Ipex 2014 prepares to take a fresh look at finishing

By Simon Creasey, Monday 10 March 2014

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One message is coming through loud and clear ahead of Ipex – in the post-press arena, manufacturers are feeling decidedly bullish.

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Their optimistic outlook is typified by Duplo UK managing director Peter Jolly, who will be delivering an Ipex masterclass seminar on 27 March entitled ‘Making finishing the number one consideration’.

“The way I see Ipex 2014 is if Ipex 2010 was all about digital printing making a stamp on the industry and Drupa 2012 was about Benny Landa’s nanography innovation, then finishing will truly be in the spotlight at this year’s Ipex because of the lack of digital press manufacturers attending in their own right,” says Jolly. “In my opinion the outlook for finishing has never been brighter. Ipex 2014 is a tremendous opportunity and we’re really looking forward to it.”

So what are the key technology themes that visitors to the post-press stands at the ExCeL Centre can look forward to seeing? Although some manufacturers have yet to reveal their hand in terms of the armoury of equipment they’ll be taking to the show, a handful of key themes have started to emerge.

One trend that Encore Machinery managing director Mike Biggs expects to see at Ipex is machines that are what he describes as a “little bit away from the norm”.

“In the past at these kind of shows you’d exhibit bog-standard machines and sell as many as you could, but now people are looking for something that’s a bit different and that has got a bit of value added,” says Biggs.

Encore intends to respond to this trend by exhibiting its range of hard case bookbinding equipment, which includes a new casemaker, end sheet makers and a head banding machine.

In the past this type of equipment would have been more at home in a big bindery, but due to the changing nature of the printing industry these machines are now being closely scrutinised by printers faced with growing amounts of shorter-run, quick-turnaround work, explains Biggs: “Because of the demand for fast turnaround work you have to do this type of finishing in-house nowadays, because you simply haven’t got the time to send it out. Coupled with that, people also want to keep the value-added in-house rather than giving it away to someone else.”

The company also intends to launch a one-piece mailing line, designed to meet the new requirements from Royal Mail for mailers to be sealed on three sides. 

“Currently one-piece mailers are only sealed on the fore edge with peelable glue,” says Biggs. “Our new line will seal the mailers securely on three sides to conform to the new Royal Mail regulations.”

The desire to find machines like this, which are a little bit out of the ordinary, is a phenomenon that Duplo has also picked up on of late.

Big finish

“People are coming to us and saying: ‘what can we do differently to finish our final products in a different way?’” says Jolly. “That could be anything from layflat bookbinding, to short run digital die-cutting, to square back bookletmaking. People are trying to get on the coat tails of differentiation and finishing is a way that you can make your finished product look different and bring the wow factor to a piece of print.”

He cites the example of a Duplo client who he describes as a “conventional commercial printer”. Historically the bulk of the printer’s work consisted of A4 flyers and business cards, until he invested in a digital die-cutter from the manufacturer.

“Now he’s producing small boxes of personalised wedding confetti – maybe 100 at a time – and he’s doing really well out of it. If printers can offer something that’s a little bit different they can charge more for it and in turn get more profit out of it.”

While equipment that enables printers to create that vital point of difference from their competitors are becoming increasingly important, it’s crucial that these machines also come with high levels of automation, says Biggs. “They have to be easy to operate because you want to have a variety of different people within a company who are able to operate a machine rather than appointing specialist people,” he explains.

Jolly concurs: “In the past the finishing area was seen by many as a bottleneck in production, but now we’re seeing higher levels of automation as people look to become leaner. At Duplo we really do champion loading the finisher, pressing the PC button and walking away to let the machine finish. We’ve been pioneering automated finishing for years and it’s never been more relevant with the pressures on digital output and short-run quick turnaround.”

Highly automated machines that allow companies to be leaner are also high on the agenda for Integra, according to sales director Richard MacLean. The company is showing an automated book jacketing machine from Sitma as well as a new paper wrapping machine and digital finishing equipment from CP Bourg that all share common values.

“People are looking at anything that can save them labour because they need to be more efficient these days,” says MacLean. “They’re looking at anything that you can bring in house as long as it’s cost-effective to do so. Whether you’re a traditional litho printer or a digital printer, there comes a point where it’s not viable to set up a finishing line to do a few hundred copies, so people need these machines as part of their arsenal of equipment to be more efficient.”

Technology trends aside, there is of course another major theme that visitors to the show will be seeking out from all of their post-press suppliers, according to Friedheim International marketing manager Neil Elliott. 

“That is equipment that provides value for money,” explains Elliott. “Irrespective of whether this is for short, medium or long runs, which may be achieved by increased automation to provide faster job turnarounds and less downtime – and thereby greater productivity or via some other development – it’s all about offering the most efficient service in the most cost-effective and profitable way.” 

There is no question that Ipex 2014 is going to be a step into the unknown for all exhibitors, and with Heidelberg, Canon, HP, Kodak and Xerox not in attendance, many believe that visitor numbers may suffer. However, in the post-press arena at least, exhibitors feel that the absence of some of the major manufacturers provides an opportunity for small- to medium-sized suppliers to showcase their flexibility and innovation. 

“In the past at these sorts of show Heidelberg might have taken a couple of halls to themselves and people would go in there and get lost amidst the spectacle for a couple of days,” says Biggs. “But if they’re not there, perhaps that presents more of a chance for visitors to have a better look around at what else is on offer. This plays into the hands of smaller companies such as ourselves, who are innovative and flexible enough to offer machines that meet the rapidly changing demands of the market.”


SEMINAR PROGRAMME: POST-PRESS

Ipex masterclass programme

Theatre 2 – Better Margins

27 March

14.30 Making finishing the number one consideration

15.00 Adding value through finishing

The World Print Summit Programme

27 March

14.00-14.45 Leading Innovations and developments in post press

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