drupa 08 – Setting new benchmarks

Every four years brings us a U.S. election, the Olympics, the World Cup, and drupa. And make no mistake. Drupa is every bit as exciting as those other ones. This year was no exception. Around 391,000 visitors from 138 countries attended the two-week long “Messe”, which featured 1971 exhibitors from 52 countries. Although attendance was down slightly from 2004, the mood was upbeat and festive.

If you have never been to drupa, it is difficult to comprehend the enormity of the event. The fairground in D√ºsseldorf is one of the largest in the world, covering over 2.85 million square feet (170,000 square metres). That’s more than 70 acres! With 19 halls (really 20, as Hall 8 is split into two separate buildings) and 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space connected by covered moving walkways, the fairgrounds have barber and beauty shops, restaurants and cafes in each hall, several banks, and both a hardware store and a grocery store. Understandably, it is virtually impossible to see everything one wants to—though I did make time to stop at the beach area between two halls laid out with umbrellas and beach chairs for people to relax in the sun.

This year’s drupa had two new features, including a special event aimed at print buyers. The “drupacube” showcased answers to the question of how print and online media can complement each other in the future. Inside a pavilion on the Rhine, the drupacube featured a variety of marketing-driven applications for printed products, de-emphasizing technology.

Making its second appearance was the “drupa innovation parc”, focusing on new technology. Building on its 2004 success, this year’s expanded “DIP”—it was nearly four times larger than in 2004—contained eight themed zones (including online communication, document management, and buyer integration) and provided a venue for 160 exhibitors. Although intended to support and promote young companies, it was also the home to new technologies offered by more established vendors.

The drupa innovation parc also provided the venue for the popular “Red Sofa” sessions—interviews with industry executives including HP’s VJ Joshi, Bernhard Schreier from Heidelberg, Guy Gecht of EFI, and Xerox’s Ursula Burns. (All the interviews are available online at: http://tinyurl.com/3hhkob .

In addition, the Print & Media Congress offered a number of “Compass Sessions”— two-hour intensive workshops on a variety of issues, including digital workflow, PDF, automation, JDF/CIP4, colour management, printed electronics, and packaging.

Another popular feature was the “Highlight Tours”, each of which focused on a different aspect of the show and ushered attendees from hall to hall and booth to booth.

It is impossible in a short piece to cover even a fraction of what any individual could take in at drupa, let alone the entire show. So let this article be your own personal “highlight tour.”

Even with everything else going on, drupa is still principally a press show. For 50 years, printers have been coming to drupa to see the latest developments in presses.

Every offset press maker has upgraded their presses, both through new offerings and significant improvements to existing lines. Each manufacturer emphasized a number of common themes, including innovation, integration, service, and sustainability. The new offset presses cut make-ready and waste, increase productivity, ensure more useable sheets, and improve quality consistency.

Heidelberg once again had the largest presence, in their customary location in Halls 1 and 2, with 7800 square metres of floor space (about 2 acres) and 3500 Heidelberg staff. Heidelberg’s twin themes of “HEI Performance” and “HEI Value” were on display, and their exhibits were connected by a “HEI-way” (there was also a “HEI-School”). The centerpieces of the exhibit were the new Speedmaster XL 145 and Speedmaster XL 162, representing the most significant expansion of the company’s press line in a number of years. Of course, Heidelberg also had a full panoply of presses, 17 in all, with around 120 printing units, as it showcased its Speedmaster XL line developed for industrial operations with multiple shifts.

An important component of Heidelberg’s exhibit was its end-to-end integration. All prepress, press, and post-press equipment throughout both Halls were connected using its Prinect workflow software (see Graphic Arts Magazine’s June 2008 issue). All Speedmaster presses are equipped with a Prinect Press Center which combines press operation with colour and register control in a single, central console. A large screen gives press operators an overview of all press processes. The wallscreen also supports print approval processes.

Heidelberg dedicated Hall 2 to packaging, with offerings including a new Prinect packaging workflow, new VLF presses and existing 29” and 40” Speedmaster CD presses, and a variety of converting and finishing options. Although it wasn’t shown at drupa, board member Dr. J√ºrgen Rautert also highlighted the new LinoPrint inkjet system launched the previous month at InterPak.

The biggest news from the newly renamed manroland was perhaps its new name and logo. Two years have passed since they became independent of the MAN group, making drupa a good opportunity to change their name and logo. As befits the global market leader for web presses and second largest manufacturer of sheetfed presses, manroland had the second largest stand at drupa. With a floor area of 4000 square metres (about one acre) and a 1300 square metre gallery under the motto WE ARE PRINT, manroland focused on production efficiency and value. Manroland moved down-market with the 2-page Roland 50, a first for the company. At the other extreme, they introduced a 96-page LITHOMAN web press, as well as perfecting versions of very large format sheetfed presses. Improvements in automation included the InlineColourPilot that measures and regulates ink density of up to seven printing inks during production, their automated plate change system, printcom process system, and printnet networking system.

