Frankly Speaking: The Drupa Drupa

Frank Romano
Jan 18, 2012

Predicting the predominant theme of Drupa is like predicting presidential prospects. It is fraught with peril.

We know that the last Drupa in 2008 was truly an inkjet-oriented Drupa. Few of you can tell me what was new in offset litho but all can remember that HP became one of the largest exhibitors with a new high-speed, high-quality, roll-fed inkjet press that broke all the rules–inkjet, high speed, high quality, and roll fed were not terms that commonly collided in the same sentence.

The every-4 year (it was once 5 years) international show schedule was designed to provide enough time for large leaps in technology.  That is why Drupa, Ipex, and PRINT shows have a personality. There is always something truly new.

As the 2012 edition of Drupa rapidy approaches we pundits delight in prognosticating. It is either that or actually working for a living. My original prediction was that Drupa 2012 would be “inkjet on steroids.” The steroid lobby has taken offence so I am re-thinking all inking.

Let us set the stage. Once HP set the bar for a new breed of inkjet printer/press in 2008, competitors appeared above and below the bar. Kodak set the bar for graphic arts quality, while others shot for speed or special capabilities. We can thus expect that all of them have to move the bar again. HP’s top-of-the-line T-400 is 42 inches wide. Will it be width or speed that they advance? Or both?

Or come down market with a “half web” approach for commercial printers? Or might we see a sheetfed version to give Fujifilm and Screen a run for the money?

Will Xerox be satisfied with their “waterless” inkjet approach or will we see something that breaks the bar and sets a new standard for production inkjet? And what surprises do they have involving toner? An xGen that goes where the iGen has never gone before?

Last Drupa Xerox emphasized applications. It was interesting but did not deliver the “wow” factor.

The HP Indigo has been very successful. What does it do for an encore? Larger sheet size? More speed? Status quo may not be an option.

Canon and Konica has been stalwart players in the market. Will they take toner-based printing beyond 13×19 inches to 14×20 inches?

Is there a next for Kodak’s NexPress? They have kept the system viable with great ancillary effects like dimensional clear, coating, and extended gamut printing. But now other suppliers are catching up.

Will other digital toner and inkjet printers catch up with HP Indigo and introduce Pantone color support?

By the way, I have no pre-knowledge of what any company is doing. Thus I am free to make up whatever I want.

The wide format inkjet folks will opt for more speed with single-pass arrays and faster transports. Companies like Xante and Memjet will blur the line between wide format (think signage) from production (think documents).

Will some supplier break the 16-foot width of the widest wide format inkjet printers? 20-plus feet?

As electronic communication erodes the traditional print product mix, the printing industry is gravitating to package printing. You still cannot e-mail a box of Wheaties.  Maybe AlphaBits ☺ This means that we will see new flexo CTP systems and hybrid printing systems that mix print processes in the same production line.

There will be inkjet systems specifically for packaging from film to folding carton to corrugated.

The offset litho folks will show short makeready and quick turnover presses to meet the short run trend. Most will have some kind of integrated inkjet or provide a hybrid printing approach. The digital printing suppliers in total will occupy more show space than the offset litho suppliers.

My first printing trade show was a PIA exhibition in DC in 1962. Along the way I have attended virtually every event and have observed that when companies do not have major print technology to exhibit, they emphasize workflow. When they have few workflow enhancements they emphasize applications. When applications are a yawn, they have a big party.

So . . .

  • The inkjet on steroids Drupa
  • The package printing Drupa
  • The wider wide format Drupa
  • The faster better bigger printer Drupa
  • The big party Drupa

Pick one. Or all of them.

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