Held in the picturesque Swiss city of Lucerne every two years, Hunkeler Innovationdays, which focuses on inkjet continuous-feed printing and direct mail applications, has grown from humble beginnings into one of the biggest specialist shows on today’s print and finishing calendar.
At the end of last month more than 5,000 pre-registered visitors from all over the world descended on the Messe Lucerne exhibition facility to see the latest and greatest innovations on show in the high-volume digital web printing sector.
Hunkeler chief executive Stefan Hunkeler said: “The event has been a big success. We’ve had a couple of hundred more visitors come compared to the 2013 event and those extra visitors are end-users and potential customers.
“High-profile decision-makers from businesses are here and they can meet each other, make decisions and start projects together.”
Hunkeler UK agent Friedheim International took 100 invited guests from all areas of the UK digital print arena over to the show. Friedheim national sales manager, digital division, Robin Brown said: “All of our guests commented on the standard of the exhibition. The fact that we also took a very large unexpected order was the icing on the cake.
“The whole show was about world firsts, new ideas and world-class partnerships. We have already had people ask to make sure they are included in the 2017 event.”
Hunkeler hasn’t been the only specific audience show to see a continued rise in popularity; it’s a wider trend that has been mirrored across the industry.
With major shows such as Ipex failing to attract the visitor and exhibitor support that they once did, and others, such as Drupa, changing their frequency cycles to respond to shifting industry demand, more focused and regularly held shows have become increasingly popular.
The likes of Hunkeler, Fespa, Sign & Digital UK and Packaging Innovations all appeal to one core audience, and attract all the major players from within their respective market sectors.
With technology ever advancing, manufacturers are ready to show their latest products at more frequent intervals and specialist shows are becoming hotbeds for major product launches and world premieres.
Product experts, key salespeople and company bosses are also able to discuss their latest products, at length and with more time than at bigger events, to business decision makers and end-users, many of whom are visiting with investment in mind.
“People’s time is becoming more and more expensive, and if you go to the general trade shows, that you see all sorts of things at, then it takes you more time to see what you really want to see,” said HP EMEA graphic solutions business market development director Ronen Zioni.
“Here, if you are in the direct mail, transactional, publishing and transpromo world, you can see all of the solutions, one next to the other in one hall, in and out in one day. That’s the power of focused trade shows.”
Major players including Xerox, HP, Canon, Ricoh, Kodak and Fujifilm were present and correct and showing off their latest wares at Hunkeler, linking their newest print engines to Hunkeler paper handling devices.
All were almost universal in their aim to take a bigger slice of the rapidly growing continuous-feed inkjet market, with the majority of the numerous major product launches focused on the technology.
Among the main attractions was the much-hyped new Xerox product launch, which had been shrouded in secrecy prior to the show.
All was revealed on the opening day when the manufacturer uncovered its new small footprint Rialto 900 Inkjet Press. The machine proved an instant success with two UK businesses – Datagraphic and DCL Print – quickly placing orders during the show.
Elsewhere, new inkjet systems from Canon, Ricoh and Screen, and further information from HP about its new high-definition nozzle architecture (HDNA) printhead, were also well received.
Many analysts at the show agreed that, although there are still improvements to be made, particularly to digital inkjet paper, the technology has almost developed to the point that it is soon likely to challenge for a major chunk of the litho market share.
Mark Stephenson, digital solutions sales manager at Fujifilm, said: “The paper guys have as much control over how good this is as the manufacturers of inkjet systems.
“If they can make some decent paper at the right price then we will see some great results. We’re seeing a lot better results than we saw even at Ipex, because the papers have already improved that much.”
HP’s Zioni added: “Inkjet speed is there and the quality is getting there. It’s not offset quality yet but it’s getting closer and closer. I think the variety of coated versus uncoated inkjet papers is something that will develop even further.”
With printers continually looking to add value to maximise their profits, more and more visitors to Hunkeler were looking to dip their toes into the inkjet market for the very first time, to benefit from the many new revenue streams offered by the technology.
In many markets, such as for mono book printing, continuous-feed inkjet has already grown considerably over the past few years. It is anticipated that similar growth in colour, for applications such as long-run magazine and catalogue production, will soon follow.
With inkjet technology still improving and continuing to gain momentum, most industry analysts are expecting it to soon reach an even higher peak and the next few years are likely to mark an even more crucial turning point for the technology.
