Archive for the DRUPA 2008 Category

Reflections on Düsseldorf

Posted in DRUPA 2008 on June 19, 2008 by multimediaman

I’ve been back home now for nearly two weeks and have had an opportunity to reflect upon my experience in Düsseldorf, Germany during DRUPA 2008. While it didn’t take very long for me to settle back into the world of customers, printing projects, sales and marketing, I couldn’t help thinking and rethinking about what I saw there and the people I’d met. It was gratifying for me to find that many people at Grand River Printing & Imaging had been reading the blog and found it interesting. I also had numerous opportunities to tell others about the blog upon my return and send them a link to it. Many were glad to know that I started this project while I was away and appreciated the effort … So, here I go again.

The things that I learned about the technological progress of our printing and paper industries are significant. We are clearly at a transition in the economics of print media. There is now so much information available in electronic form and the myriad ways in which this can be enhanced and supported by paper-based (or some might say off-line) media opportunities. It really makes one stop and think about where to place resources and what would be the most effective investment going forward.

But enough about printing devices (digital or otherwise) and software. What I thought I should write about is some of the things about Germany that, I guess, are what you would call “lifestyle” issues. This would be things that one might take note of only  because it is different from the way things are done in the US. For example, I saw an interesting contrast in certain types of behavior. No one seemed to pay to ride the trains. Now, for DRUPA attendees the transit fare was included in the price of the entry ticket. This is clearly explained in the DRUPA literature. However, even though there is a place for travelers to insert their tickets, no one seemed to be using them. Of course, unlike cities in the US like NYC where a turnstile blocks unpaid entry onto the subway platform, access to the platforms are not impeded.

On the other hand, when on the surface streets, pedestrian crossings were strictly observed. When the “little green man” was lit up, then everyone walked. When the “big red hand” was lit, no one walked. It didn’t matter if there were any cars or not. Green, walk … red, stop. This is, of course, at odds with the pedestrian behavior in the US where everyone walks when the traffic is clear regardless of green, red, flashing, not flashing.

Something that takes some getting used to is the fact that there are attendants in every pubic restroom. These places, labelled with the letters “WC,” were very clean. Now this takes no getting used to. But, the attendant or custodian of the public men’s room was in most cases … a female. These ladies were the most polite and always graciously accepted tips. Correct me if I am wrong … this is something that you would never see in America!!

Another thing I want to mention is a commonly held conception that Americans have about Germany and this has to do with none other than … beer. It is true that beer is very popular in Germany and it is consumed at all hours of the day. It was not uncommon for me to arrive at the DRUPA exhibition in the morning and find people sitting at tables and chatting with bottles of beer in front of them. It seemed to always be available. Indeed, you could get beer served at any exhibitor booth any time of day of you being met with by one of the sales people. Meanwhile, every day at 5:00 pm many exhibitor booths would serve either Alt or Pils from the tap in little plastic 8 oz. cups.

Take a look at this video and count the number of people walking past the oom-pah band with large steins of beer in their hands (some have two) … and this was at 2:00 in the afternoon!!

The last night that i was in Düsseldorf I had the pleasurable opportunity to visit the Altstadt (Old Town) or the place where everyone goes in the evening after the days events at DRUPA. As its name says, this is the part of town which is oldest and it has cobblestone streets with cafés and pubs with outdoor tables and chairs to sit on. This place was very lively until the wee hours of the morning and, of course, there was a fair amount of beer and spirits being enjoyed. There were also roving musicians playing different kinds of instruments and genres of music.

