drupa 2012 : Something for Everyone
A good deal of industry journalists and analysts have been focusing on what the theme will be for drupa 2012. Themes are better left to fourth grade language arts classes. Let Ralphie Parker argue for his Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock “and a thing that tells time.” We’re here to discuss the down and dirty, relevant issues that are on everyone’s mind.
What does drupa mean?
Sure, the simple answer is that drupa is an acronym for the German words “druck und papier.” But legend has it that the show was named in honor of two elephants, dru and pa, who were residents of the Düsseldorf City Zoo. Clearly, dru was the prominent pachyderm of the pair. Otherwise, we’d be gearing up for padru 2012.
It’s time for a gaggle of statistics to demonstrate that we’ve done our homework on the show, or at least read the first chapter fairly well: The leap year extravaganza is set for May 3-16, with 350,000 visitors from around the world (50 countries) set to converge on 19 halls and 1,850 exhibitors (a sellout) at the Düsseldorf Fair Grounds in Germany. An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 Americans will be on hand.
We’ve lined up a an assortment of industry pundits and prognosticators to help you sort out the substance from the hype, and separate the pedestrian from the arcane. They don’t agree on everything and, generally speaking, it’s tough to slap a label on a worldwide trade show, anyway, because what may be true of web offset printing in Springfield, IL, may not ring true in Budapest, Hungary. Our concern is with how technologies are impacting U.S. printers, and vice versa.
Zwang & Co.
What to Expect: There's a lot of great stuff to see, some of which never makes it past the initial display, and for some it will take four years to make it out of manufacturing and into the field. I'm interested in seeing the new 28˝ equipment that's going to be shown. And, I am sure there will be other surprises…there are still plenty of manufacturers who are keeping things in their back pocket.
The Skinny On: Offset. These guys will probably be relegated to a lower position of interest in the scheme of things. I give the offset manufacturers a great deal of credit for trying to squeeze as much efficiency as they can out of offset equipment. Companies like Kodak with its Prosper S-series inkjet units extend the life and add value to web offset presses. I'm sure we will also see some sheetfed inkjet solutions from offset press manufacturers. I don't think offset is going to go away, but if you talk to people, that's not what many of them are coming there to buy.
High-speed web inkjet and, now, sheetfed inkjet are going to start really challenging the requirements that offset currently has a stronghold in providing. Even flexo is being impacted by inkjet technology now. Take a look at some of the inkjet products coming out, including narrow web. They're going right for flexo's jugular, at least in the short-run market.
Inkjet technology and products will continue to develop, and change as the market demand changes. But, the good news is that this has nothing to do with the demise of print; it has to do with the technologically driven shift of how print is produced relative to the changing requirements of the marketplace.
Exciting Stuff: I'm looking forward to seeing what Benny Landa has been working on, because he has a history of interesting developments and always puts on a good presentation. Some of the other companies he's been funding have some neat stuff out there, as well. There's a sheetfed laser diecutting system that is pretty amazing, so I will want to check that out.
I'm also curious to see what is being done to extend the life of electrophotographic (digital printing) equipment. They are starting to be impacted by inkjet, as well. One printer told me he put in one production inkjet machine and retired nine iGens. That's a pretty significant change. Although there is a maturity in digital printing and new value-added options are being added, so don't write it off.
Don't Forget: Digital finishing. I'm sure there will be many types of varnishing and lamination units. While inkjet is starting to offer better printing, offset is more durable in most cases. Even electrophotographic has a lot more print contrast, and a lot more shine than most production inkjet output, so coating solutions will help bridge that gap. I'm looking to see more (varnishing and lamination)—both in-line and off-line.
What to Expect: There's enough excitement with Benny Landa being back at the show in a different operation. Given that it's inkjet, it ties into the overall theme. Higher resolution, faster speeds, the idea of more offset replacement happening because of the new capabilities of inkjet. There are questions about the economy and the whole move toward electronic delivery. Also mobile and social media, which don't have a huge place at drupa, but do have the potential to impact it pretty seriously.
The Skinny On: Inkjet vs. offset. I'm not going to say inkjet will take it all over, not by a long shot. But, the writing is on the wall. Not all of (offset's) competition is from inkjet; it's from electronic delivery of information, which cuts out so much more of the longer run, nonpersonalized type of work that is the bread-and-butter of offset.
The offset press manufacturers will be talking about automation and everything they're doing to make offset presses able to do shorter runs, quicker turnarounds, drying, etc. I don't think that's the big story. The question is: What are the document needs of end users? So much of that is through electronic delivery. All of print is under fire; that's a theme that overlays the show. If we come back from drupa and say it was the social media drupa, then it will be the last drupa.
