PrintEx blues

Did you know PrintEx is Latin for ‘used to be a print show’?

Let’s talk about PrintEx. Firstly, for a printing exhibition, it was surprisingly devoid of printing presses. Not one offset press graced the floor. I know it has been a while since one has, but Heidelberg did not even have a stand. Manroland set up a lounge to, I don’t know, lounge in, but it didn’t seem to have a thing on it. Ferrostaal had a stand but it was solely devoted to their (admittedly great) Morgana range of digital finishers.

I get that the cost of installing a press is probably prohibitive and the odds of selling one pretty small, but there was not even so much as an AB Dick within Homebush.

And it didn’t end there – one of the things I wanted to look at was a CTP system. Nothing going there either. Agfa had a stand devoted to wide format and I am told that Kodak was sharing a stand with someone although they were so well hidden I missed them altogether. So no press and no plates.

And if you wanted to fold your paper you were out of luck too. No MBO, no Stahl, no Mueller Martini. The only foldy things were the small digital folders like the (not again) Morganas.

There were some Ideal-style guillotines but otherwise if you wanted to cut paper you needed to bring scissors.

So what did they have? Lots of digital and even more wide format. Which is okay – while the bulk of my dollars come from offset, pretty much every offset job is related to a digital one at some point so I need to see this stuff and keep current.

But there was really nothing new from the box sellers. You would see a broader range of machines and options spending two hours at any of the box seller’s showrooms.

The exceptions were the beachhead machines being launched for digital varnishing. The Scodix is amazing and Konica had a very cool imitation in the MGI Jet Varnish. Some beaut tricks, but at $300k+ not for everyone. I’m looking forward to paying an extra $30k on my next digital copier to get the same functionality in five year’s time – cheers first adopters!

Wide format was everywhere though – and given I have spent some time over the last six months trying to decide if I should buy a flatbed it was relevant. Problem with wide format though is that there is such a huge array of machinery with an exponentially larger range of materials and applications that it all becomes too much. Information overload meant I quickly tired of pretending I knew what the hell they were talking about. Can someone email and tell me why they keep saying substrate to me? And it is so hard to commit dollars to one of those things knowing that 24 months into your lease your machine is going to be as out of date as that milk in the work fridge.

I scheduled two days for Printex and I did the whole thing (including the Visual Impact side) in three hours, including a half hour chat with an old rep, two demos (one I wanted and one I got snookered into) and another fifteen minutes to check email and eat my $19 microwaved ‘ham’ burger. To give you some context, it took me two days just to walk around drupa 2012 – even the last PacPrint took me a good day and a half to do – and both of them had great food.

I know I am expecting too much to think that PrintEx would be as great as drupa, but I like to use these shows to discover the things I don’t know about that will push the business along. The last few Printexs, while not amazing, often had some smaller exhibitors with great little innovations. Nothing like that this year. All very dull and uninspiring.

The one exception was the Curries stand. When I started in print they were just the small guys with the Horizon gear but jeez they stand head and shoulders above the rest of the suppliers at the moment. Innovative presses, impeccable binding gear and some genuinely amazing stuff (the perfect binding line they had on the stand was a wonder). Sure they are just agents and they owe a lot to the amazing HP stands from drupa, but they do what they do really well. And they have a commitment to attending these things and supporting the industry. I want to be in business with them more.

But apart from my crush on Curries, it was all so depressing. There is this attitude going around at the moment that if we just cheer ourselves up a bit then we will all be gold. Every article in the trade ‘zines and all the pronouncements from PIAA start with a similar disclaimer: “Despite what the doom and gloom merchants say…”. I want to believe, Mulder, but then I go to PrintEx where not even the biggest press manufacturers can be bothered turning up, and our future seems to involve t-shirts, car wraps, pull-up banners and lots and lots of SRA3 paper, and it all falls away again.

The industry needs these exhibitions – as an owner it is tough to keep ahead of what is going on, and seeing everything in one place is not only convenient but often vital for deciding which direction to take your business in. PrintEx just did not rate.

When’s the next drupa?

Baden Kirgan is managing director of Jeffries Printing Services

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