The year-on-year global growth in demand for packaging has attracted many traditional equipment manufacturers as well as entrepreneurs. Every four years—and from this point forward, every three—drupa offers these suppliers the opportunity to get in front of a 300,000+ audience. Held in Düsseldorf, Germany, drupa is the world’s largest print exhibition by far.

Commercial printing categories are struggling to grow revenue and maintain margin as the digital age changes everything around us. Manufacturers are pouring R&D funds into the more lucrative packaging industry. Already, numerous pre-drupa announcements have given us a peek under the tent. As a result, there should be no doubt that drupa 2016 is shaping up to be a major digital packaging event. 

Top leaders, decision makers, and early adopters come to the show with specific investment intentions. Because drupa provides an insight into the direction of the industry, it is an event of global significance. At drupa 2016, the focus will be on the fast-paced digital transformation taking place in labels and packaging.

Brand Challenges

Brands face two major challenges with respect to packaging:

SKU proliferation causing complexity. In order to satisfy a broad base of consumers, brands have been finding it important to increase product choice.  SKU proliferation appears to have no end, and this creates a heavy burden on existing analog workflow systems. Analog equipment wasn’t created to deal with change—its function is to produce high volumes of sameness. Minimum-quantity orders cause waste, tie up capital in inventory, and drain resources. In a world of quick turnarounds, SKU proliferation is becoming a heavy burden for brands. 

Creating relevancy and engagement. Brands are looking to grow their consumer bases, and the means to achieve this is to create appeal through relevancy. Brand marketers now face the challenge of appealing to consumers beyond the retail shelves. The emergence of omni-channel shopping means that brands need to appeal to consumers online as well as through social media. The marketing rules on how to deal with all of this have not yet been written. Brand marketers are experimenting with using packaging as the easiest method to harmonize a consistent message across these channels. Brand marketers are accelerating their use of customized and personalized packaging worldwide.

drupa Will Offer Solutions to Brand Challenges

A flurry of pre-drupa announcements about new technologies on the show floor can be sorted into two major categories:

Digital printing presses. The traditional analog press manufacturers have suffered revenue loss during the last decade. They will all be offering digital print presses during drupa 2016. The halls will showcase digitally printed labels and packages in live production. 

Digital end-to-end workflow. The digital print revolution started with the invention of the digital press more than 20 years ago. Today the digital journey goes beyond the press.  Manufacturers and software providers are closing the gap in the workflow by creating digital end-to-end solutions. Software and cloud-based platforms to drive web-to-print solutions along with digital decoration and finishing will be unveiled and demonstrated.

Some Highlights In Labels and Packaging

HP is hosting the largest booth as the digital print industry leader and brings a complete portfolio of label and packaging presses. Likely the most impressive device will be the HP Indigo 8000, which according to HP prints at twice the speed previously available in this category of equipment. The narrow-web HP Indigo 8000 will accelerate the industry’s crossing the chasm to digital and going mainstream with it in several verticals.

Esko will demonstrate an improved tool set to optimize the ideation, printing, and finishing workflow.

Highcon has announced a suite of digital creasing and cutting products, including a high-speed machine for high-output sheetfed converters.

XMPie (a Xerox company) offers storefront software that integrates with presses to create personalized documents and e-mail campaigns. Now it has entered the labels and packaging marketplace by partnering with various manufacturers to provide label and package printers easy access to an online business platform for their clients.

Landa Nanographic Printing has chosen drupa 2016 as the site for the commercial release of its B1+ sheetfed and 41.3" web presses. Also to be shown is “Landa Nano-Metallography,” a metallization technology said to provide results at half the cost of conventional foiling.

Heidelberg has announced that part of its digital printing portfolio will be a B1-format press based on inkjet technology from its development partner Fujifilm.

DataLase will launch Variprint, an inkless-color marking technology for virtually any substrate. The focus for DataLase is digital inline printing of labels and folding cartons.