Exciting Stuff: You've got to wonder about acquisitions and market consolidations. We've certainly heard enough about the troubles of manroland and Kodak leading up to this show. I wonder if components of Kodak will be sold off in that time frame. There may be stories that come out about companies leaving certain businesses.
Don't Forget: Workflow. The impact of mobile technology is very clear here; you're detaching operators from having to stand next to the machine, so their user interface becomes their mobile device. That's interesting. Everything around workflow automation is central to the success of any kind of print service provider. When I think of what digital printing brings to the table, a lot of it is being able to have one operator perform multiple functions, to have as many tasks automated as doable and to come as close as possible to lights out (production).
Those are themes that have applied previously to transactional printing types of environments, but they've now expanded to commercial printing environments.
PrintCom Consulting Group
What to Expect: There was a lot more than inkjet at the last drupa, and there's going to be even more at this drupa. I'm debating whether 2012 should be called the "multipurpose" or "multifunction" drupa. This is an international show, and the entire world is not enthralled with inkjet or toner as is the United States.
There's lots of offset, lots of gravure; there will be a whole flood of (new) products there. Inkjet might snare the journalists' headlines but, for the serious printer, there's a lot more to think about. It all depends on where you're coming from.
The Skinny On: From the digital side, Benny Landa's nano particles and Memjet should be looked at by everyone who's going to the show. Even printers that don't have any digital equipment currently still need to understand where that technology is headed. Right now, the only place that you're going to get that is at drupa. A better understanding of what can be accomplished in the finishing end of the business can offer those printers who know how to harness it some distinctive products and separate them from the rest of the crowd.
Exciting Stuff: I'm a digital guy in many respects. It will be interesting to see KBA, and what—if anything—it shows based on the Donnelley platform. I also want see what direction Heidelberg is taking, and want to get a better handle on manroland, now that it's two separate pieces, owned by companies we don't know a lot about. I'm curious to know where these (offset press) manufacturers may be headed and what they're going to do about digital and finishing. It'll be interesting to see what the finishing people will do that hasn't been done, and the potential of papers more adaptable to inkjet.
You've got to see Benny Landa, of course, who promises to revolutionize everything that's out there.
Don't Forget: If you look at Graph Expo, sheetfed (offset) has virtually disappeared from the show floor. Web offset isn't there, save a static unit displayed by Goss. Gravure and specialty items have been nonstarters for a long time. The finishing/postpress end, except for some digital equipment, doesn't make a strong appearance at Graph Eexpo. But all of that stuff will be shown at drupa, in spades.
Brimstone Hill Associates
What to Expect: What's most interesting to me is how the balance of inkjet, toner and offset play against electronic books or electronic presentment of documents. Books are one of the most significant places and we're seeing a lot of change. You look at e-books (and the perception is) everyone's reading on a Kindle or Nook, etc., and they aren't going to read paper books anymore. People in the business of printing paper books are seeing their run lengths go down, but they don't seem to have any trouble keeping their presses full with short runs of paper books.
What does this mean? That's one of the things I'm looking forward to seeing at drupa: Where is this crossover between electronic media and printed media, and how does it work in different applications? With books, there are clearly two different avenues to get to the same end, but they're really compatible. If you look at cross-media, where you're talking about direct marketing or any kind of marcom materials, there's plenty of room to play for both electronic and print. While print is going to become a smaller part of marcom, it will still play an important role.
The Skinny On: Inkjet is really jumping, and it's going to come at us harder and faster. We're going to see a lot of that at drupa, as well as Asian companies we've never heard offering cutsheet and continuous-feed systems for inkjet printing. How they play out in the market over the next few years is going to take a while to find out; it's not readily apparent how some of this stuff will really work.
Exciting Stuff: I'm hearing rumblings about some cutsheet, really high-speed inkjet coming out of China. Smaller stuff, at the copier level, a 14x18˝ sheet or something like that. That could get a lot of attention if the quality's there. Nothing's new in toner. HP will have something that's evolutionary. They're going to have a wider sheet, bigger-sized Indigo. We also might see surprises in the kind of applications where we don't normally focus on with digital, like in packaging, which has a lot of room to grow. That's why companies like Xeikon are focusing on it. That area is largely untouched by digital printing.
Don't Forget: There's momentum toward "good-enough" print quality. The customer walks away happy, pays the bill and comes back again. It doesn't matter what device the job comes off of, as long as it satisfies the end customer's requirements. Print quality is not the issue it once was. For about 10 years, people were saying digital is OK, unless you compare it to offset printing.
Now, the digital presses are pretty good (quality) and the customers don't care as much. A graphic designer will still hold your feet to the fire and say, "Oh no, it still has to look like it came off an eight-color Heidelberg." But, you don't see many people looking at samples with a loupe anymore. Good-enough quality will work for a lot of applications. PI