More packaging at drupa08

What we can expect to see

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The last edition of this show in 2004 featured 1,866 exhibitors from 52 countries spread over 161,332 sq. m. of net space and attracted 394,478 visitors from 127 countries, 20 per cent of whom were from Asia. Indian visitors numbered 6 per cent – the third highest after Germany. This year’s event should see a further increase in these numbers.
The show is broadly laid out to represent 5 major product groups as follows:
–  Prepress and Premedia – Systems, appliances and software.Printing – Machinery, appliances and accessories.
–  Bookbinding and Print Finishing – Machinery, appliances and accessories.
–  Paper Converting and Package Production – Machinery, appliances and accessories.
–  Materials – Services including printing inks and printing matter.
–  Services.

As one can see, the overall gamut covers much more than just packaging. This note is meant to encapsulate what we can expect to see in so far as packaging industry is concerned.

For starters, we can see a much higher emphasis on packaging applications from hardware suppliers than has been manifest at previous drupa expositions. This is particularly true of offset press suppliers whose offerings hitherto were primarily aimed at the commercial printing segment. Almost all the major offset press manufacturers have announced that they will be focussing on new options and solutions customized for packaging applications like labels, folding cartons and corrugated packaging.

This year’s drupa will be big on digital printing. With this technology making rapid inroads into segments like narrow-web conversion (believe it or not, the world’s largest narrow-web press supplier today is HP Indigo, who leapfrogged Nilpeter, Mark Andy/COMCO and Gallus during 2006-2007), photographs, publishing, trans-promo, marketing collateral, direct mail and personalised variable data printing especially for small print runs, we can expect all the major players to announce and display new developments aimed at increased speeds, better colour gamut and print reproduction, software integration (for workflow management, colour management, handling of variable data etc.), in-line integration of downstream finishing processes and quicker turnaround. One of the major constraints holding digital printing back for packaging applications is low printing speeds and this is an area that many manufacturers have vowed to address at the show.

We can expect to also see a lot of developments in hardware aimed at productivity enhancement (higher speeds, lower set-up and operating waste, quicker change-over times, automation, on-line inspection and control of print defects, automated workflow, wider widths etc.) and cost reduction. Conversely, we can also expect to see new solutions from suppliers of gravure/flexo/offset equipment aimed at satisfying the requirements of medium to small print runs to take on digital printing and to make their processes more cost-effective and amenable to market trends (smaller print runs, quicker turnaround, speed-to-market, promotion orientation and microsegmentation).

There will also be many developments aimed at sustainability like energy-saving devices/processes, “greener” technologies like water-based systems to substitute solvent-based systems, lower VOC emissions and ability to run or handle lighter weight substrates.
A major revolution taking place is the use of printing on web-based substrates for printed electronic applications like transistors, photo-voltaics, solar cells, OLED’s, sensors, printed batteries and RFID tags/labels. Given that drupa is a show that largely focusses on graphic applications of printing, I am not sure how much of printed electronic systems we will see on display but certainly this is the next new frontier for printing as a technology.

The Flexographic Printing industry is once again pooling its resources and joining forces to push Flexography as a technology. This time around, 19 major companies have got together to form a strategic alliance (and not a commercial joint venture) called Flexo4All that will combine their expertise to project flexography as a highly attractive option for package printing. The Flexo4All partners are Bobst, Comexi, Degraf, DuPont, Eckart, EskoArtwork, Fischer & Krecke, Gallus, Gidue, Sun Chemical/Hartman Druckfarben, Lohmann Tapes, Omet, Praxair Surface Technologies, Rotatek, Siegwerk, Soma, Tesa, Uteco Converting and Windmoller & Holscher. Flexo4All is organising a guided tour for visitors to all the stands of the alliance partners. (Please see our detailed write-up on Flexo4All in the Industry News section of our January/February 2008 issue.)

Technology Guides
One thing to look out for are the Technology Guides that are going to be brought out for drupa by Verlag Deutscher Drucker. These are dual-language guides in English and German covering 10 major technologies as follows:
–  Computer-to-plate: Innovative setting technologies and the right plates.
–  Offset Printing: Improved economics through automation.
–  Digital Printing: Current printing systems –innovative printed products.
–  Finishing and Converting: Innovative inline production.
–  Megatrend inline finishing: Systems and materials.
–  Creation of Printed Products: Trends in design, image processing & layout.
–  Web-to-print: Essential features for automated print production.
–  Inkjet printing: A printing process with great potential for the future.
–  Networked print production: How much workflow does a printer need?
–  Packaging and Label Production: New products in focus.

Each 32-page guide is meant to provide visitors with details of key exhibitors and their exhibits in the field in question together with researched articles about current trends. 5,000 copies will be distributed on each day of the show at all the main entrances. At a later stage, they are also expected to be available as downloads from the drupa website.

Compass Sessions
drupa will also continue to organise their Compass Sessions, a new initiative that was started at drupa 2004. Each day will feature a 2-hour session (9 A.M. to 11 A.M.) on a designated topic and will consist of 4 half-hour presentations by leading experts and companies. Conference languages are English and German (simultaneous translation). The detailed programme is available at www.compass-sessions.de and delegates can register online. The topics covered relate to digital printing, offset printing, web-to-print solutions, printed electronics, premedia/prepress, package printing and digital workflow.