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Observations from IPEX 2006

April 2006
Editor's note: While not a blog, exactly, Dennis E. Mason, of Mason Consulting Inc., kindly agreed to share some of his first-hand impressions of IPEX 2006 direct from the fairgrounds.

IPEX 2006 Day 2:

Wednesday at IPEX proved to be a much better day than its opener on Tuesday. Crowds were good, and exhibitors were generally quite pleased with their booth traffic. IPEX veterans say that the second and third days are usually the best attended, so everyone seemed to think that things went according to plan.

The day began with a Xerox briefing, featuring CEO Anne Mulcahy talking about where the company is going. She said Xerox had had an excellent first day, which included sales of three iGen3s.

Mulcahy asserted that, "Digital is not optional." She added that printers must redefine their businesses, they must clean up their balance sheets, and they must move to the new technologies.

Workflow is key, Mulcahy says, because of the large amount of money tied up in non-output functions at printers today. She counseled printers to "Listen carefully; act quickly; chose carefully."

The second portion of the program consisted of film clips from the Xerox forum on Tuesday, which had attracted more than 1,000 people. Interestingly, a key participant in the forum was Bernhard Schreier, president of Heidelberg. Mulcahy said, with respect to Heidelberg, that suppliers must become less competitive and more collaborative.

Xerox also announced it is offering printers a "Digital Readiness Assessment," which benchmarks their operations against 17 key factors to determine whether they are likely to be successful in moving into the digital arena.

X-Rite held an "unveiling" to announce a new plate reader--the PlateScope. It is similar in form and function to Techkon and GretagMacbeth instruments already on the market.

Fujifilm started its briefing with a discussion of its complete line of thermal and violet plates, in both processed and processless versions. Its new software introduction, though, was more striking. A first implementation of the Adope PDF Print Engine, the software is said to produce pure JDF with native PDF RIPing. Also, the company says it has linked its workflow software to 10 different MIS systems.



IPEX Preview Day: Multiple Vendors Get a Jump on the IPEX 2006 News

The day before a major printing industry exhibition is traditionally reserved for a massive press conference by Heidelberg. At IPEX 2006, Heidelberg shared the spotlight with MAN Roland, Drent Goebel and Canon. In chronological order, the follow are some highlights from the day's press conferences:

Drent Goebel has become a major player in printing machinery, especially with its recent acquisition of RDP Marathon. The company's biggest markets are Russia and Eastern Europe. Its product emphasis is now on hybrid printing.

The most significant introduction by Drent Goebel at IPEX is its staggered plate capability, which is said to increase productivity by essentially eliminating the 'straight across' gap on the printing plate. This enables offset printers to use a staggered layout for, say, labels, as is commonly done by flexographic printers. The Drent Goebel system uses a diecutter to match plate and blanket, and to make the gap follow any line desired. The plate and blanket are then attached to the cylinder using adhesive tape. The company claims the maximum speed supported by this approach is 400 meters per minute.

Its 'Plus Size' press concept was the big product announcement from MAN Roland. Expanding the plate size by just a few millimeters in one direction is said to enable printers to increase productivity up to 50 percent by altering their page layouts on a 40-inch press.

A great deal of the press conference was devoted to the spin-off of MAN Roland from MAN. Gerd Finkbinder arrived from NEXPO in the U.S. to say that present management would stay in place, and that very little change would be apparent to customers.

The company also announced the sale of a DICOweb press to Artoos in Belgium, and the first UV installation at a newspaper--the Herold in Vienna, Austria.

Heidelberg's Bernhard Schreier told the crowd that, "Print is becoming a premium medium." Print is no longer the low cost medium, having given way to the Internet and e-mail marketing. Thus printers must compete on an entirely different level.

The company announced the introduction of two cold foilers, and a new inker is being shown on its stand. Said to reduce startup waste by as much as 90 percent, the new inker eliminates the need for doing ink zone settings.

At the Canon press conference, the emphasis was on its extensive cooperation with EFI. Some 75 percent of the products being shown on the Canon stand are new, and most also sport new EFI RIPs. The company is clearly moving into the printing press business, with their imagePRESS C1 and C7000VP machines.

In the wide format area, the most interesting development was the introduction of two new ink-jet ink systems. One offers an astounding 12 colors, but is said to be more thrifty of ink than conventional formulations because of superior mixing of the colors. The other machine features a five-color ink system--CMY and two flavors of K. Canon's new 60-inch wide format machine features hot swapping of ink canisters for continuous operation.
 

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