Back at the circus

When I first started writing about printing and the graphic arts the older journalists would speak in hushed tones about Drupa; I thought it was just another trade show and they must be going senile. Now five drupas in I find that I am older if not wiser, but have at least remembered to bring comfortable shoes. Still, there’s something deeply reassuring about walking into the press office here at Drupa and finding all the familiar faces.

Heidelberg's PrimeFire 106 digital press.
Heidelberg’s PrimeFire 106 digital press.

In some ways this show is shaping up like all the others with Heidelberg getting proceedings underway with the first press conference the day before. Well, strictly speaking, Kodak held the first press conference, though I’m not really sure why they bothered. There was much talk about having some 20 new products, but Kodak had already announced most of these earlier this year and there’s only so many ways you can write the same story.

Kodak is in a slightly odd position in that it has a genuinely exciting technology in its Prosper UltraStream, which has now been completely overshadowed by the sale of this technology. Most of the vendors here are trying to sell bits of kit to printing companies, and maybe to forge deals with other vendors, but only Kodak is trying to sell the whole handcart in one go. Still, it’s a distinct improvement on the last Drupa, where Kodak spent all of its time trying to explain that the company could survive its chapter 11 bankruptcy. Sadly, if Kodak had really survived then it would have the funds to develop the Prosper technology properly.

Ok – I’m in a cranky mood – I’ve just sat through the Landa press conference and there’s only so much of that sh*t that any sane person can take (even us senile older journalists). Still, at least Landa did lay on a couple of dancing girls, though I might have appreciated this better if it hadn’t been first thing in the morning and I’d had some coffee.

The Landa press conference - spot the printing press.
The Landa press conference – spot the printing press.

Naturally they turned the lights off for the show because the one thing that a roomful of people writing notes really want is complete darkness. So instead we listened to Benny Landa’s carefully enunciated tones explaining that nano technology could save us from things like cancer and that inkjet printing is best suited to home office uses because the ink penetrates the paper, burying the pigment beneath the surface, where it’s wasted. Still, Cimpress has ordered 20 Landa presses so at least the company is off the starter blocks.

Heidelberg did its best to inject some common sense into proceedings. But strangely the company opted to hide its new PrimeFire behind three robots wielding big screens and wouldn’t let any one take any samples away. Still, the PrimeFire is worth a closer look later this week.

Dr Gerold Linzbach, Heidelberg’s CEO, began the press conference by announcing: “This Drupa is the birth party for the new Heidelberg. We changed our mindset, changed our culture, everything here is very open.” Basically this means that Heidelberg is now analyzing the performance of the presses and then selling a consultancy service to tell people how to get the best out of them. Linzbach explained: “If the customer is willing to work with us and willing to pay us than we can tell them things like how they can close the gap with their competitors. This is what we call smart data.”

I’d like to think that there will be some smart reporting to come later in the week. Stay tuned.



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