and we’ve partnered with IGT ever since, but they’re not the only one. We work with probably between 35 and 40 manufacturers around the world, supplying printers for their slot games. Q: What factored into the company’s growth? A: The way we grew was, basically, we were the first to market, and, because of that, it created a tremendous amount of pull-through at the casino level. People realized what the advantages of TITO were at the casino level. Once IGT started putting those machines out in the field, the rest of the market followed. And since 2004, we’ve opened an office in the UK, which handles Europe, South America and South Africa, and, most recently, we’ve opened up an office in Macau, which is China.
Ticket In, Ticket Out