Feb 18, 2016
Between January 30th- February 2nd the aftermarket industry came together again as part of the annual PaperWorld trade show in Frankfurt. Hosted for the second consecutive year in Hall 6.0, this years Remanexpo show saw a noticeable shift in the mix of exhibitors, with the larger domestic European remanufacturers taking a much reduced share of the floor space, with brands such as Clover and DCI returning with a smaller footprint focused on interacting with existing customers. Indeed some of the previous years largest exhibitors, such as KMP and Armor, decided against exhibiting but were present to take advantage of the newly introduced “Business Lounge” facility, which offered dedicated meeting rooms on the show floor to cater to the evolving needs to both exhibitors and attendees, therefore allowing industry players to meet with their customers without having to invest quite so much in their own stand presence.
However, whilst some vendors had reduced their footprint this gave the opportunity for others to become more prominent, particularly domestic German brands such as Pedro Scholler Printservice and WTA, who received the award for Remanufacturer of the Year during the show.
Ninestar’s stand was indicative of the trend for prioritising meeting space over product display.
One common theme across the majority of stands at the show though was how little actual product was on display, reinforcing the trend that many vendors see the show primarily as a venue for cementing business relationships with existing customers rather than generating significant new opportunities. In fact even the leading Asian brands such as Ninestar and Print-Rite had a much smaller share of their stands dedicated to showcasing their cartridges, with meeting space the clear priority. Perhaps as a result of this trend, or as a consequence of the hard work the industry has put in over recent years to promote respect for intellectual property, there was only a single incident involving German authorities seizing potentially infringing products.
Evolution was also a key theme across much of the event, with signs that the aftermarket is increasingly looking towards opportunities outside of the printer & copier market in order to maintain or grow their businesses. The trend was most evident through the increased presence of 3D printing devices on display, which themselves continue to evolve in capability. Print-Rite had first shown off their own 3D printers at last years show, but their ‘Colido’ range has already developed substantially since then to include more than five distinct models, from entry level through to industrial prototyping, and even a 3D printing pen.
The Polaroid branded 3D Printer produced by EBP
However, perhaps the most impressive display of 3D print came via Environmental Business Products (EBP), a UK based inkjet remanufacturer, who have seen their traditional market begin to shrink as a result of the decline in the consumer inkjet category. EBP have taken an intelligent approach to 3D print, developing the hardware in house but choosing to licence the Polaroid brand in order to give their products a recognizable name around which they can go to market.
Large brand names have been absent, to date, from the consumer/prosumer end of the emerging 3D print market, and EBP’s approach could help the market begin to reach a more mainstream audience. In addition to their branding strategy EBP have also been innovative their consumables offering, with a one time use sheet on the print area allowing for much easier removal of the final printed structure, and also the ability to print using both PLA and a wood based material.
Features such as a Wi-Fi enabled camera, SD card support and an easy to use print interface also contribute towards presenting a more consumer focused product, and while the size of the unit, and it’s initial price point, will unlikely allow for dramatic uptake in the home environment, it could provide an example for the wider industry of what is required to reach a larger audience.
Apex are looking towards the smart home as the next application for their chip technology
The Internet of Things (IOT) could also be a target for some parts of the imaging aftermarket. Apex and Static Control held a joint stand for the first time, although still very much maintaining the presence of both brands individually. Apex’s focus on their chip technology was no longer limited to applications in printer cartridges, with smart home devices such as light bulbs, door locks and environmental controls looking like a major area of potential expansion for the company.
The knowledge and expertise built up by the aftermarket, as a result of trying to keep pace with the technological innovations employed by the OEMs to restrict third party cartridge use, clearly now has applications that are much wider than the printer consumables market.
Overall the feedback from those attending the show was heavily positive, something that hadn’t necessarily been the case in recent years, and it is clear that, much like its participants, the show itself is evolving to meet the changing demands of its user base. It will be interesting to see to what extent wider opportunities take a share of focus as complimentary markets emerge, and whether that will create gaps within the printer aftermarket for other players to exploit.