Window into the Future
With the hustle and bustle of last month's Drupa 2004 now completed, this issue highlights some of the new products that became commercially available during the 14-day event, various vendor announcements, as well as a peek into future technologies that will shape the graphics arts industry for years to come. Just as important, the general sentiment among the more than 394,000 visitors and 1,860 exhibitors filling 17 halls was that market conditions—albeit fragile—are showing signs of a sustained recovery.
Referred to by many as the "JDF Drupa," it should have been termed the "Workflow Drupa" even though, as Frank Romano quips, JDF may replace WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) as the most overused acronym. Keep in mind that JDF and CIP3/4 aren't actual products, but rather just tools to help printers move jobs through the various production steps much more efficiently and to allow equipment, from various manufacturers, to share critical job specifications with minimal keystroking of redundant information.
Aside from that continuing development, Drupa also delivered on the new product front. New computer-to-plate (CTP) devices boasted higher speeds and greater process automation. Key developments included more powerful lasers (up to 60mW) for violet imaging and wider adoption of grating light valve technology for thermal imaging. Alternative screening systems captured attention at the Agfa, Creo, Fujifilm, Heidelberg, Screen and EFI booths. There was a host of processless digital plates as well, some on the market and others yet to be released. In addition, the quest for online proofing to some day (soon?) serve as customer contract proofs continues its forward march. And, as a future technology demonstration, Mitsubishi showed an off-line, reusable plate imaging system that could conceivably cut aluminum plate consumption by 95 percent.
Sheetfed offset presses on display were decked out with double coaters, mark-free perfecting, enhanced feeders and deliveries, gravure and flexo printing capabilities, shaftless drives, simultaneous plate changers and even printing units that can be diverted for dispersion coatings and—as MAN Roland displayed—for use as an in-line cold foil stamping system. Proving that bigger can be better, several manufacturers debuted super-large-format presses, led by the massive 803⁄4˝ KBA Rapida 205 sheetfed press. Digital press vendors featured more in-line coating and finishing capabilities, new monochrome platforms like Xerox's Nuvera and rising ink-jet technology for industrial printing. For their part, commercial webfed presses incorporated variable cutoffs, breathtaking makereadies and new folder designs. JDF was apparent here, too, with Komori, for example, setting up its entire System 38S web press—including the fold format—solely through JDF data transfer.