The Ryobi 1050 puts the small-press manufacturer squarely in the 40” format market. Rated at 16,000 sheets per hour, the 1050 will be offered in “S” (41.73 x 31.5 inch) and “XL” (41.73 x 33.46 inch) configurations. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Canada, where manroland distributes Ryobi presses.

Similarly, KBA, which bills itself as the “world’s oldest press manufacturer”, provided a number of announcements, both of new presses and productivity improvements on existing lines. The focus of much of their attention was on providing a more compact press design, automation, cost efficiencies, improved print quality, and ergonomics. Long known for their large format presses—they announced a very large format (142 cm) 4 over 4 perfector—KBA is now aggressively targeting smaller formats as well. Alongside its high-end medium- and large-format presses, KBA showed a pair of highly automated presses suitable for price-sensitive printers. The 20×29” Rapida 75 will be available in up to 8 colours and with automatic 4/4 perfecting. The 28×41.5” 5-colour Rapida 105 is available as a straight press with a maximum of 7 printing units plus a choice of coaters, and in a slightly larger (29×41.5”) version. KBA is addressing the need for greater productivity, especially for shorter run lengths, through improvements such as the DriveTronic SPC (simultaneous plate changing) system and the QualiTronic inline sheet-inspection system. Video-based automatic colour register control and a choice of professional closed-loop densitometry systems help minimize waste, make-ready times, and quality deviations.

Digital Presses

Drupa 2008 made it clear that “big iron” is no longer the only big game in town. After Heidelberg and manroland, Hewlett-Packard and Xerox had the largest exhibits.

On the toner side, Kodak, HP, Océ, Xeikon, Xerox and others showed significant new products and upgrades, with more speed, improved image quality and enhanced productivity.

HP Indigo celebrated the 15th anniversary of its 1993 launch at IPEX by introducing three new models. Adding to the HP Indigo 4000 and 5000 series presses, the HP Indigo 6000 and 7000 series presses offer increased productivity. The HP Indigo 5500, the company’s best-selling model, has been enhanced with a variety of options, including an additional feeder, an in-line connection to a UV coater, and a kit for enabling printing on thicker media. The newly launched HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press prints 120 4-colour, A4-size pages per minute and is targeted at higher production volumes than the 5500.

The HP Indigo WS6000 and W7200 presses, also launched at drupa, are web-fed digital presses. The WS6000 offers twice the productivity of the successful HP Indigo press WS4500 and is targeted at labels and packaging converters with significant volumes of medium- and short-run jobs. The W7200 press is for high-quality publishing, direct mail and transactional/ transpromotional offerings. Both are expected to be available next year.

Also celebrating 15 years of sales, although with considerably less fanfare, Xeikon emphasized “quality and speed in digital print” with the introduction of three significant new products. The Xeikon 8000 is by far the fastest full colour toner device on the market. Boasting true 1200 dpi at 4 bits per spot, the Xeikon 8000 has been developed to optimize print productivity and to provide fast, cost-effective, and eco-friendly printing without compromising on quality. Web-fed, it prints full colour multi-page documents at a top speed of 230 A4 pages per minute, or 13,800 A4 pages per hour. Similarly, both the 5000plus and 6000 presses have been given a quality boost with the 1200 dpi print head.

Xeikon also introduced a new 5-colour label press. The Xeikon 3300 offers true 1200 dpi at 4 bits per spot and runs at 63 feet/minute, making it the fastest digital 5-colour label press on the market. It runs a variety of substrates, including foils, self-adhesive films, paper and more, making it a good fit for many short-to-medium print runs or just-in-time jobs. With five colour stations, the 3300 can apply spot colours as well as an opaque white and special security toner.

Xerox also made a number of announcements, continuing their move toward a services-led technology company, with strategic bets in colour and production digital print and an emphasis on co-marketing. In addition to their distribution (and development) partner Fujifilm, Xerox featured a Heidelberg offset press in their stand, as well as workflow from both Fuji and Screen. The company also introduced an integrated in-line digital packaging solution for the pharmaceutical industry that can produce customized, variable data on each package. Jointly developed with Stora Enso, the solution is powered by the Xerox iGen3 110 Digital Production Press and consists of an Epic CTi-635 varnishing unit with both aqueous and UV-coating options from Xerox, a KAMA die cutter and a stacker-conveyer unit from Stora Enso.

