drupa 2012: Revving Up for the Big Show
The vibe of drupa starts long before the gates open at Messe Düsseldorf. During the winter of a drupa year vendors, PR companies and drupa organizers host events to announce or drop large hints about the products and technologies that will be rolled out in May. Duomedia, the Belgian PR group, hosted its pre-drupa event March 6-7 in sunny Lisbon, Portugal, featuring announcements—and one compelling teaser—from Chili Publish, Enfocus, Esko, Kodak, Xeikon and X-Rite/Pantone.
Chili Publish, billing itself as "the hottest online document editor," talked up Chili Publisher, a high-end document creation and editing tool that enables complex documents—magazines, all types of print ads, marketing collateral, technical documentation and much more—to be developed, refined and ultimately published by multiple users in different locations. Think of it as a collaborative, Web-based version of Word and Adobe InDesign that enables asset management, automates branding and enables integration of variable content.
While probably not a tool for the average print provider, it is one that big corporations and ad agencies could use together, with the resulting files—probably PDFs—winding up in the workflows of many print shops.
Automating the Workflow
Sharing the stage in Lisbon, Enfocus and Esko touted the strength of the two companies and the value they offer customers. Enfocus, best known for its popular PDF preflight tool Pitstop, will offer up Pitstop 11 Pro and Pitstop Server 11 at drupa 2012. Each features greater automation to make preflighting faster and more accurate by reflecting individual job requirements rather than requiring separate preflight profiles for every job.
Also from Enfocus is the latest version of Switch, the company's powerful automation engine. Now, instead of choosing between three versions (Light, Full and Power), customers can use modules to customize Switch based on their needs.
Eight new modules (Configurator, Metadata, Database, Scripting, SwitchClient, Web Services, Performance and SwitchProxy) provide connectivity with prepress, databases and other applications. Customers can also use a Scripting module to develop specific integration needs.
Esko is introducing Suite 12, the latest version of its software for the packaging, label, sign making and display industries. The new version accelerates design processes while enhancing workflow and color management across offset, flexographic and digital presses. An intriguing 3D visualization feature can show packaging designers how designs will look on a retail shelf. This brought out some ooohs and aaahs from the audience in Lisbon.
On the hardware side, Esko is introducing Kongsberg XN, a high-performance finishing table with a variety of tools for cutting all kinds of shapes in foam core and other materials, even wood. The MultiCUT-HP milling tool—think of it as a computer- controlled router—can even cut shapes out of solid wood.
The Kongsberg XN will be shown in a variety of configurations at drupa. Also from Esko, I-Cut Automate 12 increases productivity with optimal sheet layout, waste reduction and faster turnaround times.
"Yellow Changes Everything," claims Kodak, rolling out a new tag line that is envisioned to leverage the color of the billions of boxes of Kodak film sold over the years. Kodak will come to drupa decked out in yellow to unveil 10 new digital solutions in the commercial and consumer spaces. For production inkjet fans, this starts with the 1,000 fpm Prosper 6000XL that will offer lower running costs through ink savings and higher uptimes. More interesting is improved substrate flexibility with the help of an in-line paper treatment station that flood coats incoming paper to make it more receptive to ink.
Kodak says the process increases substrate flexibility by letting customers run less expensive papers, saving 10 percent to 60 percent on paper costs. But the real advantage is more likely that it helps ensure that coated, and even glossy, stocks will work as promised. No firm word on costs for the "Image Optimizer Station" or the added flood coating.
The Wide Web World of Inkjet
Also on Prosper, Kodak has partnered with book manufacturer Timsons to develop a special inkjet press using Stream technology. Able to print some 53˝ wide, it is 30 percent wider than any other high-speed digital inkjet press. It is being installed at Timsons' facility in Clays, UK, this month and will be running live at drupa.
Two other Kodak items stood out in Lisbon. The new Prosper S30 heads are intended to bring high-quality personalization to offset print jobs with 3,000 fpm speeds and 600x200 dpi resolution. This raises the bar on hybrid printing, a long-time Kodak inkjet offering that has already been enhanced by the Prosper S10 and S20 heads. A new CMYK version of the S20 heads will be on display at drupa running on an offset press.
On NexPress, gold, neon pink and pearlescent toners are being rolled out to add more value to the fifth station. The pink is "Pink Panther" worthy and the gold seems to be a larger particle size that stands slightly proud of the substrate so you can actually feel it with your fingertips. Like the Kodak Dimensional toner used by many NexPress customers, these are nice differentiators and make the NexPress worth a look, depending on one's customers and their needs.
Also new for the NexPress is an in-line UV coater from Tec Lighting that offers a satin or gloss finish, and a new high-capacity delivery tray to handle the 26˝ sheets that the NexPress can produce.
Other yellow-tinted news from Kodak includes new Sonora XP process-free plates, an entry-level CTP system, multiple enhancements to Prinergy Workflow and new laser engraving for in-the-round flexographic sleeves.
Pantone and X-Rite reiterated the March 1st announcement of PantoneLIVE, a cloud-based color service that provides instant access to critical brand color standards. The companies' other compelling drupa announcements are off-the-table until next month, but think new and improved tools for color management and control. You'll see some really nice toys with high performance and attractive price points.
And, finally, we come to Xeikon. One of the two companies that launched full-color digital printing nearly two decades back, Xeikon has continuously refined every element of its original imaging technology. Right now, you can buy a Xeikon 5000, 6000 or 8000. Come drupa, the product lineup will be the Xeikon 8500, 8600 and 8800, with the 8500 and 8600 field-upgradeable to the flagship 8800.
All of these digital press models feature Xeikon's new Toner Optimization Mode (TOM) which, depending on the application, can reduce toner usage up to 50 percent. This allows users to reduce running costs significantly, letting them compete on cost with other printing solutions—such as inkjet—while providing the throughput and shorter runs of continuous-feed toner presses.
Inside the Box
One of Xeikon's most successful markets has come to be packaging, which is also one of the growth areas for digital printing. Xeikon's 3000 series of label presses has attracted a lot of attention and is seeing real success in the market. At drupa, Xeikon will show its new Folding Carton Suite, which is comprised of five elements: Xeikon print engines, pre- and post-printing equipment, a range of paperboard substrates tuned to the Xeikon, the X-800 DFE and Xeikon's QA-1 toner that's dedicated to the label industry.
And then there's Quantum. No real hints on what it is, or even where it came from. It has supposedly grown out of a technology that Xeikon acquired some time ago and has been developing secretly. All we know is that it's continuous-feed, runs at mid-range inkjet speeds (guesstimates in the 400 to 500 fpm range) and uses some type of toner.
We'll find out the details at drupa on May 3, so stay tuned. PI
About the Author
A well-known industry analyst and a blogger for Printing Impressions, Noel Ward is managing director of Brimstone Hill Productions based in Amherst, NH. He can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.