Friday, 14 Mar 2014 16:27 GMT

Ipex 2014: Event Spotlight

With the rollercoaster build-up to Ipex at an end, Harriet Gordon takes a look at a historic home for print, and talks to some of the major players throwing their full weight behind the show.

Capital Story

The road to 2014 has not always been a smooth one for Ipex, one of the world’s most historic exhibitions. Some in the industry may have doubted whether a show that can date its story back to 1851 would go ahead at all, yet the organisers did not falter, and with less than a month to go, everything most certainly seems back on track.

 
The company will marshall a wide range of its digital press technology for Ipex 2014




With a couple of notable exceptions, nearly all the major players in print have come out in support of Ipex, as well as Cross Media Production running alongside it, and its value to the industry. I spoke to a cross section of the print industry’s great and good to try and tease out what they have in store for visitors, and how the iconic show is going to impact both the UK and international print industry after it closes its doors.

Business cards at the ready

Setting up camp on the S1-F089 stand in the ExCel London for a week will be the Epson team. Phil McMullin, sales manager for ProGraphics at Epson UK, shrugs off the question about Ipex’s initial difficulties, and, focusing solely on the positives, he comments: “Ipex is nicely timed to kick off 2014.

As a UK manufacturer of equipment, we have always been convinced that Ipex has to be a success, both for the good of the industry as a whole and for our own business

“It is an opportunity for Epson to showcase our latest range of digital inkjet proofing, large-format, direct-to-garment, and label printers to the UK and international print community. There will be something for everyone, with a diverse range of new products on show for a wide range of applications, spanning proofing, signage, car wraps, decor, textiles, quality labels, and more.

“Our inkjet printers and ink (all fully-engineered by Epson) provide print companies with affordable and easy-to-use technology that open up new added-value business opportun-ities. Our aim is to inspire companies to explore the considerable potential of digital print.”

Olaf Lorenz, general manager of international marketing at Konica Minolta Business
Solutions Europe, says that the firm’s attendance was never in doubt.

And with the hoard of visitors that are set to descend on the UK capital, there will be plenty of opportunity to reach those printers that are yet to take the leap into digital.

Echoing McMullin’s steadfast posi-tivity, Ray Hillhouse, sales and mark-eting director of Morgana Systems, calls Ipex the, ‘cornerstone of the UK printing industry’. He continues: “As a UK manufacturer of equipment, we have always been convinced that Ipex has to be a success, both for the good of the industry as a whole and for our own business. Historically, it has always proved to be a great success for Morg-ana, and we see no reason why that should change.

“We will be showing some exciting new products, including the very latest in bookletmaking, the System AF2000S, which has a completely new high-capacity feeder. The latest enhan-cements to our DigiFold and Auto-Creaser products will be on show, alongside the DigiBook PUR perfect binders. We will also be showing the PL4000 mail inserting system, which is an area many of our customers are moving into. There may be a couple of last minute surprises too.”

Ipex expectations

One company that has never wavered in its support of the event is Konica Minolta. Olaf Lorenz, general manager of international marketing at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe, explains how the firm has remained committed to Ipex, and why its attendance was never in doubt: “As a market leader in the supply of consultancy, technology, and services to the commercial print and communications industry, Ipex 2014 forms a key part of our strategy to convey our messages and support the industry, helping it adapt to change coming from electronic media.

“We will be making important announcements on the opening day of Ipex 2014. From a hardware persp-ective, we will be showing a wide range of systems, including the KM-1 inkjet device.”

Ray Hillhouse, sales and marketing director of Morgana Systems,
says that Ipex is the cornerstone of the UK print industry


As well as demonstrating the capa-bilities of its kit, Konica Minolta will also be offering educational advice to printers on how to take their business to the next level. Lorenz continues: “Visitors to our stand throughout the show will see and hear leading consultants positioning where the market is going and what they need to do to enable their business to transform and adapt. Ipex is the major industry event where we can demonstrate all of our capabilities over a packed six-day agenda. We provide a range of consultancy services through our Digital 1234 business builder programme, another example of how we demonstrate our commitment to our customers and to the industry in general.”

