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drupa’s pink elephants – Andy McCourt

Wednesday, 15 June 2016
By Andy McCourt

Andy McCourt at drupa 2016

Much has been written about what happened at drupa and it’s all good. Finally, finally; our industry is waking up to life beyond dyes and pigments smeared onto mashed up trees. We have always looked towards the ‘big iron’ offset/flexo/gravure leaders to illuminate our future paths and what this hybrid drupa screamed was: “we are no longer the sole leaders, we are working with and learning from the new breed.”

The print world has turned upside down. Oh, the demand is still there in abundance – it’s just not in the same places as it was yesterday and the kit/processes needed to fulfill the demand is markedly different. Saying ‘print is going digital’ is not enough. All the major digital exhibitors seemed to agree that only 2.7% of the world’s print acreage is printed digitally; mainly because they all subscribe to the smitherspira reports. That leaves 97.3% of the world’s gazillion square Tazacres to convert over to a digitized process. I recall one vendor noting that enough printed pages are produced every day to cover the entire UK.

“Bloody good idea,” said a waggish voice from the back.

No, it’s more than just process substitution; even when cleverly hybridized into sheet handling/converting lines such as KBA’s VariJet 106 (qv). It’s about thinking what useful stuff the printing industry can deliver to business and consumers. Our industry does not exist to please the technical achievements of its practitioners. “Ability to reproduce a bee’s nuts on a dot the size of a pinhead” might win peer-to-peer accolades but, apart from the novelty, means little to customers.

We’ve always been an oddball industry. People just don’t get us and what we do, except they think we are obsolete. Two drupas ago a nice lady in an airport transit lounge asked where I was going and I explained it was a printing trade fair. “Isn’t printing almost dead?” she asked – as she laid aside her paperback book in a room replete with printed graphic images on all manner of materials.

So, it was with enormous admiration that I experience my first pink elephant at drupa, in the form of its nether regions protruding from the exterior of Hall 9. Not to put too fine a point on it, it was an elephant’s arse (see pic). Why? My inquisitive nature surged to the fore – I went in search of the source of the pachyderm’s posterior.

It was to be found on a smallish stand from an Israeli company Massivit, who were launching to the world a gigantic 3D printer targeted at the POP and display market. The first machine, capable of producing 1.8 metre high x 1.5 metre wide x 1.2 metre deep products (larger when printed in sections), was under beta in New York where its owner won a large contract with Sony to promote the film Angry Birds and paid for it within four months. That’s one heck of an ROI (reputed to be around the USD$500,000 mark).

Bound for Australia

While working on other pink elephants after the ANZ drupafest party, I chanced to meet a gentleman from Australia who has ordered the first Massivit 1800 for this region. I have to respect confidentiality; once installed around August we can shout about it. His business is currently a wide-format shop and the idea is to create large 3D POP and wrap the sculptures in normal wrapping film for graphic effects. An adjacent market is 3D printing the moulds used for thermoforming longer runs of 3D signage – a trade service to thermoformers he claims will reduce costs.

A second Massivit 1800 was rumoured to have been ordered by an Australian firm and several others were sold around the world, especially the UK and USA. So, it’s a recognized lateral market for established wide format roll and flatbed printers – at last we can see a clear and profitable application for 3D printing, relevant to printers.

Across the aisle from Massivit was a cute booth at the other end of the scale. Doob was taking whole-body images of people (using not scanning but 56 x Canon 5Ds in a circular booth), and producing ‘miniature you’ statuettes in 3D. The results were very pleasing with fine detail and good colour. The market is not just vanity but gifts, awards, retirements, weddings, parties – anything. Doob is currently selling the service rather than the equipment and software, and establishing sites in major cities around the world. For around $395 you can have a miniature you – or someone else and the answer to the obvious question ‘can we be naked?’ is yes, but no samples were on display for privates – see reasons.

When you layer the industrial applications for 3D printing on top of just these two applications, vision-challenged Frederick can see a real market is emerging beyond prototyping and bits of jewelry. Full CMYK 3D printers are on the way, they are getting bigger and faster so now might be a good time to play with the design files and get yourself a $1,000 3D printer and learn the basics.

I’m not saying 3D printing or any other new or recent process will be the ultimate saviour of your business model. I am saying, think: ‘outside of the square’ and look for radically new applications, processes, ideas. The old scribes were quick to spruik the ultimate demise of printing in the 15th century – how many scribes and page illuminators do you know today?

Tomorrow will not wait for you to feel comfortable about changes and this drupa proved that even the most staid ‘conventional’ printing manufacturers are seizing the digital dawn before it becomes a bright new day.

And it all started with a pink elephant; just as it ended after drupa drew to a close. Big mobs of them, pink herds of pachyderm pandemonium, some wearing pajamas…I could go on.







2 Responses to “drupa’s pink elephants – Andy McCourt”

  1. June 15, 2016 at 1:08 pm,

    Comrade Dave

    Nice article Andy,
    but do wonder if most businesses have the time, money or the inclination to think outside the square.
    To try new things require money, not just to buy the equipment but to spend on marketing.
    the days when you would buy a machine and people would come in and use it are sadly gone.
    Have to chase the customers these days – go hunting as they say.
    It will be interesting to see how the industry in oz is going to pan out these next few yrs.
    Dave with a C

  2. June 15, 2016 at 4:26 pm,

    Andy McCourt

    Thanks Comrade! The New York company (Carisma) who was the beta site for Massivit 3D did not spend anything on marketing – just went to existing wide format clients such as Sony with a new 3D service. There is a video here:
    They are putting a 2nd Massivit 1800 in!
    It a natch for larger sign & display printers.

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