Prediction: The Top drupa 2012 Stories

Jim Hamilton
Apr 18, 2012

I could be wrong. After all, the show doesn’t start for two weeks, but I think these will be the top stories at drupa:

  1. Benny Landa — Whether Landa Labs shows market-ready products or early tech demos doesn’t really matter. This will be a drupa remembered for the show that Benny Landa put on. Is it ready for prime time? We won’t know until May. One mystery that should be solved by then is why their press releases refer to “ink ejectors” rather than inkjet heads (like every other inkjet system vendor does). Could it be that they are doing something different than using inkjet heads to apply ink to paper? Wait and see.
  2. B2 format digital – Rather than just being another ‘inkjet’ drupa, I think drupa 2012 will be remembered by some as the ‘B2 format digital’ drupa. Why? This drupa will have a strong flavor of digital print formats that are larger than 13” by 19” for cut-sheet and wider than 20” for roll-fed. This has three simultaneous impacts. First, it opens up digital print opportunities in applications like packaging, particularly for folding cartons, which have been size-constrained in digital print to date. Second, along with new opportunities, larger formats also create new finishing challenges. Taking advantage of the automatic duplexing, electronic collation, and personalization capabilities of digital print will be a driver of innovative finishing tools that we will see at the show. And third, the larger formats bring with them increased productivity levels, which elevates production digital print into settings that have been out of reach in the past.
  3. Asia Pacific impact — What offset press manufacturer has not identified Asia Pacific as its top opportunity in light of sluggish offset press sales in North America and Europe? Digital printing system vendors are very active there too. (HP says that China had the second highest level of Indigo placements of any country in 2012). And of course it’s true that the Japanese are behind some of the most advanced digital print technology in the world. I expect that as you scan the faces of the show attendees you will see many from the Asia Pacific region. They’ll be checking out the new technology to see how it applies back home. Both HP and Fuji Xerox have scheduled large Asia Pacific user events in conjunction with the show and I suspect that others are doing the same. Across all categories, vendors should be paying attention to the technology needs of this group.
  4. Proving the potential of offset-digital partnerships — In the years leading up to the show there have been a number of alliances between offset press manufacturers and digital printing system vendors. I don’t think that the distribution part of these partnerships is that important. Offset printing sales representatives have a hard time getting inspired to sell cut-sheet electrophotographic systems though they are likely to have greater interest in selling multi-million dollar continuous-feed inkjet systems. I think the most important thing that will come out of these offset-digital partnerships is the co-developed products. These may be printing systems but could just as easily be paper transport or finishing options. I’m hoping that we’ll see several good examples of offset-digital technology cooperation at drupa 2012.
  5. The inkjet death battle begins in earnest — Over the past few years InfoTrends has speculated that there would be a lot of new names entering the market with inkjet products. That certainly has happened. We also noted that only the strong would survive the rigors of manufacturing, selling, and supporting those products. drupa 2012 will have the largest concentration of inkjet activity of any previous drupa. It may be the absolute apex of inkjet development for production document printing. Soon vendors will begin to drop out. Agfa has already announced that it will no longer market Dotrix (though it has many other inkjet initiatives that it will continue). We’ll see an all-out, bare-knuckle inkjet brawl at drupa, and there will be a good number who get knocked out between now and drupa 2016. Compare the situation today with drupa 1995, the ‘computer-to-plate’ (CTP) drupa, and keep in mind how quickly that market consolidated.
  6. Mobile, Social, Cloud — If drupa 2012 is remembered as the ‘mobile’ drupa, then it could be the last drupa. These trends are having a huge impact on print, and along with the decades-long impact of the Internet, have turned print into a secondary content delivery mechanism. Though it’s no longer the center of attention, don’t count print out. Paper’s physical and archival qualities, along with the fact that you don’t need electricity or a service contract to access information, mean that paper will be around for a long, long time. In acknowledgment of this, we’ll see vendor after vendor talking about how they support cross-channel, multi-media communication. This will be as much of a theme as ecology and green processes have been in the past. We’ll still see ‘green’ marketing messages, but they will be much less visible than mobile, social, and cloud.

I hope to see you in Dűsseldorf!

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