Insights and Innovations from drupa 2024

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Insights and Innovations from drupa 2024

The international print sector descended on Germany recently for the drupa trade fair, where more than 100,000 people saw a range of new and innovative products from leading players from across the globe.

For the first time in eight years, leaders in the international print industry met at drupa – one of the world’s biggest trade fairs for the sector. 

drupa was held in Dusseldorf over 11 days, from May 28 to June 7 featuring 1,643 exhibitors from 52 nations, demonstrating a range of the latest innovations in the sector. 

There were more than 170,000 attendees over the duration of the fair coming from 174 countries – a record figure, according to drupa. After Europe, Asia was the most strongly represented region with 22%, followed by America with 12%. Asia as well as Latin America and the MENA region are markets with great growth potential, which was reflected in the significant increase in exhibitors’ presence and order books. 

Many key players in the sector such as Bobst, Canon, Fujifilm, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, HP, Horizon, Koenig & Bauer, Komori Konica Minolta, Kurz and Landa were present and reported having signed contracts that significantly exceeded expectations.

This demonstrates how the print sector is thriving internationally after some difficult years during COVID.

Major trends

At drupa, automation took centre stage, with a strong focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and smart workflows, including software solutions, but the fair also showed that digital and analogue technologies complement and benefit from each other. Traditional industry leaders presented a range of digital solutions, while digital pioneers integrated conventional components into their offerings. In addition, Robotics played an important role in the exhibition halls and illustrated the path towards the smart factory. 

“AI was a significant topic of discussion at drupa this year, and it will play a crucial role in the future of the industry,” says Denis Slavin, national business development sales director, partner channel, Ricoh UK. “We are already seeing it integrating into several new products, for example Ricoh’s new ProTM vc80000 digital colour high-speed inkjet webfed press, uses innovative AI capabilities.”   

drupa also highlighted other major trends in the market. “One notable development is the introduction of inkjet technology to the cut sheet market, representing a significant shift in the industry’s direction,” says Denis.

“While toner-based printing retains its relevance, particularly due to ongoing challenges inkjet faces with substrate compatibility and lower-end market pricing, the exceptional image quality achievable with some inkjet technologies is undeniable. However, integrating this level of quality into compact printing devices remains a distant goal.

“Another critical trend is the emphasis on automation. Reducing manual touchpoints and minimising the potential for human error are becoming increasingly crucial. Despite the apprehension among many print providers, automation remains essential for long-term survival in the industry.”  

Sustainability and the circular economy was also a focus for many at drupa, and technology is often the key to achieving sustainability goals. Exhibitors at drupa illustrated this with numerous practice-orientated developments and concrete solutions. 

In addition, Touchpoint Sustainability from the VDMA, the German Machinery and Equipment Manufacturers’ Association, showcased current state of the art innovations, presented best-practice use cases and gave an outlook into the future of a sustainable printing industry.

Product launches

There were also many product launches at drupa. For instance, Kyocera Document Solutions revealed its vision for inkjet commercial printing alongside its leading TASKalfa Pro 15000c with the launch of the new TASKalfa Pro 55000c and with a sneak peek at the future through the FOREARTH textile printer and the Belharra Kyocera Nixka inkjet photo printer.

“Based on Kyocera’s comprehensive capabilities, we continue to create new value to serve the challenges of our customers and society,” says Hironori Ando, president of Kyocera Document Solutions Inc. “I believe that this is the purpose of our company, leveraging our organisational capabilities in research and development and product to create a sustainable future.”

This was the first time that Kyocera had been present at drupa in person. The company decided to attend as it continues to build upon its success in the space of production print. 

“For customers, inkjet technology is revolutionising the production print market by delivering high-speed, high-quality output with greater efficiency and lower costs, enabling businesses to meet diverse demands and offer personalised, on-demand printing solutions,” says Martin Fairman, group sales and marketing director at Kyocera Document Solutions UK.

 “When looking to the future of inkjet technology in the production print market, it is poised for significant growth and innovation. As advancements in printhead technology, ink formulations, and substrate versatility continue, we can expect inkjet to offer higher speeds, better quality, and increased cost-efficiency. This will position Kyocera as a dominant force in various sectors, from packaging and textiles to commercial and industrial printing, ultimately redefining the standards of production print.”

Premieres

Meanwhile Konica Minolta unveiled 20 European premieres at drupa. This included the high-speed UV inkjet press AccurioJet 60000, which delivers industry-leading productivity, capable of 6,000 sheets per hour and duplex printing capabilities. It produces outstanding image quality and reproduction stability across a range of media, taking advantage of Konica Minolta’s inline sensors and a spectrophotometer to automatically monitor printing conditions. 

Visitors to Konica Minolta’s stand were also the first to see the AccurioPress C84hc, which uses high chroma toner. Free from the restrictions imposed by the colour gamut of ordinary toner, it is possible to create prints with consistently bright and vivid colours. 

 The company also introduced MYIRO colour management tools for graphics arts applications. Developed by Konica Minolta’s Sensing Business Unit, these tools include spectrophotometers for advanced colour management and high-speed auto scanning. 

