Archive for May, 2008

  • Simon Enticknap’s drupa blog #5 – The day of the digital

    If Day 1 of the press circus belonged to the traditional press giants, Heidelberg and manroland, Day 2 was definitely the day of the digital heavyweights (OK, so KBA also held its press briefing on Day 2 but never let the truth stand in the way of a good opening line).

    Kodak, Epson and EFI all made presentations to the media (and yes, all highlighted inkjet systems) while the two digital heavyweights, Xerox and HP, finished off the day with big media events designed to, in the case of the former, maintain its leadership position, and with the latter, stake a claim for the No1 spot.

    In contrast, Kodak held a relatively low key press briefing at the start of the day at which Antonio Perez, Kodak chairman and CEO, stated the company’s intention to achieve offset quality in everything it does (see drupa blog #4). The chief weapon in its armoury is the Stream inkjet technology which is shaping up as the one system that everybody else fears, if only because it is so much faster and offers better quality than anything else seen so far. The saving grace for the competition is that Kodak is still some way off bringing the technology to market (we’re talking years not months here) so there is a brief window of opportunity in which other companies can stake a claim for a slice of the digital pie.

    Certainly the boldness and confidence of the digital suppliers in claiming the future of the industry for the themselves has been a noticeable feature of the show so far, in contrast to the relatively cautious attitude of the offset press manufacturers. This was from Steve Nigro of HP: “People will talk about this drupa as the digital drupa, when digital became mainstream.”

    HP gave the most gung-ho presentation of all the suppliers with Vyomesh Joshi and Steve Nigro both pushing the message that the company is best placed to drive the conversion of the industry from analogue to digital processes and, in doing so, become the leading graphic arts supplier. Product announcements mirrored those revealed in the pre-drupa media presentations although there was also news that the new HP inkjet web press is due to go into three major customer sites in the US and Europe for testing.

    Where does this leave Xerox, still the leading supplier of digital print equipment and the company most responsible for taking digital print mainstream? In one of the more surprising presentations so far, it spent a good deal of its media briefing showcasing the fact that it too has inkjet technology, albeit in the form of a lab prototype which is still clearly many months away from ever seeing the light of day. All this talk of inkjet clearly has the company rattled; on the one hand, it points out, quite legitimately, that many of the inkjet systems on display from competitors are not expected to be ready until next year at the earliest, while at the same time it feels the need to showcase its own inkjet developments which are even further off the map.

    This is a pity because the toner-based products that Xerox does have ready to go now are first-class, including a new version of the iGen, now called the iGen4, plus improvements to the iGen3 which will continue in production, and a new ConceptColor 220 press which is effectively two iGens spliced together to deliver a full colour cut-sheet speed record of 220 pages per minute. A new Xerox 700 digital colour press is aimed at the entry-level digital production market, offering 70 pages per minute on stock from 64 to 300 gsm, A3 oversize. Everybody should take one home with them, quipped Xerox chairman and CEO, Anne Mulcahy, adding that such developments demonstrated Xerox’s commitment to retaining its No 1 position.

    “Others may choose to follow our lead but I promise you they will not catch up,” she warned.
    Xerox is still obviously the one to catch in this market – Mulcahy pointed out that the number of pages printed on Xerox machines is more than double the number of its nearest competitor – but is clearly looking over its shoulder at whoever may be sneaking up behind. Perhaps as a result, it seems that, from a Xerox perspective at least, offset is no longer the enemy; while other suppliers openly state that offset is in their sights, Xerox is happy to look at hybrid applications, even combining digital print with work produced on a Heidelberg SM52 press at the show to demonstrate the ability to offer the best of both worlds from a single workflow.
    And this from the company that once stated (and then retracted) that it was going to be bigger than Heidelberg. Funny how things come around, innit?

    Pictured above: Look behind you! Xerox CEO and Chairman, Anne Mulcahy, feels the shadow of competition closing in.

    Not all about inkjet

    With all the attention focused on production-type inkjet systems, it’s easy to overlook the advances being made in the high-end digital print sector where the likes of HP, Kodak and Xerox continue to deliver faster, better quality output. So far we have seen:
    • The new HP Indigo 7000 with a top speed of 120 A4 pages per minute, up from 68 pages per minute for the 5500 model which also gets some additional enhancements for thicker substrates and UV coating.
    • The new iGen4 from Xerox which is claimed to deliver 25 to 35 percent more productivity over its predecessor, primarily by eliminating the need to stop the press to add more developer. The iGen3 also gets an upgrade for faster set-ups and more accurate colour matching.
    • The new NexPress S3600 from Kodak with what it calls “dramatically increased productivity” and the fastest model in the S-series portfolio which also includes the S3000, S2500 and S2100 models.
    In addition, there is a wealth of options and add-ons being offered such as inline finishing equipment as the manufacturers target specific applications in labels and packaging. In fact, digital packaging is shaping up to be the next big battleground for these digital machines.

    Shock, horror, journalist turns down offer of beer

    We all know competition is tough in the graphic arts market, which must explain why Anne Mulcahy, Xerox CEO, at the end of her press briefing and knowing that the HP event was due to commence immediately afterwards, suggested that the assembled journalists should knock off for the day and retire to the Xerox stand for a beer.
    Now normally such an offer would create such a stampede capable of wiping out anybody who gets in its way but this time around even Print21 had to pass on the offer for the sake of the story. The HP conference was packed.

    Pictured below: Benny Landa, centre, is congratulated by Steve Nigro and presented with a cake to celebrate 15 years of Indigo.
    Having their cake and eating it
    Benny Landa, the Indigo founder, made another ‘surprise’ appearance before the media pack and was presented with a birthday cake to celebrate the fact that it is 15 years since the Indigo press first made its appearance. Proving that they eat, drink and breathe print (or indeed anything), the cake was subsequently consumed by the press. This led one wag (OK, I admit, it was me) to proclaim that while Xerox tried to have their cake and eat it too by demonstrating both toner-based and inkjet technology, HP simply ate theirs.

