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Drupa Delivers, Optimism Returns

It seems Drupa, the massive quadrennial Messe Düsseldorf print media show held this past May 6-19 in Germany, traditionally assumes a theme that characterizes the nature of most of the new products introduced at the show.

In 1990, according to Rochester Inst. of Technology's Frank Romano, the show was pegged the digital Drupa. In '95 it was the CTP (computer to plate) Drupa. In 2000 it was dubbed the digital press and workflow automation show. This year's edition was deemed the .jdf (job definition format) show even before it opened. And already the 2008 show (slated for May 29-June 11) is becoming known as the ink jet Drupa. We'll see if it sticks.

While .jdf certainly held a high-profile position as an integral part of many new digital workflow product introductions, in my opinion, the show delivered so much more.

Granted, this was only my second Drupa, so some could argue I'm a neophyte (can you believe, some diehards in the print industry actually measure their lives by each rendition of Drupa?!). From the trade show standpoint, however, I consider myself a worn veteran, and there's little else among trade show venues — though many exhibition producers might aspire — that remotely compares to Drupa's size.

While Drupa 2000 celebrated the potential for exciting new things for converters, the 2004 show offered hard evidence many of those technologies have matured signifcantly for the package printing and converting industries. Beyond introducing anticipated .jdf products for a largely commercial printer audience, vendors at this year's show tantalized visitors with products converters could fully embrace.

Diversified suppliers familiar to converters included companies such as Bobst (including its recently acquired group of companies, formerly Valmet) and Windmoeller & Hoelscher. Notably, even Heidelberg, among those of similar fame like MAN Roland and Fischer & Krecke, gave full attention to answering the needs of package printers and converters.

Uteco, Nordmeccanica, Ashe, Creo, BST Promark, Enercon, Omet, the Maxcess Group of companies, Esko-Graphics, Körber, Kurz, Curioni Sun, Sherman Treaters, and so many others too numerous to mention here (but we'll try in PFFC's upcoming July issue) comprised the standard program to satisfy converter tastes.

Striking innovations from Jetrion, Humaneyes, Dotrix, TMS, RDP Marathon, Scitex Digital, and Stork Print were noteworthy, along with many other introductions you'll hear more about in future issues.

While attendance at this year's Drupa at 394,000+ visitors dropped from the previous record of 428,000, Werner Dornscheidt, president and CEO of Messe Düsseldorf comments, “Considering the prevailing economic conditions, this result was a wonderful surprise, even for us. After all, we couldn't expect to come within reach of the visitor numbers recorded in the boom year 2000. This outcome is all the more gratifying!”

Chiming in with upbeat thoughts, Rudolf Müller, CEO of Müller Martini, announced, “The period of stagnation in our industry seems to be over and a certain optimism is returning to the graphic arts industry….”

In support of this positive outook, Andrew Paparozzi, VP and chief economist of the National Assn. of Printing Leadership (Paramus, NJ), says the most recent NAPL economic analysis for commercial printers indicates, “From December 2003 through February of this year, print sales had their best three-month stretch in three years, and key indicators, such as work-on-hand, hiring plans, and the Printing Business Index are either positive or improving.”

This should be good news to converters as well. With commercial print markets evidencing some healthier increases, markets traditionally served by converters may be safe for the moment from commercial offset printers seeking to reinvent themselves with converting jobs to keep idle presses busy.

Thankfully, converters, too, have their own good news to share. The Foodservice & Packaging Inst. (FPI) in Falls Church, VA, proclaims, “more than 80% of manufacturers and suppliers of single-use foodservice packaging in North America said they expect their sales volumes to be better this year than last,” according to the FPI's Annual Foodservice Packaging Industry Survey released May 10. “This is the most optimistic our industry has been in the five years that FPI has been surveying our industry,” says FPI president John R. Burke.

Don't you think it's about time?!

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