  

One of the strangest sights I saw in Altstadt was a lifesize wooden figure that popped out of a large chiming clock on the side of a building I was walking past. I wasn’t sure what this human-like creature was supposed and searched on the web to find the following description:

“SCHNEIDER WIBBEL
Chiming Clock with Mechanical Figures
Five times a day (at 11a, 1p, 3p, 6p & 9p), locals and tourists gather in front of the carillon to marvel at the glockenspiel, a chiming clock with mechanical figures which re-enact the story of ‘Schneider Wibbel’. Wibbel was a dressmaker who insulted Napoleon and was sent to prison. Instead of going to prison himself, Wibbel sent his apprentice, who died in jail, leading everyone to believe Wibbel was dead, while in reality, he was alive. Over the centuries, Wibbel has come to represent the typical, ‘clever Rhinelander’. Schneider-Wibbel-Gasse, a small street in the centre of the Old Town is also named after the cunning dressmaker.”

Perhaps Mr. Wibbel was quite clever, but what about the poor unnamed apprentice … a kind of garish story with an equally garish mechanical figure to go with it … enough said about that.

KRD
June 19, 2008 

Day 7: Last day at DRUPA

Posted in DRUPA 2008 on June 9, 2008 by multimediaman

On my final day at the printing expo in Düsseldorf, I made sure to get an early start as I had an appointment with a manufacturer of color measurement equipment. I still had a few things to cover at DRUPA and one day can go by very quickly. The show starts daily at 10:00am and I wanted to be there when the doors opened. Since I am staying in Essen, it takes three trains (two underground and one regional train) to get there. On a good day this can take as little as 45 minutes. Today, was a good day and I was there promptly at 10:00.

I made my appointment and then set out to cover the two remaining topics on my agenda: publishing workflow systems and MIS systems. What is meant by publishing workflow systems is technologies that enable the process of bringing documents through the content creation and design stages up to prepress production. There were numerous technologies on display that handle these needs including the two most prominent desktop publishing applications: Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress.

As you may know, a trend is developing in computer technology away from the desktop toward Internet-browser based applications and remote servers. The most well-known example of this is the Google Docs software. Without charge, this software can be accessed through your browser and you can create, edit and save word processing, spreadsheet and presentation files. The files are saved remotely (unless you elect to download them to your hard drive) and there are collaborative features that let you share the files with others easily. If you elect to download the files, they are compatible with Microsoft Office applications and can be opened and edited with these applications. As you can imagine, these browser-based applications have the traditional desktop software industry concerned.

This includes the companies that have dominated the desktop landscape in what might be called “professional” print design. These companies are now heavily involved in the development of Internet-based collaborative and cross-media solutions, that enable everyone in the publishing workflow to search content, access files, edit and update documents.

One workflow solution that I had an opportunity to review is called Helios software. This company has been developing Mac and Windows client/server technologies for the prepress and printing industries since the 1980s. They are now offering a browser-based solution that allows content creators to share projects over the Internet. Color management, PDF proofing and production and other aspects of the workflow are combined together into one system.

Another system that I saw was Exprem which is actually a web-2-print solution. However, within this system was a browser-based creative application that enabled users to create documents from scratch. The tool set that this application contained were every bit as sophisticated as those in InDesign or QuarkXpress including transparency and blending features.

Finally, I had a chance to look at some of the MIS (management information systems) at DRUPA. There are 37 of these systems on display at the show. I was able to look into three of these: HiFlex, DimS and Prism. All of these solutions offer a comprehensive information infrastructure for printing companies from customer interaction through production and invoicing. As with the workflow tools, these applications now feature browser-based interfaces and have automated communication solutions that send email at various stages of the process.

As I was getting ready to leave DRUPA I decided to make a short video farewell message which you can watch below:

KRD
June 6, 2008 

 

 

Day 6: Back to DRUPA

Posted in DRUPA 2008 on June 8, 2008 by multimediaman

I returned to DRUPA today to resume my review of the latest and most important technologies in the print media industry. The DRUPA directory divides the categories of our business into six distinct subgroups. These sections are:
1. Prepress and premedia
2. Printing
3. Bookbinding, print finishing
4. Paper converting (including packaging production)
5. Materials and consumables
6. Services

This is a good breakdown — and it should be since they’ve been doing this for decades — of all the aspects of the print media industry. If you overlay the six items I set out to investigate on my trip onto this list, you will see that my categories of interest only intersect with three of the DRUPA categories. This is how it looks:

1. Prepress and premedia=color management, publishing workflow solutions, web2print solutions
2. Printing= digital printing equipment & web offset press equipment
3. Services=MIS systems

Since I’ve already written about digital printing, color management and web2print, I now only now need to complete my review of publishing workflow solutions, MIS systems and web offset press equipment … sounds easy doesn’t it. But not so fast … there are a few other things I need to write about.