    News Flash

    The compact disc is making a comeback! Just when I had written off the CD as a digital storage media, it comes storming back into contention. Even digital media companies such as HP, Epson and EFI used discs as their preferred medium. It was left to Xerox to save the day for the flash drive, bringing the total so far to three, although in fairness we should point out that the CD now has a commanding lead. Of course, we all know that the mountain of paper handed out so far can be recycled, and CDs can be used to make interesting mobile sculptures, but what about the flash drives? Gathering dust in drawer somewhere still seems to be their likely fate.

    For previous drupa blogs click here.

  • drupa news: Epson launches Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900

    Two new Epson printers expand the company’s offering in the large format market.

    The Epson Stylus Pro 7900 (24-inch) and Stylus Pro 9900 (44-inch) were unveiled at drupa as Epson’s first ten-colour printers equipped with new pigment ink technology: Epson UltraChrome HDR (High Dynamic Range).

    Brightening up the colour gamut by incorporating orange and green into the ink set, both printers increase digital printing opportunities within the package and remote proofing market segments.

    Craig Heckenberg, (pictured) Epson’s business solutions manager, Australia, believes the 7900 and 9900 will be well received by the local market.

    "The Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 machines will set even higher benchmarks for photographic image quality and colour accuracy," he said.

    "These ten-colour large format printers are a completely new design, engineered to offer faster speeds and include the new Epson UltraChrome HDR ten-colour ink set as well as an optional onboard spectrophotometer."

    The Spectrophotometer works with both Epson colour management software and third party RIPs. For customers using the Epson printer driver, the software performs the complete process from print to measure and can calibrate all resolutions at the same time.

    Designed to compliment Epson’s Stylus Pro 450 and Stylus Pro 880 series, the 7900 and 9900 are aimed at those who require high-quality colour prints including prepress and printing companies, reprographic companies, quick printers, professional photographers, photo labs, fine artists, museums and galleries and graphic design studios.

  • Epson launches UltraChrome High Dynamic Range ink in two new 10-colour printers

    Epson launches two advanced ten-colour large format printers with optional integrated spectrophotometer that will change the way print professionals use large format printers.

    The Epson Stylus Pro 7900 (24 inch) and Stylus Pro 9900 (44 inch) are Epson’s first ten colour printers equipped with a revolutionary new pigment ink technology – Epson UltraChrome HDR (High Dynamic Range) ink. This ink set incorporates orange and green to considerably expand the colour gamut and increase digital printing opportunities within the package and remote proofing market segments.

    Epson’s UltraChrome HDR ink is a high density resin coated pigment ink formulation with three level black ink technology – photo black, light black and light light black – plus cyan, light cyan, vivid magenta, vivid light magenta, yellow, orange, and green. Matte black is also included on-board and can be auto-switched with photo black.

    This generation of UltraChrome HDR ink delivers reduced graininess in skin tone areas, smoother tonal gradation from shadows to highlights, excellent short term colour stability and outstanding long term lightfastness, highly accurate colour control with neutral black and white, and high gloss levels on water resistant prints.

    Reduced costs are realised through the introduction of two high capacity ink cartridges (350 and 700ml) which contribute to a lower cost per millilitre of ink.  These new high capacity ink cartridges also reduce the need to frequently replace cartridges which promotes greater unattended printing.

    Epson’s business solutions manager, Craig Heckenberg, (pictured) believes that both the Stylus Pro 7900 and Stylus Pro 9900 are breakthrough technology that will be well received in the Australian market.

    "The Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 machines will set
    even higher benchmarks for photographic image quality and colour accuracy," he said.

    "These ten-colour large format printers are a completely new design,
    engineered to offer faster speeds and include the new Epson UltraChrome HDR
    (High Dynamic Range) ten-colour ink set as well as an optional onboard

    The Stylus Pro 7900 and Stylus Pro 9900 have Epson’s MicroPiezo TFP(tm) (Thin Film Piezo) print head with 360 nozzles per inch for each of the ten active ink cartridges.  Epson’s Ink Repelling Coating for the print head and Automatic Ink Detection (AID) system combine to eliminate down time by minimising and detecting nozzle clogging before it becomes problematic, and to eliminate paper waste used during the cleaning process. 

    Epson’s AID technology uses a sensor near the print head that counts the electrical charges on the ink droplets as they are fired.  A lower than expected electrical charge means insufficient ink was fired, so the print head cleaning process starts automatically.

    In comparison with current 8 colour 24 inch and 44 inch printers, print speed is dramatically increased, with the Stylus Pro 7900 completing an A1 (720x720dpi) sellable quality print on Epson’s Premium Glossy Photo Paper in an amazing 5 minutes.

    Epson’s optional integrated spectrophotometer with mounting device uses the latest X-rite technology to provide automatic colour measurement data to the printer, allowing user profiling and linearisation, enabling professional colour management while at the same time reducing labour costs.

    The spectrophotometer works with both Epson colour management software and third party RIPs.  For customers using the Epson printer driver, the Epson software performs the complete process from print to measure, automatically, and can calibrate all resolutions at the same time.

    Epson’s new 16 bit Macintosh printer drivers combine many years of colour expertise with the superior colour range and tonal gradations of the Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900 and UltraChrome HDR ink.  With 16 bit processing more information is preserved as 16 bit traces the original image data with higher frequency than 8 bit processing. As a result, 16 bit images can now be faithfully reproduced from Adobe Photoshop CS3, delivering smoother gradations and greater image detail.

    The Stylus Pro 7900 (pictured, right) and Stylus Pro 9900 use Epson’s latest colour Look Up Table technology, an advanced algorithm that optimises colour consistency under different light conditions and further reduces image grain giving much smoother colour gradations.

