drupa T-1 year

Drupa is truly one the most spectacular events that the graphic communications industry has to offer. There is no better place for graphic communications professionals to meet and explore the latest innovations from the industry’s most prominent players. And while drupa certainly is about big announcements, future innovation, and print at its finest, the show delivers all of this with such great panache that it is easy to overlook the fact that it takes place deep within the bowels of gigantic buildings in Düsseldorf.  The exhibitor booths are masterpieces of design and creativity, with a perfect balance of product displays, equipment, espresso bars and even live entertainment. It is more than a show – drupa is an experience. It may only happen once every four years, but it is sure worth the wait.

Drupa 2016 is only a year away, and this is a great time to look at what to expect from this iconic show. Whether you are a drupa veteran, or have never attended, this article will provide some interesting insights to drupa 2016, including its structural realignment and re-launch starting with the 2016 event.

Key highlights of drupa 2016

A brief history of drupa

drupa is an amalgamation of two German words:

druck (Print) and papier (Paper)

The first drupa show was held in 1951

drupa has been primarily quadrennial (happening every four years). After the 2016 event, drupa will move to a three-year cycle

Each drupa has had its own theme song. The 2012 theme song can be heard or downloaded from http://www.drupa.de/media/2/7/5/drupasong_2012.mp3

drupa 2012 had 1,844 exhibitors spread over 541,860 square feet, and over 314, 240 attendees (visitors) came to the show

The exhibitors and technologies at drupa are quite varied and dynamic, and there certainly is something for everyone. That said, there are usually leading concepts/technologies that dominate each drupa. In 2012, it was high-speed inkjet presses and nanography. Based on the list of exhibitors for 2016, I expect that high-speed inkjet production presses will once again have a strong presence. I am also interested to see what advances have been made with the Landa presses, which many will recall received a lot of attention in 2012.

drupa 2016: drupa Reinvented

Starting with the 2016 event, organizers have announced a significant shift and realignment for drupa, The slogan for drupa 2016 is “touch the future” and it is a suitable slogan not just for the 2016 event but also for the entire realignment of the drupa trade fair moving forward. At the heart of the strategic realignment is a completely remade nomenclature that redefines the event’s service profile into six distinct categories:

  1. Prepress and Print
  2. Premedia and Multichannel
  3. Postpress, Converting and Package Printing
  4. Future Technologies
  5. Materials
  6. Equipment, Services, and Infrastructure


In addition, the re-launch of drupa in 2016 will put a special emphasis on the innovative strength of the industry, with a strategic focus on future technologies. In official statements, technologies such as functional printing, printed electronics and 3D printing, along with applications and solutions in the area of digital printing, package and label printing as well as to the industrial production segment, have been identified as key components of drupa’s forward looking strategy. In the spring of 2014 Werner Matthias Dornscheidt, President & CEO of Messe Düsseldorf, stated that the above areas were the driving force behind drupa’s new direction. “It is precisely on these areas that the drupa’s structural realignment and repositioning measures are focused, highlighting the industry’s innovative strength,” Dornscheidt reported.

Along with a strategic realignment of nomenclature, drupa has also undergone a realignment of its fair cycle: drupa will now run on a three-year cycle instead of the traditional four-year cycle people have become accustomed to. The decision was made by the drupa committee and justified based on the need for more frequent exposure to the most innovative technologies. According to Claus Bolza-Schünemann, Chairman of the drupa Advisory Board and President, Koenig & Bauer Group, “it’s more important than ever before that our customers have an overview of the latest technology and are also inspired to use new business models and solutions. Drupa is the only specialist trade fair in the world to offer this – and will do so every three years in the future.”

Of course no re-launch is complete without some rebranding. Drupa has decided to keep the familiarity of their classic look while at the same time aiming to update and revamp its branding to reflect the new realignments of the fair. According to an official statement, organizers felt it was important to retain tried-and-tested elements such as the pixel logo and the colour red, while designing a new image which embodies the spirit of the new drupa. In the sample shown here, the new branding shows both the drupa logo and the 2016 classification “no 1 for print and cross media solutions”.

Overview of themes and concepts for drupa 2016

New to drupa 2016, themes have been identified that tie in with the event’s newly rejigged nomenclature. As such, next year’s drupa is broadly categorized into six areas: print, functional printing, packaging production, multichannel, 3D printing, and green printing. Each category has certain aspects that I think will be more prominent based on press releases, exhibitor lists, past show experiences, and current industry hype, but then again part of the fun of drupa is witnessing those surprise innovations that catch everyone unaware.


A lot has happened in the last four years when it comes to print. While the print market still remains a challenging one, there have been some positive trends that show that print remains a powerful medium for conveying information. I am personally pleased to see a resurgence in catalogue printing and I take a decline in e-pub sales to mean that more people are turning back to the familiar comfort of the printed book. The second drupa trends report published just last month shows that the industry is in a “period of sustained recovery” with a surprising number of printers showing optimism in future outlooks.

