It may not be the kind of Graph Expo that regular Graph Expo goers are used to, but then very little about the industry’s current situation is as it was a year ago. This time around, the exhibits are more compact, the message is less equipment-focused, and the mood is more watchful and subdued. There’s a sense of something unpleasant coming for which every possible preparation has been made, but which no amount of precaution can keep from trying to force the door.

In other words, it’s the kind of Graph Expo that’s unfolding in the same way that every other trade show in every other industry will unfold until the present economic crisis passes. That said, it’s an event that will still find ways to reward the loyalty of those who have been steadfast enough to populate its booths as exhibitors and its aisles as attendees this year.

The show’s first round of media briefings caught the shift in emphasis and tone. Media briefings—vendor presentations for trade journalists and analysts, but not open to general attendees—aren’t the only or necessarily the most reliable indicators of the quality of a Graph Expo or a Print show. But they do offer an accurate snapshot of what those with a stake in these events hope to achieve, to the extent that industry conditions and customer intentions will let them.

Komori (booth 619) brought representatives of four Komori-using companies to its Saturday (October 25) briefing in hope of convincing the trade media that the purchasing intentions of its customer base remain strong. Each of the companies—4Over Inc., Anstadt Printing, Jones Packaging, and Solo Printing—has made a large recent investment in expanding its pressroom capabilities with the help of Komori equipment.

Asked what advice they had for other printers considering expansions of their own in an economically challenging time, the spokesmen urged against putting off equipment purchases that can make a real difference now and an even bigger improvement when market conditions return to normal. They also stressed the need for production flexibility, a virtue that can't be acquired without investing in versatile and efficient pressroom equipment.

Komori has what may be the largest equipment footprint among press exhibitors at Graph Expo with three machines that will run in 12 daily demonstrations. The flagship product is the LSX40, an 18,000 sph, 41" sheetfed press awaiting market launch. One differentiator of this press is an AI (artificial intelligence) preset feature that can, according to Komori, teach itself the most effective steps for cutting makeready time and reducing startup waste. Some of the LSX40's AI assets will be available in another platform, the LS40Ai.

Also in action in the Komori booth are the LSX29, a half-size press built to move from job completion to job initiation in under six minutes; and the Spica 29P, a compact convertible perfector. Komori also will promote its solutions for inline cold foiling, diecutting, and embossing, although these technologies will not be presented at the show.

Heidelberg (booth 1200) continues its tradition of taking the largest stand at Graph Expo. What's noticeably different this year is the length of the list of equipment on display in it. In a departure from its usual trade-show strategy, Heidelberg has chosen to display only one press and to focus instead on printshop integration as enabled by its Prinect collection of workflow products. The company also has refrained from organizing the booth around printshop size or production specialty, another hallmark of previous Heidelberg exhibits.

The lone press, however, is Heidelberg’s top-of-the-line Speedmaster XL105, a high-speed 41" platform being shown for the first time in the U.S. as a 10-color perfector. On Sunday, Heidelberg announced the sale of the 100th Speedmaster XL 105 in the U.S. to a commercial printer in Portland, OR.

The show press is equipped with Prinect Inpress Control, an advanced spectrophotometric system for color and register control. Its control console is the Prinect Press Center, featuring a 40" Wallscreen that displays all press conditions and operations. Postpress equipment in the booth includes a POLAR PACE cutting system, fully automated for loading, cutting, and offloading by a single operator.

During the media briefing, Heidelberg president Jim Dunn reported that a folding carton printer in Wisconsin has purchased what will be the first Heidelberg VLF (very large format) press in the U.S., a 57" Speedmaster XL 145. He also discussed Heidelberg’s entry into the consumables market with the Saphira product line; its plan to expand its role as a provider of business and consulting services to printers; and its efforts to find the source or sources of counterfeit Heidelberg parts that have turned up on the Internet.

manroland (booth 1246) has brought no presses to Graph Expo, opting instead to conduct daily tours to its Westmont, IL, tech center for demonstrations of its VLF platform, the 73” Roland 900XXL. At McCormick Place, manroland will concentrate on promoting a package of lower-cased support programs it calls PRINTVALUE: printservices, for maintenance and diagnostics; the printnet automated workflow; printcom, providing consumables and supplies; and printadvice, a portfolio of assistance in business consulting.

manroland CEO Vince Lapinski said that the company embraced the role of business service provider six years ago when it first saw the need to offer programs aimed at helping its printer customers to become more profitable. He also said that the company—an independent entity since June—was “in a good financial position to weather the coming storm.” He also promised that manroland would not “bend the financing rules” in order to sell equipment to printers who might not be capable of supporting the purchase.

Werner Naegeli, president and CEO of Muller Martini (booth 3822), said the company will use Graph Expo to highlight the standardization and interoperability of everything in its postpress and narrow-web press portfolios. He also introduced a new marketing theme, “Grow with Us,” that will keynote its efforts to help customers generate new growth opportunities.

In the booth, representing what Naegeli described as Muller Martini’s “new machine generation” is the new Primera E140 saddle stitcher, an automated, touchscreen-controlled stitching line that can produce up to 14,000 copies per hour. Other products will be described in video presentations that note advancements across the entire portfolio, including ergonomic and safety improvements, simplified controls, and a new laser-blue paint scheme.