    These new high end printers in the Epson large format range will compliment Epson’s Stylus Pro 450 and Stylus Pro 880 series, and are perfect for anyone who requires consistently high quality colour prints including pre-press and printing companies, reprographic companies, quick printers, professional photographers, photo labs, fine artists, museums and galleries, and graphic design studios.

    Specifications of the Stylus Pro 7900 and Stylus Pro 9900:

    * Professional media handling up to 24 inch wide (Stylus Pro 7900)
    * Professional media handling up to 44 inch wide (Stylus Pro 9900)
    * Epson’s UltraChrome HDR pigment ink technology
    * 11 individual high capacity ink cartridges (available in 350 or 700 ml capacity)
    * Automatic switching of photo and matte black inks
    * Optional integrated spectrophotometer
    * Epson Micro Piezo TFP print head with VSDT
    * Automatic Ink Detection Technology
    * Epson’s advanced image processing technology
    * Faster print speeds – up to 36% reduction in print time
    * Maximum 2880×1440 dpi print resolution at 3.5 pl droplets
    * USB2.0 and ethernet connections standard

    The Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and Stylus Pro 9900 will be available from selected authorised Epson professional graphics dealers in late spring at prices to be announced.

  • drupa blog # 3: Oce breaks the news

    On drupa opening day, Print21 found Oce Australia’s Herbert Kieleither casually reading that day’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Fairfax sent the PDFs over at 5pm Drupa time and within a flash they were into Oce’s Prisma workflow and printed out on the new Jetstream 2200 continuous feed full colour inkjet press.

    Using treated newsprint and Hunkeler trimming, folding and collating, all 42pp of the Herald were as you folks back home would have seen them, except  Oce replaced the back sports page with .. .err well a bit of self promo. The text was
    immaculate with colour just a tad flatter than the real Chullora offset job.

    Way to go big O!


  • drupa blog # 4: Game on with offset, says Kodak

    Forget all the talk about niche applications and ‘complementary’ technology, offset print is now the standard to which all digital print should aspire and eventually replace, says a bullish Antonio Perez, chairman and CEO of Kodak.

    Speaking at the company’s drupa press conference, Perez stated that the new Stream inkjet technology would eventually replace offset printing as the preferred imaging technology and that the goal of the company was to deliver offset quality in everything that it does.

    "We believe this technology is going to change the industry for ever," he said.

    Kodak is the latest digital print company lining up to stick the boot into offset with Screen, Epson and Fujifilm all announcing their intentions to slice into the commercial print market using inkjet technology. No doubt there will be more to come. Kodak, however, believes it has the edge over its rivals thanks to the superior speed and quality of the Stream technology. Ironically, Perez said the technology used in the Stream press had originally been developed to apply coatings to film, a market which is now practically extinct.

    In addition to the Stream press (pictured), Perez highlighted a number of new product offerings from Kodak including Prinergy Version 5.0 workflow, the new Colorflow colour management software, the Versamark VL2000 for the data printing market, a new higher speed NexPress S3600 digital press, the Flexcel NX flexo plate system and a new thermal CTP plate, the Electra XD.

    The Flash Drive
    Total to date: 2

    For previous drupa blogs click here.

  • Peak of packaging perfection: Print 21 magazine article

    In the seemingly unstoppable market for packaging, one company reigns supreme as the source of the most advanced production equipment on the planet. Simon Enticknap visited the home of Bobst in the picturesque town of Lausanne in Switzerland to find out what makes the company so successful.

    It’s appropriate that one of the most best-known things to come out Switzerland should be an item of packaging. The triangular-shaped Toblerone box is a staple item of duty-free shops around the world, a iconic packaging design that is instantly recognisable and representative of what it contains – triangular blocks of Swiss chocolate shaped to mimic the Matterhorn, one of the most famous Alpine peaks of the region.

    The Toblerone box does a lot more, however, that simply provide a container for the product; it is also a great example of how packaging can help to define and promote an item’s branding, making it stand out on the shelf not just because of its unique shape but also as a result of the various processes – printing, foiling and embossing – that characterise today’s packaging production. It really is a masterpiece of modern fabrication and assembly. (And to see how packaging can also help to make life more difficult for imitators, take a closer look next time at the Matterhorn logo on the box and see what lies hidden with in it.)

    It’s fitting then that such a distinctive package should come from Switzerland because that country is also home to one of the giants of packaging production, a company that has perhaps done more than any other to help define and develop the modern package. To find out more, I visited Lausanne in Switzerland, home to the worldwide Bobst group.

    Second to none
    The Bobst name has an unrivalled pedigree in the packaging world. The company began making its own equipment in 1915 and introduced the first Autoplaten die-cutter in 1940, establishing a brand and a technology that is to die-cutting what Hoover is to vacuuming. Over the years, the acquisition of well-known brands such as Schiavi, Asitrade and Martin saw the company extend its involvement into all sectors of packaging, not just board. Today, the company’s interests cover three main areas: the folding carton market including die-cutters and folder-gluers, the corrugated board market that encompasses both converting equipment and flexo presses, and the flexible packaging sector which comprises flexo and gravure printing.

    In Australia and New Zealand, Bobst is perhaps best known for its folding carton equipment, in particular its die-cutting and folder-gluer systems that can be found working in practically all the leading packaging companies in the region. Whilst the brand has always been popular in the region, over the past two to three years, since the local supplier, MAN Ferrostaal, took on the agency, Bobst has also enjoyed an unprecedented run of success locally with numerous new installations around the country.

    Everywhere you go, the Bobst name is regard as being synonymous with quality and its customers are known for their loyalty to the brand. Having once tried the equipment, they tend to find it hard to give it up even when, for financial reasons, they may be forced to look elsewhere. Nigel Tracey, sales and marketing manager, folder-gluers, at the Bobst headquarters in Lausanne acknowledges that this is often the case when new packaging players – usually former Bobst users – enter the market and start out by buying non-Bobst equipment because it is perceived to be cheaper, even if they would prefer have Bobst.

