Lithographic Printing: 'Heavy Iron' Comes Up Light
Gone are the days where sheetfed offset presses dominate the show floor during a GRAPH EXPO exhibition, despite any machinery handling financial incentives created by show organizers to encourage bringing heavy iron. The high costs involved to ship and set up a large, multicolor offset press at a show—coupled with a general lack of revolutionary technology developments to showcase, as well as the large investments litho press manufacturers have already made in their own demo centers—makes it hard to justify the expenditure.
There's still plenty of digital equipment running on the GRAPH EXPO show floor, however, reflecting our industry's emphasis on short-run, on-demand production. The void of litho presses has been replaced by digital presses, wide-format inkjet printers, and a range of in-line and near-line finishing systems to support them.
By my count there were only four offset presses actually running at GRAPH EXPO last month. A five-color Heidelberg Speedmaster SM 52 with Anicolor zoneless short inking technology and aqueous coater demonstrated its ability to run six, 300-sheet jobs on different substrates, with one operator, in 30 minutes. There was also a four-color Presstek 52DI 52cm digital offset press, which can go from digital file to printed sheet in 10 minutes. A small-format, two-color BaumPrint 18 press could be found in Baum's booth, with another BaumPrint 18 in Mitsubishi Imaging's exhibit operating as part of a platemaking demonstration.
Telling, Without Actually Showing
That's not to say that exhibitors like KBA North America, Komori America, MLP U.S.A., Goss International, manroland web systems, TKS and Manugraph DGM didn't have a presence on the show floor this year. It's just that they opted for video presentations, interactive displays, print samples, and standalone press consoles and press units to emphasize new developments, enhanced maintenance and press monitoring services, consumables lines, as well as their own digital equipment and hybrid workflow offerings.