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Pifre’s solar-powered press at the Tuileries, Paris, on August 6, 1882.

At a youth festival in Paris’ Tuileries gardens on 6 August 1882, engineer Abel Pifre demonstrated a printing press entirely powered by solar energy. The Marioni-type press, driven by a steam engine connected to a concave mirror of 3.5 meters in diameter, operated continuously for six hours, even under overcast weather conditions. It produced a newspaper, befittingly named Journal du Soleil, at 500 copies per hour.

One and a half century later, at drupa 2024, we’ve seen machine and substrate manufacturers struggling to reduce the energy consumption, waste and carbon footprint of their products. Already at drupa 2008, ‘green’ technologies had become a major issue in both commercial and packaging printing. With the introduction of a ‘Touchpoint Sustainability’ at drupa 2024, we expected this year’s first post-pandemic edition to be something like the Sustainability Drupa

Effectively, many developments on show claimed to be in the process of reducing their impact on the environment. Heidelberg was just one example, with its latest Speedmaster models producing less waste and consuming up to 20% less energy. Koenig & Bauer MetalPrint said it was involved in a research project replacing natural gas by hydrogen for the drying of varnish on metal. Paper manufacturer Koehler has even invested in generating its own electricity by wind power, biomass and steam, producing up to 700,000 MWh renewable energy every year. Many of the automation and inspection features on show also contributed to limiting waste in the various production processes. But drupa 2024 also demonstrated that a lot remains to be done.

The next drupa has been announced for 2028.

200020042008201220162024
Drupa Exhibitors1.9431.8621.9681.8441,8371,643
Drupa Visitors428.248393.654389.993314.248260,000170,000

Drupa attendance 2000-2024. Source: Messe Düsseldorf, ippStar.

In terms of technology developments and alternative substrates, this drupa had a lot to show. For visitors, the breadth and quality of the offering was worth the trip and the expenses, even though for many there is just too much to be seen at once at mega shows like this. For the exhibitors, the quality of closed and prospective deals was certainly more important than the total number of visitors, which with 170,000 remained at a historic low, far from the usual 300,000 to 400,000 in previous years.

The number of exhibitors, 1,643, was also down, i.e., some 200 to 300 less than at previous drupas, and only partly due to the ongoing consolidation in the industry. Whether it all adds up for the organizers of the show, remains to be seen. Only 140,000 square meters of Messe Düsseldorf’s 260,000 square meters of hall space was occupied by exhibitor booths this year, representing a trend that set in some two decades ago. Increasingly, on a global scale, smaller local and regional trade fairs are challenging the international mega shows. But both visitors and exhibitors are also increasingly questioning the sustainability of attending such shows, i.e., the carbon footprint of the exhibits as well as that of international travel and other issues associated with these.

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The Richo stand at drupa24 Photo PSA

In the end, more exhibitors from Asia-Pacific made it to the show than expected, i.e., 689, constituting 42% of the exhibitors and some 30% of the exhibition space. Chinese including Hong Kong based companies, 468 in total, made up 28% of all exhibitors and 22% of the exhibition space. Indian companies occupied 110 booths, whereas companies from Taiwan had 35 booths, South Korea 34, Japan 28, and companies from Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and Australia occupied another 14 booths. And these numbers don’t include companies such as Canon, Fujifilm, Komori, Konica Minolta, manroland Goss, Mimaki, Mutoh, Ricoh and others registered under their European sales agents.

What appeared to interest visitors at this year’s drupa most, in addition to printing presses, was the panoply of finishing equipment, particularly for packaging converting. Presses and converting equipment for corrugated board were high on the agenda. Outnumbered by the digital press manufacturers, most of the offset and flexo press manufacturers had some form of digital printing technologies on show, in addition to the core technologies of their presses – increasingly in hybrid combinations with other printing and converting technologies. 

Virtually all the major inkjet, offset, flexo, gravure and screenprinting press manufacturers showcased versions capable of printing on various flexible and rigid substrates. Hence also a relatively large number of wide format inkjet presses were at the show, including those for rigid applications such as PoP/PoS materials. A small space at the show was dedicated to textile printing, with equipment and materials from Brother, DGI, Kornit, Kühn, Kurz, Zünd and others. Mimaki had its own space with a particular emphasis on textile printing.

All in all, drupa was less about launching novelties and more about exhibitors showcasing their more or less complete ranges of machinery and substrates, even though there were many equipment upgrades and new developments on show. Most of the largest exhibition spaces were taken by the digital press manufacturers, such as HP, Canon, Fujifilm, Konica Minolta and Ricoh. 

Ricoh had put a lot of effort in the design of its booth and emphasized the concept of henkaku, Japanese for transformational innovation, based on mojo, Japanese for energy – and according to Ricoh the secret spark for success, inspired by advances in technology, innovation, and sustainability. For its efforts in sustainability, the company received, on the first day of drupa, the Pacesetter Award for Production Print Sustainability from Keypoint Intelligence, a UK-based market research firm and evaluator of print and smart technologies.

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Ricoh’s Henkaku concept introduced at drupa 2024.

China’s leading CtP manufacturers such as Cron, Chengdu, Amsky, Founder and a dozen others came in force to this drupa. Die-cutter and folder gluer manufacturer Masterwork maintained its own area and branding adjacent to and in addition to its presence in the Heidelberg equipment in Hall 1. DGM had a large stand for demonstrating its converting equipment including die-cutters, folder gluers and laminators.

Other significant exhibitors from China included manufacturers of presses, die-cutters, laminators and consumables such as Atexco with a corrugated inkjet press, Hanglory with a hybrid industrial printer and a corrugated digital press, Fengchi with cardboard and flute laminators, and larger holdings including JMD, Lucky, Tianjin and Wisdom, to name just a few. 

From Korea, packaging presses, cutting plotters, and ancillary equipment were running at the booths of Ace, Anytron, Daeho, DGI, Dilli, Hatten, K-Print, YWDS, and others. The Indian companies included Drupa-regulars and newcomers alike, such as Bindwel, Chemline, Convertech, Cosmo, Garware, Kohli, Line-O-Matic, Manugraph, Mona, Patel, Pelican, Prakash, Ronald, Radix, UFlex, and many others. From Turkey, 46 exhibitors showcased flexo and digital printing presses, die-cutters, laminators, slitter/rewinders, and ancillary equipment.

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The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are growing similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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