Five Themes at IPEX

Jim Hamilton
May 20, 2010

Three days into IPEX 2010, I see some themes emerging from the show:

  • IPEX theme #1: Things that are out of our control — After having had a minor travel disruption involving planes, buses, and trains on the way to Birmingham, I have to admit that when it comes down to a battle between me and the volcanoes, the volcanoes win. I feel the same way about the impact of the economic downturn. We all have to acknowledge that there are some big, global trends that will continue to impact everyone whether we like it or not. I put the move toward mobile technology and social media in the same category. This will happen even if we personally do not desire an iPad of our own.


Welcome to IPEX

  • IPEX theme #2: Partnerships and alliances tell a very interesting story: As we enter this show there is a dizzying backdrop of partnerships and alliances. We see the first impact of Canon’s acquisition of Océ with the display of an imagePRESS C7000VP at the Océ booth. I’m sure that before long Océ VarioPrint 6000 Ultra series products will be sold by Canon. HP and Pitney Bowes have announced new (and related) members of their Inkjet Web Press and IntelliJet families. This partnership signals a significant change in how print engines will be sold into transaction and mail environments. At its press conference Heidelberg said that it’s searching for digital partners (emphasis on the plural) and will make some decisions before year’s end. What a treasure trove of speculation for the next seven months! InfoPrint will become a fully owned portion of Ricoh in the next few weeks and the new branding is visible in their joint booth. Punch Graphics came close to a large investor share transaction in the days leading up to the show, but that effort fell through at the last minute. And of course Bitstream bought Press-sense. I’m sure there are other interesting partnership and alliance stories that I’ve overlooked!


  • IPEX theme #3: Inkjet is everywhere: You can’t sneeze in any direction on the show floor without spraying in the direction of some inkjet technology. If it’s not continuous feed it’s cut sheet. If it’s not a technology demonstration it’s a product announcement. If it’s not a publication app it’s labels or packaging. Narrow format, wide format, B2. Four-color, seven-color. Process color, white ink, orange, and green. Aqueous, dye, pigment, UV, and resin. This isn’t the inkjet IPEX, it’s the űber-inkjet IPEX.


  • IPEX theme #4: Beyond four-color: It’s not necessarily news that there is more to color reproduction than CMYK, but this show, particularly from a digital perspective, is underscoring how value can be added outside of the boring old cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Xerox’s move into a clear gloss effect with the new 800/1000 is a radical change from what had been an exclusively four-color world for their digital color products. And yet it’s nothing new. Digital players like Canon, HP Indigo, Kodak, Océ, and Xeikon have had colors or effects outside of CMYK for a long time, but the marketing impact that Xerox is bringing to this capability is sure to make the market stand up and notice. And wait! Did you notice the extra space for a sixth color in the 800/1000? Who knows what Xerox engineers will think up to take advantage of those extra print stations? Kodak isn’t standing still either. I unabashedly love the dimensional effect that the NexPress fifth station provides. (If you are here you should stop by the Kodak booth for some dimensional samples.) And now they’ve added an “invisible” ink (viewable under UV light) for security applications. Spot or gloss coating applied by a digital device, like what MGI is showing, is another differentiator above and beyond CMYK.


  • IPEX theme #5: What about B2?: The same four vendors who talked about B2 at drupa 2010 are back with their latest versions. FujiFilm is using pre-coating to produce some nice samples for its simplex B2-format inkjet offering. Screen has added duplex capability (really a necessity in my opinion) to its B2-format inkjet. Jadason, now showing with Compose, has made some improvements to the toner-based QPress (though it’s also just simplex). Presstek has a multi-station design in its new 75DI (which will include perfecting, yeah!). Which will succeed? Hard to say. Let’s see how the market reacts.

As I write this, with one more day on the show floor, I’m finding this to be a fascinating event from many different angles. And there is a lot more going on here than I can cover in a blog. The questions abound. What about the progress of Adobe PDF Print Engine? After the U2 concert at Print 09 and the Stevie Winwood/Eric Clapton concert here at IPEX, is it possible for Xerox to keep the musical momentum for its client events? And perhaps most importantly, will I make it home before there’s another ash cloud?

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