More than 100 print journalists descended on Düsseldorf in early March to have a firsthand look at some of the technologies and strategies that will be unveiled at drupa 2016. (This article first appeared in PrintAction’s May 2016 print issue.)
drupa, the world’s largest trade show for print and cross-media solutions, is famous enough to rate a year-round mention in 11 languages on the double-decker Hop-On Hop-Off Tour buses in Düsseldorf, Germany, drupa’s host city. This year’s massive trade show helps visitors target exhibitors and vice versa by organizing exhibits into six growth sectors: Print, Package Production, Green Printing, Multichannel (Big Data and Web-to-print operations, variable-data printing, Internet-based marketing tools such as augmented reality and QR codes), 3D Printing, and Functional Printing (printed electronics and conductors, sensors, medical electrodes, electroluminescent lights, solar cells).
The last two sectors in particular, 3D and functional printing, invite visitors to explore new technologies beyond the realm of traditional commercial print. During the first week of March, I joined 100 or so journalists from around the world at the 3-day pre-drupa 2016 International Media Conference, where 15 of drupa’s 1,650 exhibitors presented a virtual candy store of new technologies they plan to exhibit.
Their presentations came complete with impressive specifications detailing how these technologies operate faster, more efficiently, more reliably, less expensively, or with less environmental impact than previous generations of technology. Additionally, I was impressed to hear some suppliers emphasize their commitment and methodology for helping customers identify and successfully implement new profit centres to grow the customer’s business and strategies to reap the most from equipment investments the customers have already made. This type of practical support from suppliers, together with meticulous advance calculation of ROI on any new technology purchases, seems especially important right now, because recent developments suggest that Canadian printers may be inclined to shop at this year’s drupa.
January 2016 saw the national economy expand for the fourth consecutive month and Gross Domestic Product grow 0.6 percent from the month before (its best month since 2013). Goods-producing industries like printing expanded by 1.2 percent. Then in March, Canada added 40,600 jobs, driving the national unemployment rate to 7.1 percent from 7.3 percent in February (the largest month over month increase since October). After bottoming out at a new 13-year low near 68 cents U.S. earlier this year, the Canadian dollar rose over 77 cents U.S. in March, becoming the best performing major currency in the world since January.
Simultaneously, the third in a series of Global Trends reports commissioned by drupa, showed that printers across the world feel increasingly optimistic about their business prospects in 2016 and plan to invest in production equipment: 53 percent in print technology, 50 percent in finishing, and 38 percent in software and workflows.
The drupa report further suggests that North American printers are already ahead of the global pack in several ways. Along with their counterparts in South America and Africa, they reported price increases, while printers in Europe, Australasia, the Middle East, and the rest of Asia said their prices are falling. North American printers also reported that they offer a greater variety of value-added services and, together with printers in the functional print market no matter where they’re located, engage to a greater extent in Web-to-print operations than printers on other continents. These various factors may well encourage Canadian printers to spend on the offerings at drupa.
When making purchases it would be astute for printers to enlist the expertise of drupa suppliers who will go the extra mile to help them perform the due diligence that is so necessary before a technology purchase to ensure its successful outcome.
I found one promising example in a March-1st press release explaining Canon’s new #UnleashPrint campaign at drupa. It reads: “At drupa 2016, visitors will discover how Canon can help them ‘unleash print’ by combining technology innovation with expertise in implementing intelligent new business models that elevate print’s ability to respond to changing customer needs. Canon experts will be on hand throughout drupa to talk to print service providers about their development plans and aspirations, offering practical guidance and insight through such successful tools as the Canon Business & Innovation Scan and Essential Business Builder Program.”
With over 4,000 square metres of exhibit space, Canon is one of drupa’s biggest exhibitors this year. The company plans to exhibit the full gamut of its inkjet and toner-based solutions, from small to wide format.