On the new product side, the biggest announcement was the iGen4. Although it offers the same rated speed of 110 pages per minute as the iGen3, it is noticeably “new and improved”. Xerox expects the iGen4 press to deliver 25 to 35 percent more productivity by automating operator tasks, reducing the need to interrupt the press for adjustments, lower maintenance requirements, a number of quality improvements, and decreasing overall operating costs. Xerox also made a number of improvements in the iGen3, including the Automated Colour Quality Suite Press Matching System, for new and existing users of the Xerox iGen3¬Æ 90 and 110 Digital Production Presses. These enhancements enable faster press set up, quicker time to production, greater colour stability, and automated Pantone colour matching.

Also of interest was the new 700 model Digital Colour Press. This is a small-footprint 70 ppm device that uses low-melt EA toner and delivers a matte finish to images. It packs robust production features such as coated paper handling, heavyweight media support, and feeding and finishing options at an entry-level price. It brings productivity, print quality and flexibility to print providers looking to adopt digital technology or expand their digital printing business.

As drupa is a show to highlight new technology, Xerox also showed the dual engine ColorConcept 220, a melding of two iGen3 presses to create a 220-ppm full colour perfecting press. The first engine prints the front and the second the back ( just as is done with the company’s Nuvera 288), making it the fastest, full colour cut sheet digital press ever shown publicly. The system also has a smaller footprint and is more compact than two Xerox iGen3s sitting side-by-side, which saves valuable shop floor space.

Xerox also used drupa to showcase their next-generation ink—“cured gel” ink, which offers more ways to print on many substrates.

Finally, Kodak emphasized what they call “offset-class output” in their solutions for conventional offset and inkjet and toner digital printing. They introduced a new NEXPRESS model, the NEXPRESS S3600 Digital Production Color Press, the fastest in its S-Series, with dramatically increased productivity. At 120 pages per minute (A4), the NEXPRESS S3600 allows print providers to achieve a higher level of productivity to produce more jobs per hour. Modular features of the NEXPRESS S-Class Presses include input feeder options with up to 11,000 sheet capacity, collation capability of up to five different media, and both cut sheet and roll fed paper on the same press. Output options support multiple high capacity deliveries, as well as inline or near line booklet makers. Along with the KODAK NEXPRESS Fifth Imaging Unit Solution, a near line KODAK NEXPRESS Glossing Unit can add a high gloss finish for surface protection and varnished look. NEXPRESS S-Series Presses can be upgraded on site to increase output speed, add colour imaging units and input/output options.

Inkjet

Drupa 2008 was billed as the “inkjet drupa”, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It is clear that we have seen the future with these devices, as a slew of suppliers showed products, category demonstrations, and new technologies. Most are web presses, and most use thermal or piezo inkjet heads. And most are targeting, at least initially, just a few applications, particularly newspapers, so-called “transpromo” (transaction documents incorporating promotional materials), and books. Eventually, however, most expect them to expand into the broader commercial print market.

First, let’s look at those vendors who have presses that are available for sale and installation. The most mature is the Agfa :Dotrix, which has been for sale for a number of years. Although examples of broader graphics applications were available, the press was set up at the show for flexible packaging applications and folding cartons, for which it is clearly appropriate. The :Dotrix, built upon the iron frame of a flexo press, can have flexo units before the inkjet heads and UV coating and drying after them, just like a “hybrid” sheetfed lithographic press. Equipped with an inline sheeter that can cut its 28.5” web to various lengths, the :Dotrix, which is modular and upgradeable, runs on a wide variety of media at 24 metres per minute, and Agfa says it will increase the speeds to 30 m/min.

Océ expanded its high speed inkjet offerings with three new JetStream models. The groundbreaking series was launched in 2007 with a 492 feet per minute JetStream 1100 single-engine system and the Océ JetStream 2200 full colour, twin system. Now these models are joined by the new Océ JetStream 750, Océ JetStream 1500 and Océ JetStream 3000 systems. The series now offers high quality full-colour output speeds ranging from 675 to 2,700 A4 impressions per minute, with easy upgradeability throughout the family. The newly expanded Océ JetStream portfolio is positioned to meet customer requirements in terms of colour quality, speed, and duty cycles.

Perhaps the biggest changes in emphasis have come from Screen and Fuji. The two Japanese companies, long known as prepress suppliers, have announced their intention to enter the press market. The Screen TruePress Jet520, introduced in 2006, prints on a variety of stocks up to 20.5” wide. The roll-fed paper transport system affords faster turnarounds on high-volume projects. The Truepress Jet520 can print 210 feet per minute, the equivalent of 55,000 impressions per hour. As with many of these web inkjet presses, Screen focused their demonstrations on newspaper and print-on-demand book applications. Screen also showed a sheet-fed press, the Truepress Jet SX, as a complement to the roll-fed inkjet printing that is already available. It can output on A2-wide size paper, up to 530 x 740 mm. Screen says it can print not only on inkjet printing paper, but also on ordinary printing paper and thicker stock.

