by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. (Dr. Printing) June 1, 2004 -- DRUPA 2004. For reasons that escape me, DRUPA does not rhyme with HOOPLA, although it should. It may, in fact, be a Slavic derivative of the ancient Greek root of Brouhaha, but known to Dusseldorfians as Brew haha (or Pils, or Alt). But still somehow, they pronounce it DRUPA. Ever wondered what it stands for? DRUPA is an acronym derived from the German words for Printing and Paper, Druck und Papier. Is that clear? If not, here's a little story you may not have heard before: Phagmo Drupa (1100 - 1170) Phagmo Drupa was born in Kham in eastern Tibet into a poor family that made its living by impure means (it is widely believed that they were consultants, although this cannot be confirmed). However, Phagmo Drupa remained undisturbed amidst the family's misconduct. At the tender age of four, he took the vows of a novice monk and began his training on the spiritual path. He traveled to central Tibet to receive further training from masters there. He received intellectual and spiritual training from a series of qualified masters, including Jetsün Sakyapa who taught him the complete Lam-Dre teachings (which you hear much of today in the urban rap and hip-hop vernacular). Phagmo Drupa mastered various tantras and practiced meditation very seriously, remaining in meditation for days in the state of clarity and bliss. Despite his spiritual accomplishment, Phagmo Drupa still felt he needed the guidance of a qualified master on the path. He therefore went to Dagla Gampo Monastery. Upon meeting Gampopa, Phagmo Drupa immediately recognized the man's wisdom. Within the following days, Phagmo Drupa mastered the direct realization of Mahamudra. In all his activities he exercised complete humility and fairness towards everyone, regardless of their social status and material well-being. He was particularly compassionate and understanding towards the less fortunate, and was constantly giving them his own possessions even though he did not have enough for himself. He later founded a monastery in central Tibet, and had innumerable disciples. Interesting, you say, but what does this have to do with DRUPA as we know it? Absolutely nothing, but it showed up during research, the name matches, and it shows focus. But come to think of it, wasn't Phagmo the Marx brother they never talked about? Anyway, on to the Show. JDF, full of promise (like all acronym-based entities) is not quite ready to live up to the high expectations set forth by its advocates. First, I have to say that I was disappointed by the incredibly low turnout of printers from North America. Of course, this is not surprising, as this has always been somewhat the trend, and the economy causes us all to look closely at how we spend our time and money. But it is only by keeping up, and looking ahead, and finding the best utilization of technologies and systems that we can keep up with the world. Right? I hear complaints all too often about the number of printers that are closing, and all the print work that is migrating to overseas print facilities in Asia. Care to guess as to the level of attendance of DRUPA by printers from the Pacific rim countries? And, although attendance did not match the highs set in 1995 or 2000, over 394,000 visitors from 122 countries, some 3,350 journalists of 82 nationalities and over 30,000 staff for 1,862 exhibitors attended the event. This was supposed to be the 'JDF Drupa', where integrated systems, workflows, equipment, hardware and software were all working together and speaking a common language. Of course, this was not the case. JDF, full of promise (like all acronym-based entities) is not quite ready to live up to the high expectations set forth by its advocates. Like PPML and PDF and Postscript, it is fraught with the shortcomings of an 'industry standard' that lacks needed interoperability. Unless, of course, you manage to outfit your entire shop from one supplier, all with brand new equipment. It does, however, show improving signs of viability, although no one really understands it. That's what makes it cool, right? Keep your eyes and ears open, but maintain a 'Show Me' attitude. Digital Printing Digitally speaking, this was the DRUPA of refinement, improvement, and acceptance. Digitally speaking, this was the DRUPA of refinement, improvement, and acceptance. No big revolutions in equipment innovation, but many significant improvements and tweaks were evident in the digital press offerings, and the DI market has consolidated to some dedicated primary suppliers. The opportunities in terms of equipment are better than ever. In the area of Digital Presses, HP Indigo had the largest assortment of equipment, the biggest booth, the loudest sound system, and the most densely packed crowds of the event. From the HP 3050 to the new HP 5000 and the full line of 'Industrial' presses, refinement and improvement were the name of the game. The HP Indigo Press 3050 is the logical continuation of the successful Series Two presses begun by Indigo in 1999 with the UltraStream. The HP Indigo Press 5000 carries this line further with internal mechanical improvements, a multi-stage feeder and delivery system, and upgraded RIP technology. Capable of printing 4000 full color A4, letter size pages per hour, it can print on a virtually unlimited range of substrates, coated and uncoated, labels, transparencies, and other specialty papers. The seven color capability enables accurate reproduction of PANTONE colors and other brand colors. The Kodak NexPress was conspicuous in the Heidelberg booth, although Heidelberg has sold their interest in the product to their development partner, Kodak. The main enhancement being shown was the addition of a clear toner for the fifth unit, which creates an overall or spot 'matte' clear image. An additional device was shown which will provide an offline process which basically crushes, heats and polishes this clear toner, creating a high gloss surface. Although