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IPEX 2002 -- Set to Spring Up

January 2002
BIRMINGHAM, UK—In times like these, it's hard to look beyond day-to-day events and challenges in running a business. But, American printers would be well advised to pause a moment and consider a spring trip to the U.K. for IPEX 2002: the global technology event for print, publishing and media.

The event, which only comes around once every four years, is scheduled to take place at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) from April 9-17, 2002.

In terms of scope and ancillary benefits, national trade shows can't provide the same experience of a major international event. Based on commitments made to date, IPEX 2002 is slated to span 15 exhibit halls that will house more than 1,500 exhibitors. The majority of these companies will come from outside the U.K., with more than 30 countries represented on the show floors. Attendance numbers are expected to be similar to 1998's draw, which tallied more than 90,000 visitors—33 percent of whom came from overseas.

If the economic predictions are right, then IPEX 2002 will hit the world stage just ahead of the expected mid-year turnaround in business. As a result, the exhibition will be a good place to check the current pulse of the industry and get a glimpse into its future. It also will afford an opportunity to mix in a little pleasure with business, which is even more important in stressful times. How often does one get a chance to write off a trip to England as a business expense?

To help spread the word, the organizers of IPEX 2002 recently conducted an Inward Mission for members of the printing industry's international trade press. The mission agenda included opportunities for leading exhibitors to outline their plans and expectations for the upcoming exhibition, and the industry more broadly.

The briefings were kicked off with presentations on two special features planned for IPEX—PrintCity, a workflow project spearheaded by MAN Roland and Agfa, and "Future Print Now" from Xerox.

PrintCity
PrintCity is described by its management as a strategic alliance of leading companies within the graphic arts industry. It originated as a cooperative effort by 69 companies to exhibit digital workflow solutions at DRUPA 2000. Since then it has evolved into a permanent organization with 40 members and is pursing ongoing workflow-related activities in the areas of market applications, production processes and education, says Rainer Kuhn, general manager.

Member companies are in the process of organizing themselves into "Activity Groups" that will pursue PrintCity's charter, but each will continue to operate as an independent business, Kuhn explains. These activity groups will cover three major market segments (publishing, packaging and commercial printing) and print processes (sheetfed, web and digital). Rounding out the current slate of eight groups are networks and knowledge management.

The goal of the organization is to help industry companies develop workflow solutions based on open systems, Kuhn says. It will encourage manufacturers to facilitate the integration of their products into broader systems, seek to develop and share best practices in print workflows, and provide knowledge resources in the form of technical programs, exhibitions, publications and more, he adds.

At IPEX 2002, PrintCity is set to occupy Halls 17 and 18. The 29 participating member companies are donating booth space to create a Print Factory workflow demonstration display in the center area.

Xerox has signed up to fill Halls 3 and 3a with its "Future Print Now" showcase of digital printing solutions. Since its booth will encompass nearly 6,500 square meters, Xerox reportedly will be the single largest exhibitor at IPEX 2002.

This dominant presence is reflective of the fact that the professional graphic arts segment represents the single largest chunk of the firm's customer base, notes Valentin Govaerts, senior vice president for graphic arts at Xerox. The display will focus on the company's continuing efforts to develop cut-sheet and continuous-feed printing solutions that can be driven by its Common Controller front end, Govaerts says.

New Business Model
The exhibit's theme is derived from what Xerox sees as the "new business" of printing, the company exec explains. This includes a shift to ever greater use of color, a mix of digital and offset production, and implementation of business strategies such as one-to-one marketing, just-in-time production and ship-then-print production, he says.

What kind of showing, if any, Xerox' new emulsion aggregation (ET) toner technology will have at IPEX 2002 is yet to be determined, Govaerts reports. The technology is said to "grow" toner particles with well-defined shapes and smaller sizes. Reported benefits include lower operating costs, improved image quality and reduced environmental impact.

Global Graphics will have its own branded exhibit at the international trade show, but also will have a much broader presence through the product displays of some 20 of its OEMs. Violet-laser CTP systems, vertical drum scanners and flexo plate processors reportedly will be among the equipment highlighted by its Global Graphics Hardware division. Global Graphics Software plans to showcase its new Jaws PDF Courier (PDF-based print job submission over the Internet) and Server (for network-based PDF generation) products. It also expects to demonstrate a high-end digital prepress workflow solution.

