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.

Some inkjet events to watch out for

Printing is not all about inkjet, but this is the most dynamic type of technology, with the potential to drive new applications and markets. Therefore, some inkjet events to watch out for are lining up.

Inkjet Insight is having an Innovation Week. This is series of webinars to educate the industry on the latest inkjet technology coming to the market, across document, labels, packaging and industrial segments. Technology coverage includes presses, press components, software and finishing. Different experts will share their knowledge and are available for Q&A. The webinars will run from June 14th to 18th.

Also, at Inkjet Insight a monthly overview on the latest inkjet production press installations gives readers an overview on which company installed which device into which company. It will be interesting to see how markets and demand develop. We started this series in January 2021 and will have a monthly update. January was a strong month with 16 installs, followed by 11 in February. You would need to become a member, but this is definitely worth it. Naturally we will miss some installations, as there was no press release or other public mention. If you know of any installs, please let me know.

There will be some more inkjet events to watch out for this year. A lot will still be virtual, but I hope on-site events will resume. I certainly have marked my calendar for the Hunkeler Innovationdays 2022, starting on the 21st of February 2022. Hopefully there will be opportunities to see the latest launches even before that.

Interior Décor printing with HP

Today, the 14th of Jan, HP held a webinar on interior décor printing. I hoped to learn more about the market in general and HPs printing options for the different types of applications and maybe even some hot news. The webinar remained more general however, presenting designers, printers and futurists – and less of my beloved stats and technology.

Nevertheless, there were a few important things that stuck.

  • Covid offers new surfaces too print on
  • Home office means home improvement
  • Ease of use is important
  • Think international

I would like to give a little bit more detail on each of the points:

Putting (some) Excitement into virtual events

Yes, we know drupa 2020 has been moved and Covid restrictions mean that there will be no trade shows for 2020 at least. Still vendors want to launch new products and since even open houses are out of question for now the last resort is virtual events. There have been a few in the last couple of months.

There are pundits that extol the virtue of virtual, but I find them somewhat unsatisfying – and I know that I am not alone. There are big differences in the quality of the virtual events as well, in terms of content, presentation and getting the attendants enthusiastic. But the main point is that marketing anything around print, which distinguishes itself as something multi-sensory and tactile, only virtually is a bit dicey.

Can virtual events replace trade shows? – The Bobst June 2020 press conference

Trade fairs have been under pressure in recent years. Cancelling most events in 2020 is making vendors considering their stance towards trade shows once more. So far drupa has been beyond discussion as the one trade show in which a vendor needs to exhibit to be taken seriously in the printing industry. Product and technology development plans have been timed for this show to maximise impact. Now drupa being moved to 2021 wreaks havoc to many plans and a good share of vendors decided to hold virtual launch events instead.

Two major vendors bailed out of drupa 2021 recently and opted for virtual events. Xerox cited insecurity around large events during a pandemic. Bobst announced that it was cancelling its participation at most trade shows, including Drupa, citing several reasons: A change in strategy to forego trade shows (except selected few in Far East) in favour of virtual events and experience centers, environmental reasons and that 2021 is already “full” for Bobst.

Virtual press conferences

As the first of the major vendors which cancelled their drupa participation for 2021 Bobst held an international press conference on the 9th of June. Several articles have been written on the launches presented, but I would like to focus on the underlaying question: how well does a virtual event as a substitute for a trade show participation.

First kudos to the event organisers. According to Bobst more than 100 journalists and analysts joined. The virtual press conference was well organized. The stream contained a mix of CEO Jean-Pascal Bobst talking, mixed with slides and him drawing on a flip chart (you still remember what this is?) to explain some workflow details. There was ample time for questions, also expertly moderated by Francois Martin.

Still – getting technology developments explained via a couple of slides always gives me the feel that I want to walk over and kick the tires of the new product at the booth or demo site. Given the wide range of listeners to a call it is impossible to give enough detail for the exports while not to overextend the ones that dabble in this field of expertise (or in the print industry as a whole). Crucially, as an analyst I want to learn about the important points that are not on polished vendor presentation slides, like pricing, availability, tech details, pros and cons and more. I find being able to stand in front of a piece of technology and talking to product managers, sales guys and technicians incredibly helpful. This is usually the opportunity to examine print samples as well. And you have a bit of time to let the first information settle and recall the points you want clarified.