At the pre-drupa media conference, as just one example of an emerging opportunity for printers, Peter Wolff, Head of Commercial Print Group, and Mark Lawn, Head of Professional Print Group, for Canon Europe cited inkjet book production, where demand for printed books persists alongside decreasing run lengths and increasing orders from one-time authors and self-publishers:
“The ability to print and distribute smaller quantities of books on demand via digital colour inkjet is cost-effective, eliminates the risks of mass production, the waste and returns of unsold books, storage costs, and lost sales of titles that are out of print. Additional strategies to enhance the reader’s experience, such as versioning, variable-data printing, and emerging technologies like augmented reality allow digital print to intermingle seamlessly with virtual content,” explains Lawn. Although Canon holds its annual Publishing and Book Printing Conference at its Customer Experience Center near Munich, a European publishing hub, he says the same book production opportunities apply equally in Canada.
“Canon works with printers on things like the challenge of imposing orders for multiple individual books into an efficient, cost-effective single run or how to split a single printing job between full-colour and black-and-white pages,” he continues. “Also, as more intelligent finishing systems evolve, they are allowing for more in-line finishing processes. Before print on demand, book binding was usually perfect bound, but now we can also do case binding and saddle stitching.”
Among its innovations at drupa, Canon will display the Océ ColorStream 6000 Chroma continuous feed inkjet press, configured with the Zero Speed Splicer u40 and Libra One book block solution by Tecnau to demonstrate fully automated book production of pre-glued book blocks. Also on exhibit will be the Océ ImageStream 2400, a continuous feed inkjet press already installed in Europe but being shown for the first time at an open exhibition.
In a recorded testimonial, Michał Rejnowski, CEO and owner of Totem.com.pl, says one reason he purchased the ImageStream 2400 was because of its unique ability to print at high quality on standard offset coated stock at high speed. Canon has greatly increased the number of substrates its cutsheet inkjet presses can handle with a new ColorGrip inline paper conditioning option. Lawn adds that the ability to print on multiple substrates is important for emerging applications in décor: Covering tables, walls, floors, and glass for decoration or to communicate key messages.
With a similar eye to diversified substrates, Epson will exhibit 13 new professional production inkjet printers and presses covering an enormous range of applications, including labels and stickers, signs and displays, vehicle wraps, photography, fine art, décor, apparel and product decoration. Duncan Ferguson, Director of Professional Printing Solutions for Epson Europe, says Epson makes a point of working with customers to help them grow their businesses gradually, organically, and strategically by adding several different printers to handle multiple ink sets and substrates. In turn, this diversified equipment enables printers to implement what he calls print-farming strategies to acquire an ever larger share of their clients’ printing requirements.
Printers visiting drupa are encouraged to seek out not only the latest and greatest technologies but also suppliers who, like the above examples, will invest time, expertise, and practical, personalized guidance to support each customer’s success.
Welcome to Düsseldorf
Although the population of Düsseldorf proper is only 593,682, some 150 million people live within a 500-kilometre radius of the German city, representing 35 percent of the European Union’s total population. Düsseldorf functions as Germany’s second financial centre (after Frankfurt) and ranks sixth in the world on Mercer’s 2016 Quality of Living survey. Its rebuilding after World War II includes work by international celebrity architects Steven Holl, David Chipperfield, and Frank O. Gehry. It is also known for its Fine Arts Academy Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, lively modern art and upscale fashion scenes, and Altbier, a unique variety of beer.
During drupa, joint initiatives between drupa organizers Messe Düsseldorf and the local tourist authority will include the introduction of 3D-printing exhibits, a paper art market, and a fashion collection made of paper into major shopping areas, and “Wolfgang”, a double-decker bus converted by the GoetheLab at the nearby Technical University of Aachen into a mobile 3D-printing laboratory. Bakeries, hotels, and the airport will distribute “druPRINTen” cookies modelled on the traditional imprinted biscuits called printen which also originated in Aachen.
The signs indicate that printers are headed for an enlightening and enjoyable drupa 2016.
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