drupa 2024 marked a triumphant return for the global print industry after an eight-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Held in Düsseldorf, Germany, the event gathered leading vendors, innovators and industry professionals to showcase the latest advancements in printing technology. The conference featured groundbreaking announcements, highlighting the industry’s shift toward digital transformation, sustainability and smart technologies.

It’s impossible to overstate the sheer size of drupa. There were massive halls filled with often massive production and industrial print equipment and tens of thousands of visitors streaming through on a daily basis for 10 full days. The German printing company Heidelberg had an absolutely gigantic presence, taking up more than one full hall. I do not think there is anything like it anywhere else in the world. It does present a challenge, however, both at the show when deciding where to focus and post-event deciding what to cover when trying to create a recap, so bear with me. Let’s start with the general themes and trends at the show. 

Heidelberg Booth Photo- Messe Düsseldorf : ctillmann
Heidelberg Booth
Photo: Messe Düsseldorf / ctillmann

Themes and trends

While most exhibitors’ messaging focused on some combination of AI, DX, automation, sustainability, and flexibility and customization, each had its own nuanced way of talking about it. On a high level, the following stood out:
New products: Hundreds, if not thousands, of products were announced during drupa 2024. 

  1. Integration of AI and smart technologies: There isn’t a sector of the tech industry that isn’t leaning into AI and the production print segment is no different. During drupa, vendors spent a lot of time talking about how AI and smart technologies are being integrated into printing workflows to enhance productivity, lower costs and reduce downtime. 
  2. Digital transformation and automation: The event underscored the industry’s rapid move toward digitalization and automation. Vendors highlighted advancements that enhance efficiency, reduce waste and improve print quality. 
  3. Software and workflow solutions: Vendors introduced new software tools aimed at improving workflow management, boosting productivity and reducing operational costs. The focus on software, DX, automation, AI, and smart technologies was emphasized throughout, given the huge advances in these areas since the last drupa event. 
  4. Sustainability: Many vendors were showcasing eco-friendly products and practices aimed at reducing the environmental impact of printing.
  5. Flexibility and customization: The trend toward flexible and customizable printing solutions was evident, catering to the growing demand for personalized print products.

Now on to the vendors:

Konica Minolta

Environmental sustainability was a major part of KM’s messaging at drupa. The company discussed the steps it is taking to help reduce unnecessary printing, waste and transportation in its efforts to minimize environmental impact. KM reps noted that supply chain satisfaction in the printing industry is inadequate, leading to inefficiencies and wasted resources associated with unnecessary prints, excessive transportation and suboptimal use of resources. To address these issues, KM plans to enhance the efficiency of brand owners and printing companies by implementing several key strategies: 

  1. Optimizing print volumes: KM aims to help brand owners and printers focus on necessary and high-value prints. This involves leveraging digital printing technologies that allow for short-run and on-demand printing, thereby reducing overproduction and waste.
  2. Automation and integration: KM is integrating advanced automation technologies to streamline the entire printing process, from order entry to final delivery. Automated systems can manage and track print jobs more efficiently, reducing delays and manual errors.
  3. Quality management: Implementing quality control mechanisms with automatic color measurement and inspection functions will ensure that prints meet high standards, reducing the need for reprints and further minimizing waste​. 
  4. Streamlining logistics: By improving supply chain processes, KM is taking steps to enhance logistics efficiency. This includes better planning and coordination to minimize unnecessary shipments and optimize delivery routes.

New KM product announcements

KM announced several industrial and label printing solutions to enhance its partners’ portfolios:

AccurioJet 60000: A high-speed UV inkjet press with a productivity of 6,000 sheets per hour, featuring advanced automation and high image quality. The press uses high-definition single-pass UV (HS-UV) ink, which ensures high image quality and gloss reproducibility. Automatic media loading and unloading features helps customers reduce labor costs, while automated quality control systems make real-time adjustments to maintain consistent, high-quality output. 

