Virtual drupa: day one

The 20th of April 2021 marked the first day of virtual drupa. After live trade shows garnered a lot of criticism lately – besides Covid-19 making live events impossible currently – virtual drupa should be a good benchmark on how virtual events can replace the live version. Drupa has an invaluable head start on many other virtual activities due to their strong brand name and almost guaranteed media coverage.

The good news first: the website technology mostly worked well. The live streams had some small interruptions. Occasional screen sharing and presentation issues were on a level we are used to. Navigation on the site remains a bit challenging, however – like navigating their 18 halls without an exhibitor guide.

During the first day visitors of virtual drupa are torn between a multitude of offerings. To be honest, I did not make it into the exhibition and matchmaking areas yet. There were 59 web session listed for the first day, accordingly many sessions running in parallel. The sessions fall roughly into two groups: vendor presentations (mostly on products) and more educational sessions in the conference area.

It seemed the conference had two main topics on day one: AI and sustainability. Unfortunately, there were too many presentations in parallel, to get all of the tracks, so my view may be biased. To me, the presentations on AI altered between a high-level overview on the great new world of AI (not the ones you know from the movies, many presenters assured us), extolling the incredible growth opportunities on a very general level. The print related examples seemed a lot more modest, mainly focussed on servicing. Surely there will be applications for AI in print, although I hardly believe this will lead to dramatic growth – in the end the total demand for print is driven rather by media usage than production efficiency. There is no doubt however, that a few percent of efficiency increase the use of AI enables can make the difference in success and failure, or for the best choice out of a group of competitors.

The topic of sustainability felt a bit more tangible for the printing industry. Presentations contained some good food for thought and some look into regulations, although lacking data, consumer trends and practical advice.

Many of the conference presentations had a too strong vendor bias unfortunately. Apart from a few external experts most presentations were held by suppliers – all too often with a company bias and lack of general overview.

The other part of the program were vendor presentations. Again, more of those missed than listened to – despite my 8 am to 6:30 pm shift. Somewhat remarkable was the lack of product news on the first day. I would have expected a few more launches, product upgrades or company initiatives. Mostly presenters reiterated product features of products already on the market. The lack of product launches, traditionally the hallmark of drupa, does not bode well for that type of virtual trade show. With industry heavyweights like Canon, Ricoh or Xerox not taking part – although we surely can expect some product launches from those this year – the event is missing some attractive options.

For me the product highlights of day one were the MCORR 1300 from EFI and a faster version of the Fujifilm JetPress 750S.

As the name suggest the MCORR is for corrugated print. As the Nozomi the MCORR uses UV inkjet, however as a scanning head device. With about a sixth of the throughput and a smaller format the MCORR is more an affordable, entry model compared to the Nozomi. The same ink set, options for orange, violet and white and the same colour space do make the output quite comparable. The MCORR 1300 certainly deserves a closer look with a bit more detail after drupa.

Except of the speed raised by 50% to 5,400 sheets/hour there is not much to report on the new JetPress 750S, as Fujifilm did not want to share a lot of detail. It will be an option or upgrade and be widely available in autumn this year.

A few other remarks on the presentations. They ran the full gamut from slick to home-grown. That should not be confused with the amount of interesting content or entertainment value. A lot comes down to presenter and surprising is that many still do not stick to the basic best practises. While the format included a Q&A option, not all presenters allowed for that feature or overlooked questions they rather wanted to avoid. I seriously hope that this is not becoming standard practice. Without being able to ask even unconformable questions the value of a launch event is gravely diminished. Andy Tribute would not have enjoyed it.

The first day of virtual drupa leaves a bit mixed feelings so far. As promised I will do the full four days. Lets see what day two will bring.

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