Pauline Covell reports from drupa's recent media week conference
No one denies that the ‘super drupa’ of 2000 is unlikely to be repeated, least of all the show management. At the millennium show some 428,000 visitors came to see 1,950 exhibitors from 50 countries. This year’s Düsseldorf event expects 370,000 visitors, predicts president and ceo of Messe Düsseldorf Werner Dornscheidt.
“We all know that much has changed, not just since the attacks on New York. The world economy has faltered. The New Economy has crashed. Only now are we seeing signs of a recovery which could benefit graphic arts firms. A decline in visitor numbers from Germany and Central Europe looks probable,” he adds. “We expect a rise in visitors from other regions, particularly Asia.”
However, “in a phase when the upswing is stabilizing in Germany and print companies are re-orienting themselves, the timing for drupa 2004 could not be better. It is a wake-up call for the entire industry. Our 17 halls are once again fully booked with 200 firms still on the waiting list.” Some 1,800 exhibitors will take part. Reason for the apparent drop in numbers is that at the time of going to press many of the co-exhibitors on stands had yet to come through, reports the organizer.
If information given at this year’s drupa media event, held in late January is anything to go by the converting side of the business may prove an exception in terms of numbers and interest It is only at the last event that converting equipment suppliers were brought back into the drupa fold. Now converters can see presses and equipment in one place.
Says managing director of drupa Manuel Mataré: “Packaging seems a major growth factor. We have more exhibitors from the sector this year after re-integrating the converting sector in 2000. Drupa is a mirror of the industry.” And comments president of drupa Albrecht Bolza-Schünemann: “Aesthetics and high functionality are called for in the packaging industry – a segment with vast growth potential.”
Not only has converting and finishing been re-integrated into drupa. One trend at the show will be the integration of the entire production line. Adds Herr Bolza-Schünemann: “drupa is the symbiosis of ‘brainware’ and hardware. It will show how rapid advances in information technologies are influencing processes and machinery. The development of standard data formats such as XML, PDF, JDF and CIP4 is creating a workflow, which is changing communications interfaces both with customers and among company departments.
“But it is no IT shop. At drupa commercial data will be shown being linked with production data, printing and converting machines accepting data for automatic presetting, and digital presses using mainframe data to personalize mass produced printed products.”
Packaging print and converting are further acknowledged in their importance in the series of ‘Compass’ know-how sessions. Packaging printing is scheduled for May 10 and converting is on May 12. Including breakfast, they will take place in the Congress Centre, in English and German, from 9–11. A full programme and further details are available from www.compass-sessions.de.
Packaging print and converting is recognized by Heidelberg in the 700m2 space devoted to the sector in Hall 1 (Heidelberg exhibits in Halls 1 and 2). Although the company was not prepared to reveal any new equipment and specific developments, ceo Bernhard Schreier confirmed that the area would feature folder gluer, and cutting and creasing equipment from the Diana and WPM companies purchased from Jagenberg in January, 2003. It is understood that Gallus equipment will also be present. According to Bernhard Schreier we can expect some “very exciting topics, particularly in folding cartons.
“Nobody, including Heidelberg, will be able to sit back and relax at this year’s drupa,” he said. “This prestigious event isn’t a guaranteed triumph. Success won’t just fall into our laps. Sheer ‘navel-gazing’ won’t be enough this time. We have analyzed the expectations of our visitors in advance and drawn our conclusions from this. We will offer our customers a mirror image of reality in May, served up in various solution models. Visitors can enter the segment that best suits their situation and get advice there. Our goal, and this is especially true in the current climate, is to return our customers’ businesses to profitability.
“These segments will be linked together by Prinect, the Heidelberg workflow control system. There is a lot of talk about increasing productivity and reliability in production. We will be demonstrating how this talk can be translated into action. We are convinced that the theme of ‘workflow’ and the ability to trace and monitor the individual steps in the production process is becoming increasingly important for our customers. In times where volumes of orders are decreasing, cost effective printing is immensely important.
“Our motto this drupa could almost be ‘Printing using movable data’, if I may paraphrase Johannes Gutenberg, who invented printing using movable type.”
Dotrix adds converting
Recently purchased by Agfa-Gevaert, dotrix also views packaging converting as an important market. Ceo Rob Haak stated: “We want to create high added value in the industrial printing sector.” (inkjet printing press suppliers place packaging and converting under the ‘industrial’ heading.)
At drupa the company will launch a full printing and converting solution. It will demonstrate enhanced configurations of the company’s single-pass digital inkjet press – the.factory – designed for use in industrial print applications. Capable of printing 907m2/hour at widths of up to 63cm, the.factory is claimed to be the most productive industrial digital print solution available today.