As you can tell, I’ve used this blog to talk about a lot more than just technology. This is because I believe the most interesting discussions about technology require some idea of the history of the things we are talking about; where did they come from, why are we doing it this way and what is likely to happen to it in the future. This is not a guessing game. It is possible to anticipate what will become of one technological innovation when you have a grasp of the things that have come before it and see the parallels that it has with the past. No technology completely repeats the path of the ones that have come before it; however, there are important similarities.

For example, the replacement of letterpress technology (metal type and relief printing methods) came into existence with Gutenberg’s invention of 1450 (as discussed my Day 4 blog). Letterpress, in turn, was replaced (eventually) by a combination of offset (1909) lithography (1793) and photoypesetting (1949). Although these technical achievements came together in the first half of the twentieth century, they did not overtake letterpress in terms of the total volume of printed matter until sometime in the 1970s after magazines and newspapers adopted the offset method of printing.

With offset lithography dominating the printing landscape for the last quarter century and more, the question is: what will replace it and when will this happen. Although we cannot predict these things with certainty, DRUPA 2008 provides — fortunately for us — a guideline to the answers to these questions.

Some experts in our industry predict that digital printing, in some form or fashion, will displace offset lithography as the dominant printing technology by the year 2020. This bold assertion has been made by Frank Romano and a group of students at RIT in a report sponsored by Canon entitled: The Insight Report: Digital Printing Directions, Trends & Opportunities.

This conclusion is derived not only from a depth of historical knowledge of our industry technologies, but also from interviews with 619 current print producers, industry observers and others. I would highly recommend that readers of this blog download and read a copy of this study: 

http://www.canon-europe.com/Images/Digital%20Printing%20Directions_v4_tcm13-514221.pdf

While digital printing’s cost is coming down and quality is coming up, offset printing will continue to be the most cost effective and highest quality printing method available. And even after digital becomes dominant, offset will continue to exist side by side with it. The traditional press manufacturers know this and they are continuing to put huge investments into offset printing technologies.

This is very evident in the web offset arena. The DRUPA directory lists 41 exhibitors of what they call “offset presses, web fed.” Of course, I could not possibly visit all of the suppliers, so I picked out a few. The market for this type of equipment is has been expanding rapidly in recent years, especially in Asia. 

There were at least four web presses running live on the show floor. I was able to see three of these presses. One was a 16-page newspaper press from a Russian manufacturer called Litex. The Litex model was called POG2-84 series press and it contained one roll stand, one four high unit and a combination folder. It was running at a speed of 35,000 per hour. The second was a four unit Komori commercial heatset web. Komori was running the System 38S press at speeds up to 60,000 per hour. The third was a four unit commercial web from Goss International called the M600 Folia press. This press is designed to compete with high volume sheetfed as it prints from a roll to a specially designed sheeter at speeds up to 30,000 per hour, without an oven and with sheetfed inks.

You can see brief clips of of these three presses in the video below:

In the case of the Komori press, there were several important technical developments that point the direction in which offset lithographic presses are moving. This press ran 3 separate jobs requiring startup, makeready, and saving 1,500 good copies. The third of these projects also included a folder changeover. This sequence was done in under 14 minutes after the operator pressed one button on the console. Automatic plate changers, optical scanning of the press sheet for approval of good copies, automated speed up and slow down of the press and automatic folder setup were used to achieve this result.

