PacPrint09: Waiting and hoping
There’s been more than enough time to consider Australia’s major printing show, PacPrint: Looking back through the files, I noted that we pronounced the 2005 event “not a bad newspaper show for a commercial printing exhibition”. So what kind of a newspaper show was PacPrint09?
Opinions differ: Kayell’s ever-ebullient Rob Gatto was happy to report sales at 147 per cent of the month’s budget: “What recession,” he asked. Elsewhere, an exhibitor with a strong commitment to the newspaper and commercial web sectors pronounced it a waste of time ... a view perhaps shared by those who did not attend. There were some significant ‘no shows’, among them PMP with the exception of the immediate entourage of new chief executive Richard Allely.
Statistics reinforce the picture: Of the 22,000 said to have preregistered for the Melbourne show, probably many more had second thoughts than the almost 4000 by which the final total of 18,197 fell short.
It was their loss.
I’ll come clean at the outset: It had been my intention to spend a day-and-a-half in the Melbourne show and then fly north to catch Ifra’s PublishAsia event in Bangkok. But when this was postponed, and with some travel arrangements in place, I opted to spend the rest of the week at PacPrint, and was glad of it.
Undoubtedly, PacPrint09 was a good networking event – if that was what was needed – with exhibitors offering chairs and tables in place of much in the way of machinery. It’s a while since there was a newspaper press at this domestic Australian event – and the single-width Mercury sat in the Heidelberg warehouse for months afterwards – but at this PacPrint, even operational sheetfed presses were pretty few and far between.
And wideformat digital printers – in what was truly a digital show – seemed less in evidence than I remember in 2005.
Victorian minister for industry and trade Martin Pakula, opening the show, emphasised the Brumby government’s recognition of an industry which employs almost 42,000 people in the state – more than a third of those in Australia -and contributes $5 billion a year to the local economy.
Thank goodness there was a lot more to the show than hardware (and politicians): Many exhibitors had raided their apparently scant promotional budgets to bring in overseas principals and specialists.
Océ had inkjet web specialist Robert Koeckeis back and ready to talk about its European digital newspaper printing experience, Hunkeler’s Asia Pacific sales director Patrick Lehmann was keen to see the technology take off, and Kodak’s Kevin Joyce, who was North American managing director when Chicago’s ‘Triblocal’ experiment began – was also good value. A Versamark transpromo web was in evidence, but the digital technology newspaper people would have wanted to see, Kodak’s Stream Inkjet printhead – while shown at China Print – did not make it to Melbourne.
And the new inkjet-focussed Agfa, which has a newspaper site running in Portugal, appeared to ignore publishers: Even the free copies of the ‘Herald Sun’ on its stand were offset-printed, albeit from Agfa plates imaged on their Polaris platesetters.
And yes, there were news platesetters at the show: Notably, Agfa had a Advantage N-VCF – specified for chemistry-free violet plates – one of two Advantage Ns it has sold to the ‘Greymouth Evening Star’, part of Dunedin-based Allied Press (see page nine).
Kodak and Fujifilm – whose brands, including Fuji Xerox were consolidated in a single stand – were also ready to talk about chemistry-free options. And colour management. Kodak’s LCD-lit hub dominated its stand, if not the show, and was the nerve centre from which to demonstrate the company’s latest Prinergy workflow.
PacPrint and its Sydney sibling PrintEx provide an opportunity for the industry’s smaller players to showcase a diverse range of services.
It was good to see Gert Diepold at the show, presenting not only the cylinder repair service for which his Lifhart company is best known, but also Draabe’s humidification systems, which have been installed at both West Australian Newspapers and Offset Alpine Printing.
A case history at the Ahrensburg site of Axel Springer, Germany’s largest newspaper publisher, had shown how the Draabe system had helped reduce the roll-change gluing faults which had led to web breaks from three per cent to 0.6 per cent ... saving an estimated 4000 Euros ($7000) a day.
In this close-knit group of stands you could also find Joby Graves of Adprint – a Dandenong-based label printer which supplies stick-on notes for newspaper publishers including Fairfax and WAN.
