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Drupa Snooper – A tale of two drupas

Wednesday, 09 May 2012
By Andy McCourt
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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us…” Andy McCourt feels that Charles Dickens´ opening words from A Tale of Two Cities might well apply to drupa 2012.

Greetings from Dusseldorf, Germany where I am attending two trade shows. Two? Well they are both called drupa and co-located, in fact it is drupa but there are two distinct themes running through the 17 fairground halls; a dichotomy of ideas, culture and approach to our industry. Analogue and digital? No, not quite. Old technology and new technology? No. Electronic and paper-based communications? Not even that – if archaeologists unearth a tablet computer in 1,000 years time, it won’t work and will remain a mystery of Rosetta Stone proportions. “We believe that early 21st century humans used this item in religious ceremonies where the high priests ate sacred Apples and were in constant conflict with a rival deity named Mike Rosoft.” If they unearth a book, they will simply open it and read it.

My call on the “two drupas” is that one is ‘push’ manufacturing-driven and the other is ‘pull’ service-driven. Naturally, this ‘push-pull’ division pits digital methodologies against analogue and trade craft skills against IT savvy but it is not absolute. It is, however, something that exhibits an observable force on where the crowds are flocking, and flocking they are.

I walk around the print-manufacturing aisles and, while some have respectable numbers of visitors, I see many where stand staff are talking amongst themselves and looking up and down the aisles hoping for a customer visit. I walk onto Xerox, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Screen, Canon, Xeikon, MGI, HP, Heidelberg, Epson, EFI, Mimamki Memjet OEMs and Landa –especially Landa and I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with enthused delegates from all over the world eager to paw and ogle the equipment.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that manufacturing-centric print and finishing is dying, far from it. Ryobi, for example, have attracted huge crowds to working demonstrations of a single-unit B1 press! It’s a 1050-1 with a UV casting and holographic foiling for security and decorative packaging work. If a sparkling holographic perfume carton adds 25 cents to the cost of a product that sells for $50 – who cares?

 

WHICH TALE TO FOLLOW?

The tale of two drupas is about your printing business model and how you see your future – craft based manufacturing bidding for large print runs together with many other printers, with reducing profit margins as the runs get longer; or a service-based business model where print runs can be ‘diced and sliced,’ produced on-demand, versioned and personalized, use fewer staff, have lower capex, respond to market ‘pull’ and the value that is added is your most excellent service and being able to say ‘yes’ to almost every customer request.

Take a look at the photo of a Landa S10 press here. Yes, I’m writing about Landa again and why not? The more the Snooper discovers, the more fascinating it becomes. This press is a B1 8-colour perfector capable of 13,000 sheets per hour and yet it looks like something out of Doctor Who! Like the Tardis, you get a lot, lot more inside than the physical dimensions would suggest. It’s digital of course but it is also a ‘green’ press using no plates, water-based inks, totally recyclable and de-inkable output and a footprint on-third of a comparable offset 8 colour perfector.

It’s not operated from the feed or delivery end, it is operated from a ‘side-on’ giant touch-screen. The story behind this is fascinating in itself. During the R&D, Landa involved school-age children in a project something like “if you could design your own operating interface for a nice big colour printing machine to print your own books – what would it look like?” The result was the sublime giant touch-screen that you see in the picture. In true Generation Y fashion, the smart kids came up with an Xbox/iPad solution. Forget trade school to learn this kind of printing – just read the manual.

With a claimed break-even crossover to offset at around 8,000 B1 sheets, the Landa S10 commercial and its packaging single-sided incarnation, is a short-to medium run dream machine when it becomes available in 2013. This is not a print-manufacturing machine, it is a print service providing facilitator. It is likely that the Heidelberg, manroland and Komori Nanography-licensed versions when they come out, will also reflect this trend.

