Heidelberg expands on Drupa plans

Heidelberg: customers are more interested in output than tech specs
Heidelberg: customers are more interested in output than tech specs

Heidelberg has given a preview of its plans for Drupa 2020 – while acknowledging that anything could happen with the show amid the current coronavirus crisis.

The firm will exhibit under the overall message of ‘Unfold Your Potential’, and chief executive Rainer Hündsdorfer said this would cover all aspects of customers’ businesses, from equipment to employees and value chains.

“Digital transformation is sweeping across the printing industry. Companies need to become agile and co-operative, lean and virtual,” he stated.

Heidelberg is extending the Push to Stop autonomous printing system – first shown at the last Drupa in 2016 – to the “next level”, Hündsdorfer said. “We have extended this idea to the whole print shop and the whole printing process from pre-press to post-press.”

The manufacturer had already announced that it will show its next-generation Speedmaster at Drupa, along with a new fully-automatic plate logistics system that delivers plates directly to the printing unit.

The firm is exhibiting in the huge new 12,000sqm hall 1 at the Messe Dusseldorf, but with a smaller presence than at past Drupas and fewer presses running live – for example it will have three B1 Speedmaster presses running (plus the Primefire) but won’t show label presses from Gallus. 

Heidelberg said that its space when combined with partners Masterwork and Polar was similar to last time around.

The manufacturer is also planning to run trips on five days of the show to its HQ at Wiesloch-Walldorf, three hours away from the Messe and home to the full suite of Heidelberg products and its research centre. It will organise a transfer and booking system for travel via train or bus and expects around 5,000 printers to make the trip.

Chief sales and marketing officer Ludwig Allgoewer described the approach as “one trade show, two locations”.

Quizzed about whether there was a ‘Plan B’ in case Drupa is rescheduled due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Allgoewer said the group was already in a kind of Plan B because it was holding its press briefing online, instead of the meeting in Heidelberg originally planned for this week.

“So far the official line is that Drupa will happen as planned,” he said. “Innovation is happening with or without Drupa in June. We’ll deal with it as it happens.”

Heidelberg also expanded on its ‘HEI.OS’ digital eco system vision to create an open, centralised platform with a single sign-on for all systems.

Tom Oelsner, head of digital innovation and data science, said the intention was to improve on existing JDF connections: “JDF never did work. We need a new format and we are working on that with a few people. It’s still up in the air but needs to be resolved quickly.”

Artificial Intelligence, improved user interfaces, and robotics will also be key themes and a host of new Intelli- features are aimed at improving productivity. These include Intelliline whereby a light strip on the printing unit will illuminate in different colours to either confirm good running or alert the operator to a potential problem.   

Rainer Wolf, head of product management for sheetfed, said that printers were now more interested in output than technical specifications.

“The discussion is different. It’s about net output, overall equipment efficiency and touchpoint reductions,” he stated.

The Primefire 106 B1 inkjet press gets a new user interface and variable data features aimed at pharma packaging. It will be shown integrated with a digital post-press system for packaging applications from Masterwork, while the Versafire digital presses get ICC profiling functionality and a new inline bookletmaker and interposer.

Head of digital print Montserrat Peidro-Insa said Heidelberg now had 10 Primefire 106 installations, “all of them producing”, and hoped to have 15 presses installed by the end of the year.

Customer testing is currently underway for a new cloud-based AI system, Performance Advisor Technology or ‘Pat’, which is accessed via Heidelberg Assistant. This learns the behaviour of 5,000 late-model Heidelberg presses in the field in order to devise rules around performance issues.

Also new is the ‘myHD’ app, which initially has information about Heidelberg’s Drupa presence but will also allow customers to connect their machines and see live performance data in future. There's also a new maintenance app.

Separately, amid the global fall in stock market indices caused by coronavirus uncertainty this week, Heidelberg’s share price fell to a new all-time low of €0.54.