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Agfa's Tim Van den Bossche on drupa 2012 and the state of offset

Published on August 28, 2012

Cary Sherburne speaks to Agfa VP of Global Marketing and Strategy Tim Van den Bossche about his impressions of drupa 2012 and confirms that offset is still quite alive in this digital printing age.

Cary Sherburne: Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink, and I’m here with Tim Van den Bossche, who is the Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy from Agfa. Welcome.

Tim Van den Bossche: Welcome, thank you.

Cary Sherburne: You have your Agfa red on.

Tim Van den Bossche: Exactly. This is our outfit for this wonderful drupa.

Cary Sherburne: So actually I wanted to talk to you a little bit about drupa and what we experienced in the two weeks that the long show went on. And especially in terms of your perception, because this was such a digital event, right. Even leading up to it, everyone was talking about, but there’s still life to offset, huh?

Tim Van den Bossche: I think so. I think so. I was saying in the run up to drupa with all the announcements made in terms of digital printing, we kind of really expected a big push from digital printing to the offset territory, but now reflecting back after two weeks at drupa and we would look at everything that happened, after the announcement of what was really shown at drupa, we kind of look at it in the following way. That on the one we see that offset remains quite competitive. We have seen a lot of interesting announcements that help offset to tackle the offset short run – the short run print. For example, the anicolor that was announced. Your press all the vendors, the press vendors have the option to have inline printing that tackles to some extent the –

Cary Sherburne: The inline inkjet.

Tim Van den Bossche: Exactly. The variable print. So I think it’s very clear that offset has shown quite some resistance and remains a very dominant technology. On the other hand, in terms of the digital printing, we were expecting really a lot in terms of what would be shown, what would be available. And I must say it’s a very exciting drupa. It was a very exciting drupa, but I think to some extent also a very confusing drupa in the sense that when talking to customers – and we had a lot of customers coming to drupa looking to opportunities to invest in digital printing, obviously – but many of them walked away being a bit confused, not knowing…

Cary Sherburne: Thinking they had to think about it once they got back to figure out.

Tim Van den Bossche: Yeah, exactly. So, so many technologies that are now available, a wide range of technologies available. On the otherhand you also see that a lot of those technologies are not readily available today. Most vendors say not before the end of next year, but that’s basically an open. So our takeaway of this is, and for most of our customers, is that it’s going to take at least another two, three, and probably even four years until next drupa when those – most of those solutions will be really commercially available to the industry.

Cary Sherburne: And so then what is Agfa doing to help their customers through this transition to be more efficient and effective and procure for what they need to do?

Tim Van den Bossche: Exactly. We obviously have been for many years a leader in the workflow, and that’s something where we keep investing significant amounts of R&D. We have announced our new Apache. We have also announced the storefront option, which allows our customers easily to go into Web to print. So we keep really pushing very hard when it comes to the workflow. Obviously, also in the plate technology we keep introducing more efficient, more user-friendly solutions that help our customers to be much more competitive and to obviously help reduce the delay times in the prepress environment.

Cary Sherburne: Yeah, so keeping offset competitive yet at the same time preparing for digital because in the end we’re going to have to keep that dog food…

Tim Van den Bossche: Yeah, exactly. The question’s of course how – to what extent digital can really penetrate the territory of offset.

Cary Sherburne: Right.

Tim Van den Bossche: Because in my early days I worked for Indigo. In the early days of Indigo in Europe, and at that time there were obviously two major applications. Still today it’s the short-run and it’s the verbalization, the…

Cary Sherburne: Personalization.

Tim Van den Bossche: The personalization. What we see today is that because of the progress in offset, that offset has made over the 20 years because let’s not forget digital is not new.

Cary Sherburne: Right.

Tim Van den Bossche: It has been there for 20 years. And at that time short run was everything below 10,000 copies. Today, I mean, you take for example the Anicolor with a good prepress linked to it, you can go easily below 300 copies.

Cary Sherburne: Wow.

Tim Van den Bossche: So to a very large extent I think the opportunity that was there for short run, I think offsets remains extremely competitive, and then in terms of the personalization there I think this digital is to a very large extent under pressure from the digital media where a lot of things can – from the tablets that we see.

Cary Sherburne: Right. Tablets.

Tim Van den Bossche: A lot of the work that we initially printed with the Indigo’s for example like your statement from the banks, your statement from your credit cards, everything has moved to e-mail. You get your monthly e-mail instead of your statements. So I think also in that area digital printing is under some pressure and my view is a little bit that when it comes to the pressure that digital media brings to our industry, my view is a little bit that digital printing is probably more under pressure from the newest technology than offset printing.

Cary Sherburne: From the newsest technology new media.

Tim Van den Bossche: So it’s a very interesting dynamics that we will see.

Cary Sherburne: Yeah.

Tim Van den Bossche: So I think it’s, again, it’s a very exciting, very exciting…

Cary Sherburne: Time to be in the industry.

Tim Van den Bossche: …time to be in the industry, exactly. Yeah.

Cary Sherburne: Well thank you. That was quite an interesting perspective. Thank you.

Tim Van den Bossche: Thank you.

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Discussion

By Charles Corr on Aug 28, 2012

How many offset shops compete at run lengths of 300? I have been hearing this argument, or opinion, for years without any data. It is wishful thinking. As digital has lower costs, the cross-over point with offset will only increase. There is clearly a role for offset but it is a declining role and offset has taken a bigger hit from view than digital.

 

By Erik Nikkanen on Aug 28, 2012

There was never any serious effort by the offset technical community to understand what was required to obtain ultra short make-readies that would be required for very short runs. The opportunities are still there but the right questions are still not being asked.

 

By Erik Peeters on Sep 10, 2012

Digital print indeed is the most suitable solution for extreme low runlengths. But the switch digital output versus offset production is not only a matter of copy count. The type of work and the process optimization are more often the determining factors such as color, paper type and process automation! Combining multiple production jobs in one press run, very often results in cost effective production. Many of our customers have both digital presses and offset equipment and they start the offset presses for jobs with a higher copy count than 300. And these are not the exception!
Agfa delivers dedicated production optimization tools with its new release :Apogee v8! It merges jobs automatically that have identical/similar production requirements. Once combined, an intelligent mechanism gangs the jobs on a press sheet. Add ink optimization (GCR), automatic ink key setup and automated plate change to equation and the production cost for offset drops allowing a for a positive ROI for low runlengths.

 

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