DRUPA: Thanks a billion!

Jul 27, 2008 at 06:33 pm by Staff

Despite reduced visitor numbers and a near-complete absence of operational newspaper web-offset in the halls, DRUPA was still the place to be in the couple of weeks following the end of May. Principals and senior management from every significant press, prepress and mailroom vendor was there – many even over the usually quiet weekend days – delivering the ‘basis for business’ the Messe Düsseldorf organiser promises. Organisers say 59 per cent of visitors – four per cent more than four years ago – were from outside Germany, and amazingly 3000 were journalists ... although even this total was down on 2004. Some 1971 exhibitors from 52 countries took part. And with more hall space, the smaller attendance – 391,000, down 37,000 or almost nine per cent from 2004 – meant it was easier to get around and to find the people you wanted to talk to. Forget too, the absence of web-offset presses, of which ample were available for ‘live viewing’ at nearby user sites: As predicted, this was the inkjet DRUPA, and there was no shortage of inkjet-based digital newspaper presses. A handful of major players have declared their interest in the market (see page ten) and each is hopeful of a leadership position, judging by the comments by top management who used a succession of media events to review performance since the last show. Among post-show statements about DRUPA outcomes, manroland’s Gerd Finkbeiner reported success “well beyond what we expected” with orders worth “middle triple-digit million euros.” And KBA chief executive Albrecht Bolza-Schünemann claimed orders worth more than 200 million Euros, surpassing their 2004 figure. Kodak chairman and chief executive Antonio Perez was among many who saw a turning point in DRUPA 2008: Of inkjet printing – and specifically the company’s Stream system – he says “this technology will change the industry for ever”. He’s banking on it in fact, and believes its combination of digital imaging and materials sciences will help give Kodak a technology edge. The company has its eyes on the 80 per cent of print business currently held by offset. “With time you’ll see offset quality, speed and cost,” he says. “Add variable data, and you’ll see jobs migrate.” Asked about competition from other vendors, Perez emphasises what he sees as the Kodak advantage and warns about confusing claims: Fujifilm’s technology, for example, is “fundamentally different. “We think we have the technology which applies to most jobs, and will make us leaders for many years to come.” Perhaps the biggest of the ‘graphic arts vendors in transition’, Kodak is “trying to be very focussed, picking technologies we can put muscle behind,” Perez says. But a question on how much of Kodak’s revenue is now coming from inkjet and digital printing was knocked back: “It’s competitive information,” graphic communications group vice president Judi Hess replied. Elsewhere, Kodak had moved along from colour management, introducing what it calls colour relationship management at the show, along with new Electra thermal plates and a 26 pph Magnus XLF CTP system to address the 2260 mm web widths of new 80-pp commercial webs. And hang in there, a concept for 96-pp is being developed as well. There’s also a 800Z Quantum version of the Magnus – Kodak’s fastest at 60 eight-up plates an hour, and the Generation News newspaper CTP systems introduced at Nexpo. Colour relationships are addressed by new Colorflow module to the Prinergy workflow, and include an ink optimisation option. Just as Kodak admits to using technology it previously developed for coating film, Agfa is turning its film manufacturing expertise to making paper ... or rather an untearable substrate it calls Synaps for offset and inkjet printing. President Stefaan Vanhooren says that graphics is still the company’s most important business group, and demerger plans have been found to be “no longer realistic. “We have to deal with the liabilities of the past,” he says. A new strategy will focus on growth – primarily in digital plates and inkjet with the aim of leadership in industrial UV-curable ink – innovation, and management and investment. “We are no longer satisfied with our position, especially in the USA, China and Japan,” Vanhooren says. Each of Agfa’s business groups leads, “but face lots of adverse conditions,” he says. The last couple of years have seen the sale of Monotype and some small businesses, and the moving of some film business elsewhere. He says a positive has been the management of the transfer from analogue to digital, and disagrees that Agfa had “missed the train”. Significant cost savings have been made as part of a desire to be “lean and mean”, while an additional US$33 million had been