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Battle joined at drupa for the future of printing

Wednesday, 01 June 2016
By Patrick Howard
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Travelling printers at drupa: Robert Smithers, Kevin Maybury and Kelvin Gage of Sydney-based Dominion made the trip to 'touch the future' of printing.

Competing technologies stake their claim as manufacturers lean away from commercial printing towards developing products for packaging print.

Konica Minolta, HP, KBA, Xeikon, not forgetting the notable Landa Press all launched their drupa campaigns on the first day with aggressive claims of market leadership , either now or in the future. The technologies ranged between offset, inkjet, electro ink, toner and nano-ink.

Without exception they are targeting packaging as the main growth sector, confident it will drive the next generation of digital development in the same way the commercial printing industry did in the early years of the century. With the exception of wide format engines, packaging forms the foundation of the manufacturers’ ambitions.

The oft repeated claim that inkjet is the future of printing was contested today by both Alon Bar-Shany, the GM of HP Indigo, as well as his former mentor, Benny Landa, in favour of electro ink and nano particle ink respectively. The notion is that the water in inkjet limits the technology’s ability to print wide coverage saturated colour over most of a sheet. Other presenters attack toner as being unable to deliver the quality and range of colours of inkjet, while offset is dismissed as not being able to match the colour gamut.

The claims are made with the all usual certainty of promoters even as other versions of reality are being printed with facility in the many different halls through the Messe Düsseldorf.

While jealously guarding the cash flow that comes from commercial print the manufacturers’ strategy is to expand portfolios to somehow capture the folding carton, label and general packaging market. HP Indigo with its 20000 and 30000 presses has proved such a strategy can deliver success in extending the capacity of digital into the sector.

Konica Minolta’s technology demonstration of the massive KM-C, a B1 inkjet, builds on the commercial launch of the AccuroJet KM-1 B2+ UV press that first appeared at last drupa and which is finally now ready for delivery, is unabashedly aimed at packaging.

KBA has long been a player in packaging and is leaning more and more towards catering for the sector. This morning it announced the development of the KBA VariJET that uses a Xerox inkjet printing engine to power a folded carton press. While still a way off coming to market, its progress is in line with the general trend.

Then, of course, there’s the launch of the Landa Press where the focus now is on the packaging sector, with scarcely a nod towards commercial print. The value of the really quite amazing Metalography was couched almost entirely on what it can add to the packaging sector.

drupa is a great place to compare technologies as Shane Wildash and Andrew Price of Rawson Print Co are discovering.

The packaging focus of this drupa so far is understandable, given the slow decline of commercial document printing, but the belief that packaging printers are ready for digital technology or that commercial printers are eager to move into new areas is untested. What is incontestable is that commercial printing for printers and I dare say, manufacturers, remains a more lucrative industry than packaging. Let’s hope it’s not being ignored as manfacturers seek salvation in packaging.

I look forward to testing the idea further as this huge printing trade show rolls on.


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