Well now that drupa is over and we are no longer rushing from hall to hall and meeting to meeting, what stood out at drupa as the most important or most interesting developments? The following is my selection. In this I am not looking at any offset, flexo or gravure presses or developments since I did not have time for a comprehensive look at these technologies.

  • Heidelberg Prinect – The total networking and integration of all products in the two Heidelberg halls was a real demonstration of the printshop of the future. Every product, and there were around eighty, was connected via a high-speed backbone to a central data server facility and through applications like Prinect Integration Manager the status of every device could be monitored and information sent to each of them. Around 100 data servers managed the total operation. Connectivity even included non-Heidelberg devices including Internet based storefront products including Pageflex from Bitstream and print4media from Diron. This was probably the most comprehensive totally integrated working JDF demonstration that has been seen.
  • MyPhotoFun 1 hour photo album solution – MyPhotoFun from The Netherlands is one of the world leaders in digital photo album production. It works on a worldwide basis with partners using Xerox iGen3 presses. At drupa its new 1 hour photo album solution application, that is also being sold by Xerox, makes it very easy for small printers, copy shops photographic shops, etc., to easily get into the lucrative online photobook market. This application run on an ASP model allows a shop owner to offer a full photobook service with Internet based credit card payments using the Dutch host server operation but where output is back to the shop owners digital press. Xerox is selling this service around the new Xerox 700 Digital Press. The shop owner has their own web site for creating the photobooks. Larger albums can still be printed on the Xerox iGen3s and the shop owner gets full commission on these. A great product to help small companies get into a lucrative business with just a standard broadband Internet connection.
  • X-Rite ColorMunki and Color Exchange Format (CxF) – I admit to being a convert to the concept of CxF when I saw an early version about four years ago. At drupa X-Rite was releasing the latest CxF2 together with the first showing of its Pantone ColorMunki spectrophotometer. I mention the two products, as they will work together to change the way we specify and manage color. The ColorMunki demonstrations at Pantone were always packed and lots of designers were buying products off the stand. This is the first truly easy to use color accurate specification and selection tool and software for the creative community. CxF will be the means by which accurate colour specifications and spot color selections will be carried through the total workflow system. I see the potential of this becoming an open standard of the future for carrying accurate color within a JDF environment throughout the total workflow.
  • High-Speed Color Inkjet Presses – All of these presses generated real interest and showed the future way the industry will go. I highlight three of them here but others were also very significant. The HP Inkjet Web Press and the Kodak STREAM Concept press showed the future with technology that may impact heavily into the medium run length profitable offset market. The Océ JetStream family showed that quality and high-speed can be achieved together and that drop on demand piezo technology can match current continuous inkjet technology for speed. It was also interesting to see the great interest in the use of these inkjet presses for newspaper production in particular the Océ and HP presses and the Screen Truepress Jet 520.
  • FFEI Emblaze Digital Coater ­– Fujifilm was showing Emblaze, a new inkjet UV coater from FFEI. This is a product built using an array of Xaar 1001 printheads with a maximum imaging size of 605 x 750 mm. It provides a broad range of coated finishes from gloss and matt spot UV coatings to creation of special effects and textures. It is driven by a digital file so can enhance any product. There is obviously potential for further development of this product in a smaller format to link up inline with the B3 format digital presses to provide a better coating and enhancement facility than they offer at present. One could also see the possibility of adding a printing head to personalize no-digital printed pieces.
  • VIM Process Free Plates without a Platesetter – The new VIM plates are unique as they are imaged on a standard Epson color inkjet printer and this can be the same printer as is used for color proofs. Unlike other inkjet platesetters that use special imaging solutions and need some further processing this uses the standard Epson ink. When printed onto the plate the ink reacts with the plate coating to create an offset printing surface for conventional offset printing. There is no processing and the plate is immediately reading for printing. This could be the real low cost CtP entry point for many printers. The plates should be available in early 2009.
  • Single Pass Inkjet Presses – This could be classified as the arrival of the single pass inkjet print engine show. We have had some single pass engines such as the Agfa Dotrix, Kodak Versamark and Screen Truepress Jet520 before, but this drupa saw the arrival of this technology in force. In the high-speed continuous feed market we had new products from HP, Impika, Kodak, and Océ.  We saw the first B2 sheet fed presses from Fujifilm and Screen using Dimatix and Epson printheads. Xaar 1001 heads were seen everywhere including label presses from EFI Jetrion, FFEI/Nilpeter and Founder and industrial presses from Xennia for labels and ceramic printing. There are no doubt others I have forgotten to mention for which I apologise. This is a market that will just grow and grow.

In the digital area it was a very interesting drupa to see many of the technologies that will challenge the industry in future. In this review I haven’t covered any of the small companies showing innovative future oriented products in the drupa Innovation Parc that emphasised the challenge coming from Internet based print operations. Only four more years to drupa 2012!