29 April 2019 Events

For whom the bell tolls

Is the bell sounding the death knell for litho? Not yet, but the decline in offset printed sheets points to profound change taking place across the world of print.

It is now little more than a year until Drupa, the uber extravaganza for printing machinery. And for many suppliers plans are well advanced in terms of what might be ready enough to show – Xeikon's corrugated inkjet press, Xerox's digital offset technology perhaps. Now ahead of the main event comes the latest Drupa Report.

This sets out the background to the technology, posing the questions that will be answered inside the 72 walls of the 18 halls used for the show. The sixth edition has just been published and it covers some familiar ground. Runs are getting shorter, margins are being squeezed, turnaround times are tighter. And this is for all printers across the globe. We're all in it together.

There is at least one arresting statement: for the first time volumes of pages printed on sheetfed litho presses have fallen. On the one hand this is due to shorter runs, on the other because printers are confident enough in digital technology to use it for longer jobs. Both squeeze offset. Digital meets the requirements for quality and reliability that printers need. There is also a predictable cost to digital which can be missing from litho. As printers try to achieve register and colour, the number of waste sheets in litho varies hugely, from 100 per colour to a maximum of 32 per job at Bluetree. As run lengths drop it is not surprising that litho is losing this work.

Gareth Ward

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