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Drupa Snooper – The time has come

Tuesday, 01 May 2012
By Andy McCourt
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Drupa 2012 is just two days away, the time has indeed come. But as Andy McCourt – the drupa Snooper – asks: is it not time to also step back and have a long hard think about how our industry will function in the years beyond this pivotal drupa? Here he looks at two major influences – the firm that virtually started drupa and one that could spell the end of offset printing as we know it.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax;
Of cabbages and kings”

–       From The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Caroll

Drupa 2012 is the fifteenth ‘Druck’ (engl: print) and ‘Papier’ exhibition to be held in Germany. The first was in 1951 although pre-war, there were many industry trade fairs held in Leipzig under the name ‘Bugra’ (Buch and Grafik). The somewhat fortuitous name change and relocation to Düsseldorf was driven by a giant of print media, Hubert Sternberg, who was also a board member of Heidelberg. Sternberg was the trade fair’s President for the first five shows.

Drupa 1951 drew around 195,000 visitors and was spread over 18,000 square metres of exhibition space. 61 years later, drupa once again has a Heidelberg President – Bernard Schreier – and will cover about 165,000 square metres with an expected 380,000 attendees. As the West’s printing industry shrinks, and Asia’s grows, many of these attendees will be from the growth markets of China, India and FSU.

Following the show’s opening on Thursday, there will be a torrent of news and revelations to be digested but my feeling is that never before have we seen such a shift in the technology, economics, geo-politics and sociological implications of Print Media. Can you believe that drupa 1962 was tagged ‘The Offset drupa?’ As late as 1982, the highlight was ‘Web Offset.’ Both of these forces were evolutionary developments of a process started around 1904.

Now, the force is not evolutionary; it’s revolutionary. “The time has come,” as the Walrus said to the Carpenter in Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “to talk of many things.”

 

NANOGRAPHIC PRINTING

Although the introduction of Landa Nanographic Printing has been covered before in drupa Snooper, it continues to fixate the eyes of the world printing community. You can’t write about the Olympics and 100 metre sprinting without mentioning Usain Bolt, and the same applies to digital printing and Benny Landa. Since breaking the news to the world about Landa Labs and Nanography in January, two significant partnership deals have been announced. Both Komori and manroland sheetfed have signed up to incorporate Landa Nanography in their digital press strategies. In the case of Komori, the company was already supplying the paper handling tech to Landa much in the same way that Ryobi once supplied press chassis and feed for the Indigo.

What in essence is the magnetic force drawing two of the world’s largest offset press manufacturers towards the Nanographic process? Well here I have to enter the murky realm of speculation because the process itself will not be fully revealed until tomorrow.

My belief is that Landa Nanography does not use the inkjet heads to jet the image directly to paper. The term used by the company: ‘ink ejectors’ and the ability to print on any offset stock – even plastic – without inkjet receptive coatings leads me to believe that the piezo printheads create a reverse image on a blanket cylinder, which is then impressed into the substrate. Variable data can still be achieved in the same way as Landa’s prior invention – Indigo – achieves it by an almost total release of ink from blanket (or OPC) to substrate and then a doctor-blade system to catch any micro particles that remain behind. So, it uses inkjet digitally but off-sets the image – it’s Offset on steroids!

If I am right, this is why the big offset companies are rushing to sign up – because it can be incorporated into existing basic press designs. In one fell swoop, Komori and manroland can build presses that use no plates, are environmentally attractive since the ink is water-based, and can benefit from digital workflows. It is beautiful in its simplicity.

Ultra high speeds and long print runs will remain the domain of offset for a while, but with the market fragmentation and higher speeds achievable using digital inkjet, we could be looking at a tectonic shift away from pure offset – to Nanography.

Has the time come? Maybe we will be the wiser by the end of this momentous drupa, but I can say with certainty that the time has come to re-think how we run printing businesses in Australia and New Zealand. Our shorter print runs make digital process all the more compelling, and Nanography is about to take more than a quantum leap in digital productivity – up to 11,000 B1 sheets per hour is claimed. That is most likely in simplex mode but still equates to 1,466 A4 pages per minute!

Look out for more reports from the Landa Nanography stand itself – and a rare and hard-to-get interview with the man himself.

 

HEIDELBERG

No graphic arts trade fair is complete without Heidelberg and drupa has Heidelberg DNA all over it. Halls 1 and 2 are traditionally all-Heidelberg stadiums and indeed, are once more at this drupa 2012, but with Hall 2 occupied by affiliated or owned companies. When Snooper #10 comes your way, I will be snooping directly from the show floor and aim to apply the microscope to Halls 1 and 2. What we do know is that Heidelberg’s digital strategy with Ricoh will go forward in earnest – but with the presses branded ‘Heidelberg Linoprint C-xx.’ I believe the two are very good partners in that Ricoh builds great digital machines and Heidelberg has a great global network of customers, plus the Prinect workflow.

What bothers me is that digital productivity stops short at around 90 ppm, and no announcement (yet) has been made for a B2 or bigger digital press. Unless Heidelberg can access the Screen-built Infoprint 5000 digital web press, it does not have high-volume inkjet either. The only inkjet it has is the Linoprint L-xx short run packaging presses built in the old Linotype-Hell factory in Kiel.

Unless an announcement is made during drupa, Heidelberg could be missing out on two of the fastest growing areas of print media today. I have no doubt that customers for the Linoprint C series will be happy and very well looked after, but what’s next for the Baden-Württemberg giant? Its three major competitors have announced high-volume digital inkjet game plans, plus B2 and even B1 digital presses. Of course the announcements of new Speedmaster SX offset models can not be overlooked, nor can Heidelberg’s excellence in the finishing department – which can apply to offset or digital. Heidelberg states that it is “showing printers how to integrate digital into offset production,” and this is very good but – how long before Offset needs to integrate into Digital production?

Is the ‘Big H’ taking a “wait and see” approach to faster, wider digital? Perhaps the time has come for our industry’s flagship manufacturer to “talk of many things” and “of shoes and ships and sealing wax; of cabbages and (especially) Kings.”

There I will leave drupa Snooper #9. I am drupa-bound very soon and look forward to bringing you the cold hard facts directly from Düsseldorf.

One Response to “Drupa Snooper – The time has come”

  1. May 06, 2012 at 5:26 pm,

    Mani D. Joshi
    said:

    I personally feel that the digital printing is going to make the significant change in the printing business. I do agree that though Nanography claims that the new era of printing has come, the offest printing will still there to stay. The digital printing will be supporting the mainstream business of litho printing.

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