DRUPA 2012: A report from afar

Like most people in our graphic arts community, I was unable to attend the international printing and paper expo—DRUPA 2012—in Düsseldorf, Germany this year. The trade show, which is held every four years, took place May 3-16 at the Düsseldorf Fair Grounds. DRUPA—a contraction of the German words for printing (druck) and paper (papier)—is by far the biggest and most important printing industry event in the world. This year the exhibits covered 1.7 million square feet of floor space and were on display in a total of 17 halls.

Having attended the expo twice in the past, I was very keen to follow the industry news reports—primarily from WhatTheyThink.com—and official DRUPA press releases as they came in each day. However, this year it was also possible for the first time to follow the event from social media streams. Through numerous YouTube and Twitter posts—from exhibiting firms as well as by attendees—it was possible to get a real-time view of what was happening.

Among the most important news from the show came after it was over. DRUPA 2012 saw 314,500 experts from more than 130 countries attend; this was 75,550 less than 2008. “This drop does not come as a surprise for us and the sector as a whole. In Germany alone the printing industry lost some 3,900 operations with over 61,000 employees between 2000 and 2011. In the USA over the same period more than 7,700 printing operations closed,” explained Werner Matthias Dornscheidt, President & CEO of Messe Düsseldorf.

There were other international dynamics in evidence at DRUPA, as the final press release from the show explained. “With more than 190,000 foreign visitors the international focus of DRUPA continues at a very high level. What is striking here is the high number of trade visitors from India, which, now reaching some 15,000, ranks as the second largest visitor nation after Germany (123,000 visitors). Following behind these two in the country ranking is: Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, the USA, Switzerland and Italy. It is particularly gratifying to see the rising proportion of visitors from South and Central America (8.8% in 2012 compared to 7% in 2008)—and more specifically from Brazil.”

You can read the DRUPA 2012 Final Press Release here, http://ilnk.me/10708

Moving on to the technology of the show, you can find a summary of all the DRUPA news reports from WTT.com both before and after the show here, http://ilnk.me/1072b

The major developments were clearly in digital printing with various inkjet-printing devices taking center stage.  And the biggest news from DRUPA was the launch by Landa Corporation of a new category of printing called nanography. Benny Landa, the founder and CEO of Landa Corp., is the godfather of the digital printing revolution. After he invented the Indigo press—the first full-color variable data printing device—in 1993, Landa then sold this technology to Hewlett-Packard in 2003.

Landa’s new nanographic technology is distinct from other forms of digital presses in that it does not begin from the business proposition associated with variable data printing. Previous digital printing devices have attempted to compete for marketing and communications dollars based upon the value of personalized content. Nanography, while it offers this capability, more importantly makes a business claim on a substantial spectrum of static print media currently dominated by the offset method.

The DRUPA standing room only crowd at the Landa Nano exhibit

The basic ideas of Landa’s new solution are found in the following excepts from his DRUPA presentation:

“Everything that can become digital will become digital and that includes printing. Since 1993 when we launched it, digital printing has exploded. … And yet, digital printing barely nibbles around the edges of mainstream printing. Only 2% of printed pages are printed digitally. This is why we have invented nanography; for the other 98% …

“I bet there is not one person in this hall that believes that 200 years from now man will communicate by smearing pigment onto crushed trees. The question on everyone’s mind is when will printed media be replaced by digital media. … It will take many decades before printed media is replaced by whatever it will be … many decades is way over the horizon for us and our children. We are concerned about the coming decades and there the question we must ask ourselves is: ‘How can my business prosper as the printing industry transitions from mechanical printing to digital printing to whatever comes next?’ …

“Its all about the other 98%. And where is this 98%? You are already doing it. The trouble is, you can’t make any money from it. … There is no digital printing on the horizon or the foreseeable future that is going replace offset. Offset will be here for as long as we can imagine. … Digital printing was invented to be profitable at a run length of one, but the problem is that digital printing is also unprofitable as run lengths become longer and longer. That has created an enormous gap where neither offset is profitable nor digital is profitable. But that gap is where your customers need to be; short and medium run lengths and they can’t get it with you doing it profitably and that is why we invented nanography.”

The unique proposition of nanography is that it puts down elements of pigment onto any substrate in ultra small particles that measure in nanometers, one billionth of a meter, thus reducing the cost of basic elements of the printed image. The Landa Nano technology has been so impressive that agreements have been signed to license the printing method by Komori, Man Roland and Heidelberg. A summary of the technical and business issues in nanography can be found at the Landa website here: http://ilnk.me/10735

If you have time, you can watch a 47 minute video of the entire Landa presentation, which was standing room only at DRUPA 2012, courtesy of Yair Zafrany, here: http://ilnk.me/1072d

In addition to the excitement around the Landa launch, there were also impressive digital printing presentations made by HP, Xerox and a number of other manufacturers. A summing up of these developments can be found in a YouTube video by industry expert Frank Romano published by Mohawk Fine Paper here: http://ilnk.me/10736

As has been the case in the past, the most important thing about DRUPA is that it is more about where our industry is going than about where it is today. So DRUPA is a kind of time machine that lets us look ahead a bit. It is my hope that the information reported here will at least provide an indication of what to expect this fall at GraphExpo 2012 on October 7-12 in Chicago. Hopefully, more of us will be able to attend that show and then we can compare notes. See you there!

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