Flagship wide-format expo takes big strides forward in Amsterdam

Fespa’s Global Print Expo is a celebrated annual fixture in the wide-format print calendar that more often than not takes place in a German city every May.

However, whether arranged elsewhere intentionally or not, on years that Drupa has been scheduled, Fespa’s flagship event has generally been held earlier in the year, and outside Germany.

It travelled to Barcelona in February 2012, and Amsterdam in March 2016, and a show had been planned for Madrid in March 2020 before Covid saw the cancellation or postponement of events worldwide, including both the Fespa and Drupa shows planned that year.

After an initial first post-Covid return to Amsterdam in October 2021 and successful German shows in Berlin in May 2022 and Munich in May 2023, Fespa quickly returned to the RAI in Amsterdam last month for its 2024 outing.

Between 19-22 March, 525 exhibitors were welcomed to the main Global Print Expo and the co-located European Sign Expo, Personalisation Experience, Sportswear Pro, and Sustainability Spotlight events. The popular World Wrap Masters competition was also held once again.

12,706 unique visitors attended the events over the four days, with 45% of visitors attending for more than a day. Visitors travelled from 120 countries, with the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Italy, Belgium, France, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden bringing the largest portion of the audience.

Fespa said that firming up investment plans was high on the agenda of visitors, with 92% of the audience looking to invest in equipment in the next 12 months.

The event also attracted senior decision-makers – 76% of attendees were business owners, directors, partners, or managers, and 85% of visitors shared that they were involved in the decision-making process for their business.

The 2024 event was underpinned by a focus on ‘opportunity’ within the wide-format sector, as highlighted in the strapline for the Global Print Expo event: ‘Opportunities, Revealed’.

The show marked the first time that both sides of the RAI venue were used by Fespa, and organisers said the event campaign had brought new attendees. The Personalise Make Wear feature, in particular, was hailed as “an incredible project” that had attracted a lot of brands to the event.

Drupa may be looming – the Düsseldorf behemoth is set to open the doors to its first in-person event in eight years on 28 May – but while Fespa’s visitor numbers were slightly down on last year and a handful of regular exhibitors were absent, the appetite for Fespa’s Global Print Expo was still very high and the visitors and exhibitors that Printweek spoke to all reported a successful show.

Many of the biggest exhibitors in attendance still used it as a launchpad for new products, in front of a highly relevant audience. At Drupa some of those announcements might have got lost among all the other noise or some of the target audience in the wide-format and related sectors may not even be going.

Key highlights inside the pages of the FespaDaily, the official show newspaper produced live during the show by Printweek, included Agfa’s unveiling of its enhanced and rebranded inkjet printer portfolio.

The manufacturer unveiled three new machines, including the Jeti Condor RTR5200 S, a 5.2m-wide roll-to-roll printer that can print up to 672sqm/hr and is a rebadged version of the EFI Vutek Q5r but with an Agfa service and workflow package. This launch follows the portfolio expanding reciprocal OEM deal between the two manufacturers.

Also new was the Jeti Bronco H3300 S, a 3.3m-wide high-end UV-LED printer, and the Anapurna Ciervo H3200, a 3.2m-wide hybrid that boasts a much higher productivity than its predecessor.

EFI, meanwhile, showed two new additions to its own portfolio, including a significantly upgraded version of its Pro 32r+ platform, and the Vutek Q3h XP – its rebranded Agfa Jeti Tauro 3300 HS.

Elsewhere, the new Flora X20 UV printer powered by Ricoh, the first compact hybrid printer co-developed with Flora following last year’s partnership agreement – was also unveiled.

The show too marked the first time that DGI and Dgen exhibited at Fespa together since DGI acquired Dgen last year. DGI highlighted two new printers – Hercules II and Poseidon II – as well as hosting the European launch of Presto.

DGI overseas sales director Bruno Ruggiero said: “The show was very busy for us, and we saw quality customers. Fespa is very well-organised, and it can give big visibility to your brand, which is important.”

