FESPA DIGITAL LOOKED AND FELT like a proper trade show, in stark contrast to Ipex earlier this year and other recent shows focusing on commercial printing. It felt vibrant, lots to look at and talk about and full of ideas, especially with the emphasis on fabrics at one end and corrugated boards at the other. Vehicle wraps were also in evidence, but there was less to look at in the digital display areas.
There were new products at each level of the market, from the entry level HP Latex machines making a debut in Europe, likewise for new Epsons (including a direct to fabric printer) and the launch of the JV300, an entry level solvent printer from Mimaki.
AT THE TOP END, FUJIFILM SHOWED off the Onset R40i as a high quality machine, but more productive than the Q series Onsets introduced last year. Fujifilm also had the Acuity F, the flagship of this flatbed range and marked as Canon’s entry into the industrialised print segment when unveiled as the Arizona 6100. Durst raised the production barrier with a 1250sq m/hr possible on the Rho 1300 and HP displayed the FB10000 and talked sales of 30 or so since its debut at Fespa in London 12 months ago. EFI focused on the benefits of using LED curing on both flat sheet and roll to roll machines.
The organiser was rewarded with improved visitor counts, a good sprinkling from the UK and from as far away as Australia. To all intents and purposes this is boom time for inkjet printing.
THE TECHNOLOGY SIDE DEMONSTRATED how rapidly wide format inkjet is maturing. Inkjet is no longer a pioneering technology which demands compromises and while there was some disagreement about how important workflow and colour management currently is, large format printers are clearly going to need to consider this area in the near future if they haven’t done so already. For those looking at the potential in the corrugated packaging sector, widely tipped to be the next sector to fall to inkjet, colour control is going to be essential.
Fujifilm had emphasised colour management two years ago, this year this was absent and GMG decided to skip the show altogether. By contrast Agfa was pushing Asanti and is finding growing increase in web to print channels for large format. It has increased the throughput on a redesigned M2050i by 75% and brought the high productivityTitan S and HS for their European debut.
ANOTHER SIGN OF THE GROWING maturity and professionalisation entering the sector comes from the growing specialisation of machines and the inks they use. Last year HP claimed its Scitex FB10000 would be suited to corrugated packaging. This year it has launched the FB15000 with a different loading and unloading mechanism as the machine for corrugated while the FB10000 is for high speed conventional printing.
There were inks for thermoforming from Fujifilm and EFI which has completed its sweep to LED UV, delivering solvent-like impact on vinyl printing on the RTR machines. Fabric inks were also widespread.
BEYOND THE BIGGEST SUPPLIERS THERE is a deep hinterland of Asian and other manufacturers looking for their share of what is still a growing market. SwissQPrint continues to set design benchmarks and Gandy with a blue LED printhead carriage, the mark for brashness.
There is a slight note of caution amid all the optimism. With the all round emphasis on increasing productivity, the question has to be posed whether the market, or markets, is expanding as quickly. Retail is well served and outdoor advertising remains in flux. It makes sense to keep you eyes on your markets and to be examining adjacent markets. Increasing maturity can quickly become associated with price pressure and squeezed margins.