    "They often become some of our best customers because they’ve actually gone out and bought something else – and then they come back and buy Bobst," he says. "It’s disappointing at first but nearly always, because these were users who were used to the production and reliability they’ve had from Bobst machinery, within two or three years most of them come back to buying Bobst."

    Even in China, a market which is notorious for its reliance on home-made, cut-price copies of overseas equipment, there is a growing market for Bobst equipment and the machinery is regarded as something to which all packaging manufacturers aspire to own, not least for the kudos of being able to tell their customers that their packaging is produced on a Bobst.

    Something for everyone
    Being such a dominant player in the market can bring its own problems, however, and not just in the form of the ever-present threat of cheaper imitations from China. Several years ago, Bobst recognised that although it was dominant in the high end packaging market among the serious users, it needed to expand and diversify its product offering to suit different segments of the market and to spread its manufacturing base. Packaging is no longer a sector in which ‘one size fits all’ and, as a result, suppliers such as Bobst must respond by meeting the needs of an increasingly fragmented but globalised market.

    The days when a box was just a box are long gone. You only have to look at your local supermarket shelves to see the dazzling variety of shapes, forms, designs and substrates involved in today’s packaging production to see how far the market has progressed over the past couple of decades. In the high-end luxury goods market and the pharmaceutical sector, the changes have been even more profound with increasing demands for brand protection and security in packaging, all of which creates pressures on equipment suppliers to come up with new ways of working smarter and faster.

    The process of diversification for Bobst began in the late 90s with products such as the popular Evoline die-cutter made in Brazil (manufactured today in Shanghai specifically for the Chinese market) and the Media folder-gluer. Then at drupa in 2004, the company unveiled an array of new products including 12 world premieres in the most comprehensive overhaul of its equipment range for both folder-gluing and die-cutting.

    Today, the range of die-cutters includes entry-level machines such as the SPeria models manufactured in Brazil as well as the more advanced SPanthera and SPrintera models which continue to be made at Lausanne. With a choice of sheet sizes from 76cm up to a massive 162 cm, these systems come with a range of cutting, stripping and blanking options to suit specific production requirements.

    At Ipex in 2006, the company went even further and launched the Commercial 106 die-cutter which is targeted specifically at the commercial print market as a value-add proposition, allowing printers to either bring in-house or increase their productivity in areas such as die-cutting, embossing, scoring and perforating. This was a deliberate strategy by Bobst to step outside the traditional packaging market and address printers who may not have the heavy volume required to justify a top-of-the-line machine but who are looking to diversify into a range of niche markets. It’s an approach which has proven to be very popular in Australia with printers looking to move beyond the traditional Heidelberg Cylinder and deliver a higher quality, more productive service to their customers.

    In carton folder-gluers, the product range is equally diverse with models such as the entry-level Amazon manufactured in Brazil, the highly popular mid-range Fuego and Mistral models made in China for the world market, as well as the top-of-the-range Alpina II. Last year, two larger folder-gluers, the Visionfold and Starfold, were launched specifically to address the burgeoning microflute market that sits in between and overlaps the traditional carton board and heavy duty corrugated sectors.

    "The product range had to evolve, we had to be smarter on the folder-gluer side and with the die cutters," explains Tracey. "It’s taken us some time to get the right product mix overall because we want to be able to have an entry-level solution for the guy who’s starting out in business today, and we want to have a machine that the likes of Amcor or Carter Holt Harvey can put in and run non-stop for a year. So we’re now catering for both sides of the market."

    Time well spent
    Of course, none of this happens overnight and the danger is that while new products are being developed, the market continues to move in new directions. As Tracey points out, the secret is not in trying to determine what packaging producers want now but rather what they will be demanding in four years time. The ability of Bobst to do that successfully over the years, he says, is a result of its commitment to R&D, and not just in terms of coming up with new inventions for the sake of it.

    "The R&D teams are very customer-focused and we get them into the market as often as possible, which then allows us to come up with the right product," he says.

    For instance, for last year’s introduction of the Starfold and Visionfold folders, R&D teams interviewed more than 50 customers in a dozen countries to ensure that the machines’ specifications would ultimately suit what they wanted.

    "I think we do that very well," says Tracey. "Since the beginning of Bobst, that’s been one of our key strengths and it continues to be so today."

    At drupa 2008, Tracey promises more new releases, including new machines, as well as a focus on increasing productivity through higher speeds and shorter make-readies, improved quality with better registration systems, and improvements in operator ergonomics. It will, he says, be a new Bobst, and not just in terms of new models.

    Spreading the word

    Of course, getting the product into the marketplace is one thing but making sure it does what it is supposed to do is quite another. This is where the human factor comes in to play and, in particular, the transfer of knowledge that must occur between the supplier and the customer. Nigel Tracey says that while Bobst is quite happy to demonstrate that its machines can run at a certain rate, for hour after hour, and back up that commitment in writing, the real satisfaction comes when a customer returns to Bobst and shows they can run the equipment even faster or more efficiently than the Bobst experts. In effect, they become their own experts at what they do.

    "We want those people to be surprised at what the solutions can do and not be disappointed," he says. "We should always strive to deliver more than we promise."

    Closely related is the issue of service, an area in which Tracey admits Bobst has faced "a very big challenge" in recent years, not least because of the number of new machines and technologies hitting the market.

    Raphaël Indermuehle, marketing and sales manager, SP die-cutters, says service has been a key point of focus for Bobst in Australia, and that the company has been working with MAN Ferrostaal to assemble a home-based team capable of looking after the growing number of Bobst installations. Last year, this involved drafting a specialist SPrintera operator from Dublin to move to Australia to help customers with specific issues and to assist with training and start-ups.

    "He knows the machines inside out and he was ready to join us and go to Australia," says Indermuehle. "He’s one of the best instructors we have around the country and very much appreciated by customers."

