Bijou shows can deliver an Alp-sized return on investment

By Max Goldbart, Monday 06 March 2017

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Idyllic Lucerne is biennially descended upon by thousands of print geeks.

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But it’s not the magnificent views of the snow-capped Alps or the spectacle of the wooden Chapel Bridge hanging over the River Reuss that draw the crowds to this small but perfectly formed Swiss city, but the rather the Innovation Days event hosted by manufacturer Hunkeler, which was held two weeks ago (20 to 23 February) at Messe Lucerne. 

The show, visited by around 6,000 people across its four days, is seen by some as a showcase of the pinnacle of new high-speed digital print technology, with the very best in post-press (Hunkeler’s speciality), continuous-feed inkjet and much more. It may not be huge, but it is refreshingly manageable, in comparison with a show like Drupa, with a floor space that can be covered in a breezy 10-minute stroll.

Conversations taking place in the packed canteen are of a highly technical nature; people come to do business, pleasure contains itself for the evening festivities when interested parties can enjoy Fasnacht, the yearly carnival that almost always seems to fall during the Hunkeler week. 

“The quality of the people and the internationality went up this year so it seems that we are on the right path to getting all the experts here from all over the world; that is the secret,” says Stefan Hunkeler, Hunkeler’s managing director and the man who makes it all happen. 

“Together with all of our partners – we have lots of big guys on our side – lots of different vendors like the exhibition because return on investment is very high. It’s very good to do business here in Lucerne.”

Hunkeler’s partners are the lifeblood of the show, and a walk around the bustling Hall 2, in which each exhibitor is given the exact same allocation of space, will take you past Heidelberg, Ricoh, Canon, Horizon and Xerox, to name but a few. Hunkeler’s machines can be seen across the hall on a range of stands and used in a myriad of ways to deliver end-to-end solutions, a major theme.

One of Hunkeler’s major partners, Friedheim, flies out almost 100 UK customers to see the show, which its managing director Mark Bristow refers to as the “main digital-focused event in the world”. 

“We are in the very lucky position of having a very strong position in the market and with customers so from our point of view it was excellent,” says Bristow. 

A number of software and RIP manufacturers made an appearance for the first time in Hall 1, including Cambridge-headquartered Global Graphics, whose chief technology officer Martin Bailey says exhibiting at events like Innovation Days is becoming more and more integral to the business. 

Drupa drop-off

Following on from a Drupa year, there are fewer product launches at Hunkeler 2017 than might normally be expected. Many manufacturers choose to use the show to demonstrate the merits of Drupa-launched products, holding off on further launches for future events.

However, this doesn’t prevent many manufacturers demonstrating how continuous inkjet technology can be used for commercial applications of longer run lengths. 

“I think this event is a confirmation of everything the vendors have said or presented at Drupa,” says Benoit Chatelard, Ricoh’s production printing vice-president.

Ricoh did in fact launch a new product, the Pro VC40000, said to fit somewhere in between its flagship VC60000 and the IP5000 in its transactional portfolio. 

“The ramp-up of inkjet continues to be a big trend, the direct mail ramp up is another driving force and probably the third one is software companies, more of which are exhibiting here than I’ve seen before,” adds Chatelard, on the occasion of his fourth Hunkeler. 

The event’s big launch was left to Canon, and its new Océ ProStream, a giant of a continuous inkjet press, which it claims delivers offset quality at speeds of up to 80m/min, thereby processing 35 million A4 images per month. 

“This is a continuation of our moving into higher coverage applications with higher quality. The ProStream is a great step forward and an innovative concept,” says Canon Europe commercial print group director Peter Wolff. 

Wolff, who describes Canon as a “long-standing and important partner to Hunkeler”, is a huge fan of the show. He estimates that, while most exhibitions attract the majority of their attendees from the host country, Hunkeler attracts around 70%-80% from elsewhere. 

“The size of the exhibition on the one hand is relatively small but for our high-end digital industry this is probably the most important event of 2017,” he adds.

Other new products up for discussion include a new entry-level PageWide web press from HP, the T235, priced at around 15% less than the T240 and mainly developed for print service providers. Hunkeler itself launched new modules and demonstrated its new cutter, stacker and perforator on two finishing lines side-by-side on its innovation-filled stand. 

Elsewhere, Japanese manufacturer Riso, exhibiting for the first time, provided an update on its T1 and T2 digital presses, due for roll-out later this year, Kodak launched its upgraded 800 Print Manager, and Xerox showed off its High Fusion inks, which will be twinned with its Trivor 2400 continuous-feed inkjet press in the second half of 2017.

“Would I come to this Hunkeler and say this is a sea change?” asks Xerox graphic communications senior vice president Robert Stabler.

