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Digital, packaging, automation and sustainability at drupa

Laurel Brunner writes, “Drupa 2016’s attendance and sales numbers show that print is in rude health.” (Just so this British idiom is not misunderstood – if someone’s in rude health, they are very healthy and look it.) Brunner writes this in the context of sustainability but I am quoting her so that our readers can benefit from the considered opinion of a savvy industry expert.

The overall drupa visitor numbers were down and less carpet area was sold than the previous fair but overall I would agree with Brunner’s verdict of rude health. And although signings of earlier agreed deals (and letters of credit still to come) are really behind many of the exuberant announcements at the show, we do have information from some exhibitors and Indian distributors that signings exceeded expectations as far as Indian printers and converters purchasing new equipment and technology.

Several exhibitors confirmed the high ratio of India visitors whose visibility was amplified by their improved ratio in the overall visitor numbers and their almost obvious inclination to make purchasing decisions. Moreover the show had a universal business buzz that was apparent when we met buyers from other markets including a larger than ever number of both early adopters and volume buyers of new technology. Significantly, a large and unprecedented number of Chinese printers attended this drupa whereas only Chinese exhibitors have been visible at the last four shows.

My interpretation of JP Bobst’s statement quoted above is that drupa had a predominantly analog buzz and business buzz for equipment and technology that is in serial production and ready for sale today – that the improvements in automation and productivity really dominated the show. These were all buyable products and while some will say who needs a high configuration offset press to run at 20,000 sheets an hour or diecutter running at 11,000 sheets an hour – the answer is that many printers including packaging printers from India. And packaging was truly centre-stage at this drupa – in both the improved and automated traditional offset, flexo, gravure and drum and toner digital technologies and in the still to come futurology of digital inkjet.

The improvements were in efficiency and automation – although the print industry is complex, it is also a pioneer industry in automation and Print 4.0 is leading Factory 4.0. These improvements extended to both prepress and postpress where the process efficiencies have become mindful of the need for short-run and personalized print. There were also significant improvements in the sustainability, security and safety of the printing process by several exhibitors at the show who showed complete solutions in collaboration with each other.

And from my side that was another lasting impression of drupa 2016. No manufacturer can survive alone or in fact by collaborating with just one partner. Diverse and flexible solutions are required both from printers and from print equipment and technology suppliers – the road ahead is for complex thinkers and complex processes and automation. And the next generation is up to this challenge.

– Naresh Khanna, editor@ippgroup.in, 9811172224

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