Photo: Copper Tree Media
As a relative new-comer to the print industry – but with a background in book publishing – drupa 2016 (my first) brought back memories of visits to Frankfurt Book Fair over the years: hundreds of thousands of lanyard-wearing visitors madly dashing from hall to hall; eye-catching stand designs, and everything held together with impeccable German efficiency.
There were differences though: the weather was warmer, and Messe Dusseldorf happily has more outdoor space in which to enjoy it than its counterpart in Frankfurt (on the rare occasions time allows!). The on-stand entertainment was also rather grander than anything I’d encountered before. But perhaps the most striking difference was the scale of the stands themselves and the machinery on display. As I wandered through the halls during a rare break in the mayhem, I was struck by the size of the booths, and the logistics and expense behind their design and assembly. The investment of time and money that companies make to get themselves to drupa – and to make sure they get noticed while they are there and maximise their investment – is considerable. But it’s the world’s pre-eminent print trade show for a reason and the deals done at drupa can generate the momentum needed to keep an advantage over the competition for the months – and even years – that follow.
The technology on display throughout the halls was something to behold: hall after hall of inkjet printers, offset printers, finishing equipment, pre-press and workflow solutions, and countless samples and examples of what these machines can do: Large format print of extraordinarily high quality; canvas prints, textile prints, personalised prints and 3D objects of all shapes and sizes.
And all this leads to my final observation – just how fierce the competition is in the industry. Rival companies striving to get that little bit extra out of their products – quality, economy, reliability. There is no room for complacency, either for print service providers or for manufacturers – both risk irrelevance if they fall behind the technological curve – or if they read market trends incorrectly and develop in the wrong direction. But ultimately, this makes for a dynamic, exciting and vibrant industry – with good value, extensive choice and exceptional quality the ultimate benefits to end-users. Here’s to drupa 2020 – can’t wait!