At drupa 2012, there lot of digital inkjet web and sheetfed presses, with well-known vendors showing off their wares. I was particularly impressed with how far the 29-inch (B2) digital sheetfed presses had come, with speed and quality beginning to rival traditional offset printing. That is not to say that it was all digital: Heidelberg, KBA, Komori, manroland, and others had lots of heavy metal on the floor. Some vendors were showing some pretty cool in-line processes with these conventional presses like in-line foiling, and custom holographic printing.

At drupa 2016, I expect there will be as much (if not more) focus on the digital presses. In the last four years, technologies have gotten better, and I would be surprised if I didn’t see some serious digital competition to traditional presses on the floor. I am particularly interested to see how far Landa has come with their nanographic presses. Of all the innovations at the last drupa, this one certainly got a lot of attention, especially when it was announced at the show that Heidelberg, Komori, and manroland all agreed to partner with Landa and use their nanographic technology. Since then, Landa has partnered with EFI to develop the DFE for its presses. As amazing as these presses were, in 2012 Landa was having difficulty getting repeatedly good image quality out of them. I am eager to see if this has been overcome, and if the Landa presses will be the game-changers they are anticipated to be.

Prepress and postpress will have a strong presence next year, with a strong showing of postpress equipment and solutions. Prepress workflows continue to advance in the areas of automation and integration, and I expect to see continued exposure to MIS and unified workflow solutions on the floor next year. All the big workflow companies will be at drupa including EFI, Esko, Kodak, Agfa and Fuji to name a few. In terms of postpress, I would imagine there will continue to be an impressive display of complex finishing units at drupa, and I expect to see an ever-stronger presence of finishing equipment specifically designed for digital.

Despite the next interpack show being only a year after drupa, I still expect to see a significant presence of packaging and converting print solutions at the show.

The concept of functional printing is not new, but the technology has advanced so much in such a short period of time that we are able to print things that even ten years ago were impossible. And while 3D printing has its own separate category, there is a lot of opportunity to use that technology for functional printing applications.

I expect to see significant advancements in conductive inks used in printed electronics, but I would also expect significant exposure to organic printing applications at the show, especially given drupa’s partnership with the OE-A (Organic Electronics Association) and ESMA (Association in Europe for Specialist Printing Manufacturers of Screen, Digital and Flexo technology) that led to the development of PEPSO (Printed Electronics Products and Solutions). For those of you planning to attend drupa, look for organic printing of such materials as OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes), (polymer light emitting diodes), OPVs (Organic Photovoltaic), and OFETs (organic field effect transistors) to name a few. The applications of functional printing are vast, from printed electronics, printed batteries, medical applications, and much more.

Packaging production remains one of the strongest and most dominant areas of traditional print, and more and more vendors offer digital printing solutions for some of the more common print packaging applications.

Packaging continues to expand beyond its functional role of protecting a product. More packages are becoming complex multifunctional pieces of print that extend the consumer experience. Whether it is because of government regulations, enhanced marketing, or both, manufacturers have a lot to consider when designing a package or label.

I expect there will be packaging innovations at drupa 2016 that include smart packaging, object hyperlinking, package security and anti-counterfeiting measures to name a few. I also think that there will be a considerable emphasis on enhanced packaging as part of a total sensory marketing solution.

Consumers today are increasingly conscious about the earth and the environment, and many manufacturers are looking for ways to “green up” their packaging to ensure that they have the smallest environmental footprint as possible. Again, there is a separate environmental theme at drupa 2016, but I think it is worth mentioning that there should be some intriguing packaging-specific “ecolutions” showcased at the show.

For many, multichannel publishing and distribution has become a normal part of their daily business. It certainly is easier to distribute across multiple channels now than it was in the past, but even with all the great advances we have seen, it is still common to run into problems and challenges that can result in a lot of hair pulling. Vendors get this and they are always making efforts to improve their products so that they can do it better, faster and easier. At drupa 2016, exhibitors will no doubt unveil the latest and greatest tools that multichannel publishing has to offer. Separate but related, expect to see tools to better manage content and help with database publishing. I also believe there will be companies at drupa that will offer complete infrastructure (hardware/software) solutions for business large and small.

As far as which channels of a multichannel distribution system will dominate, my guess is that there will a lot of attention paid to mobile content and communication, followed closely by web. There will likely be a strong emphasis on single source publishing (one file to rule them all) and analytics for tracking and measuring multichannel success.

In terms of trends, I anticipate that this drupa will have a lot of hype around “phygital” communication: the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. I have seen this implemented already, and it is doing a lot to attract consumers, especially the younger demographics.

It seems nowadays you can’t open a trade publication or attend an industry trade show without 3D printing having significant prominence. Indeed this is the case at drupa 2016 where 3D printing has a theme all of its own.

I personally have always struggled with where 3D printing fits in the print world, mostly because I see it as custom fabrication more than I do print. Nonetheless I find the concept of 3D printing fascinating. I not only marvel at the how it all works, but I remain amazed at what is actually being printed. 3D printing has been used very successfully in the medical field to fabricate custom prosthetic devices for amputees. Closer to print, 3D printing can be used to fabricate prototypes of packaging and other print-related products. Of course the real value of 3D print is in its near-future capabilities. In January I ate candy printed on a 3D printer. For medical advancement, 3D printing has the potential to print replacement organs or skin using a patient’s own stem cells. No more waiting on long transplant lists or risking a rejection of a donated organ. Skin grafts will be easier too. I look forward to seeing what innovations drupa’s 3D printing theme will showcase.