the offline device runs at half the speed of the press itself, the ability to create this high gloss surface garnered much attention. Xeikon showcased the upgraded Xeikon 5000, evolved from the DCP 500 D. It has all the features that have become Xeikon's trademark: true One-Pass-Duplex™, a unique width of 500 mm combined with virtually unlimited sheet length and the capability to print onto a wide variety of substrates. Amongst the numerous improvements to raise image quality to a higher level is the in-line densitometer, offering perfect front-to-back and color registration as well as color matching without the need for time consuming, manual intervention. The Xeikon 5000 can be equipped with a 5th (duplex) color station to add spot color, special toner for security applications or MICR toner, without impacting its printing speed. The Xerox iGen3 was on hand in force. Producing up to 6,000 full process color A4 (letter) 4/0 impressions per hour (100 impressions per minute) 600 x 600 dpi, 8-bit depth resolution, and Xerox patented 'dry inks'. With the iGen3 you have a choice of high performance RIPs: Xerox DocuSP Color Controller or Creo Spire Color Server. They also boast the ability to print on a wide array of stocks: coated, uncoated, textured, smooth, and specialty. After these four you really get into the realm of lighter-duty devices such as Canon, Konica, etc. Not that they don't play a huge role in the world of color image on paper--they do! In terms of sheer number of installations as well as pages produced, the less expensive machines are huge in the marketplace. But when describing the options for commercial operations of any magnitude, it is HP, NexPress, Xeikon and Xerox that are really the main contenders. And, as said earlier, there was no revolution conceptually for Digital Presses at DRUPA 2004, but the evolution was significant. Speaking of Evolution, DI Lives… When good CTP systems are matched with highly automated presses, the efficiency, cost and ROI are hard to beat There were some machines that I specifically tried to track down to see how they had progressed since last seen, like the Heidelberg SpeedMaster 74-DI, the Komori Project D 40" press, the Sakurai 74-DI and the Adast 74-DI. Well, I could still be looking for them. Where did they go? It seems that with the exception of the Karat, DI presses have been relegated to the two up market only. I suppose that this should not be a real surprise, as the economies of production with DI presses tend to drive the smaller, shorter market best. Shops with bigger needs have trended away from film to CTP, and when good CTP systems are matched with highly automated presses, the efficiency, cost and ROI are hard to beat, especially for shops with more than one printing press. However, it was still a little disappointing to see them gone. Rather than bore you with a blow-by-blow list of all the choices, suffice it to say that if you want a press in the 2-up size that makes its own plates and you like Heidelberg, or Ryobi, or KBA, or Screen, or Adast, or Presstek, you're in luck (did I miss any?). Otherwise, so sorry. Of continuing interest are the developments towards imaging cylinders on press that can be quickly created, printed for the necessary number of impressions and then re-imaged in just a few minutes for changed versions or completely new jobs. Man Roland, with their DICO technology has been developing this for years, and others are in the hunt. Remember… someday, and not too far away, presses will print at today's speeds, with traditional quality, and total variability and flexibility. According to Wifag, a supplier who provides specialized online imaging systems to web presses, "Someday All Newspapers Will Be Printed Digitally"… Of course, by then, we won't call it digital at all. We'll just call it awesome. So, How Else Did I Spend My Time? Naturally, I spent a lot of time just trying to take it all in, and visiting all the equipment manufacturers, speaking with friends both old and new. But, I have to say that I spent more time in demonstrations of software solutions than ever before. Online ordering, production management, automated workflows, pdf, jdf, bfd… I tried to see everything. It is enough to give you motion sickness, which, on top of all the lunchmeat they feed you three meals a day, can be a disastrous combination. If you don't have a system for online ordering, file creation, manipulation, management, etc., the time is coming when you probably will. Automated, integrated, online product ordering is becoming critical to commercial printers' long term success. Clients want speed and control. Print service providers want to save time and money by reducing touch points and limiting the opportunity for error. Companies like Printable have been in the business of providing such solutions for some time now, but there are many more companies involved now, and finding the solution that's just right for any particular provider takes some homework. So I looked at I-Way Prime from Press-Sense, DataLogics, GMC Software, PageFlex, XMPIE, EFI, ExStream, Group 1 Software, Printable, PrintSoft, Techno-Design, Arc Software, and more. I have to say that they all have value, each with different approaches and emphasis. I'd like to be able to judge them for you and give you a 'winner'. But, that would be too easy, right? It would also be impossible. Just as everyone has different needs, the solutions offered by these companies don't fit everyone the same. If you don't have a system for online ordering, file creation, manipulation, management, etc., the time is coming when you probably will. I strongly suggest that you invest your time in significant due diligence when it comes to these applications. The ROI on researching the right solution will payoff many times. So, I survived another trip to WurstLand. I learned a lot, networked a lot and even had a little fun. Worth the time? Worth the money? Absolutely. Will I go in 2008? Of course! See you there?