I have already produced two videos of my impressions of Graph Expo that were shown last week on WhatTheyThink. This article will cover some of the items I mentioned in those videos, but in this article I will cover a number of items that I saw that were particularly interesting.
The first thing we should answer: Was Graph Expo a success? Before the event there was concern, especially when two of the major suppliers, Heidelberg and Komori, pulled out of exhibiting, and many other suppliers downsized their exhibit areas. On day one of the event, this being a Sunday, the event was very quiet and the exhibitors were worried. The second day was very different though, with a large number of visitors, and we saw a attendance on Tuesday. (I cannot comment about the final day as I was gone by then.) The exhibitors I spoke with thought the quality of attendees was good and they were satisfied with the the number of leads they obtained. I don't feel that starting the event on a Sunday is a good idea. I am also not really sure there is a need for a Graph Expo every year.
This brings me to a key point; Graph Expo this year was definitely a digital show. One had to search for any offset presses on the show floor. While manroland and KBA were exhibiting they brought no presses with them. The major offset exhibitor was Presstek, but again this is really a digital company. There was also one Chinese offset press and I believe one of two Letter size presses. Graph Expo may have an opportunity to adapt its position and perhaps take over the role of OnDemand and Xplor as the major digital printing exhibition in North America.
In the digital area most of the interest appeared to be in the high-speed continuous feed inkjet area where many presses that had been introduced at IPEX earlier this year were being shown for the first time in North America. The highlight was the demo of the full Kodak Prosper 5000XL that ran almost continuously on the Kodak stand. This produced excellent output and generated great interest. The first such press is currently being installed at a book printer in the USA and Kodak indicates it is accelerating the installation programme for the press over the rest of this year. There were also some new introductions at the show. The first was the HP T350 press. This is the same press as the HP T300 that now has around twenty installations with a total of forty print engines. The HP T350 is the same size of press but has a running speed of 600 ft/min at a resolution of 1,200 x 600 dpi, 50% faster that the T300. This is brought about by faster inkjet print heads, a faster data pipeline and a new ink configuration. Dainippon Screen also introduced a faster press, this being the Truepress Jet520 ZZ (this engine also appeared from Ricoh Infoprint as the Infoprint 5000VP). This press also has a wider web width of 22.5 inches. The press has a running speed of 600 feet/min, but apparently this is achieved at a resolution of 720 x 360 dpi. This speed is achieved through the use of new faster Epson print heads.
Another area of interest in the inkjet area is the development of imprinting heads to be added to offset or flex presses. HP previewed new imprinting systems using the same Scalable Printing Technology print heads as used in the HP T Series presses with a running speed of 800 feet/min. Perhaps the most interesting development was seen on the stand of Adphos, a systems integration company. They were using the Kodak Prosper S10 monochrome imprinting heads, and creating a four-color imprinting system. This was used as an imprinting system for mounting on a 38 inch Goss Sunday press. It had sixteen S10 heads providing four areas of overprinting in full color across the width of the web.
The other really impressive digital development appearing for the first time was the new Xerox iGen4 EXP. This new press has a larger page size with a length of 26 inches. This was shown allowing for a gate fold document with three A4 or Letter images. This opens up a wider market for digital printing and also eats into one of the key areas being seen for the forthcoming B2 format sheet-fed inkjet presses from Fujifilm and Dainippon Screen. This created a very high-level of interest on the Xerox stand. Xerox however is not alone in this area and Kodak has announced a similar format Nexpress. This was not being shown however, and my understanding is it will not be available until next year.
I was also very impressed with what I saw from EFI. They were showing a wide range of the technologies with an emphasis on the wide format and narrow web inkjet. I was also impressed with the latest versions of the Fiery DFE. It is amazing how this continues to develop and maintain its market lead in a market it created twenty years ago.
Graph Expo in 2011 is scheduled for September 2011, and among the initial showing of exhibitors Heidelberg will be back taking the prime position on the floor that was taken this year by HP. It will be very interesting to see whether this will push offset back into prominence, or whether we will see Graph Expo continuing its switch toward becoming a digital printing show.