Day One – Thursday
It’s huge… 19 halls; more than 200,000 square metres of exhibition space; over 30 hectares; almost a kilometre from one end to the other…
As might be anticipated (especially after all the press coverage that it appears I have been getting on the cover of Print21), I visited the Konica Minolta stand first up. I went for a walk-through with David Procter (GM of Production Printing Australia) with the highlight being a demonstration of the KM-1, Konica Minolta’s B2 inkjet press. Unlike its opponents in this arena (the MGI AlphaJet, the Xerox CiPress, the Fujifilm Jetpress…), the KM-1 is actually a fully-operational machine, capable of duplex printing. It uses UV ink (perhaps a slight disadvantage in that it costs more) but by doing so, it ensures that the output is dry and permits high-speeds of 3,300 B2 sheets per hour (equivalent to 220 A4 ppm). The press utilises a Komori chassis and paper path, so is more akin to an offset press than a digital press – enabling accurate paper handling and registration. Komori has the same machine on their stand, but a different colour. It is anticipated that production versions of this machine will be available within 18 months, at a price-tag of around AU$1.5million. Running costs are not known yet, but are expected to be no more than 2-3 cents per A4 equivalent.
Several other smaller items caught my attention on the KM stand…
The HC700 press – a “high-chroma” version of the C7000. Using different toners, this machine has a much wider colour gamut than standard CMYK toner-based presses. As such, its appeal would be in the photographic market or for specialised photobooks. Its downsides are the higher click-rates (8¢ +) and the lack of ability to match Pantone colours. However, the prints do look very vibrant, and come much closer to matching what can be seen on screen. I am sure that would appeal to photographers!
Taopix is offered as a hosted service by KM Europe for their production print customers. It makes it very affordable for small print shops to offer professional photobook solutions on-line, at a very affordable rate. It’s a pity that KM Australia won’t consider doing this – but I think they have lost the opportunity now that the Taopix representative in Australia shares office-space in the HP complex at Macquarie Park!
Book & Story, a book-binding supplier in China is manufacturing a range of extraordinary vintage presentation “boxes”. However, these boxes are themed as treasure chests, post boxes, radio-sets, luggage cases, handbags and the like. Each is hand-made, from timber, book-binding cloths, leather and metal, with compartments for photobooks (such as travel albums, wedding photos, postcards). It is amazing how large the Asian B2C market is becoming. Who knows, perhaps it would be worthwhile testing the water in Australia for some of these products? They sell the boxes for US$200-$300 each, and the suppliers reckon they can get up to US$1500 for one that has been personalised with photo-memorabilia.
KM is distributing a wide-format toner-based printer, capable of printing on rolls up to 914mm wide. The KIP c7800 is designed for rapid poster printing – the quality is nowhere near that of inkjet printers and the “investment” is around AU$100,000 with running-costs around 50¢ per A2 print. It is certainly fast (laser-print speed), but at these prices, I cannot see a commercial market in Australia other than perhaps quick POS signage.
The KM stand occupies maybe 2000-3000sqm, in the same hall as Xerox – Hall 8b. This obviously aggravated Xerox, as they have constructed a floor to ceiling partition which virtually hides all of KM from view as you enter the hall. Xerox have engaged several members of Cirque de Soleil to perform at regular intervals high above the crowds, with this wall as a stage and backdrop for their gymnastics. Apparently the DRUPA organisers specifically prohibit the construction of such partitions, but because the big X really is so big, they have turned a blind eye. I am told that KM has lodged a complaint and may be pursuing legal action!
Kyocera has a stand of maybe 100sqm, on the corner of the Xerox hall. Their new production machine has similar capabilities to our (now) old KM c500 – but at a price under $20k (the c500 was $80k, in its day) and a click rate of under 6¢. They have only just ventured into the production graphic arts market with this machine – I would say that they are following in the footsteps of KM and will seriously challenge the high-end office pay-per-print market and perhaps even the production digital printing market if they continue on this path.
In hall 8a, across the way, I found Xeikon and Canon. Primed with the expectation of something new and wonderful being announced by Xeikon, I spent some 15 minutes searching their stand for a “new” machine – but nothing was visible. I went back on Day Two to investigate thoroughly – but more about that later. What was of greater interest in this hall was the complete and utter lack of anything new at all from Canon. In fact they actually stated in some of their poster material that this DRUPA was for them a display of consolidation of workflows, software and integration – not of new machinery. This certainly seemed to go against the general flow. Perhaps Canon is keeping something back and will explode on the scene before Ipex in 2014?
Talking of exploding, the talk on everyone’s lips was Benny Landa, Benny Landa, Benny Landa…
I wandered over to Hall 9 (about a 10 minute saunter, mind you) and walked through the doorways into another universe! Low lighting, flashy-looking futuristic machinery, lots and lots of huge digital display screens… and crowds 5-deep in front of each and every demonstrator who were suavely running through their well-rehearsed patters. What was equally amazing was the number of staff milling around wearing “Landa” uniforms – there would have to have been over 100 staff – many helping the visitors book in for the half-hour presentation by the man himself. Finding that all today’s “performances” were booked out, I made a reservation for tomorrow morning, and contented myself with a browse around the prototype machines on display. Landa Corporation has not only developed the nanographic printing technology but has simultaneously signed agreements with Heidelberg, Komori and Man-Roland to license the technology AND have developed and manufactured their own extra-ordinarily high-tech-looking digital presses – both cut-sheet and web-fed, in sizes up to B2.
When I looked at my iPhone, I realised that I had spent 7 hours without even noticing the time pass. I also realised my legs and feet were numb, from the knees down – so I decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel.