250 days to drupa 2020 – and what to look out for

drupa 2020

We just passed the mark of 250 days left until drupa 2020, the Olympics and football world championship of print rolled into one. There was a noticeable uptick in activity from Messe Düsseldorf recently with floorplans published, interviews given, and the ticket shop opened (for the very very impatient among us). In times of flailing trade shows drupa still goes strong with 1,800 exhibitors announced already and the floor space almost sold out. There is no doubt that drupa 2020 will set the agenda again for years to come around printing technology.

There is already a lot of discussion on what will be the main trends and topics of drupa 2020.

Several main trends have been singled out by the fair organisers, but in my view not all have the potential to make an impact on the show’s perception. Functional printing and 3D Printing are singled out again, but these technology areas are out of scope for almost printing companies. These technologies mean serving new customers in new business fields with new technologies. Commercial printers will not have much of a head start compared to a greenfield operation focusing on these areas. Additionally, other shows, like InPrint in Munich this year, are already focusing on these topics.

Packaging printing on the other side is almost a given now as exhibition focus. Not only did packaging printers flock to drupa for years, also commercial printers routinely produce packaging as part of their product mix. In surveys usually half of all commercial printer produce some packaging print. When including labels and POS that share is even higher. Accordingly, the interest in packaging solutions will remain high and I do expect lots of packaging press news, with many devices targeting the overlap between commercial and packaging print.

Probably the biggest potential for disruption has what is labelled industrial print. Although some observers use the term for printing of non graphic arts related images, Messe Düsseldorf uses the term as a header for the industrialisation of business and production processes in print. While the print industry was one of the first industries to use digital data exchange formats for process control (JDF/JMF) we do not need to argue that the print industry can learn a lot from other industries nowadays. It is these investments in automation and efficiency that will divide the successful from the not-so-successful printers in the future – it is a far bigger differentiator than solely the printing technology used. Industry 4.0 has been a buzzword at drupa 2016 already. I hope to see solutions tailored much closer to print this time which leverage the expertise gained in other industries. Messe Düsseldorf identified four area which are especially relevant for the printing industry: Artificial Intelligence, Platform Economy, Connected Customers and Circular Economy. There will be talks and conferences complementing the technologies exhibited, including talks on changing business models.

One interesting extension on improving economics and changing business models will be the presence of several online printers which market themselves as trade printers as well. This includes diedruckerei.de, Helloprint, FlyerAlarm, and the Cimpress subsidies WirMachenDruck and Pixart. Already at the Print4all trade show in Italy in 2018 there was a remarkable number of online printers offering their services – to other printers. It seems there is a pattern emerging and we should watch how this influences business models.

And of course, there will be a lot of digital presses to be seen. No surprise: the focus will be in inkjet, although toner is still the most widespread process. The times at and after drupa 2016 were somewhat slow on B2 inkjet news, but I expect to see several upgrades and new entrants next year. B1 inkjet will be prominent at drupa 2020 as well although more for packaging printers needing the large format. For most commercial printers these presses will remain pricey, only affordable for the top end. My gut feel is that B2 has the faster and easier ROI for many, although some will have the volume and infrastructure to justify B1. In any case, for both sizes the growth potential is huge. It will be good to get more detailed information on the economics of each press to see how the different digital technologies stack up against each other and also against offset print.

Within the upcoming 250 days there will be a lot more news on products and businesses and I will try to cover the most important ones. Stay tuned.

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