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Drupa 2016: A showcase for packaging’s digital transformation

Drupa 2016: A showcase for packaging’s digital transformation
HP Indigo 8000 is a 2X speed narrow-web digital printing press that’s part of the revolution in packaging.

What’s creating a buzz heading into the biggest printing show on earth, drupa 2016? In a word, digital. We offer a preview from an industry insider about systems and technologies that will have an impact on packaging and brand owners.

We called on printing expert, consultant and drupa veteran Michael Ferrari, also a former 32-year P&G employee in packaging, to preview what he expects of the 2016 edition of this every-four-years industry show taking place in June.

Our first question: What’s the exhibition all about?

“It is the world’s largest printing exhibition, held in Dusseldorf, Germany, only every four years,” responds Ferrari. “Attendance during this this 11-day marathon event attracts more than 300,000 from more than 130 countries. This truly demonstrates its worldwide importance.

“Equipment manufacturers and software companies plan and spend their R&D funds and rush to demonstrate commercial and prototype innovation at the show. Top leaders, decision makers and early adopters come to this event for specific investment intentions. Drupa provides an insight to the direction of the industry. Drupa 2016 will focus on the fast-paced digital transformation taking place in the package printing workflow.”

Ferrari responds to our questions previewing those printing trends and technologies in this Q&A.

What are the key packaging-industry trends that will be on display?

Ferrari: Drupa 2016 will be a digital packaging event. While many commercial printing categories are struggling to grow and maintain revenue, packaging is growing proportional to population growth. Software and hardware manufacturers are very aware of this and have been investing in R&D to capture the fast transforming digital packaging market.  Brands are embracing the creation of relevant and engaging packaging to enhance the consumer experience. This increased diversification is producing ever increasing shorter runs and more frequent changes.

There are two major technology trends occurring that will play a key role to meet brand challenges:

1.  Digital print presses

The traditional analog press manufacturers (such as Heidelberg, Gallus, Nil Peter and Omet) have suffered revenue loss during the last decade. They will all be offering digital print presses during drupa 2016. The halls will all be showcasing and producing digitally printed labels and packages.

2.  Digital end-to-end workflow

The digital journey goes beyond the print press.  Manufacturers and software providers are transforming the workflow by closing the gap in the workflow in creation of a digital end-to-end solution. Software to drive web to print solutions along with digital decoration and finishing will be unveiled and demonstrated.

Next: Buzz-worthy vendors and technologies.

The Beam is a 3X speed digital creasing and die cutting system from Highcon that demonstrates the benefits of digital machinery beyond printing.

What vendors and technologies will be creating a buzz?

Ferrari: A signal that a shift has already taken place in labels and packaging is that this will be the first drupa where Heidelberg is no longer occupying the largest booth. As the worldwide industry leader in digital print presses, HP is hosting the largest booth and brings pre-drupa announcements of a complete labels and packaging print press portfolio. Likely the most impressive press will be the HP Indigo 8000, featuring 2X speed. This narrow web digital print press will likely accelerate the industry crossing the chasm and going mainstream in several verticals.

Esko will be demonstrating an improved tool set that is to optimize the ideation, printing and finishing workflow.

Highcon has announced a suite of digital creasing and cutting products, including a 3X speed machine for high output sheet-fed converters. 

What other new developments do you find interesting?

Ferrari: There are four companies with new technologies in the digital label and packaging industry that pique my curiosity:

a) XMPie (a Xerox company) has offered storefront software that integrates with print presses to create personalized documents and e-mail campaigns. Now it has entered the labels and packaging marketplace. XMPie have partnered with various manufacturers to provide label and package printers easy access to offer their clients an online business platform.

b) Landa proclaims drupa 2016 is the commercial release of high speed and wide format (sheetfed and web) presses. Also announced, “metallization” printing will be unveiled that provides results at half the cost of foil.

c) Heidelberg announced as part of its drupa portfolio digital printing applications in B1 format based on inkjet technology from its development partner Fujifilm.

d) DataLase has announced that it will launch “Variprint,” an inkless-color marking technology for virtually any substrate. The focus for Datalase is for digital inline printing of labels and folding cartons.

For more on Highcon, see High-tech cartons converted with distinction

For more on Variprint, see Color paints a pretty picture for inkless in-line digital printing from February 2016.

About the author

Mike Ferrari is the founder of Ferrari Innovation Solutions llc and a brand packaging consultant. Retired after 32 years of service from the Procter & Gamble Co., he is dedicated to educate, guide and inspire those in the packaging industry to understand the drivers causing the transformation and to grow digitally. Follow him on Twitter via @gamechanger78.


Mike will provide analysis of the new labels and packaging technologies demonstrated at drupa. You can pre-order the report, DRUPA Simplified 2016, for a 20% savings.


Interested in a packaging-centered trade show that’s conveniently located stateside? Then join like-minded professionals at EastPack in New York City June 14 to 16. The show offers a first-hand view of industry trends and technologies.


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