drupa 2016 to 2020: the Inkjet Journey

In Article, Industry Issues, Knowledge Base, Purchasing Inkjetby Pat McGrewLeave a Comment

By Pat McGrew, McGrewGroup Inc.

If you are reading too many drupa articles, apologies. The Dusseldorf extravaganza that happens every four years does tend to capture our hearts and minds about a year out from the event. In many ways, drupa has driven the development cycles in the print industry, though as we come into 2020 it is looking like we might not see the push to have new, running, sellable equipment in the stands.  We may still see an abundant array of technology demonstrations as vendors test the waters for their inkjet devices and the workflows that feed them. 

This episode is a look back to what we expected in 2016 with some thoughts on how to interpret what we see in Dusseldorf from Jun 16-26, 2020.

Looking back at the trade show circuits of the last decade it has been clear that inkjet solutions have occupied a lot of mindshare. By the time we arrived in Dusseldorf for the 2016 edition of drupa, we had already had two drupa cycles labelled “Inkjet drupa” and it was clear that there was on-going research and development that would continue to make inkjet technology an ongoing talk track for years to come.

In 2016 we were delighted by inkjet presses that had higher speeds, better print quality, and greater support for a wider range of substrates. They had moved beyond a core support for transaction printing, and some book publishing, growing to demonstrate proficiency in printing catalogs, magazines, direct mail marketing and a diverse array of marketing collateral products. Inkjet printing paired with new inks, expanded drying capabilities and well-designed finishing options created a new set of product opportunities. Roll-to-cut options as well as the sheet-fed inkjet offerings on display opened the door to using mature sheet-fed finishing options already commonly found in print shops of all sizes. From dynamic size changes to dynamic perforations and a host of folding options, 2016 delivered on many of the vendor promises that went back a few drupa cycles.

But the other thing we learned is to listen carefully to the promises of near term solution availability. From 2008 to 2012 to 2016, there were promises made in the inkjet press space and not all came to fruition. Think in terms of the Impika announcement of the iPress 600 at drupa 2008 with 4 to 6 colors and options to print on adhesive paper and film. By 2012 they were announcing a new iPrint Compact that was 4-color and variable speed with no mention of six colors. And ultimately, as they became part of Xerox a new set of announcements took over. If you were waiting to buy that 6-color press, you could have fallen behind in your market. 

Also in 2008 we saw the announcement of the HP Inkjet Web Press, the Kodak Stream technology press (though Kodak was selling the VL series at the time which was imbued with Impika engineering), Screen’s Trupress Jet SX and FujiFilm’s Jet Press 720. By the time we arrived at the 2012 edition of drupa these companies were joined in the world of high-speed inkjet by everyone from Delphax with their elan press using Memjet heads, Kodak with a Kodak Prosper 6000XL, HP with a 42-inch wide web press attached to a book line and their partner Pitney Bowes featuring an IntelliJet20 – their implementation of an HP T200 to serve TransPromo production, to Ricoh bringing the Screen-based IP5000, SCREEN with their Truepress Jet520ZZ and Xerox celebrating their CiPress500. The disruptor in the mix was Benny Landa, announcing a new company and new inket technology designed to revolutionize production inket across documents, commercial and packaging segments.

Start thinking about how many of these products you saw come to full commercialization as we address the hoopla four years ago where we were again saying that we had an inkjet drupa. Yes, Landa was back with a press and print samples, but still had work to do to get to sellable presses. The Ricoh team had moved on to the VC series of presses, Canon continued to expand the features and installation footprint of their inkjet presses, and SCREEN continued their innovations, quietly adding market share among transactional and marketing printers. FujiFilm continued to add features to the JetPress 720, and Xerox brought the Brenva cutsheet inkjet as well as their high-fusion ink story. Today the Brenva is being displaced by the introduction of the Xerox Baltoro.

As we approach drupa 2020, listen for all of the announcements. Read them carefully. If you are attending, look at what is on display and what is producing print in the halls. Ask questions about when announced features and functions will be available in your market, and what changes you might need to make to take advantage of announced solutions.

With all of your research in hand, consider the timing of your investments carefully. It may be that your best move is to go with current technology  instead of waiting.

Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have questions? Ping me on LinkedIn or drop a note.

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