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drupa Showcases New Digital Technologies

From inkjet and nanographic printing to B2-format digital presses, manufacturers showed off all their latest gadgets at drupa 2012—though many are still a year away from completion.

June 2012
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Taking place only once every four years, the drupa international printing trade fair is a huge show. By the time it wrapped up its two-week stint in Düsseldorf, Germany, last month 314,500 visitors from more than 130 countries had walked its 19 halls and visited its 1,850 exhibitors. 

Though impressive, that was still 18 percent fewer visitors than had showed up at the 2008 show. A sign of the times, perhaps, but vendors were nonetheless ebullient about the turnout, insisting that the quality of customers had increased dramatically. 

In the months leading up to drupa 2012, much had been written about how inkjet would dominate the show again, as in 2008. Those predictions proved accurate, as far as they went, but that characterization is too limiting. For example, Landa Corp.’s new nanographic printing process employs piezo electric heads, but the company doesn’t refer to it as inkjet printing, in part, because an intermediate blanket transfers the nanoink to the substrate rather than it being jetted directly onto it. 

There was also a mini resurgence of “liquid toner” printing technology in Düsseldorf, with several manufacturers promising to bring solutions to market. That qualifying statement actually was another recurring theme of the show, as the majority of solutions announced are not slated for commercial release until sometime in 2013. 

Among the other trends in evidence were a focus on B2-format digital printing solutions and manufacturers configuring offset presses—including sheetfed models—with inkjet imaging units for hybrid printing or using them as building blocks for dedicated digital printing solutions. It was striking to see how much emphasis was put on digital solutions by the “traditional” offset press manufacturers. 

Nanographic Printing 

What helped make “nanography” the talk of the show were the announcements that ­Heidelberg, Komori and manroland sheetfed had formed strategic partnerships with Landa to bring nanographic printing solutions to market. This is in addition to Landa’s plans to introduce three sheetfed and three web presses of its own. The agreements with Heidelberg and Komori cover the development of new printing press lines, whereas manroland reportedly is looking to retrofit existing presses. 

 
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