channelled into inkjet investment. Agfa will “spend to do the right thing”, and had expanded digital sales forces and digital plate production, he says. Among its broad digital offering, Agfa showed a ‘virtual duplex’ version of its Dotrix Transcolor system printing newspapers, the first of which was to be installed in July. Evolved from a system for folding cartons and flexibles, this prints on a variety of substrates as well as newsprint. The Apogee workflow suite has been expanded with additions and rebranding, while on the jumbo platesetter front, Agfa would have 80 and 96-page versions of its Avalon systems available in the third and fourth quarters of this year (with an order taken for Goss’s 96-pp press customer Mazzucchelli). The company also plans to expand its offering of pressroom supplies. A novel presentation – on a stand which was notable for its design quality and content – was a charity auction which included equipment and supplies packages as well as artworks and collectibles. With the son-in-law of soccer icon Pele working for Agfa in Brazil, there were items of memorabilia on the auction list and one lucky winner was Agfa Melbourne inkjet specialist Steve Taylor, who picked up a signed historic shirt for $500. Agfa says it signed contracts (including the first year of consumables) worth more than Euros 100 million ($162.1 million) at DRUPA, and exceeded its targets for industrial inkjet. The emerging digital newspaper market has also commanded the attention of other established digital printing vendors such as Xerox and Hewlett Packard. Xerox – still largely wedded to toner-based technology – has been working with publishers and others on its 490/980 continuous-feed digital web including showings at Eveleigh, Sydney centre and is now ready to take orders. The company claims the system, with its ‘flash fusing’ technology, is the world’s fastest using xerographic-based technology. The challenge now will be to convince potential users that the option is attractive against inkjet ... or of course, come up with an alternative. Elsewhere, HP won my heart by presenting its new inkjet web press with the 914 mm maximum web width familiar to single-width web-offset users worldwide. No matter that they will not, apparently, offer the width when the system is commercialised ... I could just visualise it chugging away with one of the thousands of spare Community folders which must be littered around the world, printing the newspaper of the future! More on digital print in page ten. DRUPA is a landmark occasion for HP, which acquired the Indigo technology from digital print pioneer Benny Landa. Fifteen years after the memorable launch of the first Indigo press, HP marked the event by bringing master showman Landa into the end of its media conference to cut a press-shaped cake. Screen also saw the show as the start of a new era: It has made a number of forays into short-run offset over recent years and latterly inkjet. At Düsseldorf, it could look back on a year of achievement with a new web-fed inkjet system, and showed a new concept press for commercial markets. President of Screen Europe Brian Forsdike says the company recognises inkjet as a key enabler for its future success and will develop inkjet as a key pillar of its business growth: “We will continue to grow by maintaining a dominant position in technologies such as CTP which are reaching maturity, while emerging as a leading supplier in a new generation of print-on-demand equipment.” And CTP? Two new Screen PlateRite GLV-enabled thermal platesetters introduced in March extend capability to 80 and 96 pages with plate sizes up to 2900 x 1350 mm. Meanwhile prepress systems manufacturer Krause – whose platesetters are in use at Fairfax and APN sites in Australia – brought the new Smart’n’Easy small newspaper CTP to the show it had introduced at IfraExpo, adding a commercial version and a new punch-bender. LS Jet and Performance systems get more automation, 120 mw violet diodes and new lower-maintenance power and air boards. The developments also give Krause four basic and three industrial-level JetNet workflow versions for newspapers. Fujifilm, whose plates are in use at local Krause sites, launched a chemistry free violet plate, Brillia HD PRO-V for which it was taking orders. Still on the plate topic, there were developments at plate handling specialists Nela and Berth. Nela was demonstrating a new VCP Evolution Flexx model for different plate sizes and punch/bend requirements, integrated with its PQM+ quality measuring system. Also on show were the LogiStack plate manager and PlateFlow software, designed to follow the process from data receipt to the press. Berth has increased automation on its flagship OPB-MFR optical punch bender adding flexibility