One of the first things you notice when traveling to Germany from Detroit is the availability of public transportation. The closest thing Detroit ever had to a public rail system was the streetcar and the last of those stopped running in 1956. The trains here have very comfortable seats, ride very smoothly and are quiet when they pull into the station. Most, if not all, of the passengers on the trains I’ve been riding are either attending or working at DRUPA. It has been very easy to get help to make sure that I am going and coming on the right train even though I am not able to speak German.
After spending the first day at DRUPA walking through three buildings where digital presses were located, I decided to venture out and get the “lay of the land.” Even though the maps, signs on the buildings and the directional information is well organized and easy to follow, it still takes a little while to figure out where everything is located on the grounds of the Messe.
The last time I was at DRUPA was 1995 and I remember how overwhelming the exhibition was. Nothing can really prepare you for the magnitude of what is going on here. At that time, the big new technology was computer-to-plate devices and there more than 30 suppliers who were demonstrating their systems. Today there are less than a handful of manufacturers of computer to plate devices.
After walking around on the second floor of Hall 7 where many of the paper companies are located, I wandered down a tube-like bridge that had the longest moving walkway I have ever seen. This took me toward Halls 1-6. When I arrived at the end of the walkway and exited the tunnel, I entered Hall 1 which was entirely devoted to Heidelberg and it’s enormous product portfolio of commercial and packaging printing presses and finishing equipment … then I noticed that Heidelberg also occupied Hall 2!
What I was hoping to do was find someone to ask why Heidelberg does not have an inkjet printing press on display at DRUPA. But the hall was so packed with people and machinery that I decided to just move through the exhibit and into the next part of the show.
When I entered Hall 3 and started looking around at all of the companies that manufacture different pieces of machinery or materials for the industry I was reminded how enormous the print media industry is. We have packaging, foil stamping, all kinds of special coatings, papers and synthetic substrates, book binding, flexography, gravure, embossing and … you get the idea. There is no one person who can get their head around this entire industry; it is just too vast.
This is understandable when you think about the fact that printing (in its modern manufacturing form) has been around for 558 years. Think about it … printing was invented a half-century before Columbus crossed the Atlantic. When Johannes Gutenberg developed the first mechanized system for the mass production of movable metal type in 1450, he was starting the printing industry that we know today. A businessman, Gutenberg is well known for having printed 180 copies of the 42-line bible with his new invention. However, as is the case with most printed matter, nowhere does Gutenberg’s name or that of his firm appear on these earliest products of our industry.
June 1, 2008