Frank Gustafsson, who has succeeded Ken Jenquin, moves to Australia as ANZ business manager of Megtec this month (August). The company makes the increasingly-large reelstands and flying pasters used on newspaper and commercial web presses, as well as heatset dryers where interest in improved environmental performance is driving sales.
Megtec makes the giant DLC6000 splicers which handle 6000 kilogramme rolls, and while Gustafsson says he finds the local predisposition towards zero-speed equipment hard to understand, he’s happy to supply them as well.
Encouraging, as well, to learn that Megtec’s broader activities are benefiting from issues such as the emissions trading scheme and the contribution it can make to ‘clean coal’ technology.
Change too, at press peripherals systems manufacturer technotrans, where a reshuffle before China Print has seen responsibility move from the South East Asia headquarters in Singapore to a new Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong. The regional business headed by managing director Ralph Pernizsak – with a prime focus on sales within the region – will have technotrans Australia, where Graham Castley is general manager, as its Melbourne branch office.
The entity becomes technotrans Asia-Pacific, and Castley says management see this as a logical step in streamlining regional activities, while maximising overall sales and support functions.
Trapped between mature CTP systems products and digital newspaper printing offerings for which the market is not yet ready, both Agfa and Kodak were short of a strong focus for their presentations to the sector. Both held press conferences at the show to make a disparate collection of product and corporate announcements, with Agfa’s a swansong for marketing manager Garry Muratore, who left the company shortly afterwards.
It was Agfa Graphics Oceania managing director Frederic Dehing’s first PacPrint, and he was on the spot to talk about hopes for growth in inkjet printing and explain the company’s continuing investment in computer-to-plate research and development. “You have no option but to invest if you want to be involved in greater automation and the conversion to chemistry-free,” he says.
The “foundation”, Agfa’s Thermofuse technology was not just green – “they don’t pay for gree,” he says – but brought other real savings and benefits. And the newspaper sector has turned out to be the first beneficiary of violet chemistry-free technology, with the N92vcf plate supporting new range of Advantage N platesetters, and the first in the region going to Allied Press’.
The company also has a new version of its Apogee workflow with features including a new pre-flight feature, web approvals and handling for multi-part jobs through JDF.
You’d be excused, however, for coming away with the impression that Agfa sees its future in inkjet. Forget the wideformat Anapurna – for which a ‘world premiere’ of the M2 was claimed – and the industrial-scale M-Press Tiger, so large the stand had only a scale model.
Agfa’s digital newspaper future is currently pinned on the modular Dotrix which is primarily a UV system, but there’s hint of alternative LED curing to emerge in a range of products as early as this year. It’s “known technology” and could be “a very big step forward,” Agfa’s Garry Muratore says.
News that Agfa will move its Australian headquarters again was the cue for a brief history lesson. Agfa had been present in the market since 1928 before setting up iconic headquarters in Nunawading’s Whitehorse Road, and having the graphic division abandon them in favour of the former Printing Technologies (and former Rèmy Martin cognac) site at Blackburn, and then the anyonymous corporate centre in Burwood.
Now relocation to the warehouse site in Scoresby will provide sales teams with the opportunity to “smell the products” again.
In a raft of announcements, Kodak introduced its ThermalNews Gold and VioletNews thermal and violet laser plates for newspaper printing, along with new Prinergy Workflow 5.1 and integrated Colorflow software which includes the ability to drive – and manage colour for – a variety of offset and digital print systems. A huge central hub emphasised this theme, dominating the stand, and to some extent the show.
Recently-appointed national business manager of Fujifilm Graphic Systems, Juergen Krufczyk was also philosophical about the state of the newspaper industry: “You can’t change the market, but you can change the operation,” he says.
With an extended portfolio from related businesses within Fujifilm – including digital print systems vendor Fuji Xerox and display specialist Fujifilm Sericol – there was also the benefit cross-fertilisation. The integrated environment also provided an opportunity to show the benefits of colour management and XML-based workflow, used to control every item of equipment in the booth.
