The decision was approved at a meeting of the Drupa committee yesterday.
According to Claus Bolza-Schünemann, chairman of the Drupa advisory board and KBA president, the decision reflects radical changes in print production driven by the internet and digital technologies.
However, organiser Messe Düsseldorf also acknowledges that the switch avoids a problematic conflict with Interpack in 2020, when the cycles of two of its biggest shows would have clashed.
"The Drupa exhibitors who specialise in packaging printing would have found 2020 an incredibly stressful year so the change will clearly benefit customers," said Messe president and chief executive Werner Matthias Dornscheidt.
Next year’s Drupa 2016, which is 90% sold out, will still run from 31 May to 10 June, but future events will take place in May 2019 and then provisionally the same month in 2022 and 2025.
When, in 2012, Messe first floated the idea of changing Drupa to a three-year cycle the proposal met with significant objections from the majority of exhibitors, including the likes of Heidelberg, HP and KBA.
As a result the switch was vetoed by the Drupa committee in 2012.
However, at yesterday’s meeting, Drupa presented to its committee some research from visitors at Drupa 2012 that highlighted that they felt that an 'innovation cycle' of two to three years was more in keeping with the modern print industry, indicating that expectations of visitors varied from the preconceptions of exhibitors.
As a result of this and other arguments from Messe, around 80% of the 23-strong Drupa committee, which represents exhibitors and visitors, approved the switch in frequency to three years.
“The committee clearly committed themselves to go for a three-year cycle. They were convinced it was the right thing to do strategically. The feedback was that while the ‘Olympic’ four-year cycle was fine, after all considerations of the pros and cons they came to the conclusion that a three-year cycle was the right decision,” said Drupa director Sabine Geldermann.
She stressed that if the committee had not approved the change then Messe would have respected that decision. She also added that while the 2019 event was confirmed, and Messe was strongly in favour of hosting the event in 2022 and 2025, it would remain open to feedback regarding the frequency as part of its policy of open dialogue with visitors and exhibitors.
HP, which will take the entire circa 6,000sqm Hall 17 at Drupa 2016, making it the largest exhibitor right now, said while a Drupa every three years would be “challenging” for exhibitors, it was resigned to the logic of moving to a three-year cycle.
“Not everyone was necessarily supporting the decision 100%, but for Drupa the main intent was to avoid the conflict with Interpack in 2020 and also respond to what visitors have told them,” said Francois Martin, Worldwide HP Graphic Solutions Business marketing director.
“The visitors know that the industry has changed dramatically since 2008; analogue is less dominant and digital plays a bigger role, and they want to be kept informed more often of what’s going on. And Drupa is the lighthouse of the printing industry and sets the tone and direction of what it should be.
“So based on that, what we, the committee, told them was that this is fine, we understand, but it is an important change and will be challenging to show major innovations, major announcements every two or three years.”
Messe will also canvas exhibitors and visitors on the duration of Drupa from 2019 onwards.
Next year’s event will run for 11 days, compared to the 14 of Drupa 2012, but Geldermann said while the dates for 2016 are locked, Messe was open to looking at the durations of future events.
“We are quite open to reconsider the duration after 2016 and if the industry wants a duration similar to Interpack and K, which are seven or eight days, then shortening Drupa to eight or nine days could be a consideration,” she said.
For more industry reaction, see the next issue of PrintWeek.