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Drupa Snooper – Hall four one and one for all!

Tuesday, 06 March 2012
By Print 21 Online Article
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Andy McCourt asks the industry to excuse his massacre of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers motto in the headline – it’s just that he’s very excited about Hall 4 at drupa. Every one of the 17 halls at drupa will be great for your targeted wants and needs, but snooping around Hall 4 makes him think it will be one of the most popular.

The adjacent Hall 5 is also attractive for the same reasons, such as Memjet’s first drupa presence, but today I’d like to focus on Hall 4.

Even though Dumas’ legendary book was called The Three Musketeers, there were four of them including D’Artangnan. Perhaps Douglas Adams used this irony when he wrote the fourth novel in his ‘Trilogy’ of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? Never mind, just as with Dumas and Adams, Hall 4 at drupa 2012 delivers more than it promises.

The giant in Hall 4 is of course Hewlett Packard, drupa’s second-largest exhibitor after Heidelberg. More about HP later but first, let’s look at the totality of Hall 4 that makes it so interesting; starting with Hall 4’s second largest exhibitor – MGI

MGI? Few in Australia or New Zealand have heard of this French-headquartered manufacturer of digital presses, UV varnishers and finishing. Around 2007 an MGI Meteor 40 press was sold into a Melbourne social stationery printer called Paper Stop. The reseller closed up shop and since then, GBC Australia has listed MGI in its product range, but no new sales have been reported.

Since 2007, MGI has gone through two generations of digital press and last June launched the Meteor 8700XL. In a digital press world spoiled for choice from HP, Xerox, Canon, Konica-Minolta, Ricoh, Xeikon, Screen and Fujifilm, what makes MGI worth a visit at drupa? In a word “profit.” Look at the spec of the Meteor 8700XL and it’s not hard to see how they’ve shipped over 100 of them since launching less than a year ago – the latest two to India to a major Photobook printer. Here’s a few rhetorical questions:

  • Can your digital press print on plastic substrates up to 400μ, Teslin, PVC, Polycarbonate,Lexar, plastic cards, adhesive stock, packaging etc?
  • Can your digital press print not just A4/A3 sheets but up to 330mm x 1194mm long sheets for panoramas, gatefolds, wing-backed book covers and fold-outs?
  • Can your press bulk feed envelopes and print them in full colour?
  • Can your press print at 3600dpi and also feature traditional line screens from 95 to 270lpi?

The answer to all, for the Meteor 8700XL, is ‘yes’ and that’s why I like it – it’s different in a positive way and enables users to produce many more value-add products that gets you away from the ‘cost-per-A4 rat-race.’ At 71ppm, it’s of moderate speed but a healthy monthly duty cycle of 600,000 impressions puts it firmly in the production class.

The feed mechanism is offset-like, not paper cassettes or bins. MGI cut its teeth making feeding and finishing solutions in 1982 and also has in its range crease/cut/perf sheet finishers, coaters, spot UV varnishers and high volume inkjet plastic card machines. The company is listed on the NYSE-owned Euronext stock exchange and the price graph has steadily climbed over the past 3 years and sits around 10 Euro today. The Meteor 8700XL is well worth a look and we will be hearing a lot more from this company.

Okay, back to the elephant in the Hall 4 room – HP. Next week our publisher Patrick Howard will be reporting directly from HP Indigo’s Israel HQ pre-drupa conference, but I can reveal that there will be a big packaging focus on their stand. Short-run packaging is about to do what short-run labels are doing – carving out a sizeable chunk of the sector and inventing new markets of regionalized, varied, even personalized packaging not to mention the ability to trial new designs to determine what appeals most to supermarket shoppers.

Just last week, HP concluded an exhibit at the UK Packtech exhibition where, using the HP Indigo sheetfed and WS6000, 6600 and 4600 web-feed machines, it presented the ‘Digital Supermarket.’ This is where, for both labels and small-to-medium sized folding cartons, supermarket shelves can become dynamic merchandising machines, responding to market shifts, tastes and demographic needs on a JIT basis. An example – mine not HP’s. Let’s assume that Arnott’s Anzac biscuits are selling well in Mildura. A request for a run of boxes with ‘Mildura’s favourite Biscuit’ emblazoned on them can be delivered to boost sales even more and add novelty.

HP Indigo intends to change the way folding cartons are produced, in the same way it is successfully changing the label sector.

In order to convert digitally-printed folding cartons, HP Indigo has once again turned to UK company AB Graphic International with its Digicon range of converting solutions aimed squarely at digital production. ABG’s drupa presence is on the HP stand in Hall 4 and, interestingly, also in Hall 2 on the Heidelberg-owned Kama exhibit. ABG’s post-press lines can laser die-cut, overlaminate, hot stamp and generally finish the cartons ready for assembly and filling. There’s even a Flexo UV station.

A glimpse of what is in store was recently filmed at an open house in Nuremburg, Germany:

Short-run folding cartons represent an exciting new opportunity for all printers, again away from the increasingly commoditised A4/A3 sheet sector. However, taken in its entirety together with sheetfed, high volume inkjet and wide-format, the HP exhibit that dominates Hall 4 is surely a beacon of what our industry will become? Putting aside the commercial razzamatazz that will surely dominate; step back and ponder the philosophy of booths such as HP and MGI, because you will certainly be gazing into our industry’s – and your business’s – future.

Hall 4 at drupa also contains Pitney Bowes and Bell & Howell for mailing systems, a couple of clever Israeli start-ups Highcon (digital cutting & creasing) and Scodix (UV spot varnishing extraordinaire), Presstek, photobook software gurus Taopix, Unibind, Optimus and, if you are still making plates – Xingraphics and Toyo Ink are flying the offset banner in a great Hall that is otherwise decidedly digital.

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