You might have never heard of DRUPA. It is the world’s largest trade show for printing and allied industries. It is held every four years in Dusseldorf, Germany coinciding with the Olympics and the soccer World Cup finals, which makes for some fun parties when Germany is in the finals! The convention center is ginormous. Imagine the largest convention center you have ever been in and multiply it by 10! Seriously! This year it was in 15 buildings and occupied thousands of square meters.
Although a show like DRUPA focuses on printing and bindery equipment, it also showcases workflow software, finishing methods, and new technologies. The big news this year was finishing capabilities on digital printing equipment. This is pretty big news.
A little bit of the background on this news: The best printing presses maintain very precise registration from sheet to sheet. That is part of why presses are made out of iron and steel and weigh hundreds of tons. Offline finishing processes like die cutting and foil stamping have the same precise tolerances as the best printing presses. Digital presses have not had the same sheet to sheet registration capabilities of sheetfed or web printing.
Because of this, offline finishing processes like spot coatings, foil, embossing etc. that rely on critical sheet to sheet registration have been nearly impossible on digitally printed sheets. (There are other issues with the dry ink or toner and adhesion of coatings but that is a separate post)
Digital press manufacturers have been tackling this problem with near-line finishing solutions. Near-line solutions are machines that need to be loaded with the material from the digital press. You can get some spot coatings with some digital presses but they still have less-than-perfect registration.
Sheet-to-sheet registration from the top manufacturers, like XEROX, CANON, and HP is getting closer and closer to sheetfed tolerances, but these are the top-of-the-line machines which cost $1,000,000 and up.
Why does this matter to designers? Because this year at DRUPA manufacturers and finishers showed finishing solutions such as clear spot coatings, cold foil, and other spot treatments, being applied INLINE. This is something that digital presses have really not been able to deliver. But it looks like, as of 2016 we have some technologies that are here and viable!
That’s exciting because the digital advantages of quantities of ONE can have some of the shiny and sparkly stuff that up until now was not possible.
It doesn’t mean you can start designing for digital as if it were the same as offset or flexo, but it does mean that if your printer knocks on your door, you know the questions to ask about their digital printing capabilities. And once you are clear on what your printer can offer, you can start offering that to your customers in your designs.
Digital printing is unique in that the advantages available to a mega-corp Fortune 50 company are now also available to your corner coffee shop.
All it takes is having a conversation with your printer about your vision and delivering results for your customers! Woot! woot!
DRUPA by the numbers
11 days May 31 – June 10, 2016
1837 exhibitors from 54 countries
19 exhibition halls 169000+ square meters
3D printing, functional printing, package printing, flexo, publication, commercial, industrial, digital, bindery, finishing, data streaming,
260,00 visitors from 188 countries
1900 journalists from 74 countries (that explains all those articles!)
Side events to the exhibit halls focused on technical innovations, 3D fabrication and printing, digital printing innovations, and binding. Manufacturing streamlining for printers means faster turnaround for print customers.
Andreas Weber with an over the shoulder peek at the Epson booth
Photos courtesy of Andreas Weber, my dear friend, and colleague, a genius and Editor-in-Chief at valuetrendradar.com
Here’s Andreas giving a quick twitter report from DRUPA: https://twitter.com/zeitenwende007/status/740847163811463168