Optimised silk and gloss papers should continue to get better and cheaper as user numbers increase and paper mills start to produce it in higher volumes. The stars are gradually aligning for inkjet and at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2017 – or sooner – we could witness the true coming of age of the technology.
OPINION: Draw in the punter and the manufacturers will follow
John Charnock, managing director, Print Research International
Hunkeler is a fantastic show, I’ve been coming for a long time and if you’re in this space it’s one of the events to come to. I remember when [Hunkeler chief executive] Stefan Hunkeler started this and it was a quarter this size. It has just got bigger and bigger because Hunkeler has partnered with more people and visitors now come from all over the world to be here.
It was almost like ‘the inkjet show’ this year with the prevalence of inkjet on display. The Xerox Rialto 900 is lovely and for a certain market it’s brilliant. It’s impressive to see what the likes of this, the Impika and the big Xerox machines are producing now. The new Muller Martini Vareo is also a stunning machine and deeply needed because there’s only the Horizon that’s near it in terms of capability.
I think there’s been a rise in these specialist shows because you know what you’re coming for. If you’re in direct mail or in this type of market and you’re looking at inkjet, in one day you can see all of the major players. The same goes for the likes of Fespa if you’re in wide-format.
What you have to do is stop trying to satisfy the manufacturers and focus on satisfying the punters. If you get the punters, the manufacturers will follow and that’s why Hunkeler has become so successful.
Hunkeler product launch roundup
Canon launched its Océ ColorStream 3000 Z series, which features a modified design of the ColorStream 3000 range and is suitable for smaller print environments that might not need high-volume inkjet. Canon Commercial Printing Group Emerging Markets Business Unit consulting project manager Jonathan Urry said: “It’s suitable for transactional and transpromo printing. Technology-wise it’s very similar to the standard 3000; it’s physically smaller but has all of the same advantages.”
CMC premiered its 400 Evolution Envelope Inserting System. The machine, which is built upon the CMC 400, is capable of processing both letters and flats on the same high-speed platform.
Domino showed the new 630i high-speed monochrome digital printer, an updated model of the Graph Tech (Switzerland) MonoCube product that features improved drying capabilities and material handling.
Hunkeler used its own event to show a number of innovations including its POPP8 system, running on Kodak Prosper technology, as well as the new DP8 module for dynamic punching/perforating.
Ibis debuted two new smart-binder features on its latest model Smart-binder SB-3 ‘Plus HS’; an Ibis ASA-100 Automated Stitch Adjust system and Ibis SBS-100 Sheet Buffer Module. They have been developed in response to customer demand to run variable-data jobs with booklet thickness and number of pages continually changing.
Muller Martini unveiled the Vareo perfect binder, which has three clamps, each of which is equipped with its own servo motor and driven individually. Muller Martini Gluing Systems product manager Ronald Gross said: “The aim of the Vareo was to bring the advantages from both continuous and non-continuous running systems into one machine. A big advantage of the servo technology is that you can give every clamp an individual speed profile. This makes it more efficient the shorter your runs.”
Pitney Bowes launched its Epic Inserting System, a high-speed multi-format device that can be used to process complex transactional mail applications. It also marked the European debut of its Mailstream Engage Direct Marketing Solution.
Ricoh used the event to host the first full public showing of its Pro VC60000 high-resolution colour inkjet web press, which the manufacturer dubbed ‘the future of commercial print’ upon its launch last year. The press features new multi-drop 1,200dpi inkjet heads.
Screen hosted its show debut of the Truepress Jet520HD, which features the same 520mm web as the Jet520 but an all-new paper transport, new drying techniques, new printheads and new screening technology.
Xeikon debuted its new dry toner-based digital colour press, the 9800, which is pitched at the high-end direct marketing sector and will replace the Xeikon 8800 in the family of digital colour production presses and complement the 8500 and 8600 models.
Xerox launched its small-footprint Rialto 900 Inkjet Press, which the manufacturer said is the world’s only fully integrated roll-to-cutsheet, narrow-web inkjet press. Xerox worldwide product marketing manager Christopher Irick said: “Things have been getting big with a $2m-plus cost of entry into the market, but this is smaller and is a simple, affordable and accessible way into the cutsheet production inkjet market.”