 

KONICA MINOLTA AND B2 SERVICE

Konica-Minolta is also showing a prototype digital B2 press, the KM-1 using Konica’s own printheads and ink. Manager of Production Print Marketing and Inkjet, Kazuyoshi Tanaka and Australian Sales Chief David Procter admit it represents a new game for them. “We recognize that the B2 commercial market might not want the ‘click’ business model that is almost universal in the B3 digital sector, so we will be flexible in offering both a click-based pricing model and a consumables-with-service one,” said Procter. The print quality on the samples I saw were very sharp and exhibited great colour.

With Konica-Minolta’s existing BizHub range decidedly in the ‘Service Print’ sector; the KM-1 will no doubt appeal to both PSPs wanting to upsize and commercial offset printers wanting digital production that can utilize existing finishing plant.

Pictured: McCourt with KM’s Kazuyoshi Tanaka in front of the Km-1 prototype

Speaking of B2 digital, I now count 12 current or future suppliers: HP Indigo, Landa, Konica-Minolta, Komori, Jadason (a Chinese manufacturer), Screen, Fujifilm, MGI, Ryobi, Miyakoshi, manroland and Heidelberg. It’ll be a market space as crowded as sheetfed offset was in the 1980s and one can expect Darwinian influences will cause some casualties; but it is a happening thing and can’t be ignored.

 

MEMJET DRIVES SERVICE PRINTING

Following the swift and very wise settling of the patent dispute with Silverbrook Research, Memjet has lost no time in announcing three new OEM licensees – Canon/Oce, Toshiba and today Fujixerox. Toshiba is for an office MFP but both Canon/Oce and Fujixerox are for high-output 42” wide format machines with particular appeal to the CAD/GIS market.

Visiting Memjet’s VP Marketing Jeff Bean (pictured left) and Wide-Format President Mike Puyot (pictured right), it is obvious that Memjet companies (Wide Format, Labels and Office, they decided to pull out of a Photo market specific strategy), will embark on a licensing spree where Memjet printheads, chips and ink crop up in zillions of printing and marking products made by third parties. Signing up Fujixerox is indeed a jewel of a deal since FX is so strong in the engineering drawing and production graphics sector. Bean and Puyot are pictured proudly holding one of the Memjet ‘Waterfall’ Mems-engineered printheads.

All of Memjet’s OEMs offer service-centric incarnations of the technology – short run high speed documents (e.g. Delphax); fast convenient office printers (e.g. Lomond) and very fast wide format machines (e.g. Xante).

 

DIE CUTTING GOES DIGITAL

Even finishing is going service-based. One of the great press conferences I attended was for Highcon, an Israeli company started in 2009 to digitalise die-cutting and creasing. Highcon’s Euclid technology is currently in Beta – they even had the Beta customer addressing the media – and machines will begin shipping in late 2012. Euclid uses lasers to die cut folding cartons and a clever UV-cured polymer-like material that is squirted into the creasing cylinder and hardened with UV energy.

Euclid is a natural companion to B2 digital presses and again brings service-related packaging print into the equation for small runs, test marketing, versioned packs, serial numbering and so forth. It costs around $1,600 to set up a die knife and cutting press for a folding carton print run and takes days. Euclid claims it can do the same for $375 in 15 minutes. Imagine the demand for that!

So what is best? Manufacturing print or Service print? Well, I don’t subscribe to a ‘best/second best’ simplification. If you are happy manufacturing print in long runs and competing fiercely on price; why not? But for growth and better profitability I am in no doubt that Service-based printing and an administrative back office to support it is the way to go.

Pictured: That’s not a drupa snooper… this is a drupa snooper

It’s your future and your choice but whichever direction or combination you choose – which tale of the two drupas you believe – don’t be like Dickens’ Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities and lose your head!

Another drupa Snooper next week at the end of the show and more news-as-it comes from our Publisher Patrick Howard who has worked twice as hard.

Everything is before us.

2 Responses to “Drupa Snooper – A tale of two drupas”

  1. May 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm,

    said:

    Very good appraisal from Andy if I may say so. Best I have seen so far from a journalist covering Drupa. Andy hit the nail on the head with his quote from Dickens. He put into words what I felt as I went round the halls. A perfect comment for Drupa this year.

    Malcolm

  2. May 17, 2012 at 12:40 am,

    said:

    nice article

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