    Indermuehle knows as well as anybody the pressures on Bobst in markets such as Australia that are much closer geographically to Chinese manufacturers who are able to produce clones of Bobst machinery at a much lower cost. Nevertheless, he believes there is much more than just price involved when it comes to buying a ‘photocopied’ machine.

    "You can always make a photocopied machine but where is the know-how? If you don’t know what you are doing when you assemble the machine, how do you adjust it for different needs, how do you adjust the synchronisation of all those parts together? And when it comes to installing the machine, how do you explain to the customer how to run it?," he comments. "If photocopying worked, we would never sell another machine but in fact we sell more machines today than ever before."

    A tradition of expertise

    A tour of the Bobst facilities at Lausanne reveals something of the real depth of knowledge and expertise that has been acquired by the packaging giant over many decades of working in this field. It’s a huge manufacturing enterprise, spread over two main sites encompassing a mind-boggling array of processes and inter-related activities, and yet not surprisingly, it all looks so orderly and composed.

    The older site at Prilly is an impressive demonstration of the engineering skill of the Bobst manufacturing process, featuring row after row of milling, polishing and metal turning equipment that underlines the precision engineering that lies at the heart of the Bobst machinery. One of the most impressive aspects of this site is the training facility that provides instruction to around 270 apprentices who are employed by Bobst and trained to become the workforce of the future. Approximately 70 new apprentices start each year (selected from over 1,000 applicants) to be trained in the Bobst method, and their classrooms and work areas are a testament to the tradition of high engineering standards that Bobst seeks to maintain.

    The main facility at Mex on the outskirts of Lausanne is where the machines are assembled. Currently there are plans to close the Prilly site and move all employees to a new facility at Mex so that the entire manufacturing process can take place on one site. Preparation for the move is already underway with the setting up of a new demonstration area at the Mex facility to showcase the range of Bobst folder-gluers and die-cutters. It is here that visitors can experience the real extent of Bobst’s on-going product development for the packaging market.

    Showing me around the facility, Bernard Vionnet, product support manager for folder-gluers, says that every year Bobst receives dozens of requests from customers for help with new packaging designs and configurations, and that in 99% of cases, the Bobst technicians are able to come up with a method for producing the package efficiently and effectively. It is also here in the demo area that it’s possible to see some of the Bobst peripherals designed to address specific production issues, such as the Gyrobox, a clever device which turns the box on a folder-gluer enabling folds which would normally require two passes to be done in a single pass.

    There’s also the Accubraille inline brailling system that addresses the mandatory requirement in the EU for information to be added to certain types of pharmaceutical packaging in Braille. Vionnet explains that using Accubraille inline on the folder-gluer as opposed to embossing on the die-cutter is a much more efficient process and ensures a higher quality embossed result as well as lower tooling costs – a very clever device indeed.

    And if you do ever make a visit to Bobst at Lausanne – and I would recommend it for printers as well as packagers – make sure you get to see the stores department at the Mex plant. It’s an amazing example of a robotic system capable of managing millions of spare parts stretching as far as the eye can see. It’s a spectacle in its own right and like the typical chocolate-box images of Swiss Alpine peaks disappearing into the distance, there’s not a human being in sight.

  • drupa blog # 1: manroland – the printer’s friend

    It’s usual to come to drupa expecting to find new technology but it’s not often that visitors also discover a new country, says Print 21 editor, Simon Enticknap.

    As of today, the nations of the world are joined by a previously unknown dominion called manroland, home to the fabled manro tribe. No-one is quite sure where this new country is located; rather confusingly, its leader, Gerd Finkbeiner, claimed that it could be found in more than 100 countries globally, so it’s possible that manroland is in fact more of a concept than an actual place, like Cloud Cuckoo Land, or perhaps a multi-site fantasy kingdom like Disneyland. We do know however that manroland has 9,000 inhabitants (also called employees) and that, far from being new, it is in fact 163 years old.

    Seriously though, the new brand name and logo for manroland soon had editors and journalists grinding their teeth at the potential pitfalls of using an all lower case proper noun. How to use it at the start of a sentence for instance? Is that Manroland, which risks offending the brand guidelines, or does one stick with manroland and end up looking like an illiterate idiot (God forbid)? The fad of using all lower case lettering (thanks drupa) and stringing words together to form one word is a modern disease spread by branding and style gurus with no feeling for the everyday use of language, let alone regard for the poor old sub-editor. What if we all spoke like that? itwouldlookreallystupidwouldn’tit? As well as making it very hard to communicate. Knowing where to put the big letters and gaps between words may make writing more of a challenge, but it does have a purpose nonetheless.

    So how much did manroland pay to come up with one word without those pesky capitals? Predictably, Gerd Finkbeiner wouldn’t be drawn on an actual figure but he did point out that the last time MAN Roland changed its logo from a blue arch to a silver arch it cost the MAN Group €1.7 million. This time apparently it was achieved for a lot less. Mind you, all this is good news for the printing industry. As Thomas Hauser, head of corporate marketing and communications at manroland, pointed out, everybody working in manroland must now have their business cards reprinted. Nice work if you can get it.

    They said what?
    In which we examine the many wonderful and bizarre ways in which marketing-speak is able to transform the English language into ever more incomprehensible forms. This example comes from MAN, oops, manroland, which gave us this definition of one of its core values:

    "Groundbreaking is who performs big."

    True, it has a certain poetic resonance, and you might be forgiven for thinking that it is an example of loosely translated German into English, but not so. This is sloganeering done performed big.

