Hotels are booked solid, airline seats are at a premium and restaurateurs, taxi drivers, and bar owners are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the quadrennial stream of pilgrims who descend on Dusseldorf, Germany for the extravaganza of print known as drupa. Many attendees are staying an hour or more away from the giant fairgrounds (Messe Dusseldorf) where halls the size of football fields hold every conceivable machine, device, tool and software product related to putting ink or toner on paper, plastic or just about anything else.

As always, drupa will be an overwhelming movable feast of print technology, interspersed with kiosks where one can acquire all manner of snackage while walking the 17 halls of the messe. In the German style, vendors offer up coffee, energy drinks, water, smoothies, ice cream, and of course, beer and sausages, the better to keep people in their stands and help the milling hoards get through each day. It's a good thing, too, for by the time you walk from one end of the messe to the other, a fruit smoothie--or maybe a cold pils--goes down real well.

A focus on workflow

As Gail Nickel-Kailing notes in her article here on WTT, "Where the Heck is Hall 4?" our team has divided up the territory ahead so while all of us have to be everywhere, none of us has to see everything, which is definitely a good thing.

I am covering digital print engines, which means the big boxes from Delphax, HP, IBM, Kodak, Nipson, Océ, Xeikon, and Xerox, along with wide format machines from Encad, HP, Océ, Scitex Vision, Xerox, and others. Behind these machines are newly configured workflow tools that promise to raise the efficiency in various vertical markets and specific applications. As Cary Sherburne notes in her article, "JDF, PDF and More," JDF and PDF are a big part of the workflow story, so I'll be adding what the print engine companies are doing in this key area. So too, will Pat Henry on the offset side and Carole Alexander on finishing, which is fast becoming a digital workflow thanks to the growth of UP3i-enbled equipment.

A Look Ahead

Some of the news coming out of the show has already been released in some form, but the real details are still under wraps until on May 6. Here's a glimpse of what some of the print engine vendors will be talking about.

Delphax will be introducing its CR2000 Digital Web Press that runs at 450 feet-per-minute. The press will be running a direct mail application and perfect bound and saddle stitched books

HP is showing up with just about everything they have that prints, with the exception of a few desktop inkjet machines. It looks like it will be easy to spend half a day in their stand. They'll have their full line of digital presses and large-format printers along with products and workflow solutions from dozens of alliance companies.

 IBM will be presenting some recently announced hardware and software enhancements to its Infoprint 4100 that extend the functionality of the machine. Rumors are rattling around the industry about announcements of a color offering from Big Blue, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Kodak, re-entering the commercial print market with a born-again focus on being a major force, is heading to drupa with a couple of different faces, the first being Kodak Versamark (formerly Scitex Digital Printing). KV will be rolling out the previously announced VX5000e printer, which raises print resolution to 300 x 1200 dpi at 1400 pages per minute. This machine uses KV's new four-drop technology and the new CS600 controller jointly developed with EFI. This is the first public showing of this machine, which will be there with several other Versamark products, enhanced controllers and workflow solutions.

The other face of Kodak is NexPress and the former Heidelberg Digital, as the acquisition of these entities from Heidelberg will be completed before drupa opens. The new name for the company has not been formerly announced yet, and the new products are under embargo until drupa. But the products I saw last week in Rochester are proof that the company is locked and loaded for playing at the top end of the industry. And it's not just boxes, speeds and feeds. There is workflow software coming that should help ensure customers will be able to use the capabilities of existing and new machines alike.

Océ made most of its major announcements at On Demand in New York back in March but some new products will still be forthcoming at drupa. These will not be immediately available in the North American market, but other parts of Océ's newest offerings will. PRISMA, the company's modular workflow software is being increasingly crafted to serve the needs of specific markets and applications while retaining the customizable capabilities it is known for. We'll cover what Océ has to show at drupa.

Xeikon will be rolling out its new Xeikon 5000 model, which while still running at 130-ppm, is claimed to be capable of producing up to 3 million pages per month at under 3 cents/page (U.S.). It features a new front-end and can be equipped with a fifth color station for adding spot color, special toner for security applications or MICR toner without impacting its printing speed.

Xerox has announcements spanning all areas of its business including color and monochrome printing, workflow, and a variety of new business tools. We'll be seeing new monochrome print engines and a product name that doesn't contain "Docu." But its biggest focus will be on the ongoing enhancements to its FreeFlow workflow architecture and what these deliver for customers. A big part of Xerox's message will be on how new software and workflow tools can help customers realize faster and greater productivity and profitability. Look also for increased capabilities, modularity and functionality across different machines and applications, especially in conjunction with offerings from the company's strategic partners.

This all only scratches the surface of what will unfold at drupa beginning on May 6. Coming soon are interviews, commentaries, photos and more. Stay tuned!