One of the challenges facing the offset market is the cost and waste associated with the makeready. Since digital printing has no makeready (the first copy is, at least in theory, as good as every other copy), the makeready cost and process goes away. Many of the new technologies being developed are aimed at reducing the makeready cost and waste down to its absolute physical minimum. Another example of this is a new sheetfed press technology from Heidelberg that claims good copy within 5 impressions.

KRD
June 5, 2008 

Day 5: Ruhr valley transformation

Posted in DRUPA 2008 on June 6, 2008 by multimediaman

There are many similarities between Detroit and the part of Germany where I am staying. I am referring to what is known as the Ruhr industrial valley where modern German manufacturing was born. The Ruhr River runs east to west and links up with Rhine (south to north) just above Düsseldorf. The cities in the Ruhr industrial area are: Duisburg, Essen, Bochum and Dortmund. All of these cities have an importance in the history of German industry. However, like in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, this area of Germany has experienced a significant decline in the recent past.

Today I had the opportunity to take a tour of this area and I did not want to pass it up, so I will get back to the DRUPA exhibition tomorrow.

My first stop was the Krupp family mansion in Essen which is called Villa Hügel. Like Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in Cleveland and Carnegie’s US Steel in Pittsburgh, several generations of the Krupp family took the small business founded by Freidrich Krupp in 1811 and turned it into a major international steel corporation that dominated the city of Essen. A couple of the important industrial developments made by Krupp were the invention of seamless train wheels in 1851 and stainless steel around 1912.

  

For some strange reason the mansion at Villa Hügel is called Small House … but I can’t think of anything that would make this house look small. Like similar residences of the barons of US industry from this period, the house — built in 1873 — has very high ceilings, many rooms — including a ballroom — and is located on a large estate with gardens, winding walkways, green lawns, etc. Unfortunately, none of the displays in the historical museum were in English so it was difficult for me to follow along. However, for a fee of € .50 I was able to buy a brochure in English that explained the information in the exhibit.

At the height of the company’s success the Krupp steel company employed over 200,000 people in Essen. In order to foster company loyalty, Krupp built a garden city of housing for their employees nearby. The name of this area is still known as “Margarehten-Höhe,” so-named after the wife of Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Margarethe, who designed the village.

 

I toured this neighborhood with street after street of two and three multi-flat homes that were covered with ivy. It seems like a very nice place to live with a few shops and restaurants as well as Kindergartens. In its heyday Krupp owned 70,000 flats in Essen. However, none of the Krupp steelworkers are still living here … there’ll be more on that in a moment.

But first, as you probably already know, I need to mention that the Krupp family came into disrepute and revulsion when Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach and his son Alfried both supported Hitler and the rearmament of Germany during World War II. They even set up forced-labor production facilities with prisoners of war. The Allies bombed the massive Krupp steelworks destroying large sections of it and then Alfried was tried and convicted at Nuremberg. However, after serving only 2 and a half years Alfried Krupp was released form prison, on the order of American occupation authorities, and resumed control of the firm in 1953.

The last of Krupp family gave up their control of the company in the 1960s and transformed their shares into a foundation. The company was merged with Hoesch in the 1980s and then Thyssen in the 1990s. It is now known as global industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp.

As I said, like Detroit and other US cities, the cities of the Ruhr valley have undergone a transformation in the last several decades with plant closures, layoffs and generally difficult economic times. Today, most of the Krupp steelworks complex has been demolished or redeveloped and turned into shopping areas and educational facilities. Driving around this semi-barren area of Essen, the only functioning factory that I saw was a ThyssenKrupp titanium plant. This is the modern looking building on the left in the photo above. The building on the right is part of the former steelworks and is now a web offset printing company called WestEnd.

At my next stop in Duisburg, I learned how some people in Germany have tried to respond to the economic transition. Duisburg still has functioning steel production, but most of it has been closed down. One of the closed steel mills has been turned into a park with a museum. One of the blast furnaces was open to the public and I walked up to the top of it and took some pictures of the area at about 300 feet up. If you look in the foreground of the picture below, you can see how the trees have started to grow right inside the remains of the industrial complex.