    And you can quote me …
    Markus Rall of manroland had a nice line in response to questions as to why the company had chosen to enter the small format market with the Roland 50. "Previously," he said, we were asked why don’t you have it. Now we’re asked why do you have it …"

    The Flash Drive
    If you think print media is under threat, spare a thought for manufacturers of digital media (no, seriously). Not too many drupas ago, journalists were happy to receive copies of all press releases on floppy disks – so much easier for cutting and pasting (not that we would do such a thing). Even as recently as the last drupa, images and press releases were routinely supplied on CDs, but now both these forms of digital storage are regarded as passé if not downright obsolete. Today’s PR digital media of choice is the flash drive. At a recent media event, I accumulated half a dozen of them from various companies, all with different designs and branding, so in the interests of keeping our readers up-to-date with current happenings in the digital world, I’ll be keeping a running total of flash drives at this year’s drupa. Oh, and any suggestions as to what to do with unwanted drives will be gratefully received.

    Total to date: 1 – a very stylish stainless steel number from manroland (pictured).

    (By the by, all the press and promotional material continues to be printed just as it always has, demonstrating perhaps that while types of digital storage media may come and go, paper just keeps rolling on.)

    Stay tuned for further updates and adventures live from drupa.

  • drupa news: Goodbye MAN, hello manroland

    MAN Roland kicked off the drupa press conference season with a new look and a brand new press for the small format market.

    German press giant, MAN Roland, used its drupa press conference to launch a new brand identity and logo for the company. The company will now be known as manroland AG (one word, all lower case) and has introduced a new logo to replace the famous MAN arch used by the MAN Group.

    Chairman of the executive board, Gerd Finkbeiner, said the new name and look was part of a continuing programme to position the company in preparation for its public float although he refused to be drawn on when that might be. It was incorrect however, he stated, to say that the proposed IPO had been postponed or was ‘on hold’ as no specific date for it had previously been made public.

    Finkbeiner went on to outline a number of core branding and values associated with the new company name. Among these, manroland aspires to be a "high performance business partner" to its customers while its core values have been defined as groundbreaking, reliable, determined and inspirational.

    Pictured: three wise men – Dr Ingo Koch, Paul Steidle and Dr Markus Rall.

    In terms of new products, the main development was the introduction of a new press for the small sheet size market. The Roland 50 press is designed for a maximum sheet size of 360 x 520 mm with substrate thicknesses from 0.04 mm up to 0.8 mm, making it suitable for printing on light board. Demonstrated at drupa in a five-colour model, the press includes many trademark manroland features found on the larger presses, including double-size impression cylinders and transferters for sheet travel.

    Gerd Finkbeiner commented that the addition of the Roland 50 to the company´s product line-up would enable it to plug a gap in its portfolio and appeal to a far wider group of printers, many of whom may subsequently go on to use larger presses.

    "We were in the past handicapped by not being able to cover that market," he said.

    Other developments in the sheetfed sector include perfecting for the Roland 900, of which two 4/4 machines have already been sold, and the addition of inline cold foiling on the Roland 500 model.

    In the web market, the presses continue to get bigger and faster. A test unit of a 96-page Lithoman heatset press is being demonstrated on the stand with a contract for the first installation due to be signed during the show. One new development is the Rotoman DynaChange which allows a fifth unit on a Rotoman press to be changed offline while the rest of the press is still running.

    Overall Finkbeiner was fairly upbeat about the prospects for the print industry and the future of manroland despite a downturn in the world economy and negative factors such as the high level of the Euro compared to other currencies.

    "If we see a couple of clouds in the sky, let’s not talk about a downturn," he said, pointing out that at the last drupa nobody had predicted an upswing in the market and yet that’s exactly what happened.

    "There are so many ugly things in the world," he commented. "We just have to deal with it."

  • drupa blog # 2: Dance of the Heidelbergs

    The Heidelberg press conference was packed with journalists jammed together in hall 2 in front of the new Speedmaster XL 162 press which looks enormous.

    Mind you, it’s not surprising that the space was so tight given the amount of gear that the company has on its stand – probably the most complete and comprehensive collection of offset printing and finishing gear ever assembled in the history of mankind. Now that’s got a nice ring to it.

    Impressive though it was, the highlight of the evening was the entertainment that followed in the Heidelberg hospitality tent just across the road from the showground. Well, they call it a tent but in truth it’s a ready-made banqueting hall complete with fountains and specially commissioned works of art.

    The star turn, apart from Bernhard Schreier’s welcoming speech, was a dance troupe from New York who performed a truly amazing ‘shadow-play’ history of print and the written word – it had to be seen to be believed. This was followed by a high energy (or Hei-energy as Schreier called it) dance routine to which the assembled journos gave a standing ovation.

    Say what you like about Heidelberg but they sure know how to do it in style.

    Deer oh deer
    Has Heidelberg let Bambi loose in the print halls? Scattered amongst its machinery are these stuffed reindeer whose purpose or symbolism is a little uncertain. Something to do with the environment methinks. Anyway, it makes for a very nice photo op – everybody say Aaaaah.

    The Flash Drive
    Amazingly, no flash drive from Heidelberg! What are we to make of this? Interestingly, there is a receptacle in the press kit to hold a flash drive but no drive … Did they simply forget? Anyway, we’ll have to make do with using the enclosed CD. That’s, like, so yesterday.

    For previous drupa blogs click here.

  • drupa news: Mellow Colour sets the standard for printers

    Mellow Colour’s latest version of PrintSpec ISO 12647 software helps printers get the specifics.

    Launched at drupa, the software allows printers to generate ISO 12647 pass/fail reports from the small PrintSpec strip placed along with production CMYK printed work. PrintSpec reports include ISO12647 pass/fail information about the CMYK inks, the overprinted colours, the dot grain (TVI) and grey balance. A configurable ‘percentage of ISO excellence’ scoring system is built in.

    Printers who adhere to such standards can expect to reap the benefits, according to Alan Dresch, director of Mellow Colour. "To implement PrintSpec and meet ISO standards, a printer is demonstrating technical commitment and a progressive approach towards standardisation," he said.

    Mellow Colour believes that PrintSpec offers a distinct marketing advantage in colour critical printing. From a print buyer’s perspective, it is attractive when a company prints to the common standard, ISO 12647.

