Final thoughts on Fespa ’21

This is the second half of a story on this month’s Fespa show, which took place in Amsterdam. One of the most interesting aspects of a Fespa show is the degree to which this event has diversified. This is true of the print industry as a whole but no other exhibition reflects this quite as well as Fespa. 

Visitors to the show had to prove their vaccination status each day.

When I first starting visiting Fespa it was seen as mainly a show about signage. But a modern Fespa event is just as much about textiles, and includes furniture and garments alongside soft signage. In previous years the show has been split into distinct areas and I’ve been able to write separate stories addressing different themes. But this year all these diverse elements are bundled together, and not just because the show was smaller, which has made it harder to write about. 

However, this diversification felt completely organic. So of course there would be flatbed printers for outdoor signage next to desktop direct to garment printers. And of course we would look at packaging solutions next to interior decor. In many cases these things are mixed together on the same stands because the vendors themselves have diversified.

EFI took a slightly strange approach to the show, opting to let its Reggiani subsidiary take the lead. That of course meant that EFI only addressed the textile market, with no mention of the Vutek’s or other wide format machines that EFI would normally show. 

Nonetheless, I had an interesting conversation with Adele Genoni, senior Vice President and general manager of EFI Reggiani, on the trends in the market. She noted that most countries are now starting to open up their economies after the pandemic but that vendors are having to cope with a new challenge from shortages in the supply chain, particularly in terms of computer chips. She says that there is a trend towards near shoring but that this is mainly driven by online brands, with the bigger brands responsible for the bulk of textile production moving more slowly so that the near-shoring trend is not as dramatic as it might at first appear to be. 

Adele Genoni, senior vice president and general manager of EFI Reggiani.

EFI announced a new printer, the Hyper, just before the show but chose to bring the Terra Silver textile printer to Fespa, which had been launched earlier in the year. 

The Terra Silver is a 1.8m wide entry level machine multi-pass printer. It can can print up to 190 sqm per hour with eight dual-channel printheads, in this case 600 dpi Kyocera heads. It uses a Terra pigment inkset that can print direct to textile without needing any steaming or washing afterwards. It comes complete with an inline dryer that allows polymerisation of the inks.

Micol Gamba, product and marketing manager, says: “Pigment is still below five percent penetration in the overall digital print market but it’s growing quite fast so our expectation is for double digit growth for pigment in general.”

Meanwhile the Hyper is said to be one of the fastest multi-pass inkjet textile printers around. It’s available in three widths – 1.8m, 2.4m and 3.4m – and can be set up with up to eight colours. It can be configured with up to 72 heads, or 9 heads per colour. For this printer, EFI has opted for the latest Kyocera printheads with full recirculation right past the nozzle plate, which is essential if you are going to limit the need for maintenance and to achieve the highest productivity. It can print at up to 600 x 2400 dpi resolution though most people will run at 600 x 600 dpi in two pass mode, or possibly up to 600 x 1200 dpi in four pass mode. It can print to knitted or woven fabrics 

Genoni says that Reggiani’s main aims are for sustainability and productivity. I suggested that these might be mutually exclusive since the best approach to sustainability is to limit production but she pointed out that replacing multiple printers with a single high production model such as the Hyper would be more efficient and use less energy, which is a reasonable argument. In any case, replacing conventional textile production with more digital devices will almost certainly see a reduction in the use of water. 

EFI also announced a new Fiery front end, XF 7.3, complete with Fiery Prep-It workflow software. This now gains support for an additional 180 printers from other manufacturers, including Agfa, Durst and Mimaki bringing the total number of third party models supported to over 1200. This release also includes a new printing mode that can reduce the processing time of jobs that include spot colours by up to 50 percent, and a new Clean Colors mode that delivers more vibrant prints. The Fiery Prep-it software promises to improve cutting preparation and production for wide- and superwide-format printing. It includes true-shape nesting to help save media as well as double-sided nesting control and cut path editing. 

EFI brough this Terra Silver multipass textile printer.

Brother showed a number of direct to garment printers, including a new model, the GTX600, which is not due to launch officially until the start of next year. The main difference from the existing GTX models is said to be that it has double the number of printheads, up from two to four heads. Overall the productivity is said to be nearly double. This is partly because the extra heads have increased the speed. But Brother has also made a number of other improvements, mostly small things such as speeding up how fast the platen takes the blank t-shirt into the machine for printing. It also runs an auto cleaning routine after every 72 prints rather than the 24 prints on the existing models. It’s also worth noting that the machine is quite a bit bigger than the other models so Brother has clearly added much more than simply two extra printheads. It’s still a table top machine but you’ll need quite a sturdy bench to support it. 

The heads themselves have been updated and there are now two heads set aside just for printing white. The maximum resolution is 1200 x 1200 dpi and there are a number of different print modes though the final modes have yet to be finalised. 

The printed results were excellent, with far more detail and gradation than I would have expected on a t-shirt. There was quite a crowd around this printer and I gather than Brother fielded several sales opportunities. The price is likely to be around €56,000.

Mimaki has updated its small industrial flatbed range, including this UJF 7151 PlusII

Mimaki showed off a number of printers that had been announced earlier. This includes the 3DUJ-2207 3D printer, which can produce full colour prototypes – actually Mimaki has had a lot of success in the UK in selling its 3D printers into the medical market to help surgeons and students make models of patients for operations!

