2016 marked my fourth drupa, and it was the best of all of them. I think other attendees, and certainly exhibitors, would agree with that. With more than 260,000 visitors from 188 countries over 11 days, and 1,837 exhibitors from 54 countries, it was a busy show. And visitors were in a buying mood: almost daily, huge deals were being announced.

Following the show, I identified 6 key trends that will impact our industry over the next four years and beyond. Perhaps the best news to come out of drupa was its retraction of the move to a 3-year cycle, so we’ll be gathering in Düsseldorf again in 2020!

  1. A very positive picture for the printing industry in the coming months and years, with companies again beginning to make significant investments after a long and difficult global economic period.
  2. Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, is well underway for print. Many of the vendors, including formerly hardware-intensive Heidelberg, were talking about the need to go beyond the press for a total solution.
  3. Digital direct to corrugated printing kind of came out of nowhere. At drupa 2012, BOBST was the only company that was really talking about this capability, showing print samples to interested visitors. While the company did not have the press in its stand during this drupa either, samples were again being shown, and it garnered the prestigious Digital Press for Corrugated Board award from the European Digital Press Association (EDP). But add to that the EFI Nozomi C18000, HP’s PageWide C500, and offerings from Konica Minolta, Screen/BHS, Durst and others, and what you have is a new mantra for corrugated: It’s not just a brown box anymore!
  4. Digital embellishment is trend number 4. While many of these solutions have been in the market since drupa 2012 or before, their speed and functionality continues to increase. As digital printing continues to gain a larger foothold in both commercial and package printing, post-press can be a bottleneck. Shorter runs, faster turn times and demand from brand owners for sophisticated finishing that will make their products stand out on the shelf are key drivers here. Vendors such as Scodix, Highcon and MGI led the way here with products that are available today, and there are others coming soon.
  5. Another hot drupa topic was Extended Color Gamut printing – also referred to as Fixed Color Palette Printing. It seems that everyone was talking about this – Asahi Photoproducts, Kodak, Heidelberg, X-Rite Pantone, Esko, and more. While adoption of this strategy seems to be more aggressive in the world of flexography, the concept applies to offset and digital as well. In an ideal state, using CMYK/OGV inks delivers great quality and more than 90% of Pantone colors. But it is also interesting to note that according to the Pantone Extended Gamut Guide, no color requires more than three inks, so digital presses with a fifth station can take advantage of this technology to a limited extent.
  6. Finally, 3D printing was in the forefront. While 3D printing, also called Additive Manufacturing, has been primarily targeted at the manufacturing industry, there were several vendors at drupa with solutions targeted specifically at the graphic arts market, including MASSIVit, Z-Verse, Konica Minolta and Mimaki. Printing on 3D objects also got a lot of attention and was demonstrated by Heidelberg, Xerox, Mimaki. The future is dimensional!

We saw many of these trends play out through the balance of the year, and it will be important to keep our eyes on them as we move into 2017 and beyond.

In Other News …

  • EFI continued down its acquisition and diversification path, most notably acquiring Optitex, a software solution that extends its offerings in the textile printing ecosystem. The company also broadened its relationship with Konica-Minolta which now includes Fiery, Wide Format and Cloud-Based MIS Solutions.
  • IDEAlliance and Epicomm merged, creating a mega-association that encompasses an amazing array of talents, services and certifications, now known as Idealliance (I liked the capital letters better!)
  • Long-time NPES CEO Ralph Nappi retired, and Thayer Long was appointed to fill the role. Long is from outside the industry, and it remains to be seen what fresh thinking will be brought to the organization – and to Graph Expo/Print. Attendance in Orlando was down, though it reflected drupa in terms of visitors being in a buying mood. A common comment from exhibitors was that, more than ever, visitors to the show knew exactly what problem they were trying to solve and had narrowed the number of exhibitors they were looking to speak to.
  • Canon launched its One Canon initiative, and we were able to get insight directly from Mr. Adachi about what this means for Canon and for the industry.
  • We’re always looking for companies pursuing innovative solutions. A chance encounter at Graph Expo revealed the unique approach to personalized video undertaken by Fenske Media. Worth a read!
  • Cimpress, the parent company of Vistaprint, and its CEO Robert Keane, were in the news, most recently with the acquisition of National Pen. The company did a lot of deals at drupa in its quest to become the leading global platform for mass customization, moving upmarket from its SOHO roots (but still aggressively serving that market). The company executed large purchase agreements with HP Indigo, agreed to partner with Landa Digital Printing, and more. 2015 marked several acquisitions by the company as well.
  • Speaking of large equipment acquisitions, we had the opportunity to visit Shutterfly and learn about how the rapid installation of 20 HP Indigo 12000s post-drupa affected its peak season productivity, as well as Thomson Reuters Core Publishing Service. Although their business models and markets addressed are quite different, they both are outstanding examples of lean manufacturing at work. Look for articles and videos covering those visits.
  • We had the opportunity to speak with Joel Quadracci, CEO of Quad/Graphics, in Orlando, and it is always a pleasure and very enlightening to hear his thoughts about the future of the industry.
  • 2016 also saw heavy conference activity on the part of users groups. These groups, including Dscoop, thINK, EskoWorld, EFI Connect, XMPie, the Graphic Users Association, the Konica Minolta dealer convention, and more, are great venues for education, networking, and finding solutions for business problems and business growth. Will they edge out traditional trade shows? It remains to be seen …
  • The Pantone Color of the Year was Greenery … let’s hope it foretells a more tranquil 2017.

This just scratches the surface of what was a very busy 2016. Be sure to peruse WhatTheyThink over your Holiday eggnog to catch any news, videos, webinars or white papers you missed during the year.

We’ll see you in 2017 – which is shaping up to be even busier!