    Dresch admits that Mellow Colour has experienced customer concern about adopting new standards, but he encourages them to print to standards through this software. "By the end of an implementation, we usually find our customers are inspired and motivated by this structured approach to colour quality control," he said.

  • drupa news: Heidelberg still the ‘hei’ light of drupa

    Heidelberg today unveiled the most comprehensive range of equipment for the commercial offset and packaging market including new presses, finishing equipment, platesetters, workflow and consumables. Print 21 editor, Simon Enticknap, was there.

    At a press conference held in hall 2 at drupa, one of two halls dedicated to Heidelberg equipment, Dr Jürgen Rautert, member of the Heidelberg management board, outlined the company’s extensive portfolio including nearly two dozen new products and solutions.

    Highlighting the fact that the cost of print has fallen by nearly 50 percent over the past decade, partly as a result of productivity improvements introduced by Heidelberg, Rautert said it was wrong to talk of price erosion in the industry.

    "I call that innovation, not price erosion," he said.

    Spread over 7,800 square metres, the exhibit is split into two main areas with commercial print in hall 1 focusing on long perfecting and small to medium format solutions, while hall 2 is dedicated to packaging and large format solutions.

    Pictured: Dr Jürgen Rautert introduces the new Speedmaster XL 162 press.

    Centrestage at the presentation was the new Speedmaster XL 162, the biggest press in the Heidelberg range, but other presses on display also included a new press for the medium format market, the Speedmaster XL 75 exhibited as a 10-colour perfecting model, a six- colour Speedmaster XL 105 running alcohol-free with UV inks and a 10-colour Speedmaster 52 with Anicolor which now supports Pantone colours.

    Also in the press arena, Heidelberg demonstrated a new dedicated embossing and coating unit for the XL 105 that uses sleeve technology for applying an overall embossing or UV coat to a printed product. Heidelberg claims that switching between embossing and coating takes just minutes and that the use of sleeve technology will make embossing a much more cost-effective process.

    The product launches in other areas were equally impressive including a new Suprasetter 190 platesetter for the large format market, new high speed Stahlfolder TH 82 combination folder, and Dymatrix 106 Pro CSB die-cutter which features the same feeder as the XL 105 press for tighter integration into the Prinect workflow.

    Two of the most interesting product announcements however were not at drupa at all having previously been launched at the Interpack packaging exhibition at the same venue a few weeks earlier. These include the Linoprint, an inkjet system for short-run packaging print onto flexible substrates, and Linoprotect, an anti-counterfeiting system that combines stochastic print and digital phone cameras to enable consumers to verify the authenticity of products such as medicines.

    Pictured: a snap shot from the Heidelberg stand.

    In other news, Heidelberg also announced the launch of a new Eco Printing award with a prize fund of €50,000 for to be awarded in two categories, ‘Sustainable companies’ and ‘Forward-looking solutions’. The competition is open to Heidelberg and non-Heidelberg users alike with applications to be submitted between June 1 and July 31 this year. The winners as judged by an independent panel will be announced in December.

  • PBL stays silent on talk of ACP print centre

    Talk of PBL Media installing its own print centre for ACP Magazines continues to baffle those in both the printing and publishing industries.

    Media reports claim that ACP staff have been told that the company will have its own printing centre in two years. However, John Rowsthorne general manager of operations at PBL told Print 21 that this was speculation.

    “No decision has been made yet,” he said.

    In response to mounting suspicion, PBL’s chief executive, Ian Law, offered only the evasive comment earlier this year that: "We continue to look at out options, including the economics of installing our own printing facility."

    The prospect of such a development would have a major effect on companies such as PMP, which has contracts to print ACP’s magazines. Press manufacturers are also abuzz with quotes sought from the three hot favourites: Goss, MAN Roland and KBA who will each be fighting it out to supply equipment if and when the printing centre goes ahead.

  • Merger is just super for print and media staff

    Superannuation funds Print Super and Just Super merge to form Media Super.

    With 110,000 members and 12,000 employers across the printing, media, entertainment and arts industries will have access to Media Super. As part of the merger, which takes effect on 1 July, Gerard Noonan will become chair of Media Super, and Ross Martin will be chief executive.

    Noonan said that there were obvious synergies between the two companies, and that it made sense to merge. "Both Print Super and Just Super have been closely involved with the industries in which our members work," he said. "As Media Super, we will continue to offer superannuation services that cater for the particular needs and challenges of those industries."

    Both funds have worked diligently over the past 12 months to ensure a smooth transition for members and employers, while also being able to offer a fund structure that delivers benefits.

    "Media Super will unite the complementary industries Just Super and Print Super currently serve and build on that very strong foundation," said Martin.

    "The resulting economies of scale will deliver benefits to members of both funds, particularly over the long-term. This should mean low fees, improved investment opportunities and enhanced products and services."

  • It’s on – drupa 2008 is open!

    The printing industries four-year annual mega-party kicked off two hours ago at the Messe (fairground) Düsseldorf on the Rhine.

    The most anticipated graphic arts show of them all, drupa has retained its drawing power, increasing in scope and size as it plans to admit some 500,000 visitors from all parts of the globe.

    Simon Enticknap, editor of Print 21, is on the spot, already posting news and views on the greatest exhibition of printing technology over the massive 19 halls at the Messe. Already the fun has begun with the first pre-drupa press conferences where rival German press manufacturers try to one up one another with initial announcements. Read Simon’s unvarnished views below.

    Over the next 14 days he will lead the Print21online team of journalists and industry experts, including publisher, Patrick Howard, in reporting on the events, releases and personalities of the greatest graphics show on earth.

    Be sure to check in here on a regular basis and keep up to the minute with the new and traditional forces that are shaping your industry.