Green printing is not a new concept, nor is it new to drupa. The relevance and importance of sustainability and green keeps expanding at every show. As I mentioned in packaging production, there will be significant emphasis on creating environmentally friendly printed products, especially in the packaging sector.

Environmental stewardship is not just about the end result, and the exhibitors at drupa know this. Throughout the exhibits “clean tech” can be found that uses less energy, less chemicals, and more recycled materials. More and more companies are marketing and using eco-certified materials, and this will be prominently displayed at the booths. I expect the exhibitors at drupa will not only be demonstrating products that meet the consumer demand for eco-sensibility, but will also be keen to show how a reduction in consumables and utilities can help the bottom line. This is a good thing: we as an industry need to do a much better job of debunking the beliefs out there that print is less environmentally friendly than hand-held electronics that get thrown out every 18 months!

drupa innovation park

One of my favourite places to visit when at drupa is the drupa innovation park (dip). As drupa’s Director, Sabine Geldermann states, “the dip is a fantastic way for young companies and startups as well as global players with forward-looking solutions and applications to present themselves.” The 2016 dip will be located in hall 7 and is expected to be more that 37,000 square feet.

The 2016 dip will follow the restructuring of drupa itself by offering six different themes organized in what the show is calling theme parks. According to an official drupa press release issued in February 2015, the six dip themes are identified as follows:

  1. Multichannel Publishing & Marketing Solutions. This area covers topics such as management of cross-media content/assets, web and app publishing, database publishing and marketing and brand management solutions. Also potential applications and trends such as augmented reality, NFC applications or customised mass production.
  2. Web-to-Media & E-Commerce. This area focuses on solutions for web-to-publish or web-to-print, e-commerce and shop platforms, cloud publishing and web editors for design/print and HTML 5.
  3. Process Optimization & Automation. Visitors to this area can expect to find solutions and innovation on the following topics: management information systems, enterprise resource planning, print automation with JDF/JMF, workflow management from prepress to finishing, process and quality control systems, industrial robots and automation technologies
  4. Added Value in Print. The focus here is on finishing, further development and the advanced added-value of print products, including innovative substrates, new finishing methods, packaging, labelling printing and displays, green printing and secure printing
  5. Innovations in Printing Technologies. Modern printing and process technologies will be presented in this theme park and visitors will find applications for functional printing, printed electronics, 3D printing, solutions for prototyping, visualisation and workflow.
  6. Business Models. Alongside technological changes, new business concepts and models have an ever more important role to play. Strategic cooperation and marketing platforms, finance concepts and franchising and licence models are also the subject of this innovation park.

Drupa on a Budget

I would like to end this article with what I like to call drupa economics. There are many wonderful things I like about drupa, but the cost associated with the show isn’t one of them. This is especially true if you do not have the approval to book and plan your trip three years in advance. Last minute hotel bookings in Düsseldorf (if you are lucky enough to find one!) can easily be around the 1000 euro per night mark. The cost of food at the fair is almost as bad. So if you are planning to attend drupa in 2016, but are like me, and need to pinch your pennies, here are some suggestions that may help you.

  • Commute. I love the fact that your drupa ticket is also your public transportation ticket while at the show. In 2012, a group of us booked a hotel in Cologne (Köln) for less than 100 euro per night. It took approximately an hour to travel one way between the fair grounds and our hotel, but trains ran every 15-20 minutes and the whole system ran like clockwork. An added bonus of commuting was that it was easier to find a reasonably priced restaurant for dinner back in Cologne than it was in Düsseldorf (less crowded too!).
  • Pack a lunch. Whether you are on a tight budget, or just won’t pay 20 euro for a hotdog (and extra for condiments) out of principle, it is far cheaper to pack a lunch than it is to buy one at the fair. What I have done in the past is to bring a bunch of Ziploc bags with me from home and then find a grocery store close to the hotel. If you are lucky, your hotel room will have a small fridge where you can store perishables, otherwise stick to things that can be stored at room temperature. Then pack your lunch. Since almost all hotels offer a decent free breakfast, I have an extra big breakfast and keep my lunch light. I put the lunch in my backpack, which I also recommend bringing. I have also brought a refillable water bottle from home and filled it up before I left the hotel.
  • Take advantage of the hospitality. Many exhibitors have coffee bars and the like in their booths. This is great opportunity to get an afternoon pick-me-up without having to take out a second mortgage to buy one. Just be respectful and practice moderation, and you will be welcomed to enjoy that wonderful cup of deliciousness.


Attending drupa is truly an experience like no other. There really is something for everyone, and you could spend the entire duration of the fair from open to close wandering around the halls and still not see everything. It is a time of innovation, revelation, and sophistication, with some spectacular thrown in for good measure. So pack some comfortable walking shoes and your spargel pants: its drupa time. Who knows, maybe I will see you there. I will be the guy with the backpack and comfortable shoes eating a sandwich from a Ziploc bag and washing it down with a Bitburger.

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