Another concept press was on the Fuji stand, The Jet Press 720, also a sheetfed inkjet digital press. Designed and built with technologies from across the Fujifilm Group—including those of FujiXerox and the inkjet head manufacturer Dimatix—its frame comes from a sheetfed press manufacturer. With a maximum sheet size of 720 mm by 520 mm, the Jet Press 720 offers a resolution of 1200 dpi at 4-level gray scale at 180 sheets per minute. Fuji is clearly targeting mainstream commercial applications. They claim a make-ready break-even of run lengths of approximately 2000 impressions.

Two other presses that caused a stir came from Hewlett-Packard and Kodak. The HP Inkjet Web Press is a digital printing platform based on the company’s Scalable Printing Technology. HP showed a 36 inch wide web at drupa, although the first announced product is 30 inches wide. It runs up to 400 feet per minute at 600 by 600 dpi, can print two-sided signatures, and is designed for production volume in the millions. Although the long-term objective may be general commercial applications, the initial target markets are those that do not require high colour coverage, such as books, newspapers, and direct mail. A key feature of the demonstration at the stand were the variety of finishing solutions from companies such as EMT, Hunkeler, MBO, Muller Martini, and Pitney Bowes.

Kodak Versamark showed its full-colour STREAM Concept press. The Stream technology uses a continuous inkjet system that is not limited to water-based dye inks, and can therefore print on a wide range of substrates. With a resolution exceeding 600 dpi and print speeds over 500 feet per minute, Kodak is looking to achieve “offset class” printing and is targeting high volume applications with monthly page volumes of 10 million or more. The press is for those who want to bring the benefits of digital print to jobs traditionally produced using offset presses. Kodak also demonstrated the Stream Concept Printhead, running inline on a Muller Martini press. Capable of delivering monochrome offset class variable data printing applications at up to 1000 feet per minute, the Stream Concept Printhead demonstration was intended to show the technology’s potential for hybrid printing and as a technology platform for future inkjet systems.

Wide format

Also on offer were a variety of wide format inkjet printers. One that was particularly interesting was the new Océ ColorWave 600, a wide format machine that uses TonerPearls jetted through an inkjet head,. Although targeted at CAD and other non-graphic wide format applications, where Océ is very strong, this machine offers interesting potential.

EFI’s VUTEk showed a high-speed, flatbed UV printer targeted at point-of-purchase and display graphics, printing at output up to 557 square metres (6000 square feet) per hour The Jetrion 4000 UV Inkjet System, a unique industrial inkjet printer, is now commercially available and is targeted at label converters for runs of up to 50,000 labels.

The largest array of wide format products was shown by HP. In addition to their Designjet line, HP is a major player in the super-wide category, with its recent acquisitions of NUR Macroprinters Ltd. and MacDermid ColorSpan Inc. to supplement the Scitex line.

Although there were a variety of other suppliers, one should pay particular attention to Fuji, which sells Inca devices, and to Agfa. While Agfa took pains to emphasize their commitment to prepress systems, introducing a revamped :Apogee workflow (see Graphic Arts Magazine’s June issue), new plates, and new CTP systems, inkjet dominated their stand and will clearly be a focus going forward, not only with the :Dotrix discussed earlier, but also the :Anapurna line and screen-hybrid :M-Press.

Postpress

Drupa is also the best place for those interested in postpress and finishing, as an incredible variety of products and vendors can be seen in one place. Innovation was present in abundance, as vendors offered in-line, off-line, and near-line production solutions designed to deliver the economic benefits of automation, shorter makereadies, and reduced labour. Finishing is particularly important as a way for printers to ‘add value’ to the printed product, and, I believe, represents the next wave of process improvement. As Heidelberg and others showed, the acceptance of JDF will increase the productivity of these systems.

Applications and Services

Another difference in this year’s drupa was the emphasis on applications and services. While it is impossible to cover all, a number of vendors exhibits stand out, particularly Heidelberg, Kodak, HP, and Xerox. All organized their displays around various applications and profit centres, rather than product categories.

Finally, I’d like to mention in particular one Canadian-focused service offering, from Fuji. “Getitfromtheexperts.ca” provides a customized and personalized response that highlights appropriate products and services, based on a short series of questions.

China

Another major difference in drupa this year was the increased presence of Chinese-based companies. There were at least 150 exhibitors from the PRC, and another 25 from Taiwan. It’s something to look out for in 2012.

Environment

While not the “Green drupa” that many thought it would be, every press conference mentioned the environment, although often as an afterthought. But all companies felt it important to highlight what they were doing to reduce the environmental impact of printing. As they say, “watch this space.”

For 14 eventful days, D√ºsseldorf was the centre of the printing industry, and it is absolutely impossible to cover it all or to summarize. I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for the next one—see you in 2012!

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