Few would have admitted it two weeks ago, but Fespa Digital 2012, given its proximity to this May's looming print spectacular, was at risk of falling foul of the dreaded 'Drupa effect'.
Organisers of the Barcelona wide-format event, perhaps cautiously, targeted 10,000 unique visitors over the four days, but as the Fira Gran Via shut its doors for the last time, that figure had surpassed 12,000.
With strong attendance from Spain, UK, France and Italy, among others, the 21-24 February show had both a strong international flavour, but more importantly, a diverse showcase of technology with 80% of exhibitors making it their sole trade show for 2012.
And as the dust settles on the latest entry to Fespa’s back catalogue, the show was defined by increased competition in latex manufacturing, the burgeoning popularity of textile production, and exciting show debuts from companies such as Mimaki, Océ, Lynx Europe and Xanté.
"This year’s show has proved that visitors value the chance to embrace new technology and interact with industry professionals," says Neil Felton, managing director of events and exhibitions at Fespa.
Lascelle Barrow, managing director of London-based POS business Augustus Martin, who gave a positive and pragmatic appraisal of the event, argues that successful print providers need to invest and adapt to grow their business.
"I can remember in 1996 when inkjet made its foray into this market and many people greeted it with scepticism, fear and confrontation. Printers, primarily screen printers, claimed it would adversely impact our industry," he says.
"But we are in this game for the customer and we must adapt to help cater for their needs, whatever those may be. Therefore, the advent of technology, such as digital signage,
is fascinating and not necessarily something that we should avoid. It can work in harmony with print,"
The print technology visitors were keen to embrace included Mimaki’s entry into latex print production, the 1.3m-wide JV400-130LX and 1.6m JV400-160LX machines that were both launched at the show.
Duncan Jefferies, marketing manager for Mimaki’s UK and Ireland distributor Hybrid Services, reports strong interest throughout, not only for the latex models but its new TS500-1800 150m2/hr dye-sublimation printer.
"I think customers appreciate that Mimaki is focusing on innovation across all strands of its product line and, in the case of the JV400, moving into new markets, increasing competition for customers and offering a wider choice for visitors, he says.
Good for competition
His point was echoed by Ronen Zioni, marketing director of HP’s graphic solutions business, who stated during the show that Mimaki’s launches were "good for competition and for the environment", offering the industry choice in the latex arena.
Nachum Korman from HP Scitex, adds that HP not only had a great show, but one where he saw the customers "that we expected, and hoped, to see".
"We are seeing an increasing number of analogue screen printers wanting to migrate to digital technology," he says. "The new additions to out latex range of machines are proving popular as are the Scitex flatbed technology on show."
EFI was another manufacturer that enjoyed a strong Fespa, which included the sale of its 3.2m-wide Vutek GS3250LX UV printer to Swedish printer Footprint.
Despite employing a relatively small five staff for the high-volume 111m2/hr machine, EFI chief executive Guy Gecht says that companies were "making money" from their products such as the GS3250LX due to its high productivity and fast return on investment.
His colleague, Wilfried Kampe, director of inkjet channel sales adds that the show was positive on a number of levels. "We were slightly nervous about the effect of Drupa on visitor numbers from eastern Europe, but this was unfounded as we have had a really good presence from those countries throughout," he says.
While product launches and machinery showcases are ultimately the main draw of shows such as Fespa Digital, the organisers have long been clear that additional content through conferences, workshops and debates are necessary to attract visitors.
Felton says Fespa encouraged visitors to "explore the wider opportunities" and last week’s show included new and expanded programmes such as its popular Explore Conferences and Print Shop Live technology demonstrations.
Juan Diaz Diaz and Sophie Matthews-Paul, independent industry consultants, ran daily tours in both Spanish and English respectively. "Visitors got a hands-on experience of bringing together exciting technology from a range of exhibitors," adds Matthews-Paul.
So while Felton and his team will undoubtedly be pleased with the turnout in Barcelona, the focus now switches to Mexico later this year and London in 2013.
"Once the dust settles we can assess what we did well, what we can do better and how we can we can make the next show an even greater proposition," he adds.
"It was a fantastic show. It started slow but, the second day was far more encouraging and day three proved better still. The industry needs to support events like this as it gives companies a chance to experience and embrace the latest technology in wide-format, so it was very positive to find it so busy. I was impressed by new machines from companies such as Mimaki and the latest products from manufacturers such as EFI continue to push boundaries and give print businesses new ways to approach business."
"Frankly, I was amazed by how big the show was. I attended to investigate developments within the textile printing sector and I have been impressed with how far the technology has come. I’m hoping to invest in a Mimaki CJV30 print-and-cut machine so this has been the perfect opportunity to move those plans forward. It was the first print show I have attended outside the UK and I was pleasantly surprised by the range of visitors from Europe and beyond that have used Fespa as an opportunity to investigate new kit."
"We specialise in fabric printing and wide- and small-format printing, so Fespa is a great event for us – we were able to find a lot of ideas and inspiration here. We came to the show on a fact-finding mission because we wanted to see what was available and what the market trends were. The exhibitors we were particularly interested in seeing were manufacturers such as Eli, Agfa and HP as we wanted to find out about all of the latest technology that is available."
You can read independent industry consultant & journalist Juan Diaz Diaz's comment here