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Business + Management: Marty Mcghie

From the Editor: Postcards from Drupa

Innovations in Düsseldorf surprised even the most stoic of industry experts.

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At press time, I had just returned from drupa in Düsseldorf, Germany. This 11-day printapolooza is without question the most significant event in our industry, where leading vendors trial balloon technologies they’re planning to bring to market over the next several years. I jotted down several themes I took away from the exhibition on the flight home, including a few that seem unlikely, even to me:

1. Print, by God, is cool again. Cooler, perhaps, than at any time in the 575 years since the Gutenberg press was developed. The range of applications on display was unprecedented, and new technology was everywhere, including a lot of surprises. This was my sixth drupa, and I’m not sure I can point to another that had more far-reaching implications for the future of this industry. The sense of excitement was palpable; even some of my friends in the press and analyst community, a jaded bunch by nature, were downright giddy.

2. Print may be just as big as ever. Yes, we’ve seen attrition in the number of commercial printing businesses worldwide, along with inevitable decline in markets such as documents and business forms. But anyone who came to drupa looking for proof that print is a dying industry surely left disappointed. All 19 halls of the massive Messe Düsseldorf trade center were sold out. More than a quarter of a million people attended. Daily attendance from the previous drupa in 2013 was up, allowing for the fact that the show was three days shorter.

3. The word that best sums up where print technology is headed is “automation.” The dominant theme of previous drupas I’ve attended was technology displacement, with a sort of invisible demarcation line separating vendors into an analog camp on one hand and the digital developers looking to supplant them on the other. This year, the focus shifted to efficiency regardless of the base technology and application. In this vein, numerous exhibitors showed prototypes of hybrid technologies combining many analog and digital technologies.

4. Wide-format technology was quiet … or was it? Although the major vendors showed their latest models, I had seen most of them before. Perhaps this reflects the importance of the two major shows serving this community (SGIA in the US and FESPA in Europe) and the need to get product to market quickly. Perhaps technology developers don’t have many frontiers in wide format left to conquer. Or maybe a better way to look at wide format’s role at drupa is to consider how breakthroughs that originated in our market are being liberally applied in new applications.

Stay tuned for more coverage of drupa in our August issue, where we’ll cover the most significant technology trends in more detail.

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Read more from our June/July 2016 issue.

 

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