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Did the sun shine on Ipex 2010?

Ipex, which is held at the NEC every 4 years and has just closed, is the biggest printing event anywhere in the world this year. Andrew Wilson was there.

By Andrew Wilson

Given the precarious state of the industry, it was with some trepidation that I made my way up the M40 last week to gaze upon what the world of print had to offer the publishing fraternity. The signs prior to the event were not good and the spin surrounding it was as much about hope as expectation. So it gives me much pleasure to report that the event was in fact a huge success, with visitor numbers above those expected and most exhibitors reporting brisk sales.

This year’s event really did demonstrate the sea change that has been going on in the industry the past few years, that of the emergence of digital printing. This is amply illustrated when you consider that the space allocated towards digital devices out stripped offset by about 2 to 1 – 4 halls versus 2.

With this in mind, there are several things that I feel publishers should now ask their production staff to look into. For magazines, particularly B2B, now that there are several B2 devices to look at from such household names as HP, Kodak, Screen and Fuji, now could be the time to seriously look at what variable data printing could do for flagging sales. For book publishers, print on demand now looks a viable option to keep a lid on inventory. With the larger sheet size and fantastic quality, it is well worth getting out the calculator and checking what might be possible, I know I shall be.

Although digital was clearly where all the excitement was, the offset community were by no means being overawed, with all the major companies from KBA to Heidelberg introducing newer and faster versions of existing presses. For publishers, not only does this mean more copies per hour but less wastage through much improved make ready times.

When I asked the editor of Print Week, Darryl Danielli, to give me his opinion of what he thought were the stand out products from the show, he surprised me somewhat by not mentioning any products at all. To his mind, the most telling thing had been the rush of collaborations that had been announced. Given the parlous state of the economy and print companies’ balance sheets, it’s perhaps not surprising to see this happening. However, this could in fact spell good news for publishers, in that in the future there will be less proprietary products on the market and much more standardisation. In basic terms, for a digital age, the more that products can talk to each other the better and this has been made much more likely with this development.

I have always been a keen supporter of ink on paper and have never succumbed to the thought that the internet will ever truly take its place but stand alongside it as just one other form of media. So it was pleasing to see that the most talked about product was a device that pushed the 3 dimensional feel of paper – Scotix is hardly a household name but their digital device for embossing was championed by most commentators that I spoke to.

With over 11 halls, 1,000 exhibitors and unseasonably hot weather, this year’s Ipex will stay long in the mind; let us hope that this air of confidence is maintained and that business can start getting back to some form of growth, for printers and publishers alike.