drupa 2012 - investing in the future of print
by Ed Boogaard
Even after spending 15 days at drupa, it is hard to decide on what exactly had the most impact on the industry. Actually, it looks like we may even have to wait until (at least) 2013 to find out.
Until recently, the way forward looked pretty much decided on. After toner came inkjet, and that was what the future of print after - or: next to - offset would look like, right? Not so. Drupa 2012 provided new insights. Liquid toner (shown by Xeikon, Myakoshi and Océ) suddenly offered a serious and promising alternative to existing technology. And then came ‘nanography’, invented and introduced by Benny Landa, set to combine offset, liquid toner and inkjet into one.
Visiting many (but certainly not all) press conferences during the first days of the show, there seemed to be so many ‘game-changing’ and ‘quantum leap’ technologies around, that the industry could impossibly be the same ever after this drupa. Still, the year 2013 was mentioned just as many times as well for many technologies to truly deliver.
That did not stop printers - looking for solutions to meet today's challenges - from investing: press manufacturers as well as providers of digital printing systems were happy to report excellent results in both attendance and sales - despite a 20 percent lower overall turnout for drupa.
I think this is the result of a positive atmosphere surrounding this year's drupa: it was really all about investing in the future of print. (And let’s hope that the many schoolchildren who visited the show and were amazed by the Cirque De Soleil-performance will think of this industry as being just as colourful and exciting!)
Electronic media were also met with a more positive attitude: no longer seen as merely competing with print, but used to supplement and strengthen the total mediamix in which paper continues to play a strong and crucial role. Technologies like ‘clickable paper’ and ‘touch code’, for example, showed further improvement and sophistication of what QR-codes are all about: connecting paper to the Web. At the same time, the Internet proves to be an excellent sales channel for print. Web-to-print and vice versa solutions were therefore an important part of what drupa had on show - just not as big in square meters as many of the machines and installations that were to be seen.
Just as promising, I think, is the way offset press manufacturers are now embracing digital printing to complement their portfolio. By acknowledging the qualities and possibilities both toner and inkjet have to offer, they are now better serving their customers by providing the best solution for whatever needs they have. And they are opening up new opportunities and new markets - securing a future for print.
One of the most interesting points Landa made, was the fact that he does not expect printers to immediately change the way they do business. They do not need to find new markets or new customers, or convince existing customers of variable data or runlenghts-of-one: “just keep doing what you are doing, but do it in new and more profitable way” is a message that will convince many printers - and indeed many press manufacturers.
Looking back, I think Landa’s nanography was the most game changing and quantum leap technology presented at drupa: it may provide press manufactures an opportunity to catch up with digital technology (and even give them a lead position), and at the same time it will allow traditional printers to make the transition to digital in a very smooth way. The timeframe of 2013 - or probably 2014 - will give many printers the opportunity to find out what market and which clients they really want and need to be serving, and to decide on the technology they really need to do so.