When drupa 2004 opens its doors in Dusseldorf on 6 May 2004, print media specialists from the printing and publishing industry as well as printers from the office world will find an almost unsurveyable number of color printing systems. Prepress, all-technology color printing and processing will show, as integrated solutions, how simple, rapid and high-quality printing in color has become for all processes. At the same time visitors to drupa 04 will see that printing is experiencing extremely vigorous development – and that printing has a future now more than ever.
Printing will also be done in the future. Printed items in all their variety meet basic needs and are deeply anchored in people’s habits. Being able to handle and collect printed matter tangibly is highly attractive. Information can be made literally understandable as a result. As banal as it may sound, this is important: printed matter can present and spread messages and information everywhere and at all times. It does not require electricity or a power supply. Of course, there are tasks and solutions which work differently and occasionally better than with printed items thanks to computers, networks, and digital electronics. Yet, this is not a threat to the substance of the printing industry; in contrast, IT forms the basis for modern solutions in the printing industry. The results of the symbiosis of electronics and printing are more effective and will prevail over throughput volumes.
Proofs for the attractiveness of "full printing systems" are obvious. Even with all shifts in markets and emphases, books remain an essential component of culture and science, professional life and leisure. Packaging is increasing in value and meaning. Although only "dumb salesmen" at one stage, they are becoming ever more attractive and "speak more". Value can be optimized through refinement and variety, individuality and functionality, stability and protective functions, by "individual mass production". Digital printing is growing rapidly on a "broad front", and is heralding the explosive wealth of possibilities it offers. But the following also applies here: shifts and impulsive developments (often also short-term and drastic) characterize these markets. And while everything is in flux, the sum shows that the trend is upwards.
Printing is being reinvented
The exciting thing about drupa 2004, the print media trade fair is: printing is about to be reinvented, so to speak. Much more printing will be done in the future than at present. Yet it will be different, as may also be the trades and companies involved. Completely different items will be printed. Subject to other conditions and different priorities. It is pointless to speculate who will be active first in this typical "chicken and egg" situation and create markets or generate demand: will it be the technology or user or purchaser habits? It is better to present the whole picture like a game of tennis: the balls are the developments, the person serving changes (sometimes technology, sometimes the market), while the pace and direction can alter at short intervals. Short innovation cycles are thus not a disadvantage, but a concrete opportunity and underscore the market’s liveliness.
In this respect, the technology for print media production in 2004 can "only" have one actual focus: process optimization and automation. The "only" will show it amounts to useful variety. Because behind this overall term are hidden global, perhaps even epoch-making developments in software, especially for the general workflow and management information systems sector. And there will be a significant performance/quality stabilization and increase in technology. This is called "fly by wire" in aviation and space travel, as no one can fly a highly sensitive aircraft "by hand" any more. The same also applies to prepress, press and postpress aggregates: here control electronics regulate the achievement and maintenance of predictable quality and reliable repeatability. Put in simplified form: the person thinks and the computer steers. Users are therefore bound to network internal processes and applications if they wish to continue to work economically and to continue to do so.
Printing is high-tech
Measuring and testing, process control and optimization, linking up "office software" with printing technology will the very central topics at drupa 2004 in Dusseldorf from 6 to 19 May. And much of what is extremely important will appear unspectacular at first sight. The super-fast servo engine in a huge printer appears tiny, but is pure progress. Refined software which "thinks with" the user will be found on completely ordinary screens. Spectacular things will thus happen in our heads. In our mentality and readiness to press the reset button, including for some prejudices and habits in our own brains. The "things behind things" will be a knowledge goldmine for visitors to drupa 2004.
Electronics and print are not rivals; a symbiosis exists. Printing is high-tech: hardly any other multifaceted sector which has been so successful for centuries is as computerized as the computer industry. In this case, "digital pushes" inside the sector are only one side of the coin. Optimizing printing processes ( "technical digital workflow") will form a greater focus for drupa 2004. A further one will be networking between print producers and their customers, suppliers and service providers. Interlocking at the level of just-in-time-Information exchange and the shifting of organization and administration to or over networks is advancing extremely rapidly.
More important than ever: paper and printing refinement
Paper, which acts here as a synonym for the entire world of printed matter, is more alive than ever. It is a material like no other. It can offer extremely high performance, and is also a mass consumer item. It provides variety with extreme precision and reliability. And more than ever an emotional experience. Only paper radiates individual flair, and information, presentations and suggestions can only be individualized on paper. Undreamed-of potential exists for postpress production. All the real chances and possibilities available here have barely been thought of at present, let alone plumbed.
The chapter of integrating paper and electronics has just been opened up. Just one of the many examples: the electronic chip incorporated into the printed document. As a responder it makes identification or registration possible. Thus entrance cards can develop into data transmitters just like cardboard boxes and packaging. Paper communicates with computers. Image processing can also reproduce more than just pretty motifs. Codes can be built into images and graphics which are suitable for organization and identification and which open up completely new application fields.
A printing works is no longer necessarily a location in the sense of the word up to now. It is much more a functionality, which can be installed anywhere a mains power supply is available. The connection between the office world and graphics industry has long been established, albeit though much too little used. Text and image databases have long been an established standard in prepress. Yet the linking of graphic page production tools (make-up programs) and customer databases, with "on the fly" dynamic, network-based tools that generate standard data formats and thus can be printed anywhere are solutions which will be talked about.
All of this and more belongs to future potentialities, which overall are so substantial that the outlook is by no means black for the "black art", if it accepts the drastic changes and adjustments as an essential characteristic of the contemporary scene and can handle them.
How can I use the developments?
Printing has a future. It would be exaggerated to talk of euphoria. The developments which are now taking form were expected, move within predicted frameworks, and have a modern dynamic and intensity. The principle of evolution applies: to adapt is to survive. Change means continued existence. Re-engineering is compulsory.
Thus, the right question which the visitor should condition himself with for the trade fair visit is not "what can the development (and so drupa) do for me?", but "how can I use the developments for my own development?". "Is the innovation useful for me?" is the wrong question. "How can I use the innovation to optimize profitability, to secure markets or to open up new ones?", is the entrepreneurial way of looking at matters. The exhibits, whether hardware, software, brainware, organizational ware or knowledgeware represent a new dimension. Through their variety they enable companies, managers and investment decision-makers to make decisions to differentiate themselves. The trail of lemmings is over: running blindly after a mass technology is no longer an option. Only your own way is the right one.
A personal, self-chosen corporate goal, a personal company culture, which fulfils market and other conditions must be composed from many components like a mosaic. Visitors may expect to find "the big deal", the big machine or solution which "beats everything" at drupa 2004, but will not necessarily find it. Admittedly, some offers and exhibits often are "all singing, all dancing, bells and whistles" machines, as such universal solutions are pleased to be called. Yet, hardly any implementation is like another. With all the standardization of data and printing forms, materials and machines, products and professions, there will be differences in what users "pull out" of systems more than ever in the past.
Like its predecessors, drupa 2004 is also a product trade fair. However, more than ever before in its history, it is also an "information village". The exhibits encapsulate, present and demonstrate what this means. Yet, the sector Olympics’ expected explosive power to innovate will be revealed on screens and in meeting cabins, in chance meetings and through the openness of thinking. Going there is also an obligation. Anyone who is not there cannot draw inspiration from it.
* Hans-Georg Wenke, Editor of "Druckmarkt" (D) and "Druckmarkt Schweiz", the market leader in PrePress, Print, PostPress and Publishing has worked as a consultant, lecturer and specialist publicist since 1974 specialist subjects: innovative and efficient media production, marketing strategies and corporate concepts in the graphics industry