Around a dozen vendors, including some of the biggest and most powerful names in the industry, have full-colour high-volume inkjet solutions on their stands. And while virtually all of them are unlikely to be commercially available for at least a year the overwhelming feeling is that industrial inkjet will be posing a considerable challenge to offset, which for the past 40 years has dominated commercial print.
Among the companies highlighting their inkjet capabilities are inkjet pioneer Océ, the world’s biggest digital printer vendor, Xerox; the world’s biggest developer of inkjet heads Epson (it sells 40 million each year); the world’s biggest CTP unit manufacturer, Screen; the three dominant platemaking companies, Agfa, Kodak and Fujifilm; and the biggest company of them all and the one that will hold number one spot amongst graphic arts equipment suppliers by next drupa, HP.
The solutions on the stands or in the research labs of the above companies use varying technology, some are sheetfed, some reel fed, but all of them are aimed at high quality, ease of use, high productivity and most importantly high profitability for the printer.
However drupa 2008 isn’t all about inkjet, and the offset manufacturers drew plenty of crowds and plaudits for their own developments, which are primarily aimed at offering printers a huge choice of equipment, while reducing makeready and waste. The major battleground on view was in large format presses, with Heidelberg launching its entry into the market with a giant Speedmaster XL 162 dominating its stand. Market leader KBA showed the world’s first perfecting large format press, an eight-colour Rapida 142. Manroland, which is number two in large format, surprised printers by launching into the other end of the spectrum, with its first 52cm press, the Roland 50.
Visitors to the show have had to deal with very humid conditions thanks to high temperatures and cloudy skies, with the air conditioning struggling to work fully in some halls. Visitor numbers have not yet been released by the drupa organiser, but while busy it doesn’t seem to be quite as packed as previous years, evidence no doubt of the lack of credit currently available for printers to invest in kit, a situation brought about by the global credit crunch.