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Noel Ward

Real World Digital

By Noel Ward

About Noel

Noel Ward is Managing Director of Brimstone Hill Associates, which specializes in marketing communications in the printing industry, including video production. He can be reached at 603-672-3635 or via email at noel@brimstonehill.com. His website is brimstonehill.com, and he has a YouTube channel.
 

Sideshows Draw Crowds at drupa

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In European terms, drupa is a “trade fair.” Given the size of the event, that is really a more accurate term than “trade show,” which brings to mind American-style conference centers of limited footprint. While vendors at shows here in the States do relatively little do bring attendees to their booths, those at European trade fairs often have their own sideshows to attract an audience.

At Landa Corp, for instance, the first five minutes of the highly produced presentation on Nanography had skin-suit-clad performers doing a dance that didn’t have much to do with the topic at hand, but was still visually engaging. Just one example of some of the eye-candy that’s expected at drupa.

Xerox drupa 2012 Cirque
[+] click to enlarge
Far more spectacular was the Cirque do Soliel performance at Xerox’s stand. Cirque’s troupe of acrobats wowed the audience with astounding aerial moves several times a day on a raised, springboard-equipped stage. It was part of a deal Xerox’s services organization has with Cirque to handle much of its back office IT work, not an insignificant task for a global performing arts organization that’s presently putting on 21 shows on six continents.

Once the Cirque show was over, Xerox seemed consistently busy focusing on its new iGen 150, the CiPress solid Inkjet press, and an innovative automated inline finishing option that enables documents to be produced on one press and finished on another. Basically, a bar-coded cover sheet for a given job contains all the job info. When the output stacker from say, a Nuvera 144, is moved to an iGen with inline finishing modules, the finishing for the Nuvera document will automatically take place on the iGen’s back end. The finishing equipment can also be near-line, completely unconnected from a print engine and work the same way. This is a solid productivity move, and although it’s so far just for booklets, Xerox says more will follow.

I at first dismissed the new iGen 150 as just being faster. OK, speed is good, but I’m a fan of image quality. So I looked at some of the output. Call me crazy, but it doesn’t look like the iGen output I’m used to. The matte dry ink images really stunned me with their detail, crispness, clarity and depth of color. Even if the machine wasn’t any faster, like say the iGen 4 model that can use the same toner, this quality is just superb.

Groundhog Day
Other stands had outsized video screens, flashing lights and presenters who gave the same presentation several times a day, which in some cases came to feel a little like the movie “Groundhog Day.” In fact, after four or five days there, the whole trade fair begins to feel that way, an observation that at least half a dozen people shared with me at various times.

Other stands encouraged attendee interaction. At Xeikon you could walk across the company’s “Bridge of Innovation” that on one side had a wall with displays recounting Xeikon’s record of innovation in digital printing since it rolled out its first digital press in 1993. The other side featured iPads containing info on the current product line and offered an augmented reality experience. By pointing the iPad at various Xeikon presses on the floor below, you could get more information on each product and its applications before taking a first-hand look at the machine and its output.

Another regular presentation walked attendees through the stand and gave them a glimpse of Trillium, the new high viscosity liquid toner system Xeikon will be rolling out in about 18 months. The current specs are for 60 meters per minute printing with toner-level quality and inkjet like operating costs.

Over in its massive stand in Hall 4, HP made carnival-like announcements about its various presses, especially when showing off the speed, image quality and performance of flagships such as the T-410 inkjet web press or the new Indigo B-size machines (“Ladies and gentlemen, you are among the first to see…”).

HP also had invitation-only viewing rooms for some of its latest offerings, quieter spots where hot prospects could get a closer look—and where deals could be cut. Everyone of these devices seemed to draw a steady crowd, as did all the other parts of the vast HP stand, which took up the lion’s share of Hall 4. It was entirely possible to spend the better part of a day at HP, where the company left no doubt that it’s doing all it can to dominate the digital printing industry.

The coat-tail effect
HP’s presence had a coat-tail effect for other players, like Bell and Howell, which was stationed at the front of Hall 4 so visitors had to get past B&H to get to HP. The most interesting piece for anyone doing mailing was B&H’s new Navigator interface that lets operators run the inserting system by simply talking to it. In turn, the system provides the operator with voice notifications on system and job status. Another excellent tool was the iQ software suite that lets an operator control multiple machines from a tablet, even when the machines are in remote locations.

Another beneficiary of HP’s presence in Hall 4 was MGI. This less-known, but exciting, French company was off the corner of HP’s stand and made do without any fanfare, pulling in the spill-over crowd from HP. And MGI seemed to keep attendees around with the flexibility and affordability of its products.

It’s flagship Meteor DP 8700 was the centerpiece. This unique machine is a toner-based press that can print on just about anything. This has huge appeal for a great many shops that want the machine’s versatility and appreciate its purchase price, which is substantially below that of the top-of-mind products from its larger competitors—especially when you factor in being able to print on many types of substrates. There was also plenty of interest in its JETvarnish 3D UV inkjet press, which offers flood and spot UV and the ability to add texture to an image at a reasonable cost.

Futbol
We call it soccer here, but it’s futbol to the rest of the world, and it’s a big deal in most countries. So Canon had a trio of soccer players showing off their ball control skills using arms, knees, shoulders, heads and feet. The display regularly drew a modest crowd, which then wandered into the Canon stand.

I went in, too, seeking Océ equipment, which took a while to find. As several other press and analyst types have commented, it was curious that Canon relegated Océ—the real production side of the company—to a back corner of the stand with no signage, while populating the majority of the floor space with copiers and wide format machines. While those are both important to Canon, it’s surprising that Océ’s ColorStream and Jetstream inkjet systems weren’t front and center at a trade fair focused on commercial and production printing—especially since Océ is a household name in much of Europe.

It made me glad that I had made the trip to Poing earlier in the week for a special showing of Océ solutions, because otherwise the business unit had little presence at drupa. Fortunately, Océ has more inkjet offerings than any of its competitors and is doing well in the marketplace.

There’s still other stuff to talk about, and it’s not all from the big players. But that’s for next time.

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