As well as the fruits of existing collaborations, there was a lot of buzz at the show about news that broke during the week that Brother Industries had made a hostile bid to take over Roland DG, a fellow Fespa exhibitor.

Brother showed off three prototype machines at the event – including the world’s first one-piece on-demand badge printer and two powderless direct-to-film (DTF) printers – as well as a new embroidery printing system.

Roland DG, meanwhile, presented three new machines and celebrated its launch to market of the recently-acquired textured print specialist Dimense (now DG Dimense).

While there were a number of trends being discussed at the show, sustainability was undeniably dominant once more, and Fespa was leading from the front.

For the first time, at this year’s event Fespa adopted a sustainable event management strategy and system, following ISO guidelines for ISO 20121, a standard developed in 2012 for the London Olympics.

Activities included minimising the event’s footprint – the impact of its collective activities at the event, with stands and event features built using recycled, recyclable, and reusable materials.

It accordingly saw a roughly 90% lower carbon footprint than using traditional stand building methods, measured with its partner CarbonQuota.

Sustainability was also a focus in at least some way on the majority of exhibitors’ stands. Rodolfo Marrero, export manager and product specialist at screen printing supplies firm Siser, said: “There is a lot of awareness towards sustainability, and in recent years we’ve seen a lot of questions about textiles, where textiles are landing after use – the whole product lifecycle. It’s a big topic, but most of those questions are product oriented – what solutions do we offer?

“So we’ve developed products that are compatible with more sustainable materials – those new materials coming in that are recycled textiles or fabrics. We’ve had to adapt to this new world as well, as you obviously can’t use a [textile printing] product that isn’t suited to the recycled fabrics.”

Nicolas Parise, managing director of lightweight panels manufacturer Aerpanel, which launched new single-material panel Aerfly at the show, said: “Aerfly raised a lot of interest because it’s a PVC-free and recyclable material, and when the experts who came to the show saw what we can do – with the laser cutting and direct printing – they very quickly wanted to know more about it.”

Mimaki Europe launched four new machines and devices at the show, including a more productive version of its Kebab, an optional system for its UJF Series of flatbed UV printers that enables 360˚ direct printing on cylindrical objects. It also used the event to commercially release its textile pigment transfer printing system, Trapis.

Beyond this, Mimaki Europe was also celebrating its 20-year anniversary at Fespa, which Danna Drion, general manager marketing EMEA at the company, said was well received.

“The first time we participated at Fespa was in Amsterdam and now 20 years later we returned, and we were back stronger and of course bigger and it was an exciting show, with a lot of people coming to our booth.

“Sustainability is absolutely the number one question that our customers were asking us about at the show, not only about energy saving products but also about what we are doing as a company – lower emissions, making sure that we change the normal lights for LED lights in all of our offices and showrooms, and we changed our internal behaviour – we’re not having plastic in our offices anymore.”

Other Fespa trends included automation, an increasing buzz about the potential of AI, and a heavy focus on textile printing. Also notable was the high presence of Chinese and Indian exhibitors, with printers, cutters and more made in these countries increasingly gaining traction in the market.

Agfa press and PR manager Mike Horsten said there was also a trend for consolidation, “where you see a lot of smaller print shops that have three or four printers, consolidating into one bigger, faster device, that can be run by one operator”.

He added: “The biggest problem in the European market today is employment costs and finding labour. What’s happening here is that if I have just one device, I can put the people that are on other devices onto finishing: the reality is, finishing is the bottleneck.”

In other areas of the RAI, it was impossible to ignore the continued growth of DTF printing, particularly in Hall 12, where German firm Digitran – an early adopter of the technology and showcasing its FlexLine DTF600 MK-II DTF printer – was one of many this time around.

Digitran managing director Michael Kammann said: “We’ve been into DTF since its first days – I think in 2018 we were the only ones who showed a DTF printer at Fespa and now we’re one of the millions! But this is a technology that we see a lot of potential in still; even though everyone is offering it now, it is still growing.”

