drupa 2020: What to Look For

By Pat McGrew / Published:

Since the first drupa in 1951, Dusseldorf has been the place to see what’s next in the printing industry. In the early days the excitement was around new types of presses, the introduction of phototypesetting, and advances in offset printing. By the 1990s, the word data came into the vocabulary along with machines that used industrial computers. The door opened to computer-to-plate, but also production digital toner machines. By 2000 digital solutions filled the halls, and by 2004 inkjet presses were on display in various forms.

Was 2008, 2012 or 2016 “the inkjet drupa”? In some ways, inkjet technology influenced all of them. Some of the machines on display never made it into production, but many more did, and their descendants are producing work daily in markets around the world. What will drupa 2020 bring?

The truth about big trade shows is that they tend to bring out a lot of innovation. Every vendor wants to put their best technology on display and entice buyers. In the world of inkjet, a very crowded world, the next drupa brings the promise of more capacity, more capability, and more color. If you’re shopping for inkjet, here are some questions to ask and proof points to look for as you walk the halls.

Your Format Options

Remember that inkjet is a versatile technology. It powers industrial marking devices that adds expiration dates to packages and prints entire books and magazine. You might receive a subscription box that is customized using inkjet technology that isn’t far different from the inkjet that prints your credit card statement. Across the halls in Dusseldorf, you will have the opportunity to see standalone inkjet printheads for your Do-It-Yourself projects from companies like Memjet, Domino, Epson, FujiFilm, HP, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Panasonic, Ricoh, Seiko, Toshiba, and Xaar. You might find them already integrated into a press or offered in a standalone format. You might find them configured to print labels, packaging, or envelopes. They might even be integrated into an analog press to add variable data in a hybrid configuration.

You will also see both cut-sheet and continuous roll-fed presses from vendors who configure them for everything from commercial and transactional print to labels and packaging. These presses will be found in everything from narrow widths to wide widths configured as monochrome, process color (CYMK), and sometimes more colors. Some may be limited in the weights and types of substrates they support, while others may extend their range by offering options to prime before printing. Presses will come in a variety of speed options, which directly impact your print capacity.

Here are some questions to ask as you are looking at the many inkjet solutions in the halls at drupa. Of course, these questions will work for any show you attend!

For the DIYers
  1. What is the printable area of the print head? This is especially important if you are replacing existing print heads. Also, ask if you can tie printheads together to extend the width and what the requirements for stitching print heads will be to ensure you can do the type of printing you need to do.
  2. What is required for integration of the print head? Some manufacturers provide complete kits for integration that include support for a variety of print head controllers and Raster Image Processors (RIPS), while others let you sort that out on your own. Know before you buy.
  3. What is the average print head life? This will help you determine the real cost of print work you do. Also, ask what the replacement policy is. Some companies may allow you to trade in the print head against a replacement. Is the head recyclable?
  4. Where do you buy ink? Some vendors require you to buy ink from them while others provide a list of approved ink vendors.

There are certainly dozens of other questions to ask for your specific environment but start with these to get the conversation going.

Stay tuned for a rundown of questions for the integrated devices, and additional guidance to help you find your dream inkjet device!

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

 

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Pat McGrew

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