  • Commercial Interest: Equipment for Sale

    Following on from the report in Print 21 online  regarding the Valley Edge Design Centre and Rallings Print Group merger, Brad Low, managing director of Rallings Print Group informs us that RPG will now focus solely on the roll to roll label and packaging market.

    Brad chose Valley Edge Design Centre to handle the offset side of his business because of their attention to detail and focus on customer service.

    As part of this move, Rallings Print Group have some surplus equipment for sale. These include: a 1997 Heidelberg SM52-5-H five colour printing press; a 2005 Heidelberg QM46-2NP two colour printing press and a two 1998 Horizon Vac 100; 10 bin collators with SPF20 Stitch/Fold and FC20 Trimmer Unit.

    These items can be viewed at or contact Brad on 1300 8 LABELS.

  • drupa news: We are print, says manroland

    manroland makes its mark on drupa with a new company logo and motto encompassing al 4000 square metres of its floor area: We are print.


    CEO Gerd Finkbeiner (pictured) believes that the new manroland AG has a significant part to play in the international printing industry. "As the world’s number one in web offset and number two in sheetfed offset, manroland is a driving force and inspirational part-ner to the printing industry," he said.

    "This strength is reflected in our new corporate appearance which, among other things, signifies our separation from the MAN Group and shows we are an independent company totally customer-oriented with a high level of competence in providing systems and services."

    Thomas Hauser, executive vice president corporate marketing and communications, has high hopes that the makeover will attract visitors to manroland’s stand.

    "Under the motto We Are Print, it will be our great pleasure to welcome customers and all members of the printing community to the world of the new manroland at drupa," he said.

    Taking a walk in the sheetfed park
    The Sheetfed Park is to exhibit presses in all format classes and all of them printing alcohol-free. The Plus formats for the ROLAND 500, ROLAND 700 HiPrint and ROLAND 900, XXL permit more multiple-up images on a sheet.

    Added value in sheetfed
    drupa will also see the world premiere of the ROLAND 50, featuring XXL technology in the 36/52 format. With transferter technology and substrate flexibility, the ROLAND 50 sets new standards. Equipped with a 900 millimeters high-pile de-livery, the ROLAND 200 now has more efficient logistics and the ROLAND Inline-Coater smart increases product value. The same applies to the ROLAND Inline-Foiler Prindor, a cold foil transfer module which enhances the position of the RO-LAND 500 as a highly flexible production instrument. The multiple award-winning and make-ready time world champion ROLAND 700 DirectDrive has caused a sensation everywhere and can be seen at drupa in a ten-colour perfecting configuration. drupa will also see the official sales release of the format XXL ROLAND 900 with a perfecting system.

    Sailing through the VAP tunnel
    The VAP Tunnel makes the Value Added Printing strategy an emotional, multisen-sory experience. Technological components for increasing efficiency and product value are to be clearly explained with the aid of selected exhibits, and user benefits will be illustrated by practical examples.

    Some more park life …
    The Webfed Park – Newspaper
    In the Webfed Park manroland shows landmark developments in production effi-ciency. The automatic APL(r) plate changing system on the COLORMAN is bound to be a sensation because it is the first plate changing system in the printing indus-try to use robot technology. A hot topic in the newspaper segment is hybrid printing such as heatset-coldset combinations. As an alternative manroland will be showing an Innocure UV dryer on the COLORMAN. Further drupa themes are to be inte-grated inkjet printing applications during newspaper production and web width variability.

    The Webfed Park – Commercial
    A commercial web press exhibit will be a LITHOMAN with APL(r). Shortly after the successful launch of the 80-page LITHOMAN, manroland is already taking the next step. The concept is a 96-page LITHOMAN, and the printing unit with a 2,860 mil-limeters web width is bound to be a showstopper. At ROTOMAN printing units visi-tors can see for themselves how efficiently they produce and this will in future be even further improved with DynaChange for plate changing at full press speed. The new CutCon plus mechatronic system drastically reduces waste rates. Also new is the PFI-5 folder that uses multiple drive technology which provides significant cost advantages in high-volume printing. Moreover, the EUROMAN is sure to attract a lot of attention after its brilliant start worldwide.

    manroland is located in Hall 6, Stand D28.

  • Let the good times roll: drupa road show heads to Oz

    If you couldn’t make it to drupa this time around, don’t worry – it’s coming to you via the drupa unwrapped roadshow.

    Printing Industries will stage the roadshow in July featuring an array of drupa suppliers and printers who trekked the halls of the Messe Centre.

    Printing Industries‘ national communications and technical services manager, Joe Kowalewski, said the roadshow was designed not just to showcase new machinery and technology, but also the new innovation impact on the industry and on printing companies of all sizes.

    "The hundreds of drupa launches that occur over the next two weeks will provide an insight into where the printing industry is headed in the next few years and the opportunities this will provide," he said.

    "While the heavy metal side of the show is always a major attraction, printing industry products and processes are set for a major shift in direction over coming years and drupa will provide the first real insight into where this going.

    "Companies of all sizes need to know what their options will be. They will need to make investment and focus choices that will be more dramatic, and for many, more challenging than ever before.

    "Our intention with drupa unwrapped is to provide the insight and intelligence that will help them to better understand their options and to make those key decisions".

    Kowalewski said the roadshow would include presentations by AGFA, Currie & Co and Hewlett Packard, Fuji Xerox, Heidelberg, Tharstern Australia and Océ-Australia.

    "Our mix covers not only traditional and digital output solutions, but also MIS which has become a crucial business core," he said.

    "Print executives representing a mix of industry demographics will speak about their drupa experience, what it has shown them and the likely impact on their businesses.

    "We will also feature a ‘grass roots-style printers’ forum."

    Drupa unwrapped will be staged in Brisbane on Wednesday 9 July, Melbourne Wednesday 16 July, Perth Wednesday 23 July and Sydney Tuesday 29 July 2008.

    Registration information will be available from Printing Industries offices for all venues shortly.