Rob Kelly, CEO of the Displayways Group, visited the show for the first time in several years. He said: “I think my first impression was that it was very busy, which was great. Having not been since before Covid, for obvious reasons, that was a good sign.

“But then my realisation was that it was a lot smaller than in pre-Covid years. So it felt busy, but was a smaller show than I’ve seen before, having been going to Fespa for decades.

“I think that’s probably just the hangover of how our businesses were affected by Covid and are still recovering.

“I think a lot of people were probably there for the same reason we were. In normal circumstances, we would have invested in new plant and machinery a couple of years ago, but we had to put all of that on hold. Everyone has been out of touch and feels that need to go to Fespa to get back in touch for reinvestment in what will hopefully be a more stable future.”

Fespa Global Print Expo and European Sign Expo will return to Messe Berlin, Germany, from 6-9 May 2025. A similar hall layout to the 2022 show at the venue will be expected, with more news to follow in the autumn, although the Fespa Awards have been confirmed to return.


Sustainability a major focus at positive event

Michael Ryan, head of Global Print Expo, Fespa

The show was really positive; it was great to see the buzz around the halls and the positivity towards the Fespa show being in Amsterdam as well. I saw people coming from all across the world and there was a really good flow of visitors across every hall.

The exhibitors were very positive – they were there of course to do business and launch new technologies. The industry is going through challenges right now and investment has been pretty slow but people said it was really good; they had the meetings they wanted at the exhibition.

Sustainability was also very high up the agenda among all the exhibitors, which was good to see coming to the fore. Fespa is a leadership organisation so we have a role to play with the wider community, and first and foremost we will do that at the events. We took a strong stance on waste during the exhibition: we collaborated with print partners such as Probo to organise recycling of banner materials, and all of the feature areas built by Fespa will be recycled – there’s nothing going to waste from those. We also collaborated with exhibitors and banned the use of chipboard for the event.

Next year we’re going back to Berlin. In terms of the location, it’s good for the eastern European markets and the German market, but also strategically we’ve built a very strong and good relationship with the venue. We like to be committed to venues that we’ve worked with and that will be part of Fespa’s sustainability process. Our exhibitors and visitors also know the experience and they get familiar with the event.

The Fespa Awards will be back next year, and we’re always keeping on top of trends in the industry so we’ll be evaluating the direction where Fespa will go in terms of what features we will have.


What did you think of this year’s show?

Nicole Spencer, managing director, RMC Digital Print

“I really enjoyed the show this year. Everyone seemed excited about DTF, which isn’t our market but interesting to see. The Personalisation Experience was busy and showed different possibilities. I had meetings with various European associations and was introduced to other wide-format printers from different countries. We were able to swap best practice and discuss new ideas. The great thing about attending the Fespa exhibition is the Fespa family feeling when you get there. It is more than a trade show, with a lot of collaboration and a buzz about the place.”

Lauren Brown, client service manager for film and television, Stylo Graphics, Fespa Next Generation member

“I was lucky enough to attend thanks to Fespa UK’s Next Generation initiative. It was my first time, and nothing can prepare you for how extensive and wide-ranging it is. It was brilliant to be out networking with like-minded people. It was really an unforgettable few days, packed with learning, networking, and a lot of walking! I noticed that a lot of people were very eager to discuss ways to entice the younger generation into print, so it was nice to be able to share my knowledge on this particular topic.”

Isabel Shanahan, junior Mac operator, Imageco, Fespa Next Generation member

“It was an eye-opening few days for me, in which I was fully immersed in the world of print. I was able to gain so much knowledge and make some brilliant connections. Sustainability within print seemed to be a huge factor that exhibitors were focused on at the Global Print Expo – this could be a promising insight into the future of print. I could never forget the excitement of walking around the Expo for the first time, it really put into perspective the vast opportunities available in print!”