drupa 2016 is set to open its doors in exactly 365 days. Recent years have seen rapid disruptive changes and adoption of new technologies. How does this impact the industry and who will be the biggest player at drupa next?

By Sabine A Slaughter

Looking back at past drupa shows, the Düsseldorf event has proven itself not only to be the place to introduce new machinery and technologies but also has set the trends for years to come. Drupa has seen the introduction of offset printing, desktop publishing, CtP and digital print in all its current varieties.
However, one thing has not changed: Heidelberg has been the biggest exhibitor at the show even though its products remained good traditional offset for high volume production but no longer providing industry leadership.
Over the years, drupa has seen a lot of changes – one of the most important industry development being the introduction of digital printing. Digital printing went from early adoption to mainstream and “caught the masses”. No other printing technology since the introduction of offset in the 1960s has had such an enormous impact on the industry. Until the introduction of digital is was impossible or too expensive to print short runs and high value applications. drupaflag1
Digital printing has really given a boost to the declining print industry. The move towards profitable short runs and improvement in terms of workflows, finishing machines and capabilities has given drupa a new look&feel.
Companies like HP – Indigo and Inkjet Web Press but also Xerox with their toner-based solutions grew in importance with the raise of Digital. What happened to Heidelberg is very interesting. While they were engaged early on with Nexpress, they could not sustain their engagement. Years followed where the company did not have any of its own digital printing solutions, until recently, with its announcement of the Linoprint portfolio.
At the same time, companies like HP started to expand their offerings and at the same time necessitate more booth spaces at drupa, thus having more of an impact on the market. From the presentation of the inkjet web press in 2008, to the introduction of the Indigo B2/75cm platform in 2012, the pace has quickened considerably.
The question is how all this plays out at drupa 2016?
Who will be leading the way towards the future? In terms of applications and its manifold possibilities, the race for supremacy in the industry points towards digital printing. And here HP has the most comprehensive portfolio offering all kinds of digital alternatives. This includes HP Indigo presses for commercial, packaging and label, and HP InkJet Web presses for production mail, newspaper and many more applications.
Last, but not least, HP’s vast portfolio of large format printers for PoS and industrial printing with UV and Latex inks makes them a defacto market leader. New and possibly to be seen at drupa 2016 will be the HP’s latest entry into the nascent 3D market. HP has not shared how many presses they will bring to drupa 2016 – however, they will definitely outnumber those of Heidelberg and most other exhibitors.
While trying to predict the future, there is always some room for error. However, one thing is clear: Digital printing today is not only mainstream, it is a must-have for forward looking printers. So, I would predict that while Heidelberg has been a leader in the past, it is now HP’s turn to lead the industry. By occupying all of Hall 17 with 6,200 sqm at the upcoming edition of the show, it looks I might be right.