Wide-format community sets sail and anchors in party port

By Max Goldbart, Monday 22 May 2017

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There was a buzz by the waterways of Hamburg earlier this month and it could only mean one thing, Hafengeburtstag was back!


Literally translated as harbour birthday, Hafengeburtstag is an ancient celebration of the city’s port that features an array of maritime-themed displays, such as vessels the size of small hotels parading across the river Alster. A spectacle indeed, but one that for more than 20,000 visitors to Germany’s second-largest city took a backseat as Fespa rolled around again, bigger and better than before.

The global wide-format expo may not be steeped in quite as much history of a celebration that turned 828 this year, but nevertheless the 2017 event, held at the Hamburg Messe between 8 and 12 May, offered up the very best in the world of display, signage, graphics and textile printing. 

20,456 unique visitors and 39,224 total visitors, not including exhibitors, walked the nine halls, which were separated into zones, taking in some 770 exhibitors. While numbers were up on last year’s Fespa Digital, a like-for-like comparison with Fespa 2015 in Cologne, which attracted 23,137 individual visitors and 43,775 visits, did see a drop of more than 10%, which Fespa divisional director Roz Guarnori says was largely due to a dip in German visitors, although she highlighted that visitor numbers from Asia and the UK, for example, were up. 

As the ribbon was cut to kick off this year’s extravaganza, Guarnori urged attendees to “let their imaginations run wild”. 

“We had really good conversations with visitors, it’s been a really successful show,” says EFI EMEA marketing director Reinhild Westmeyer, after EFI debuted its new Reggiani Renoir Flexy textile printer.

What’s new?

While there were no specific technology trends dominating this year’s show there were plenty of new equipment launches, including kit from the likes of HP, Durst and a B1 inkjet prototype from Fujifilm and Inca. 

HP continued its advances into the world of large-format with the launch of two new mid-range Latex printers, the 3600 and the 3200, along with new Latex Print and Cut units. Sales for the group were solid, with Germany-headquartered Flyeralarm taking the first 3600 and south London-based large-format specialist Odessa Group investing in an HP Scitex 1700. 

Michael Smetana, head of marketing, Graphics Solutions Business, EMEA, says: “We honestly didn’t expect to sell so many machines. 

“Fespa has done a good job over the years, it is a recognised brand in the industry; people like to come to Fespa because they know they will see something new.”

Smetana attributes some of the success HP enjoyed at the show to a focus on applications rather than hardware.

Canon used the show to demonstrate its new UVgel, debuting the first machine to use the technology, the Canon Océ Colorado 1640.

Wide-format marketing manager Matthew Faulkner agrees with Smetana that this year is all about the applications and reports that Canon had a “fantastic” show and registered interest from “all emerging business units”.

Faulkner says: “As always at these shows we see a greater push on applications so I think it extends that explosion and development of new media types. Digital print is really lending itself towards production for things like packaging and décor.”

Applications were definitely the name of the game, with a number of manufacturers in the B halls showing a variety of new and innovative films and displays, including a ‘self-healing’ film solution from Mactac and a sublimation fabric from French manufacturer Senfa that eliminates ink migration.

“You can’t match the exposure of Fespa and you learn a lot from being among other exhibitors and competitors – machine producers, ink producers and software developers,” says Printplus Fabrics vice-president Mahmoud Elkotb, who oversaw the launch of Printplus’ new range of flag and backlit graphics.

“We focused on applications at Fespa, which gave visitors an opportunity to consider what they can do with the technology,” says Epson market development manager Heather Kendle.

There were also moves into new market areas for a number of key manufacturers.

Mimaki had two stands, the second to highlight its textile kit, and signaled its first move into the 3D print sphere with the showing of a 3D inkjet printer prototype, due to be commercially available by the end of this year. The 3DUJ-P, as it is currently being called, is being badged as the “world’s first full-colour modelling machine”, offering up to 10 million colours. 

“We showed our first 3D printer, which has been really well received, with a lot of interest and potential customers, and we’ve also had a lot of interest in our textile stand as we are showing textile machines ranging from entry-level up to our latest production printer,” says Mimaki Europe general manager of sales Ronald van den Broek.

At 2015’s Fespa in Cologne, chief executive Neil Felton predicted big things for the direct-to-garment (DTG) market and he wasn’t far wrong, with 2017 also seeing Ricoh take its first step into the aforementioned market, launching the Ri 3000 and Ri 6000.

Ricoh business development director for production printing Graham Moore hails a “really interesting” Fespa, which also saw Ricoh sell its first DTG machine.

