Drupa to light way as print industry keeps advancing

By Andrew Tribute, Thursday 08 December 2011

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At next year's Drupa, the industry's suppliers will announce, and possibly even deliver, many new or upgraded products that will give an insight into the direction that print will take in the future. Here are some of the key trends that will have an impact on what we see at next year's show:

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Andrew Tribute, Industry technology consultant

The use of the internet to improve the manner in which print is ordered and managed is central to the evolution of the industry. In the future, any printer that does not have the ability to accept and process orders online in real time will find business extremely difficult.

The transition of work from offset or flexo to digital printing will continue. This is not on the basis of cost, but operational efficiency and opening new forms of communication. Book printing is a prime example, where high-speed inkjet printing is competitive with or cheaper than offset for run lengths up to around 5,000 books, which allows publishers to order shorter runs with regular repeats to reduce stored inventory.

Another trend will be the continued growth of digital print finishing. We have already seen many devices for folding, collating and binding being linked to digital presses, and there will be more at Drupa. These will make digital printing operations more efficient, as manning levels, set-up times and operational costs will be reduced. An example has just been announced in the Highcon Euclid digital die-cutting and creasing machine, which is targeted at the market for custom short-run folding cartons.

The major trend everyone is expecting is a further development of continuous feed and sheetfed inkjet printing. Many existing suppliers will unveil enhanced and new presses, while some of the major offset suppliers will introduce inkjet presses. These include KBA, TKS, Wifag and possibly others. We will probably see some lower-speed and lower-cost presses and I think that Delphax will be in this area with its co-development with printhead supplier Memjet.

We will also see the start of the B2-format digital sheetfed market that was first previewed by Fujifilm and Screen at the last Drupa. I expect to see operational versions of their presses at Drupa, but don’t be surprised if there are other B2 presses using toner technology from at least one major player.

Another major trend will be in packaging, which is still a growth area worldwide for the printing industry. We will see many new developments in printing and finishing, but also in workflow, using the internet to allow tight integration right back into the creative departments of the brand owners to fully integrate the planning and management of new packaged products from early concept to delivery to the final customer.

The conclusion that one has to come to is that Drupa will be the show that defines the future structure of print in how it changes from being an industry that puts marks on paper, to an industry that is a critical part of a total design, information, manufacturing and delivery process for a massive range of products.

It is a show that will open printers’ eyes to how they have to change if they are to survive and prosper.

Andrew Tribute
Industry technology consultant

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