If things go according to plan, IPEX 2002 will mark the official debut of the new Indigo under Hewlett-Packard ownership. There will be a certain symmetry in this development, since Indigo unveiled its first digital press at IPEX 1993. This time around the company expects to have more than 15 presses on its stand. Two presses will be notably absent, though, at least in terms of being commercially available products. Benny Landa, Indigo chairman and CEO, told the assembled journalists that the company's larger-format XB2 color press was a very important development, but a mammoth task so it will not be commercialized in the "near future." In addition, he characterized the Ebony black-and-white press as having an "uncertain" future and its development currently being on hold.

Xaar plc, a leading developer of ink-jet technology, expects IPEX 2002 to be a showcase for significant improvements in digital ink-jet printing, both in terms of speed and image quality, says Ian Macgregor, director of marketing. The event will mark the true birth of greyscale printing with variable-size dots to improve the perceived resolution of the image, he says.

Macgregor says show visitors also will see increased evidence of ink-jet technology making substantial in-roads into new markets, especially packaging, textiles and decorative products. While Xaar is "getting close to achieving the Holy Grail" of ink jet technology—the page-wide array, Steve Temple—technical director, adds that a product introduction at IPEX shouldn't be expected.

Big Showing
Atlas Software BV will also have a broader presence at IPEX thanks to 11 of its partners, who plan to run Print Shop Mail variable information printing (VIP) software in their booths. The company intends to launch new versions (Mac and Windows) of the application at the spring show, says Hans Huijsing, marketing manager. Among the new features will be support for unicode and double-byte data formats, implementation of Hot Folders to automate processing, and full support for the PPML standard, he says. In addition, the upgrades will run faster on both platforms, and PDF support is being added to the Mac version, Huijsing notes.

Adobe Systems expects to use the international trade show as a forum to promote some of its recent product releases for the professional graphic arts market. InDesign 2.0 will have a featured role, supported by the fact that the U.K. edition of Glamour magazine is a big-name user of the product.

Attendees also can expect to get updates from Adobe and its OEMs on the evolution of PDF Transit, its just introduced tool for PDF file generation and job submission via the Internet. Other highlights will include Illustrator 10 demos and further development of Adobe's "Network Publishing" vision.

One final special feature of the event worth noting is Converflex @ IPEX 2002, a display area that will focus on converting and flexo technologies. Located in Hall 19, it will be supported by ACIMGA, the Italian trade association.

According to show organizers, the IPEX Website (www.ipex.org) is intended be the primary resource for visitors and exhibitors alike. Along with online registration and event information, it can provide assistance in planning a trip to Birmingham. The site highlights the best ways to travel, where to stay and how to book accommodations. Four new hotels, two of which are on the NEC site, will have been completed by April.

To make the most of their leisure time, the IPEX Website also offers showgoers a comprehensive guide to the city of Birmingham and the surrounding area, including tips on where to eat and what to do and see in the region. Additional tourism resources can be found on the city's Website, www.birmingham.org.uk.

IPEX Pre-Registration Available

Spring will soon be here, so now is a good time to pre-register for IPEX 2002, held April 9 to 17 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England.

Nearly 2,000 suppliers and manufacturers are scheduled to exhibit at the show, and a comprehensive pre-registration system has been set to ease the admission burden due to the anticipated high attendance figures. Attendees can also save money by signing on early; the price of a pre-registration ticket for the full nine days is £15, roughly $21, as opposed to £25, or $35, purchased at the gate.

"The benefits of pre-registering are clear," notes Ashley Whitworth, marketing director of IPEX 2002. "All pre-registered visitors gain fast-track entry to the exhibition halls, receive a free pre-show planner, a VIP passport to Birmingham with discounts to many bars/restaurants, regular e-mail updates during the buildup to the show, and an obvious cost savings of up to 40 percent."

Pre-registration also provides discounts on the show catalog and CD-ROM packages. A nine-day show pass with catalog or CD when preregistering is £30 ($42) as opposed to £45 ($63) at the gate.

Online pre-registration forms can be filled out by visiting www.ipex.org/ticket or calling the IPEX 2002 ticket hotline at +44 (0) 870-429-4592.
 

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