He says that each day at Fespa gave him the opportunity to “better understand the place for digital in this sign, display and textile world we are in, and in particular DTG print”. 

Next year’s show will be hosted by Berlin and cements Fespa’s new annual – rather than biennial – cycle. Don’t expect the show to apply the brakes on innovation as this evergrowing sector continues to thrive and allow the world to “let its imagination run wild”. 


Durst premiered four new printers at Fespa: the UV-based Rho P10 250 HS Plus and Rho 512R Plus printers and the water-based Rho WT 250 and Rhotex 325

EFI’s new 1.8m-wide, 400m2/hr Reggiani Renoir Flexy textile printer made its worldwide debut 

Canon’s Océ Colorado 1640, the first device to use Canon’s UVgel ink, made its European debut

Mimaki showed a prototype of its new 3D inkjet machine, the 3DUJ-P

HP launched to new mid-range Latex machines: the 180m2/hr 3.2m-wide HP Latex 3600 and HP Latex 3200

Ricoh launched two new direct-to-garment (DTG) printers based on its Anajet technology

SwissQprint launched two new flatbed printers, the 2.5x2m, 180m2/hr Impala LED and the 3.2x2m, 206m2/hr Nyala LED

ATPColor launched the world’s first 5.3m-wide grand-format textile printer with integrated inline fixation, the DFP2000

Gandy Digital launched the 120m2/hr Kre8tor, a new 3.2m-wide hybrid UV flatbed and roll-to-roll machine

Qres Technologies launched its latest flatbed printer, the Q200, which has a 2x3.2m bed and a top speed of 600m2/hr

Elitron debuted its Kombo SDC+ 3.2 large-format cutter and upgraded Kombo TH cutting system


New annual cycle is being welcomed by exhibitors

roz-fespaRoz Guarnori, divisional director, Fespa

Fespa looked stunning from my perspective and I think everyone exhibiting had really set out to attract the eyes of visitors to their stands, so the quality of presentation stood out for me as organiser and I hope that resonated with the visitors. I’m pretty sure it did based on the feedback we’ve had from our exhibiting community. 

The breadth of nationalities visiting was really impressive: 139, so it’s the most international Fespa that we’ve had. As expected, the largest group was from Germany but we saw good representation from the rest of Europe as well. People ask ‘why do you move the show?’ but it’s because we do see fluctuations in visitor audience depending on geography. 

A major trend that I picked up on walking around was that there are a lot of improvements in technology, so while we saw new launches this year, also advances came along, which are helping the printers who’ve already bought equipment to use what they have more efficiently and more effectively. 

The Printeriors theme was throughout the show – it was just everywhere. That is the way the community is taking that project forward, by demonstrating to visitors not just what their equipment can do but also working with designers and creating more than just sign and graphics. 

The feedback we’ve had has been fantastic, the floorplan for 2018 is already so busy that we’ve had to extend the proposed layout. You never know until after a show the true value of what’s been converted but having taken the decision to launch an annual event we already have feedback from companies saying this is a really good decision, because it gives them that opportunity every year when they want to reach the market to know that it’s there for them. 

We’re trying our best to make sure the show is as well prepared as possible for next year and are looking forward to Berlin.


What was your experience of this year’s Fespa?

mark-bartlettMark Bartlett, managing director, Signbox

“I don’t typically make time in my diary for other shows because I think if you want to see everything under one roof and get to speak to the people that really matter you can do all of that at Fespa and it is worth booking the whole day out and making the trip. It was very good indeed this year, we came back with lots of new information, got to see all our major suppliers from the print side and also materials side, so we thought it was a thoroughly informative and well-appointed show.”

stringwellChris Stringwell, director, Digital Plus

“There was no doubt a vast variety of stands were there from main suppliers of equipment, Agfa, Canon and so on, but there were also a lot of Chinese delegates as well. It’s such an array and we personally found it a bit disjointed this year – lots of different halls. From a visitor’s point of view, looking around and trying to compare, you’re just going from hall to hall. However, it was an interesting show there is no doubt about it. Most of what we noticed is that more and more machinery is going LED as opposed to conventional UV, which is quite impressive.”

freely-octinkMike Freely, managing director, Octink

“We weren’t at the show with any specific capex requirement this time around but it is always a great opportunity to walk and talk and have a look at new things from the main suppliers. There’s always a list of things to look at in more detail that comes out of it. I was quite impressed with what I saw at Esko and Onyx, the use of dashboards with real-time performance data is really powerful. That was a big takeaway. And also some really clever stuff and interesting innovation from Drytac on new substrates.”

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