With PacPrint’s strong focus on digital printing, there were people on hand to talk about digital newspaper printing, even if there was no kit to see. Kodak’s Stream technology hadn’t made it from China Print to Melbourne, and the VL2000 inkjet web on the Kodak stand was pitched at transpromo, rather than newspapers. This is a single-head variant from the Versamark V series, its 600 x 600 dpi resolution meant it was not a preferred option for newspaper applications.
ANZ marketing director Tony Harvey says the scalable solution will serve mid-volume needs, with Kodak offering a path to higher productivity as requirements grow.At the show, Kodak also announced that it was handing Australian marketing of the NexPress digital system it developed with Heidelberg to Minolta.
Océ had its inkjet web specialist, Robert Koeckeis back for the show to follow up on discussions which have led him to regard Australia as a “viable” market for its Jetstream offering in areas including newspapers, where versioning is seen as a potential solution to long-term decline.
“Continuous colour inkjet technology is the way of the future,” he says. “Australians have always been an early embracer of new ways of doing things and we believe they see the advantages in advancing to this next level of print technology.”
Also briefed on digital newspaper printing was Patrick Lehmann, Asia Pacific sales director for Hunkeler, for whom the take-up can’t come soon enough. The company developed the news finishing system – which cuts, collates and folds consecutive page pairs into newspapers – nine years ago, and still dominates online and offline markets.
Several of the newspaper sector peripherals vendors were at the show, but more to talk than to demonstrate or necessarily sell.
Baldwin had a display of press wash-up systems – now expanded to include both cloth and brush systems – and examples from other parts of its huge offering on its substantial stand. Globally, Baldwin is also a player in the UV market, having with recently signed a private label supplier agreement with Nordson UV which allows it to rebrand equipment in some markets to offer customers UV, UV/IR combination and IR drying systems.
Asia-Pacific president Peter Tkachuk says Australia is an important sector for the company: “We have several major installations, and as printers continually seek to reduce production costs they are finding that Baldwin’s systems provide ideal solutions,” he says.
The stand was also notable as a centre for networking and discussion for visitors from the major groups represented. In a brief period, GXpress snapped Ken Evans and his team from PBL Media Print followed almost immediately by a Fairfax group led by chief executive web offset Bob Lockley.
The opening day had seen a visit to the show by PMP chief executive Richard Allely, said to be the first holder of that office to visit PacPrint.
Visiting on the stand of agents Plunkett & Johnson were Axel Herbst, from mailroom and finishing systems vendor Gämmerler – whose area includes North America, China and Australasia – and Terry Schaefer from colour registration specialist QuadTech.
The world’s three largest makers of newspaper and commercial web presses were represented and ready to talk projects to new and existing clients. The problem – as I learned again from Goss International’s Asia-Pacific vice president of commercial sales Tim Mercy – is finding finance in the present economic situation.
With orders and letters of intent on the table, Mercy says he spends an increasing amount of time in efforts to bring major schemes to fruition. Hopefully, those efforts will be rewarded before too long.
Video presentations on the Goss stand focussed on new technologies including the Ecoset dryer and Ecobox option for energy use optimisation, and the web-fed Folia press for high-speed sheet printing.
manroland made its debut as a wholly-owned subsidiary at the show, with sales executive vice president Peter Kuisle among those in attendance. The company has launched manroland Australasia in advance of the September end of its agency agreement with MAN Ferrostaal, and in an endeavour to get closer to its customers.
The consequence, of course, was that manroland’s absence led to some wide open spaces at the MAN Ferrostaal stand. A Bobst foil-stamper (sold during the show) became the largest piece of equipment in evidence, and an indicator of the company’s growing emphasis on packaging. Prepress systems were on show from Kodak and Luscher in CTP, along with Techkon colour densitometers, Glunz & Jensen processors and Epson colour proofing.