AlphaJet: The AlphaJet performs all necessary processes for package printing in a single step. This includes inkjet printing, embellishment printing (such as spot varnish and foil stamping), and post-processing tasks like die-cutting and creasing. This integration significantly reduces the time and labor required to move materials between different machines for each step. 

IQ-501: A quality optimization and color management tool that improves printing processes without requiring high operator proficiency, helping customers achieve significant labor savings and efficient operation.

AccurioPress C84hc and C14000e: High chroma digital presses designed for vivid color printing and high productivity. It’s for commercial printers, design houses, and brands, offering consistent high-quality output.

AccurioLabel 400: A digital label press that supports a wide range of label media, including various substrates such as paper, synthetics, and foils. It incorporates several automation features, such as job setup, color calibration, and inline finishing options to help reduce manual intervention, lower labor costs, and enhance overall production efficiency.

Canon

Under the theme “The Power to Move,” Canon highlighted advancements in production inkjet, commercial printing, and workflow solutions that emphasize productivity, efficiency, and sustainability. Canon also presented a range of innovative technologies and solutions designed to meet the evolving needs of the print industry. 

Canon’s commitment to sustainability was evident in its drupa 2024 showcase. The company highlighted several eco-friendly initiatives and products designed to reduce environmental impact. Canon’s new printers are designed to consume less energy, contributing to lower operational costs and reduced carbon footprints. Innovations in media handling and ink usage aim to minimize waste during the printing process, aligning with Canon’s sustainability goals.

New Canon product announcements

Canon announced several new products and innovations in its workflow automation, production inkjet, commercial/industrial, and wide format technologies. These include:

Workflow solutions: Canon emphasized its integrated workflow solutions that help print service providers streamline their operations, reduce costs, and improve overall productivity. These solutions include advanced software tools for print management and automation.

Colorado M-series: One of the new features now available for the Colorado M-series printer is FLXture, a five-ink-layer printing technology that allows users to add micro-texture to large format prints. Canon says both new and existing customers now have the potential to expand their application ranges, which may open opportunities to enter new market segments.

Canon ColorStream series: Enhancements to the ColorStream series were a focal point. These high-speed inkjet printers offer superior print quality and reliability, catering to high-volume print operations.

ProStream Series: The ProStream series received significant upgrades, including improved media handling and faster print speeds. These printers are designed for high-quality commercial printing applications.

varioPRINT iX Series: Canon showcased the varioPRINT iX series, which combines inkjet productivity with offset quality. This series is particularly suited for commercial printers needing versatile and high-quality output.

LabelStream LS2000: Canon introduced the LabelStream 2000 water-based digital label press that supports a wide range of substrates and applications. This technology aims to enhance productivity and application diversity in label printing.

B2 solutions: Canon’s new B2-sized digital presses offer expanded application possibilities, particularly for packaging and commercial print markets. These presses support a variety of media and provide high-quality output suitable for a range of print jobs.

Large format graphics: Canon’s latest large format printers cater to the needs of the signage and graphics industry. These printers are designed for high-quality output and efficient production workflows.

Ricoh

Ricoh showcased its latest innovations under the theme “HENKAKUVERSE,” focusing on transforming production capabilities in the printing industry. Ricoh emphasized its advanced technological solutions aimed at enhancing efficiency and workflow in the printing industry. Key innovations include high-performance presses such as the RICOH Pro Z75, Pro VC80000, Pro C9500, and Pro C7500, along with robust software solutions like TotalFlow Producer, Auto Color Adjuster, ProcessDirector, and FusionPro. These technologies are designed to streamline production, improve operational efficiency, and enable detailed tracking and tracing of print jobs, which is essential for maintaining integrity and auditing purposes.

Ricoh also highlighted the benefits of its cloud-based and remote management solutions, which allow print rooms to be managed from various locations, ensuring flexibility and continuous operation. The discussion included the importance of predictive maintenance to reduce downtime and unexpected expenses, as well as advanced color management technology that ensures precise color matching across different jobs and locations. These solutions are integral to supporting digital transformation in the print industry, addressing challenges such as diminishing page volumes and the need for efficient, integrated systems.

