Commentary & Analysis
The drupa Circus
By Noel Ward
Published: May 13, 2008
On May 29th the drupa circus rolls into Dusseldorf, Germany. It's the largest venue on the planet for anyone who wants to see, touch, smell and buy virtually every type of printing technology available. Big doesn't describe this show, which encompasses 1.83 million square feet of floor space in 19 buildings --about 50 soccer fields-- not to mention the messe or fairgrounds on the shore of the Rhine that feature a bank, travel agent, and hardware store among other businesses, and a shuttle bus to help move people around its acreage. Over 394,000 visitors from 127 countries, and 1,866 exhibitors from 52 countries made it to the 2004 edition and this year will probably be little different.
But just what kind of drupa this will be is open to interpretation. I've talked to those who think workflow will be a vital theme, others who insist it is process automation, and still others who think drupa 08 is where cross-media will show its importance as a part of printing
Many in this industry try to attach a theme to these quadrennial extravaganzas of print and paper. This time it's "the inkjet drupa," based on the hype surrounding a whole raft of new products that will first see the light of day in Dusseldorf. As you might expect, some of those making this claim have some skin in the inkjet game. But just what kind of drupa this will be is open to interpretation. I've talked to those who think workflow will be a vital theme, others who insist it is process automation, and still others who think drupa 08 is where cross-media will show its importance as a part of printing. Then there are those who keep one foot firmly planted on a box of toner and another on a jug of inkjet ink, saying this drupa is where inkjet shows that it is a serious player but that drupa 2012 will be where inkjet and toner face off for dominance of the digital side of printing.
Geez, it's like listening to ads for professional wrestling or NASCAR racing. Hello? Not everything is a winner take all competition.
Having already seen a lot of what the major vendors will be rolling out later this month I do believe inkjet is going to be of significant importance, but I'm not about to brand drupa 08 an inkjet lovefest. The yet to be unveiled stuff we're going to see (most noticeably) from Kodak and HP is going make some waves in the market, but inkjet is not, in my estimation, going to be the game changer in production print some industry pundits like to wax ecstatic about. Please don't misunderstand me: inkjet is the latest stage in the evolution of digital printing, and it will reshape the market. But just as toner has not made offset printing go away, inkjet is not, as some would have you believe, going vanquish either toner or offset printing anytime in the next decade. Or two. It will simply be another print technology. Five years hence, there will most assuredly be successful print providers who have offset, toner, and inkjet printing systems and use them based on the applications they need to produce.
I'm especially interested in seeing the 30" thermal inkjet system from HP because such width is something many printers have been telling me would make the world a better place
Nevertheless, inkjet is going to be a big deal at drupa, and I can't wait to see all the new toys. Since I didn't get to Israel for HP's pre-show shindig, I'm especially interested in seeing the 30" thermal inkjet system from HP because such width is something many printers have been telling me would make the world a better place. They say width can have a much bigger influence on productivity than sheer speed. This point is clearly not lost on HP, and the company's new device seems like a big step in the right direction. It won't be available until next year, but buy-cycles being what they are, rolling this machine out at drupa makes perfect sense. Look for some up-close video on this machine here on WTT along with insights about how HP thinks it fits the market and more.
The other machine that is especially interesting is the new Océ ColorWave 600, a wide format machine that uses solid ink --a first in the wide format space. Océ already has a huge share of the wide/superwide format market and this machine offers new potential to grow their presence. I'll be spending time in the Océ stand and will have video of the new box and be talking with someone who can give us a look at how it works. Océ will also have its JetStream production class inkjet system on display. I wrote about this machine following its rollout in Florida back in December and am looking forward to seeing it running again at drupa. There are already a couple of these fast systems in the market and I'll have an update on what's happening with this important player in the inkjet game.
Also on the wide side of inkjet I'm interested in seeing what VUTEk has in store, as the company has been steadily raising the bar on speed, productivity and image quality. VUTEk was the first to come out with an environmentally friendly ink for superwide printing back in 2006 (Bio-Ink) and are on the leading edge of the shift from solvent to UV ink in that space. There are some compelling technologies coming out of this company that add new capabilities for a broader range of applications. I'll get a first-hand look and report back with video and interviews. There are other ink technologies to get a look at too, like latex ink from HP and Mutoh's corn-based eco-solvents.
Kodak will have a version of its STREAM technology on display, and the quality I've seen so far shows this could be a real competitor to offset. The NDAs I signed on most of what Kodak will be showing don't lift until the show opens so, you'll just have to wait until I can say more.
Then there's InfoPrint Solutions, which is already seeing success in the marker with its InfoPrint 5000 color inkjet printer that uses technology from Screen. There are improvements expected in this box that I'm looking forward to seeing first hand.
On the toner side, Kodak, HP, Nipson, Océ, Xeikon, and Xerox all have a lot going on with more speed, improved image quality and enhanced productivity. Much of what these guys have lined up is already public, with the exception of Xerox, which has some very interesting things in store using a variety of printing technologies. I can't say more until the doors open in Dusseldorf, but we'll have plenty of video about what's up at Xerox and these other players.
Lights, Camera Action!
Speaking of video, WTT has a lot going on at drupa to keep you informed if you've chosen to stay home and make money instead of going to Germany and enjoying beer and sausage while viewing the latest whiz-bang technologies. We'll have the usual video interviews in our studio, but we'll also have a roving camera or two going all over the fairgrounds to capture give you a look at new products. We'll hear from some printers who made the pilgrimage and get their thoughts on what they are seeing, and we'll connect with the top analysts and thought leaders in the industry too find out what they have to say about drupa 2008.
WTT.com is also covering drupa 2008 with the best editorial team in the business. Each day we'll give you our take on what we see, hear and learn at the biggest print show on the planet. Our team this year includes Adam Dewitz, Cary Sherburne, Jean Marie Hershey, Pat Henry, and yours truly, along with a few appearances by Barb Pellow and Andy Tribute. And Frank Romano's ship has come in so he will be taking a hiatus from the good life aboard the globe-circling Queen Vic to bring his inimitable perspectives to our coverage. Meanwhile in our studio, Eric Vessels and Steve Gray will be handling videotaping and production tasks and getting the latest video up on line as quickly as possible.
Our written coverage starts today. We go live at drupa on May 29 and the fun doesn’t stop until June 27. It's not the same as being there, but it's close. Stay tuned!