Meanwhile some of this old steel manufacturing machinery has been converted into different types of recreational facilities. Believe it or not, one of the large tanks has been converted into a scuba diving training tank. There is even an Alpine mountain climbing club that uses the area where coal and iron ore train cars used to come through a training facility area. I am not kidding … look at the picture and watch the video to see for yourself!!

Back in Essen, I also toured a shut coal mining complex called Zollverein which is being converted into a cultural center. On the grounds of the coal mine, there are many different buildings that were part of the production process that have been converted into arts educational facilities. There is a program for visual arts, dance, modern design. The Zollverein complex also hosts concerts and other large cultural events. Each area of the complex is being reconstructed to host different aspects of the arts. There are two mine shafts and one coking plant that are being converted.

  

With much of the work already completed, the efforts at Zollverein are one of the reasons why the Ruhr has delcared itself the European Capital of Culture. A large international celebration is planned for 2010 … this sounds to me like a good reason to come back in two years.

KRD
June 4, 2008 

Day 4: Trip to Mainz

Posted in DRUPA 2008 on June 4, 2008 by multimediaman

After I posted Sunday’s blog, I began thinking that I should take advantage of my trip to do something I’ve wanted to do for about 20 years: go to Mainz, Germany and visit the Gutenberg Museum … and that’s exactly what I did today. After three days at DRUPA I felt like I needed a break from the intensity of the crowds and the exhausting exhibition floor work.

The trip was about two and a half hours on the train from the Essen Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) near where I am staying to the Mainz Hauptbahnhof. The speedy train stopped only a few times while going through Düsseldorf, Köln, Bonn and Koblenz. Importantly, the train tracks follow the path of the Rhine and there are many fantastic scenes along the river. The cathedral at Köln is one that is especially memorable with its towering steeples. The trip would probably be a lot shorter if it did not follow the river; there are many bends and curves the Rhine. This also adds to the beauty of the view, however. 

Without a doubt, one of the most spectacular sites along the Rhine River are the castles. I don’t believe I’ve actually ever seen a Medieval castle before. Perhaps it was just the cloudy day, but they seemed mysterious and threatening. After all, many of them hang over the edge of the steep crags above the river because they were built by the Kings and Dukes as a means of defending their property. I must have seen a dozen of them without looking very hard … they stand out quite nicely from the landscape around them.

Then my mind began to wander when I realized that there are so many castles that there must be a real estate market in these historic properties. As I drifted further, I thought that if these castles were in America there would be a show on HGTV called Castle Hunting and there would be this extremely wealthy couple meeting with an exasperated real estate agent and saying things like, “We really would like to see something mid-1300-ish. I hear the hardwood floors are to die for” or “Could you show us one that’s been modernized, we really need to have granite counter tops in the kitchen?” or “Does this one have a finished dungeon?” But I’m getting off the subject …

I arrived in Mainz with my map in hand and set out from the Hauptbahnhof to find the Gutenberg Museum. It was about one mile from the station through some winding streets. When I finally located it and went inside, I was struck by two things: there were very few people in the museum and the facility itself was very modest. Now, there are some monumental museums that recognize some people in history who haven’t made one tenth the contribution that Gutenberg made (I won’t mention any names), so the size of the building or the statue or whatever form of recognition is not really the issue. I was surprised most of all I guess by the way the museum seemed hidden away and not really boasted about by the entire city. It was as if this was just another among the many things in Mainz like the cafés and the shops and the other museums. It’s as if they’re conflicted about Gutenberg somehow … I really don’t know what more I can say about this.

The city of Mainz held a celebration in the year 2000 on the 600th anniversary of Gutenberg’s birth. There were exhibitions, multimedia projects, public festivals, cultural events and concerts. The city also published a book entitled: Gutenberg, Man of the Millenium. I believe this to be a true statement and as I’ve read and learned more about Gutenberg, I’ve become more convinced that it’s true.