Additionally, Ricoh’s approach integrates customer and market strategies that leverage dealer channels to capture market share and support long-term relationships. By focusing on digital transformation and providing tools that enhance workflow and job management, Ricoh aims to address the evolving needs of the print industry, ensuring high-quality output and operational efficiency.

Big shout out to Roger Serrette and Linnea Wolken from Ricoh who hosted my first of many meetings at drupa. I learned so very much right off the bat!

Katun

I was able to meet with Katun at their booth at drupa, getting the full VIP treatment from Cinzia Gandini of Katun and Shaan Patel of Arrow Systems (more about Arrow Systems in a minute.) I also ran into an old friend at the booth in the form of Zoltan Matyas. Katun outlined its strategic initiatives aimed at expanding and diversifying its product offerings at drupa 2024 — namely, introducing new digital printing technologies alongside its traditional consumables, and expanding its partner program across the globe. 

A significant focus was placed on eco-friendly products, including water-based inkjet technology and sustainable printing solutions. Key innovations included the ArrowJet Aqua 330, ArrowJet Aqua Hybrid Pro M series, and the Cobra Print 330 CMYK+W printer. These innovations — in addition to Katun’s participation in reforestation programs — are meant to meet the growing market demand for environmentally responsible products and brands.

Katun is actively establishing and strengthening its distribution channels across various regions, with particular emphasis on the US, Canada, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The company highlighted the importance of adapting its approach to different regional market dynamics and leveraging long-term relationships with dealers and resellers. This strategy is aimed at enhancing its market presence and ensuring effective product distribution.

Epson

Epson’s education session highlighted its ongoing commitment to innovation and sustainability in the printing industry. Yasunori Ogawa, Epson’s global president, discussed the company’s evolution from watchmaking to becoming a leading printer manufacturer. The message was clear: Epson has adapted to change in the past and it will continue to adapt now and in the future. 

The session also underscored Epson’s strategic focus on sustainability, aiming to achieve carbon-negative operations by 2050 and transitioning to 100% renewable electricity. Ogawa highlighted the importance of continuous innovation and partnerships to drive the industry toward a more sustainable future. Epson’s advancements in digital printing technologies provide opportunities for personalized, on-demand production, benefiting small businesses and reducing environmental footprints.

Epson’s newly revealed ColorWorks C8000e industrial color label printer represents its latest innovation. Featuring PrecisionCore printhead technology, this printer offers high-speed, high-resolution on-demand label printing. It supports a variety of media types and aims to reduce waste and operating costs with high-capacity ink pouches and efficient design. This printer is designed for applications across multiple industries, including food, healthcare, and logistics.

RISO

Overall, RISO’s participation at drupa 2024 underlined its commitment to innovation in print services, focusing on automation, cost efficiency, and high-quality output to better serve the needs of print service providers in an increasingly competitive market. 

One of my favorite people in the industry, Andre D’Urbano, took me around the RISO booth at drupa. RISO highlighted its advancements in post-processing automation, showcasing products designed to enhance efficiency and reduce manual labor in printing operations. Key products included the high-speed inkjet printer ComColor GL9730 and the production printers VALEZUS T2200/T1200. These innovations integrate seamlessly with various post-processing devices, facilitating automated booklet making, envelope printing, and more, thus streamlining workflows.

RISO also introduced its new quick-drying oil-based pigment ink that eliminates the need for heat during the drying process, preventing issues such as paper ripping or curling, and contributing to lower carbon emissions (less heat = less power). This ink technology is set to improve the quality and reliability of post-processing tasks, further enhancing productivity and reducing operational costs.

D’Urbano emphasized that costs in the mail market are rising and RISO has strategies to lower these for customers, highlighting the importance of cost-effective solutions without compromising necessary quality. The shift from large, infrequent print jobs to numerous small jobs necessitates flexible, smaller equipment, aligning with RISO’s new offerings to meet these evolving demands.