on plate format and bending radius. Berth has a growing OPB installation at Utusan Malaysia with two lines at the publisher’s main site and two more at a plant in the country’s north. The company opened an Asia Pacific office in 2004 and now has agents in Australia and New Zealand. Newspaper presses For the three web press giants – manroland, Goss and KBA – the major shows are an opportunity to take stock and Gerd Finkbeiner, Bob Brown and Albrecht Bolza-Schünemann (who is also this year’s DRUPA president) took leading roles in their respective media events. Much has happened for Goss since the last Düsseldorf show, when it introduced the flexible FPS press now installed at sites in Ireland and Europe. Those who looked to president Brown for further innovations in 2008 weren’t disappointed: Highlight was a theatre demonstration of the new M-600 Folia, a 30,000 sph web-fed perfector based on M-600 units and a upgraded Vits sheeter, printing on coated stock without a dryer. Apart from features such as autoplate and Goss digital inking, it uses sheetfed inks and what Theo Buchmeyer describes as an “advanced anti-setoff application”. Brown says Goss sees the sheet market as an opportunity the company needs to take as it expands its automation leadership. He chose US catalogue printer Cox Target Media to illustrate the company’s theme of ‘new ways for print’: “Automatic transfer Sunday presses completing four-colour job changes every 12 minutes without stopping are impressive, but the symphony of software managing the entire process is the real story,” he says. “Digital information and materials flow to, from and within the integrated mechanical systems largely without human intervention. Virtually every step is automated and every ‘loop’ is closed.” The Folia apart, there were of course, no web presses to be seen running on the stand, although Magnum 4, Uniliner, FPS and Sunday 4000 printing units were shown with a variety of new features, as well as mailroom components including Magnapak and Pacesetter inserters, the latter shown by Ferag in its own livery. Brown says an expanded relationship with the Swiss mailroom manufacturer (long-established in the USA) will see the inserter offered by Ferag in Europe. Goss also featured its Sunday 5000 press, a 2860 mm wide version of which is being installed by an Italian customer later this year, while a 64-pp short-grain version is being developed. At the show, the 96-page customer Mazzucchelli signed a letter of intent for a second press. Director of the former Heidelberg Montataire facility Buchmeyer also expanded on Goss’s RSVP reader-response system, which is being trialled by “four or five” customers in America’s north-east with encouraging results. “It responds to advertisers’ need to know who’s looking,” he says, adding that one of Goss’s shareholders is “aggressively encouraging” the company to move it forward. At the manroland (and here there’s a new uncapitalised, some might say undercapitalised, name style) press conference, the day before the show opened, chairman Finkbeiner was at pains to establish the Düsseldorf event’s credentials: “DRUPA is the innovation exhibition, standing for the high potential of the industry,” he says. In the two years since its separation from its truck-making parent, the company had found new direction and spirit ... and performance in both its sheetfed and web segments had been outstanding. The stock exchange floatation will follow: “When the market is ready, we’ll go for it,” he says ... but in the meantime the new ownership has been a tremendous experience bringing new energy to the company.” The new logo – unveiled at the media event – “is not a huge change, but a transition”, he says, accepting that attitudes must change, both within the company and with its customers. Despite competition from digital printing in sheetfed’s smaller-format markets segment, manroland introduced new small R50 press range at the show, perhaps in response to arch-rival Heidelberg’s move into the superlarge territory it shares with KBA. The show also focussed on productivity, environmental issues and innovations such as RFID and forgery protection. For web and newspaper customers, the emphasis was on performance – speeds of up to 50 metres/second, web widths at 2250 mm, and high levels of automation – but board member Paul Steidle says there is “a world below, smaller and not so fast”, a reference to presses such as the Euroman, pitched at a lower pricepoint. On the stand, again no fully-operational web presses, but static displays including a triple-wide Colorman newspaper tower with the robot-based APL plate changing and Innocure inert UV now running at different sites in Vienna, and Kodak’s Versamark high-speed inkjet featured at