Mimaki has now added a cloud-based subscription software service called the Mimaki 3D Print prep Pro, which can optimise the 3D printer files and allows for automatic correction of errors. It can automatically adjust the design, increasing the thickness of some areas, filling holes and adding hollow areas where applicable

Mimaki learned a lot from developing the 3D printer, and has applied some of this know how to its small industrial printers. Thus there are new versions of the UJF-3042MkII e, its larger sibling, the UJF-6042MkII e and the slightly more upmarket UJF-3042MkII EX e. Mostly Mimaki has improved the stability of the printers so that there’s less vibration, which leads to better image quality. 

Mimaki has updated its existing UJF-7151 with a new PlusII version that’s said to be up to 190 percent faster than the older model. It has two additional printhead, which I believe are from Toshiba Tec, bringing the total to eight. It can print at up to 1800 dpi. 

There’s a choice between running two sets of CMYK or CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta. There’s also a new colour gloss function that’s said to harden colour inks to a glossy finish. 

The new additions for the UJF printer series all feature MDL (Mimaki Device Language) commands support, which enables automated workpiece transfer. This capability allows users to control the new UJF printers from external production systems and peripheral devices. This allows for further automation and reduces manual operator intervention to increase efficiencies. 

Kongsberg showed off a cutting table and a range of cutting tools.

Kongsberg, which was exhibiting for the first time in its own right since being sold off from Esko, used the show to announce that PrintFactory has developed an integrated production suite specifically for connecting with Kongsberg’s i-cut Production Console for its cutting tables. This is the first of this type of partnership for the new Kongsberg company and it’s a sensible place to start since the PrintFactory workflow already supports a huge range of large format printers. 

Essentially this arrangement means that users will be able to apply some prepress corrections directly to files without having to go through another design package. It also means that some of the features have been aligned so that the cutting tables can pick up information from QR codes as well as the substrate name

Roland showed off several of its printers, including a new BN20A, which is a cheaper version of the existing BN20 desktop UV printer with built in cutter. The older model has five channels for CMYK plus white or varnish but Roland says that some customers only want CMYK and don’t want to pay for a fifth colour that they won’t use. So this new model is a cheaper version with only four channels. Otherwise, it’s exactly the same as the existing BN20.

Roland showed off this BN20A – essentially a cheaper, four-colour version of the existing BN20.

Midway through the show Global Graphics Plc announced that it had changed its name to Hybrid Software Group, following a shareholder vote. The vote itself was a foregone conclusion and the company had already printed the new name onto the stand. Nor was it exactly a surprise since a previous attempt to buy Global Graphics by Hybrid Software’s owner, Congra Holdings, had left the principal shareholders owning a lot of Global Graphics stock, eventually leading to Global Graphics Plc buying Hybrid Software. The group now includes Global Graphics Software, Hybrid Software, Meteor Inkjet, Xitron, and the recent acquisition, ColorLogic.

From left, Mike Rottenborn, CEO of Hybrid Software Group and Justin Bailey, managing director of Global Graphics software.

In conclusion, International exhibitions do normally give us a chance to identify trends in the marketplace, but I don’t think that’s possible this time around as so many of the major players were missing and the show was much smaller than usual so that it was really a European rather than international event. But one trend that we can put to bed is the growth of virtual events as Fespa clearly demonstrated a great hunger amongst visitors and exhibitors alike to meet face to face. 

That said, we are likely to see some virtual event activity continue, if only for simply convenience and cost reasons. Most vendors would like to cut the costs of exhibiting at so many events, across different market sectors and in different countries. So, I suspect that some events organisers will have to think carefully about how they design exhibitions and how they tempt vendors back. And some shows won’t wake up from the enforced hibernation, such as Photokina, the large international show for the photography sector which ultimately became too expensive and too unwieldy and was losing the support of the camera makers even before Covid hit it like a steamroller.

I don’t think that Fespa is in any danger – there was a great deal of goodwill towards the organisers with many people I spoke to praising their courage in going ahead with the show in such uncertain times. But ultimately it was a much smaller show than normal, with just 7850 visitors and many large vendors, such as HP, Ricoh and Fujifilm all missing. So the real proof of the pudding will come next May when Fespa attempts to run another exhibition in Berlin just seven months after this one and with stiff competition from other events such as Label Expo and InPrint also queuing up to demand attention from both visitors and exhibitors.

…with a little help from my friends

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One response to “Final thoughts on Fespa ’21”

  1. Michael Ryan avatar
    Michael Ryan

    Thank you Nessan for the two in depth articles on Fespa. As you can well imagine the first event post pandemic was always going to be different especially with many global brands.. hp, ricoh and fujifilm…all having continued travel bans. At Fespa we also had in place a very fair policy that if exhibitors felt uneasy then we transferred their participation to 2022 and this was true right up to the show going live in Amsterdam. FESPA serves a community and the event is the owned by our associations and lead by a board of printers. This is reflected in the continued success of FESPA and our dedication to print which is very apparent when you compare us to other events by public listed exhibiton companies whose portfolio of events serves many diverse sectors. Our focus is our strength.

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