First of all, people or individuals don’t select the times that they are born in. This is an obvious point. But what is less obvious, in my view, is that the times we live in sometimes have a way of picking up the things we do and take them on a journey that we perhaps never intended or could have intended.

The known details of Johannes Gutenberg’s life are few and far between. With documentary evidence quite meager after 600 years, there are many gaps in his biography. Due to the lack of information, a mythology has been built up about Gutenberg that (1) his ideas about printing came to him “like a ray of light,” (2) that he was a failed businessman and (3) he died in poverty. None of this is true.

What is known is that Gutenberg left Mainz in 1430 due to political conflicts between the patricians and the guilds. Gutenburg, himself a patrician with an inclination toward the guild members, was owed considerable sums by the local government. It is likely that Gutenberg began his project in 1439 while living in Strasbourg. Far from it coming to him in an instant, Gutenberg worked on what he called his “secret enterprise” for some ten years before it was complete and ready for commercial production. The processes involved in the technique were complex and expensive and would have required numerous approaches and attempts. Among them were:
1.) Typeface design
2.) Engraving of patrices
3.) Manufacture of matrices
4.) Creation of the manual metal typecaster
5.) Composition of metal alloys
6.) Ink formulation
7.) Experiments with paper and parchment
8.) The construction of the wooden press machinery

By far the most significant of these, was (4) the invention of the handheld mold for casting metal type. While I was at the museum, I asked if any of the original casting devices were existent and was told that none had been preserved; the ones that were in the museum were recreations from information available about how they were constructed. This information did not include any drawings or schematics. Below is a video of a demonstration given by the museum on Gutenberg’s invention.

It is believed that Gutenberg returned to Mainz in 1448 and it was around this time that the process was finalized and live projects could be produced with his invention. In 1449-50, Gutenberg secured an investment from Johannes Fust and the two became partners, opening the first commercial printing establishment in the world. A rented facility was located, new presses were built, a staff was hired and trained, materials were procured and stored for the purpose of producing the 42-line Bibles that are well-known.

In 1455, there was a business dispute between the two men and Fust sued Gutenberg in court on charges of refusal to pay interest on his loan and embezzlement. In a complex ruling, the court issued an order for Gutenberg to pay a portion of what Fust demanded and the two parted company. The legal dispute with Fust certainly set Gutenberg back as he was unable to pay immediately. Fust kept the Bible inventory, opened up his own printing facility and took the most skilled employee of the firm (Peter Schöffer) with him. However, Gutenberg was not ruined and he continued to work energetically on the development of his technique … he just had a competitor down the road, another first in the industry.

It is believed that Gutenberg continued to produce Bibles and other products such as calendars and letters of indulgence. In 1465, the archbishop of Mainz, Adolf von Nassau, appointed Gutenberg as “gentleman of the court” in recognition for his achievements which he enjoyed until his death in 1468. His invention spread rapidly throughout Europe, led to an tremendous expansion of literacy and is considered a key element in the Renaissance.

KRD
June 3, 2008 

Day 3: Unified global color standards

Posted in DRUPA 2008 on June 3, 2008 by multimediaman

One feature of DRUPA that was started in 2004 and is now expanded in 2008 is called Drupa Innovation Parc (DIP). This is a hall dedicated to smaller and innovative companies that offer new solutions to printing and publishing related issues. Since I had spent most of my second day walking through the halls with heavy machinery, I wanted some time to focus in on software and related technologies.

Most of my career has been in prepress and premedia. While I am truly impressed with the mechanical element of the print process and have learned as much as I can about it, I am much more at home at the front end of production, i.e. the world of computers, creative workflows, content management, e-commerce and the like. This what the DIP is all about. There are seven division with the DIP:
1. Print buyer integration
2. Print + publishing
3. PDF + XML production
4. Creative production
5. JDF experience
6. Document management
7. Online communications 

There are more than 100 exhibitors in the DIP and I decided to just wade right in. The first thing I looked at was web2print or web-to-print solutions in the online communications section. These are technologies that enable a printer to host an online storefront where clients can specify, upload files — and in some cases even design documents and pages — for print media products and then purchase them electronically. Most of these systems are aimed at the short run and digital print market. However, I could see how a high-volume and primarily lithographic printing firm could have a web2print store front solution that would enable clients to purchase products online. The key competitive issues here would be price, turnaround and shipping costs … what’s so innovative about that.