Ifra. Elsewhere, Kodak showed a new Stream concept printhead for mono variable data applications at up to 307 metres/minute. A 100 mm printhead capable of printing on glossy substrates at 600 dpi is the first planned product from the technology. With competition to deliver the largest heatset web, manroland showed a conceptual 96-page Lithoman unit with a 2860 mm maximum web width, and emphasised its success with 2250 mm (80-page) webs, of which half of the six ordered are running. A cooperation with European printer Mohn Media will also underpin development of a short-grain 96-pp Lithoman with a 2520 mm web and targetted production of 4.3 million pages an hour when tests start in 2010. Dynamic plate changes were represented by a display group of Rotoman towers with a looped web and CutCon plus cutoff system, and a new multiple-drive PFI-5 folder was also on show. On the state of business, Finkbeiner described adverse exchange rates as “a short-term effect we have to deal with”, ducked talk of a downturn on the basis that neither had they talked about “the boom”, and admitted, “There are challenges, but we can manage”. Not merely because he had arrived directly from a funeral for the media event, KBA president Bolza-Schünemann’s view of prospects in the newspaper market seemed depressing: Newspaper circulations would grow only in emerging markets, with growth in countries such as India, China, Turkey, the Ukraine, Russia and Asia “in line with rising prosperity”. And he admitted the financial crisis and strong Euro was already contributing to problems in the industry. In the sheetfed market, a partnership between KBA-Grafitec and Adast would see production of some mid-sized presses moved to the Czech republic. In newspaper and commercial web, Bolza-Schünemann says the company expects slack demand in the USA to continue, although the ‘New York Daily News’ Commander CT order was “a good sign” and the new technology had helped KBA expand its market share. Demand, although picking up in Germany was affected by outsourcing, and he says the company has had fewer projects in China since 2007. “Demand in the newspaper sector is falling off as publishers complete the conversion to multicolour production,” he says. After pulling out of publication gravure last year, Bolza-Schünemann says KBA is now looking for suitable opportunities: China, where KBA’s cooperation extends over 16 years, “is a big subject for us”. Expanding into niche markets exploits the company’s knowhow with fewer risks, he says. KBA showed Commander CT and triple-wide waterless Cortina towers on its stand ... the first DRUPA at which it has opted for static-only web press displays. An interesting presentation focussed on the increasing age of pressroom staff and “fierce competition’ for well-qualified younger staff. KBA was responding to a need for better ergonomics and attractive working environments at newspaper presses – with developments such as waterless and compact units – marketing director Klaus Schmidt says. In the single-width press segment, the news was that while manroland has ended its sales and service agreement with Manugraph, its partner – and former sister company – MAN Ferrostaal will continue its relationship with the Indian manufacturer. Indeed MAN Ferrostaal – which was at pains to point out that MAN still owns 35 per cent of manroland – says that conflicts of interest will be addressed only if they appear. “We focus on Cityline, although DGM may clash with Uniset,” says board member Bernd Ahlmann. Using Manugraph as an entry point is “working very well,” he says. Both Manugraph and DGM towers were on display at the show, including the new 45,000 cph 430 Max with an eight-roller ink train. The company will now make DGM 1240 jaw folders in India for market there. There’s an underlying suggestion that having helped develop the market for Fujifilm (through GSA in Australia) and then seen the maker switch to direct representation, MAN Ferrostaal will reenter the prepress segment. Ahlmann says there are “plenty of other alternatives” which could complement the company’s growing involvement in consumables. Expect to see the company expand in various sectors in its chosen southern hemisphere specialisation in fact, as it takes a “pragmatic” approach to the agency business. In different markets it sells both Ferag and Müller Martini postpress for example, and sells rival brands in Africa under two company structures. US single-width specialist Tensor had orders for a 12-tower press for NR1 Addressa-Trykk Orkanger in Norway, and lines for Freedom Arizona Information (USA) and Imaj in Turkey to announce, while Swedish single-width specialist had press sales in China, Slovenia and the Ukraine, two of them heatset. Another order – a four-tower D380 