As would be expected during an event of this kind, most of the media briefings at drupa were focused on product announcements and technology introductions. From time to time, though, speakers put the salesmanship aside and offered broader commentary on industry trends and print market conditions. Here are a few examples.

For printers, mastery of production economics will be as crucial as the ability to print well, observed Bernhard Schreier, CEO, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. “Without cost efficiencies, none of our customers will survive in the future,” he said. Schreier added that as the world’s largest manufacturer of sheetfed lithographic presses, Heidelberg accepts digital printing’s place in the mix of solutions that printers will rely on—but with qualifications.

“Yes, digital printing is a technology with a real future and will continue to grow,” he said. “However, cost-efficiency is the top priority for print shops. And not everything that is already or may soon be possible in digital printing is also cost-effective.” The digital technologies that Heidelberg offers—rebranded toner presses from Ricoh, and its own Linoprint L inkjet system for packaging—fit the definition of cost-effective, Schreier said.

In speaking about his company’s machine refurbishment and upgrade services, Peter Kuisle, executive vice president for sales, marketing, and service at manroland web systems, acknowledged that printers aren’t replacing their equipment at the rate that the manufacturers would like. As a result, he said, “our presses have to run much longer than in the past.”

Benny Landa, the founder of Landa Corporation, repeated the prophecy that he first made in 1993 as the inventor of Indigo printing technology: “Everything that can become digital will become digital. Printing is no exception.” But he also noted that almost 20 years later, digital output accounts for only about 2% of all pages printed. Digital’s share will not go up, he said, until it matches all of offset lithography’s merits for mainstream print production—a goal he hopes to achieve with his new nanographic printing system.

“Eventually, printed media will be replaced by digital media,” Landa declared. But, he also made it clear that “eventually” will take its time in arriving. “For most of us, what really counts is the horizon, and the ‘horizon’ is the next 20 years or so,” he said. In that interval, there is still a “fantastic” opportunity for digital printing to claim its share. According to Landa, “mainstream commercial printing has not yet been touched by digital,” and therein lies the opening for nanographic printing as his company and its three offset partners (Komori, Heidelberg, and manroland sheetfed) intend to develop it.

“The 15th drupa is taking place in an unsettled economic climate,” said Claus Bolza-Schünemann, president and CEO of KBA. Between 2007 and 2011. he said, global sales of analog presses “halved” from approximately €9 billion to around €4.5 billion. Although, according to Bolza-Schünemann, there has been a modest uptick in press orders since the “nadir of 2009,” there will be no return to pre-crisis sales volumes for KBA and other makers of offset equipment.

His slides indicated that offset continues to account for about 60% of all print production, but also that digital is coming on fast and strong with a share of 13%. “The cards are being reshuffled in the deck,” Bolza-Schünemann said, particularly in offset’s sharp loss of small-format work to digital alternatives. KBA is playing a hand in both games with its sheetfed and web litho presses and, as of drupa 2012, its RotaJET 76 high-volume inkjet web press.

“The last drupa marked the end of a very prosperous time for the industry, and it segued into four very lean years,” said Jochen Meissner, president and CEO of Goss International. drupa 2008 also marked the last time that the web press manufacturer would exhibit at Messe Düsseldorf as an independent entity—the company was acquired by Shanghai Electric Group two years later. However, Goss continues to be the only maker of web presses in the U.S. at its plant in Durham, NH, where its new Sunday Vpak 3000 and Sunday Vpak 500 packaging presses are to be manufactured.

drupa may be the last place on earth where anybody would expect to hear a quotation from Karl Marx, but one of the political philosopher’s most famous utterances—“A spectre is haunting Europe,” the opening line of the Manifesto of the Communist Party—found its way into a drupa 2012 press conference nonetheless. It was cited by Akiyoshi Ohno, president of Konica Minolta IJ Technologies, to acknowledge the shadow that inkjet has cast over many discussions of printing’s future at the show. Ohno said that Konica-Minolta will go to the barricades of the “industrial inkjet revolution” with KM1, a color inkjet press being previewed at its stand.