There are several trends colliding in Dusseldorf:

1. Offset’s revenge—Every offset litho press maker has upgraded their presses. Here is a quick overview:

KBA QualiTronic inline sheet-inspection system scans each sheet as it enters the delivery or the perfecting unit and compares it with a reference sheet at maximum press speed, QualiTronic Mark tags off-spec sheets which can be ejected automatically in die-stamping or folding machines, provided they have the capability. QualiTronic Professional is an inline density measurement and control system that takes 60 sheets or so to normalize density. DensiTronic PDF has a scanner that scans the sheets at a resolution of 330 dpi and compares them with the original PDF. The DriveTronic SPC supports simultaneous plate changing in less than 60 seconds, regardless of the number of printing units. DriveTronic Ident reads registration marks imaged in the gripper margin on the plates and uses them to set a theoretical zero register on all the plate cylinders to make registration precise from the first proof. DriveTronic Plate Ident identifies the color separations on the plates in each printing unit by scanning a data matrix code that is imaged in the gripper margin.

Manroland InlineColorPilot measures and regulates ink density in the press during production so pulling sheets for color control purposes is no longer necessary. Depending on press width, up to 15 sensors firmly mounted in a complete system record the values measured from the sheet lying on the impression cylinder at that moment. The system can measure and regulate up to seven printing inks.

Heidelberg is equipping all its Speedmaster presses with a Prinect Press Center which combines press operation with color and register control in a single, central console. With Intellistart, while one job is being printed, the operator can be preparing the next. A large screen gives press operators an overview of all press processes. The wallscreen also supports print approval processes. Prinect Axis Control automatically identifies the type of quality control strip and its position on the print sheet and cuts time by half.

Komori Lithrone SX40 has a new maximum running speed of 18,000 sph. New higher speed fully automatic plate change with non stop plate removal increases the speed for job changeover. The SX40 can change 6 plates in approximately two minutes, enabling a 35 percent reduction in job-to-job-changeover time. From the end of production on one job to an OK sheet on the next job takes six minutes. The fully automatic plate changing system enables non-stop continuous plate removal, reducing the changeover time for 6 plates to about 2 minutes. Blanket and rollers are now washed simultaneously at the higher cylinder revolution speed of 18,000 sph.

Goss has the M600 with sheetfed offset inks but is a web press that prints a 4-up sheet (both sides) and then sheets the roll. No dryer is required and output is higher than any known sheetfed press. Most of the press makers showed larger format presses over 40 inches.

In other words, new offset presses cut makeready, cut waste, increase productivity, ensure more useable sheets, and improve quality consistency. By raising the bar, offset changes the dynamics of printing process competition. But—these features are on new presses and most presses are legacy presses without these features. Plus the strong Euro makes the new offset presses pricier.

2. Toner today—Every toner-based digital printer has been upgraded and new versions introduced. Quality has been increased, consistency improved, and productivity enhanced. I had hoped to see larger sheet sizes but no supplier surprised me. Most of the toner machines exhibited creeping incrementalism—tweaks and improvements rather than any major innovations.

Xerox took the iGen3 up a notch with higher resolution and more automated quality features in the iGen4, but no increase in speed or sheet size. It really is more like an iGen3.5.The 490/980 Color Continuous Feed Printer is the world’s fastest xerographic-based color press and should be a winner for the company and its users. The Xerox 700 Digital Color Press is a great entry-level printer at 70 ppm. There was a concept press that was a tandem set of iGen3s and a plethora of printers running many, many applications.

HP Indigo introduced new print engines for some of their models and had them all running, including the label printing systems. Canon had a slightly slower version of its imagePress 7000 at 60 ppm. Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and others had monochome and color printers. Oce had their recently announced roll-fed toner and inkjet printers, the only company to offer both. The new Xeikon 8000 is the original roll-fed toner printer and was being snapped up by buyers from around the world. The toner-based printer suppliers complained that we pundits were spending more time on inkjet systems that were a year or more away while the tone-based printers were available now so users could make money now.

3. Inkjet tomorrow—there were a number of roll-fed and sheetfed inkjet printers/presses for high production applications, but most are a year to two years away. For some suppliers, Drupa 2008 was two years too early. HP, Screen, Infoprint, Oce, Kodak, and others had roll-fed production inkjet printers. FujiFilm and Screen had 4-up inkjet sheetfed printers. Some of these systems are a year or more away. Agfa Dotrix and MGI and many others had inkjet presses for specialized markets, especially labels and packaging.

Of course, wide format, both roll and flatbed were everywhere, especially the super-wide printers for building wraps. And gigantic signage There were more inkjet machines than any other category of equipment and many were new models or prototypes. In other words, inkjet dominated Drupa.

4. Workflow forever—Maybe this is really the IT Drupa. All that hardware, from CTP to proofers to digital printers/presses to offset presses themselves run on a computer-based infrastructure that is supported by IT. Every system was connected to the Internet and automated systems were everywhere. But, because they are not big and flashy, everyone misses them.

More on Drupa to come.

From A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and “Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight”

Something that's static
Something erratic
Something for everyone
There's toner today

Something amusing
Something a fusing
Something for everyone
There's toner today

New ways of printing
New types of tinting
Inkjet tomorrow
Toner today

Nothing that's powder, nothing that's hot
Bring on the inkjet, ready or not

Something with drops, something with streams
Bring on the IJ and all that it means

Odd situations
Weird complications
All that technology will allow
Inkjet's tomorrow
Toner's right now

Something wide format
That prints a doormat
Something for everyone
There's inkjet ahead

Something fantastic
That prints a plastic
Something for everyone
There's toner today

Nothing bizarre from Dimatix or Xaar
Some using MEMS arrayed in a bar
UV's tomorrow
Xerography today!

Something that's liquid, cold and/or hot
Bring on the inkjet, ready or not
Inkjet’s tomorrow
Toner’s today