for a Swiss customer – followed soon after the show opened. Among other single-width press makers represented was TPH, which sold a five-tower Orient Super to the United Printing Press joint venture in Shahamma, Abu Dhabi, last year. Ancillaries Interest is strong in hybrid heatset and UV as a way of printing webs and complete sections on glossy paper, and several options were represented. Eltex, which makes the Innocure UV system now running at 90,000 cph (about 11.25 metres/second) on a manroland Colorman at Herold in Vienna, is currently installing a two-sided system on a Wifag OF371 at ‘Le Monde’ in Paris. Samples from both sites are impressive and confirm the attractiveness of the option (detailed in our July issue last year). Innocure is also being installed on a triple-wide Colorman XXL at the Transmag newspaper plant being built by Transcontinental in Montreal for production next year. Leading the push in the single-width sector, US-based Prime UV shared in the success when Tensor sold a T400BE tower with the company’s UV curing system at the show, as a press extension for Turkish printer Ada Matbaacilik. Director Erich Midlik, who is leading the company’s European push with a new office in Frankfurt, says Prime has equipped more than 80 four-high towers with its system. Among recent orders was Eagle Web Press, one of the first coldset web printers to adopt UV, adding the system to a Goss Community tower in 2004. The new installation adds UV to a compact Web Press QuadStack tower. Eagle runs a range of paper including Hi-Brite, SC and coated stocks through the system, expanding its commercial and newspaper options. Keen rivalry between automatic colour systems developers continues, and DRUPA saw the emergence of a new player following the acquisition of Graphic Microsystems (GMI) by narrow-web specialist AVT PrintVision. The company’s ColorQuick-N system uses an on-press spectrophotometer and two ‘grey’ patches per ink position in its closed-loop colour solution. The company’s PrintQuick register system was also seen at the show on Goss’s new M-600 Folia press. Views differ on the acceptability of such patches and marks – especially in newspaper applications where they will not be trimmed off – and much of the focus elsewhere at the show was on markless systems. QI Press Controls, which already has a colour density control system (introduced at DRUPA 2004) capable of working either from a colour bar or a printed image, launched a new markless register system at the show. The mRC uses a new compact head with distributed intelligence, and can reference TIFF data(Court challenge – see page 25). Conspicuous in hall 17 for their white suits – drycleaned nightly to ensure they stayed ‘markless’ – QI introduced a new ‘I am’ marketing campaign at the show, designed to emphasise support as part of the company’s complete package. At QuadTech, there was a new colour control system using image-based data and a six-channel spectral sensor and LED lighting. President Karl Fritchen says the AccuCam system is a response to demands that newspapers improve colour quality and consistency in order to compete with other media. The company was also celebrating the 5000th sale of its MultiCam system as part of a RGS register system for Chinese newspaper printer Zhejiang Shengyuan, and launched an upgrade to its colour control system for commercial printers. The new SpectralCam scanner gathers L*a*b* and densitometric measurements from micro colourbars and can capture 10-15 patches at one shot. QuadTech teams the technology with a new colorimetric reporting option which monitor consistency to ISO 12647-2 and other print industry standards. Italian developer Grafikontrol had a new ribbon register system for newspaper and commercial users on its stand, as well as colour density and paper scanning solutions. Its customer base includes the two largest waterless KBA Cortina installations, EPC at Lokeren (Belgium) and ‘Le Figaro’ in Paris, as well as the manroland Colorman at the ‘Times of India’. On the peripherals front, Baldwin – celebrating its 90th anniversary – presented itself as a sprightly youngster with an armful of new products. Among these are ImpactFusion-F blanket cleaning – introduced into commercial web markets and now being released for newspaper and semicommercial – and a new version of the ProTech brush cleaning system. Baldwin also presented a new system for simultaneous cleaning of ink rollers, new web catcher models, and new features to its range of fluid and temperature systems. The Techniweb team of Pierre Borot and Rolf Felgner were at the show to introduce to the newspaper market, the blanket and web cleaning systems which are gaining favour with Australian heatset commercial printers. Technocleaner uses