As I wander the 19 halls of Drupa my notebook fills with observations and information. Some of it is interesting and some of it is down right weird.

1. Sloganeering

Every exhibitor had a slogan emblazoned on their display or signage. Some slogans were inspired and some were, well, uninspired.

Vitamins for your business (Gallus)

Value you can see (Toyo Ink)

Print is powerful (Kodak)

Progressive, Profitable Printing (HP)

Connect with opportunity (Xerox)

We speak image (Canon)

We are print (manroland)

Success is in the air (Draable)

New ways for print (Goss)

We’re listening (Ricoh)

The essentials of imaging (Konica Minolta)

Stay ahead. With Agfa Graphics. (Agfa)

Empowering print communication (Sharp)

Leading innovation (Toshiba)

On paper. On line. On time (OneVision)

HEI performance. HEI value. (Heidelberg)

Print to win (EFI)

Advancing color beyond expectations (XRite)

Business beyond the ordinary (Oce)

Digital power at your control (FujiFilm)

Perfection in post press (Hohner)

Speed up your business (MBO)

Creating a future in print (Screen)

Passion for innovation (Windmuller & Holscher)

Communications that deliver (Pitney Bowes)

Think & Shift (Sakurai)

Power beyond perfection (Akiyama)

Together, we create the future (Shanghai Electric)

Ink, Heart & Soul (Siegwerk)

And the Romano Award for Best Drupa Slogan: Kodak. Print IS powerful.

The best show was the magic act at the Screen stand. The best demos were at Heidelberg because they used these small receivers and ear plugs so you could hear the demonstrator perfectly (my tours in Italy used them extensively). The worst presentation was the HP trip to the future which was an 11-minute talking heads sales pitch with a few special effects. The best presentation was the very short 3D animation of a roll-fed inkjet press by Xerox, with no audio and little explanation.

The most prevalent personality was Andy Tribute, who appeared in posters, video, and live presentations. However, I did appear on the “Good Morning Croatia” TV program in Zagreb.

2. Makeready or not

I saw a giant sheetfed offset litho press go from zero to printed sheets in three minutes. The person next to me said that offset has now raised the bar. Actually they have lowered the bar and have forced digital printing into lower run lengths of static material. But, this only applies if you have one of these new presses. The world is filled with old printing presses that still require a long makeready. We may replace two or even three older presses with one newer press but the older ones are usually sold to someone else, and thus the base of presses does not decline, and continues to be composed of legacy functionality requiring legacy skills. Their users then sell on price. I think we should enact legislation that mandates retirement for any printing press over 20 years old.

3. Speed Druping

This guy was interviewed by the Show Daily. He says he has been to ten Drupas and comes to learn about new stuff. “How long do you stay?” “One day.”

4. Bigger is better

Large format offset presses and wide format inkjet presses tell us that the world of print is requires big web/sheet and small web/sheet presses. Most of the page-based digital printers print on a 13x19-inch sheet. Some are a little larger, but only the Xeikon can print a 4-up sheet and 8-up signature. The inkjet people may get to signature printing before most of the toner people do. For certain work, pages are best; for certain work, signatures are best.

5. Big messages

Giant signs adorn almost every building. Heidelberg’s building was wrapped in one humungous sign (printed by HP). The Drupa Cube building changed parts of the building wrap every day. Canon covered every vertical surface at the fairgrounds with some form of messaging. Super-wide inkjet printers are fascinating devices to watch. I have now visited 39 countries and the one common denominator is signage – more pictoral, more colorful, and more square meters. You can rent a smart car at Austrian airports and railroad stations for eight Euros a day. They are cheap because they have advertising on them. One businessman rented a car and then found it had an ad for an adult website.

6. Sour grapes

In the 1950s as offset litho and photocomposition were making inroads, the letterpress people said offset was only good for quick and dirty printing. In the 1980s as digital printing was making inroads, the offset people said digital print was only good for quick and dirty printing. Now the toner-based digital printing people say that inkjet-based digital printing is only good for long runs at low quality. Do you see a pattern?

7. HEI dee ho

I am always amazed by the Heildelberg organization. They run their company like their presses – perfectly. Everyone is on message and very helpful. They always pointed me to the right place in two buildings worth of stuff. I took the train trip to their factory and when they said we would be somewhere at 11:10 we were there at 11:10. I only regret that they did not allow photos of the manufacturing operation. It is impressive.

     Pardon me boy, is this the Heidelberger cho choo

     Track number nine, can you spare me a Euro dime

On the trip down I met the Broudy family from Pittsburgh and coming back I met the prepress and pressroom managers for Polstar, a Russian printing company.

In contrast, one digital printing company had a very large stand with umpteen machines and really great applications. The person at each machine had no knowledge of where anything else was and it was impossible to find anything because of poor signage. It really was a maze and when I got to the center I had to fight the minotaur.

The offset press makers make negative comments about digital; yet, many of their customers use both offset and digital. Presentation handouts at press maker press conferences were printed on digital printers and digital printer makers had offset-printed brochures. Some digital people imply that digital can do everything that offset does, which is untrue. Both sides make misleading and often erroneous comments about the other. Can’t we all just get along?

8. Drupa coverage

Are you sick of it yet? It used to be that Seybold had the largest US editorial team covering the show; now it is WhatTheyThink. Of course, being the economy-minded organization it is, there were six journalists to a room. This brought the hotel rate down to only 200 Euros per person. Both Andy Tribute and I stayed until almost the bitter end; most journalists were only there for the first few days. As I wandered the halls, I was stopped many times by people from all over the world who mentioned my world tour (honest). They only place that this was covered was WTT. WTT is now the closest thing to a worldwide printing magazine.

9. Fewer Americans

There were lots of visitors from Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Asia. But many Americans eschewed the bad food, outrageous hotel prices, and dinner for two at over $100. The key products will be at Graph Expo and next year at PRINT.

Stay tuned for my next article “Drupa 2012 Report” – that should really endear me to industry suppliers.