“As a major player in digital production printing it is our mission to promote and support the shift from analogue to digital print,” says Jon Hiscock, Konica Minolta Business Solutions (UK) Ltd. “In doing so, we will build a world where high-value-added printed materials are created efficiently with minimal environmental impact.”

Much anticipated

Elsewhere, Ricoh unveiled its much-anticipated Z75 B2 cut-sheet inkjet printer and the continuous-feed VC80000. “At drupa, Ricoh placed a significant emphasis on automation and workflow optimisation,” says Denis. 

“While these innovations drew significant attention, Ricoh’s core message centred on the efficient integration of work into these advanced print engines with minimal touchpoints. Additionally, Ricoh showcased their comprehensive range of full-colour cut-sheet printers, including the Pro C5310, Pro C7500 and Pro C9500, all operated by a suite of innovative software solutions.

“Ricoh is globally renowned for its market-leading print head technology. These print heads are widely adopted by numerous other manufacturers in the industry, reflecting their exceptional quality and versatility. This innovation enables us to support a broad spectrum of inkjet hardware, placing Ricoh firmly at the forefront of the industry’s future.

“This widespread usage underscores the superior quality and reliability of Ricoh’s print head technology. The innovations showcased in Ricoh’s technology at Drupa reflect the future of graphic communications – one that is increasingly dominated by inkjet technology, offering superior performance, flexibility, and efficiency.”

Power to move

Canon’s theme at drupa was ‘The Power to Move’, where the company highlighted key partnerships and initiatives that demonstrate the power of collaboration to drive positive change and create experiences that enrich lives and businesses.

In line with its Kyosei philosophy of living and working together for the common good, Canon partnered with several businesses and charities and donated 20,000 books produced during drupa to a variety of causes.

At the Printworks area was the Publishing 2030 Accelerator, which was focused on bringing about meaningful global progress on sustainability in publishing. Visitors learnt more about Canon’s collaboration with this publishing industry initiative, born out of Canon’s Future Book Forum community, and how Canon is playing an active role in scoping out the conditions for success for a Distributed Printing Network, which could propel the whole industry forward and slash the carbon footprint of every book sold.

“Images, literature and music enrich lives and we believe that these experiences should be accessible to everyone,” says Jennifer Kolloczek, senior director, marketing & innovation, production printing, Canon EMEA. “Canon supports a range of initiatives aimed at fulfilling this ambition and we’re proud to showcase and raise awareness of these causes.”

Label printing

Also at drupa, Epson revealed its latest industrial colour inkjet label printer. Designed for in-house, on-demand colour label printing, the ColorWorks C8000e produces exceptional quality labels at high-speed, while significantly reducing the costs and waste associated with traditional analogue label production processes.

The ColorWorks C8000e builds on its predecessor, the ColorWorks C7500, to meet the high-volume label production needs of businesses in sectors ranging from food, beverages, chemicals and healthcare, to horticulture, pharmaceuticals, warehousing and logistics.

Designed to help eliminate costs associated with pre-printing, such as label waste and excessive inventory, the ColorWorks C8000e incorporates Epson’s unique PrecisionCore printhead technology to deliver detailed, consistent high-quality and accurate colour labels. The ColorWorks C8000e achieves an image resolution of 1200 x 600dpi, enabling accurate reproduction of barcodes and small fonts, while its print speed of 300 mm/sec minimises run times for on-demand jobs. To further enhance image accuracy and reliability, the C8000e features Epson’s Nozzle Verification Technology to prevent misprints, as well as spot colour matching and ICC profiling for easy and precise colour management.  

Supporting a wider variety of media types, including matt and gloss paper, film and synthetic; the C8000e is capable of printing label widths from one to four inches, while an adjustable platen gap (up to 0.6mm) enables the use of thicker media for applications such as for price tags or floral labels. With no loss of quality on BS 5069-certified media, the printer is also ideal to produce labels for use in harsh and demanding environments such as when exposed to salt water or chemicals.  

Bright future

drupa showed that the print channel has great potential for the future, even against the backdrop of many challenges, and that the prospects are promising. In the last financial year, the global printing industry achieved a turnover of about €840 billion, according to Smithers, and continues to develop at varying pace worldwide.  

“The print sector is currently experiencing a notable resurgence,” says Denis. “Advancements in in-line embellishment options have significantly reduced production times, enabling the creation of high-value products in minutes rather than days. This shift allows for production of fewer, yet more valuable, items that effectively engage target audiences through the use of variable data and creative, tactile media types.

“The focus is now on minimising waste by producing only what is necessary. By adopting these innovative approaches, print providers can create more impactful and visually appealing products, leading to greater efficiency and effectiveness in reaching their intended audiences. Overall, there is a renewed sense of optimism within the industry, driven by these technological advancements and strategic changes.”

Sabine Geldermann, director drupa, Portfolio Print Technologies, adds: “At drupa 2024, we experienced first-hand just how relevant and resilient this industry is. The community is determined to set the course for the future together. Exchanging ideas with people from all continents and from all areas of the industry was extremely enriching and inspiring. We were able to welcome around 50 large delegations from various nations, and numerous globally active associations and organisations chose drupa as the ideal setting for their conferences and board meetings.” 

The next drupa will be held in Dusseldorf in 2028.