a cleaning agent sprayed onto the web to clean ink and paper lint from blankets, while a web cleaner uses a combination of ionisation, brush and suction action to remove paper dust which is then filtered out. Consumables In the consumables industry, there had been consolidation and evolution among the major players. Flint’s acquisition of Day International last year had given it claimed top or second place positions in each of its markets, and annual sales of US$3.1 billion ($3.22 billion) chief executive Charles Knott says. With other major components BASF, ANI (formerly Akzo Nobel Ink) and Flint’s own interests, the group now addresses pressroom chemicals, narrow web, flexo and pigments segments and has 8300 employees. Earlier this year Flint added UK press chemicals business HDP and Siegwerk’s packaging ink business in Australia and New Zealand. Knott – who entered the industry from ICI last September – says Flint will continue with consolidation: “We see no need to be big for the sake it, and will be selective about where we can make our biggest contribution,” he says. Flint will use its scale to secure raw materials and leverage capabilities: “We have some real pockets of excellence,” he says, citing Day’s marketing and solution selling initiatives. Day makes sleeve blankets for Goss’s Sunday presses (of which 300 are installed) and has been working on a prototype for the 96-page Sunday 5000, set to compete with gravure in some markets. In this big boys’ game, SunChemical is another major player, its sales (half in the UK) accounting for US$4 billion of the US$11 billion turnover of DIC (Dainippon Ink and Chemicals). At DRUPA, president and chief executive Rudi Lenz launched a consulting division with partnerships aimed at improving performance and addressing health and safety and environmental issues. Sun is also working with UPM-Kymmene to develop a new ink-and-paper concept for heatset magazine printing. Both are members of the PrintCity consortium. There is also a new UV ink for sheetfed printing with 30 per cent ‘sustainable’ materials. Lenz stresses product quality – a key element when there are raw materials price increases to pass on – and says Sun wants to grow with new products and technologies including digital printing, “to be there tomorrow”. Mailroom DRUPA also brought at least a couple of useful mailroom developments from its major players. Ferag was at pains to point out its belief that concepts and not technology which limit postpress production speeds. And to prove the point, a new polybagging system showed lateral thinking with a delivery for its 30,000 cph PolyStream which uses the uncritical JetFeeder hopper as the main collecting component – under selective packaging control – and a new circulating belt which integrates a product repair facility. Sealing is via four rotating bars in a packaging head, and bundles are held by clamps to the bundling system. Elsewhere, the emphasis was on newspaper product improvement through ‘add-on’ components for trimming and stitching, with a new PreTronic presetting system which can be teamed with quality control features. This automates settings for UniDrum and SNT trimming drums, which can also be downloaded from a JDF-based workflow, while a camera-based system checks signatures and ejects defects. For Müller Martini, the newspaper focus was on the ProLiner and a new CoLiner pregathering system ... all decked out in the company’s new ‘laserblue’ livery. The company has 20 ProLiner installations – with a couple more signed during the show – and marketing manager Volker Leonhardt says the new pregatherer will make it easier for users to extend existing systems and cater for building space needs. The ProLiner embraces concepts from both the Newsliner and SLS and offers various levels of automation. The CoLiner expands a modular concept which already includes components for product trimming, and will add stitching late next year. Leonhardt says Müller Martini is looking at ways of adding foil-wrapping. “The next step for us will be to integrate it into existing Newsliner and SLS systems next year, and then to bring in CMC polywrapping,” he says. Also active in the newspaper market, Gämmerler had a live system on its stand made up of compensating stacker, two trimmer options connected by 45° bump-turns, strapping machines and a palletising robot. Equipment is preset using a touch panel, while LS500 logistics controls and monitors the whole system. Area sales manager Klaus Herrmann outlined the changes which have taken place at Gämmerler with new management following its acquisition by a private equity company, bringing a focus on manufacturing costs and a new culture to do ‘more and better’. gx
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