The “new beginning” sees a new consumables-orientated product portfolio, and an opportunity to talk about service and support including project development, management, and partner and system integration. “We continue to pride ourselves on our unrivalled expertise in delivering highly productive solutions to our customers,” says marketing manager Ross Gilberthorpe.
Among agency additions is Mosca, which announced the deal during the show. But press maker KBA was at pains to point out that it was not about to add its name to the same company’s agency list, issuing a statement to that effect. The Mosca agreement fits into a new MANF emphasis on consumables and the ability to bundle products such as ink, plates, strapping material, stitching wire, rollers, blankets and chemistry, into a single deal.
The Australian subsidiary of Mosca was established in 2003 by managing director Dale Smith. “We will be very much working as a team with MAN Ferrostaal, with their sales team providing important support and advice to customers, backed by the expertise and experience of Mosca’s own technical, sales and service operation,” he says.
At Singapore-headquartered printing machinery distributor Cyber, the news was of a new relationship with Japanese newspaper press maker TKS, not yet amounting to an agency. Cyber held the agency for the US-built Web Press Corp (Web Leader) press range until it moved to Pressnet last year.
The show also marked the beginning of a new relationship between Buhrs – previously represented by Heidelberg – and new agents Dataform. Buhrs chief marketing officer Jan Clement says the company is looking forward to working with Dataform which he believes is able to give very focussed attention to the product range.
On the stand of distributor, Aldus Engineering – currently celebrating its 60th anniversary – was Markus Greenbrook of UK based UV curing systems specialist GEW.
With a range of lamp heads which run on energy-saving electronic power supplies, the company has recently developed into the newspaper and commercial web market with a new IsoCure model suitable for single-width newspaper presses. Based near London, the company was established in 1991 and manufactures all its products inhouse.
FOGRA was a ‘hot’ topic for several exhibitors in the colour management and quality assurance space.
DES had lined up a glittering array of its overseas principals to explain components in a package designed to secure printing to standards. Among these was Christoph Thommessen of proofing software specialist CGS (Oris) – who claims an ink optimisation user base which includes newspaper sites with ‘big three’ CTP systems – and Alan Dresch of UK-based monitoring software developer Mellow Colour. Dresch, whose business revolves around the calibration of printing presses says “the more you measure, the more you realise what a wacky process it is. Not to have all the answers is great, showing that (matching colour) is a learning process for us all.”
Ulrich Kolnik of Just Normlicht was there to talk about the German company’s viewing booths, while the newspaper trend towards soft proofing was represented by Eizo’s Penny Swinfield at the DES stand and Matt Bauer at that of rival Kayell Australia. Eizo claims monitors in the hundreds at the sites of majors including Fairfax Media and News Limited, and had a pre-production ‘FOGRA pre-certified’ ColorEdge CG 24 model at the show.
Bauer emphasises that FOGRA certifies the entire softproofing system including viewing conditions, measuring tools and calibration/control software (to ISO 12647), with the monitor is central to this configuration.
A masked Eizo softproof image was on display alongside an offset proof as part of a challenge on the Kayell stand – with about equal numbers getting it right and wrong – but the company’s supremacy in this market was also under challenge at the show, with NEC launching its SpectraView P221W monitor at the show. NEC claims ‘best in class’ active matrix LCD technology with wide viewing angles and a colour gamut achieving 96 per cent coverage of AdobeRDG.
Apart from the official opening – and National Print Awards dinner – there was little enough pzazz in a show overwhelmed by concerns about the economic situation.
Even traditional hospitality was a little sparse around the show, but there were pockets of light relief. Visitors to the Böttcher stand could have a go at setting a lap record on a full-sized racing simulator, with daily voucher and ‘press room tool kit’ prizes. Newspaper and heatset visitors however, were notably absent from the winners’ list.
And web development company D2P celebrated the year of the ox with a decorated green cow ... and a bullriding feature. Among those in the newspaper sector game enough to have a go were Kodak graphic communications group marketing assistant Kepi Roberts, and the two Matts from Goss International’s Melbourne office, Matt Sharkady and Matt Hancock.