EFI

EFI highlighted its latest advancements in single-pass digital inkjet printing technology, focusing on its Nozomi series. The company emphasized the high-speed, high-volume capabilities of these printers, which cater to various applications such as packaging, display graphics, and textiles. The Nozomi printers offer significant productivity enhancements and are designed to handle a wide range of substrates, from rigid and flexible materials to corrugated plastics. EFI also showcased the environmental benefits of their technology, including reduced energy consumption and the use of eco-friendly inks, aligning with global sustainability goals.

EFI’s presentations also covered the versatility and customization capabilities of its printers, which enable full-color, high-resolution graphics for personalized and on-demand printing solutions. The integration of advanced features like UV priming, enhanced color gamuts, and AI-driven remote monitoring were also highlighted. Additionally, EFI discussed its strategic partnerships and commitment to ongoing innovation, ensuring its technology remains at the forefront of the industry. These advancements are aimed at helping print service providers scale their operations, improve efficiency, and meet the evolving demands of their customers.

Patricia Ames and Holly O’Rourke enjoying the beauty of the Deichgraf House
Patricia Ames and Holly O’Rourke enjoying the beauty of the Deichgraf House

Anyone who knows EFI knows that they also are very adept at throwing a party and I was lucky enough to attend several, including a champagne toast on the show floor as well as a wonderful dinner at the beautiful gardens of the Deichgraf House. Holly O’Rourke, worldwide director of corporate communications at EFI, is a consummate PR executive and always knows the exact right equation to mix business, education, press and fun into a great cocktail.

Kornit Digital

I’ve been keeping an eye on Kornit for several years now, including at Printing United shows in the US, and I was able to pop into their press conference and hear the latest from their CEO, Ronen Samuel. Samuel focused on Kornit’s strategic advancements in digital textile printing technology, highlighting the shift toward sustainability and on-demand production. Kornit discussed its successful market expansion, particularly in India, driven by the need for eco-friendly solutions in regions facing water scarcity. Kornit emphasized the importance of transitioning from traditional analog methods to digital printing, showcasing its cutting-edge machines like the Apollo, which offer high automation and efficiency. Kornit has also embraced new recurring revenue business models, which alleviate the capital investment requirements that burdened customers, aligning costs with usage and enabling faster market penetration.

Kornit CEO Ronen Samuel
Kornit CEO Ronen Samuel

Kornit stressed the growing consumer demand for unique, customizable products and the necessity for print service providers to adapt to this trend. The company highlighted the integration of digital platforms and automation to enhance production capabilities and reduce inventory waste. Kornit’s innovations in pigment printing technology promise significant water and energy savings, aligning with regulatory pressures and consumer expectations for sustainability. The company’s efforts to support creativity and customization in fashion and home décor were also underscored, along with its plans to leverage data connectivity for improved efficiency and customer service.

What might be next?

Looking forward, the trends highlighted at drupa 2024 are set to significantly shape the future landscape for print service providers. The integration of AI and smart technologies will revolutionize printing workflows, driving productivity and reducing costs while minimizing downtime. As the industry continues to embrace digital transformation and automation, print service providers must adapt to these advancements to remain competitive. Sustainability initiatives will also play a crucial role, with eco-friendly practices becoming a standard expectation rather than a unique selling point.

The demand for flexibility and customization is anticipated to grow, requiring print service providers to offer more personalized and on-demand solutions. This shift will necessitate investments in advanced software and workflow solutions to enhance efficiency and meet the diverse needs of customers. The overarching trend toward smart, sustainable, and highly customizable printing solutions presents both challenges and opportunities for print service providers. Those who can successfully navigate these trends will be well-positioned to thrive in the evolving marketplace, delivering high-quality, efficient, and eco-conscious printing solutions that meet the demands of the future.

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Patricia Ames is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.