After speaking with a few companies about web2print, my next stop was to talk about color management at the Alwan Color Expertise booth in the Print + production section of the DIP. Here I was presented with software that manages the conversion of customer or internal color data for printing companies so that they can more easily meet the customers’ color expectations. Alwan, a company that was founded in France in 1997, is also a big proponent of color standards for the graphic arts.

The following appears on the company web site:

“The globalisation of the industry has resulted in many new challenges to producing consistent quality print,” says Elie Khoury (founder of Alwan). “It is not unusual for the origination for a job to be created in one place, while the customer checking proofs is in another and the final output of the work is carried out in several countries. … If you can control color at every stage by standardising incoming files, produced proofs and the final print, you will significantly improve productivity and profitability”

This global perspective is not just sales jargon. During my discussion with the Alwan representative, I found out that there was a meeting being held that same day in a conference room in the DRUPA complex at 4:00pm. The meeting had been called by a group called “Printing Across Borders” whose aim was to unify the European and American color standards initiatives. This sounded like something that was in keeping with the theme of DRUPA: One World – One DRUPA, so I said that I would be interested in attending.

I finished up my visit to the DIP with a few more vendors and then decided to make my way over the Printing Across Borders meeting. In addition to the exhibition halls, the grounds of Messe Dusseldorf also include something called Congress Center Dusseldorf. The meeting was being held in CCD Room 7.

When I arrived I found a group of no more than 40 people around a conference table getting ready to begin their discussion. The chair of the meeting was none other than Elie Khoury of Alwan. I was also pleased to find among those in the room was Bill Birkett and Chuck Spontelli from Doppleganger, LLC a Michigan-based color consulting company. Others in attendance included technical representatives of printing equipment manufacturers, prepress companies, color measurement companies, technical consultants and printers from a dozen or so countries. 

The topic under discussion was trying to find a means to unify the European color standards (under the designation of ISO 12647) with the standards work done in the US (under the designation GRACoL7). For reasons beyond the control of most of those in attendance, these two standards initiatives evolved independently of each other. Some of this problem has to do with lack of communication between the two groups and some of it is related to an important technical legacy. Prior to the development of computer-to-plate and spectrophotometric color measurement technologies, the Europeans used positive film and negative plates (generally) and the Americans used negative film and positive plates. This led to slight differences in the appearance of printed color. This difference has been carried over into the world of ICC profiles and DeltaE color differences.

Fortunately, the actual color that each of these standards represents is by-and-large very similar. The consensus of those in the meeting was that these difference needed to be and could be resolved. If things were only so easy! There were three or four presentations that were given by representatives of each side and the specific technical details of the differences between the standards were discussed. These presentations were followed by discussion and the moderator ask each of the people in the room to express their opinion.

When he got to me, I said, “As a representative of a US printing firm, I am pleased to be able to participate in the meeting to discuss this important topic. Establishing one unified international color standard is important for all of our businesses to be able to successfully meet our customers’ needs. Getting the differences between the standards resolved is something that needs to be done quickly as we are discussing — for the most part — the lithographic reproduction of color in halftones. As everyone knows, at DRUPA we are seeing the rise of digital printing technologies and there are predictions being made here that digital printing will overtake lithography by the year 2020. That’s twelve years from now. GRACoL was founded in 1996 and that’s twelve years ago, so we don’t have a lot of time.”

KRD
June 2, 2008 

 

Day 2: A vast industry

Posted in DRUPA 2008 on June 2, 2008 by multimediaman

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.

  The last of the Detroit street cars stopped running in 1956

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.

KRD
June 1, 2008