“Possibly not, but what you see from Hunkeler, certainly from us, is how we are commercialising these technologies. We are bang on where we said we would be at Drupa, which is easily said but not so easily done.”

The exhibitors are happy, and so are the attendees, who for now can rub their hands with glee at the prospect of Hunkeler 2019. Stefan Hunkeler, for one, is excited for the times ahead.

“In the next two years many smaller printers who didn’t invest or start projects in digital printing will be at the point where they have their first installations,” he concludes, with barely contained excitement.


OPINION

Continuous-feed inkjet is moving into new sectors

schlozerRalf Schlozer, director, InfoTrends

The major trend at this Hunkeler Innovation Days is really that continuous-feed printing as a general term is moving into a lot of different markets – book printing, commercial printing and even a bit of newspapers – from its traditional focus on transaction and direct mail.

The big driver was the advent of the high-speed colour inkjet in 2008, back then it was more just transactional, putting little bits of colour onto the bills, but that has now evolved into all kinds of applications. An increasing share are using it and everybody is at least considering it.

We’re also seeing this progress in reality with the latest breed of machines. It’s almost all aqueous inkjet technology. UV doesn’t really play a role here but there is still some toner, like Xeikon, occupying a certain portion of the market.

I would say that the ProStream is the biggest news at the show. It is an enormous machine, which might be an issue for some but it has to be a certain length due to the drying methods they are applying. Innovation Days is of course following relatively shortly after Drupa so for some it’s more about refining and filling in gaps in the portfolio, like HP and Ricoh.

End-to-end solutions are part of the heritage of the show, and that has continued this year. Hunkeler is a post-press company, making mostly equipment that goes behind the printer, and it’s interesting to see how it is spreading out into different segments. You have always had to have post-processing for mailing lines but now you also have it for newspapers, booklets and books. I think it’s a strength of the show that Hunkeler is trying to show the machines in conjunction with the finishing lines.

I think in 2019 there will be a continuation towards this trend of high-quality print. We would expect to see that focus still moving, more into publishing and the commercial applications of the whole show.


ON THE STANDS

With what was the biggest launch of the show, Canon unveiled its new Océ ProStream continuous-feed inkjet. The manufacturer said the ProStream, which took up about half of Canon’s stand space, prints offset quality at up to 80m/min. It is equipped with new flotation drying technology. 

Ricoh added to its continuous-feed inkjet printers with the launch of its Pro VC40000. Fitting in somewhere between its flagship VC60000, shown at the last Hunkeler, and IP5000, the machine is targeted at the transactional and direct mail markets. 

Kodak launched its new digital front- end, the upgraded 800 Print Manager. The system, designed to drive Kodak’s high-speed presses, is suitable for a wide range of applications. Also on the Kodak stand was a prototype of its UltraStream technology, first announced at Drupa and due for launch in 2019, along with a Kodak S-Series Imprinting System, a Prosper 6000C press, and a live demonstration of Prosper’s jetting modules, which it says control over one billion drops of ink per second. 

Japanese manufacturer Riso used its debut Hunkeler to deliver an update on its Drupa-announced T1 and T2 digital presses, which its R&D marketing supervisor Hidetoshi Miuma said should both be ready for launch later this year. “We are excited to hit the market fast and because of the sales channel it will be easy to get in the market,” said Miuma. The T1 is a compact roll-fed device while the T2 is a cut-sheet device.

Screen launched its new Truepress Jet 520NX, along with a new set of inks for its Jet520HD, first shown at Hunkeler 2015. The new Truepress has a 1.3m-wide printhead module, which Screen said can prevent banding at high speeds. It prints at a maximum speed of 150m/min. Screen inkjet solutions instructor Marchel Bres said he was “very excited” by the machine.

As is traditional, Hunkeler used its own event to show its updated technology. It launched the next generation of its Printed Online Paper Processing (POPP) finishing modules, the POPP8, and showed two high-performance finishing lines on its stand. Its new CS8 cutting module became available for purchase straight after the show, while its SE8 separation module and LS8 stacking module will be available later this year. 

HP announced the latest in its PageWide series of web presses, the ‘entry level’ T235 HD, which uses HP’s High Definition Nozzle Architecture. The machine will be priced at around 15% less than HP’s PageWide T240. HP also used the show to announce that it will be joining forces with Pitney Bowes to develop a new native Intelligent Printer Data Stream controller for PageWide and Pitney Bowes’ IntelliJet printing system.

Xerox demonstrated the merits of its new High Fusion inks, due to be twinned with its Trivor 2400 continuous feed inkjet press in the latter half of 2017. The inks allow inkjet printing onto standard offset papers without primers. 

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