My career in print started almost 30 years ago at MAN Roland, the largest web offset manufacturer at that time. In 2001 I left the company to focus on digital print, also expecting that the market for ever-faster conventional presses would eventually dry up. MAN Roland eventually had to declare bankruptcy and was split into two companies. The web press portion later merged with Goss, one of its largest competitors. Still, sales declined and it seems that we are now at the end of the road for heatset offset.
At the recent Intergraf “Print Matters for the Future“ conference, I listened to a remarkable presentation on high volume flyer/door drop printing. On the background of major advertisers pulling out of printed door-drops and impeding governmental regulations that could essentially stop door drops the presentation was already quite interesting. The good news is that proposed regulations are still being reviewed and most retailers still stick with door drops (more on the preference of consumers for door drops here).
It was good to be at the Hunkeler innovationdays 2023 again, with next level automation as its motto. This certainly held true. 50 print application lines were shown live with many in-line or highly integration solutions.
Hunkeler launched several interesting new pieces of equipment like a B2 cut-sheet finisher moving into a new level of productivity. In the traditional web finishing space a high volume, yet variable book block production line (the Starbook) with added Book Sorting Module was presented. Adding to flexibility and automation was a new autosplicer for fast and easy roll change – either in front of a press or for near-line web finishing lines.
Finally, the Hunkeler innovationdays are back, not only bringing more inkjet devices, but also a lot of technology around the presses – of course with finishing being very prominent. If you have not been to the Hunkeler innovationdays: it is the event to get the best possible overview on continuous feed production presses. Not only will all important vendors for digital commercial, publishing and document printing presses be there, the event also allows seeing the latest presses printing side-by-side.
2022 started fairly well in terms of inkjet press activities. It was supposed to be a decent year after the pandemic weighed down on businesses in 2020 and 2021. However, sales/placement announcements dropped off in Q2 and Q3. Finally, Q4 2022 sees inkjet press placements picking up finally. It ties in with printing companies having a more positive outlook again, e.g. in Germany.
For years I keep on collecting sales and placement announcements for production inkjet devices and use those to analyse trends and data. Placements and sales numbers for 2022 show a good start into the year with a decisive drop in activity in Q2 and Q3. However, Q4 showed a significant rise in numbers, easily surpassing even Q1 2022. Keep in mind that Q4 has not even ended, so there might be a few more units to add.
The pandemic did show us many processes moving digital. Communication is no exception. There is a huge push to move books to digital, although there are grave disadvantages. Magazine has been a bit under the radar and the declines in circulation in many countries are known. The better to see that launches of print magazines rebounded after the pandemic slump in 2020. According to Mr Magazine, Samir Husni, U.S. print Magazine launches were doubling in 2021 compared to 2020.