IPEX 2002 -- Accent on the PositiveJune 2002
BY MARK SMITH
Trade shows probably are not the most accurate indicator of an industry's vitality. When the show is IPEX 2002—the international printing exhibition held in Birmingham, UK—it's even harder to draw any direct conclusions about the North American market because of the show's strong English and broader European flavor. Still, there is an understandable temptation to try to gauge the current state of the market based on the tone of major industry events.
The organizers of IPEX report overall attendance at the 2002 show hit 65,451 people, which represents about a 30 percent decline from the final count for IPEX 98. Overseas visitors reportedly accounted for 36 percent of the attendance. Commenting on the numbers, Caroline Eden, exhibition director, says: "It appears that organizations have elected to send one or two senior personnel rather than a large group of employees, which in the current economic climate, is perhaps understandable."
Looking to trade shows for indications of technology trends and directions in the printing industry is a more meaningful proposition. Some of the broad trends indicated by product introductions at IPEX included:
* Offset presses are getting faster and are being outfitted with more integrated peripherals to increase productivity and flexibility;
* CTP technology continues to be developed along multiple paths, with violet and thermal systems introduced at the show;
* End-to-end process integration enabled by support of JDF/CIP4 is gaining ground; and
* Proofing of halftone dots on ink-jet machines is the next wave of proofer developments.
Another trend evident at the show is the continuing consolidation among industry vendors.
IPEX 2002 was a coming out party of sorts for the new HP Indigo Div. of HP Digital Publishing Solutions, which had its genesis at PRINT 01. Indigo founder Benny Landa noted the symmetry in this turn of events since the company unveiled its first digital press at IPEX 93.
Having also announced a planned merger at PRINT, Barco Graphics and Purup-Eskofot chose IPEX as the venue to unveil the combined company's new corporate identity: Esko-Graphics. The new entity's headquarters will be in Gent, Belgium, it was revealed, but exactly how the organization's two U.S. operations will be integrated has not been finalized.
Lastra SpA announced that its Brookfield, CT-based subsidiary, Lastra America, acquired Western Lithotech from Mitsubishi Chemical. Roberto Ziletti, president of Lastra SpA, commented that, "Western's plate product line complements our current offerings and the equipment business presents us with an opportunity to expand our analog prepress business into the area of CTP."