Alongside the existing stand-alone roll-to-roll version of the press, the company will demonstrate its suitability for point-of-purchase and folding carton applications with the integration of a jumbo unwinder and sheet cutter. On show for the first time will be the.factory engine coupled with a jumbo unwinder and sheet cutter. Dotrix has developed a mechanical interface, which connects the components together and is said to “revolutionize the possibilities for in-line digital and conventional industrial production workflows”. The press is suitable for connection with standard finishing equipment, such as unwinders, rewinders, varnishing units and sheet cutting devices running at speeds to match those of the.factory.
In addition, the printing engine of the.factory – the SPICE (Single Pass Inkjet Color Engine) – can be incorporated into compatible, conventional OEM production solutions to provide a digital component with variable data capabilities to converting workflows.
The new the.factory has an improved UV curing system to increase the range of possible substrates. The cooled, double lamp system allows printing and curing on thinner foils commonly used for industrial print applications.
Added Rob Haak: “With industrial printing solutions you have to look at the total process. You have to improve all the steps – makeready, drying time, dealing with short runs.” Etienne Van Damme, of Agfa, said: “There is an immediate benefit from our meeting dotrix. It is an accelerator to establish inkjet as a production platform. It heralds our re-entry into digital in a better way than before. This is going to strengthen our position in a market we are very interested in, namely packaging. We see Agfa as bringing lots of technical benefits for dotrix.” As a company with a long history of R&D in chemistry inks, development is clearly one of those areas.
Digital plate making
Kodak Polychrome Graphics also sees the packaging market as offering significant growth. Revealed vice president R&D Dr Doug Edwards: “If you look at the technology of digital plate making in this area it is cumbersome and ripe for a new technology – new technology that we have.”
He expanded: “Obviously, we do have a lot of thermal technology, which we can bring to bear. And when I talk about it being cumbersome I am referring to imaging and processing time being very long, and moving digital for flexo in some respects complicates the plate making process. That is probably as far as I can go at the minute because we are looking at building a patent portfolio in the area. But I think there are some new technology solutions that can enable you to produce a digital flexo plate far more efficiently and faster.”
Jeff Jacobson, ceo, added:” I think it is also fair to say that with CTP in the packaging market today the customers don’t get the same benefits as with CTP in the commercial field in terms of throughput, because of the back end issues that Doug described. So when we do come out with a product we will look at the whole workflow. How do we take the time out and make it just as attractive if not better than commercial, that’s our goal. I am not sure when we will get there, but that’s our goal,” he affirmed.
For drupa KPG is planning a technology demonstration of its CTP plate designed for flexo packaging converters. The Flexcel NX CTP plate is said to deliver superior resolution and excellent colour reproduction on any packaging substrate – from the thinnest PP to the thickest corrugated board.
Compatible with CTP devices with a sensitivity range of 830-1,064nm, it can run on press with alcohol and water based, as well as UV inks. Flexcel plates are designed with wide exposure latitude and short drying times to meet today’s demanding quality and production schedules.
“It allows KPG to provide packaging solutions to meet the needs of all our customers. Packaging customers will be able to source lithographic aluminium CTP plates, a proofing system, film, and high quality flexographic conventional and CTP plates optimised for their market sector all from one supplier,” says Vic Stalam.
In a recently announced partnership, Inca Digital printers and Sun Chemical plan to introduce a new inkjet system to the sheet-fed corrugated market, where they believe the ability to print full colour quality graphics plus variable information in a single pass will be “a huge attraction to companies that produce primary packaging for slow moving consumer goods, as well as secondary packaging for fmcgs such as wine”.
The major launch will be in Print City, drupa, where the prototype demonstrated will incorporate an array of inkjet heads that will enable a print width of 520mm on substrates up to 700mm wide and 7mm thick. The drupa machine will print four colour images at 300dpi.
“The system will push CMYK inkjet technology to new limits in terms of quality, speed and format size,” says Inca’s director of marketing, Heather Kendle. “We anticipate that when we launch a commercial product during 2005 we will have the ability to print quality four colour print continuously at 100m/min.
“This means that the system could be printing 3,000m2/hour and with the resolution of 300dpi, we are looking at a product that will profoundly affect the corrugated board converting industry.”
Beta tests are planned for the second half of this year with key companies using substantial volumes of corrugated board.
“Full acceptance of PDF in the packaging environment has – due to inherent technical peculiarities – been slow. In the endeavour to achieve PDF standardization, drupa will represent a major milestone,” says Artwork Systems.
With the new version of its ArtPro and Nexus, the company offers a full set of software tools which allows the use of PDF in the packaging industry. To ensure full PDF acceptance, it decided to integrate Enfocus’ Certified technology. This means that when a PDF has been certified and thus preflighted with a certain standard profile, the receiver can confidently trust the quality of the PDF and run its content without taking any responsibility for it.
Artwork Systems says its strategy for the years ahead includes “focusing on core competencies of packaging, flexography, workflows and certified PDF technology”.
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