This unwavering positivity surr-ounding Ipex from manufacturers is good to hear, but does not really reflect the mood of the industry at large when the show was on shaky ground a year ago. David Smith, marketing and communications manager at Vivid Lamination Technologies, confirms that it was not all in our imagination. He comments: “To be honest, we, like many others, wondered if Ipex would actually be going ahead.”
This uncertainty is understandable, but does not stem from a lack of support for the show, as Smith explains: “I’ve been with Vivid for two years, so Ipex in 2010 took place before I joined. The feedback I received from my colleagues regarding the last Ipex was phenomenal, both in terms of the products we launched, the quality of visitors, the kit we sold on the show floor itself, and the distribution deals we made after Ipex as a result of visits to our stand.”

The five colour Hans Gronhi GH525 will go on show at the Printers Superstore stand,
the only one dedicated to litho technology


He continues: “I attended the open day at ExCel back in November, and the positivity from the press, manu-facturers, show organisers Informa, and other guest speakers was outstanding. There was a genuine unity within the print industry that day and this has continued ever since.

“When we heard of some of the bigger companies deciding to withdraw, we were disappointed. I know that some distributors and manufacturers who either withdrew or voiced their concerns have come back and thrown their weight behind the show or are now trying to hold their own open events at various show-rooms.”

Informa have really turned things around and the inclusion of new features such as the Wide Format Zone, embracing new technologies such as 3D Printing, and the co-location of Cross Media Production is genius

And Vivid is certainly one company that is firmly behind Ipex; Smith continues: “I genuinely think that there will be some companies who withdrew that are now regretting their decisions. Informa have really turned things around and the inclusion of new features such as the Wide Format Zone, embracing new technologies such as 3D Printing, and the co-location of Cross Media Production is genius.”

Kitted out

As with any international trade show, many of the exhibitors are planning to capitalise on the buzz Ipex will create to launch their latest products. Trevor Crawford, event director of the show, confirms that this is the case, stating: “Currently, there are a host of technologies being launched from across the entire print production workflow, from concept right through to the finished product, with more scheduled to be announced in the lead up to Ipex and at the event itself.”

Epson will showcase the diversification opportunities that wide-format print
technology has to offer at Ipex 2014


Not be outdone by the kit we have already heard will be on display, the Vivid team will be bringing a range of machinery to populate their stand at Ipex.

“2014 is a massive year for Vivid,” he explains, continuing: “Our Matrix Roll Film Laminating Systems will have three brand new models introduced at the show. Both our standard MX-370 and MX-530 machines are launching as pneumatic options. This enables the operator to run the systems much faster than the standard models, and the result is fantastic. Pneumatic rollers also means that digitally printed stock can be laminated as it comes off the press. Curing and drying of digital print is no longer required, so printers can print and laminate an SRA3 job the same day.

“Our third Matrix model is our new double-sided Duplex system. Printers can laminate their work on both sides of the sheet at the same time, again saving time. The Duplex is also pneumatic, so it too has all the benefits of this technology within the system.”

O Factoid: According to the Ipex website, 77 percent of attendees at the show are senior manager level or above, compared to drupa that had 51 percent in 2012 O


All three pneumatic lines of the Matrix are modular options, and can be retrofitted to existing machines onsite by Vivid’s engineers. The firm will also be giving a preview of its new MX-700, which will be ready for launch in the summer.

Of course, despite all the new technology on display, as well as the inaugural Cross Media Production on hand to educate on modern technology, it is important not to lose sight of the tried and tested methods that have been serving the industry for years.

Morgana will showcase its cutting edge finishing systems at Ipex 2014,
including the System AF2000S bookletmaker


In conjunction with its UK and Ireland distributor Printers Superstore, Hans Gronhi has taken a 300sq/m space that is claims to be ‘the one true litho stand at Ipex’.

Taking centre stage on the stand will be the Shinohara 75VH five colour B2 press,
and two machines from its 52cm series, the five colour Hans Gronhi GH525 and two colour GH522NP.

Printers Superstore joint managing director Graham Moorby comments: “We are proud to fly the flag for offset at Ipex, and we’re looking forward to demonstrating equipment that competes with any alternative on all levels, and offers what we believe is the fastest return on investment in the market. Anyone serious about commercial print should make sure they stop by; there’s a strong economic case to be made for our machines.”

He continues: “Hans Gronhi changed the B3 offset market with an unbeat-able quality plus value equation, and we are now in a position to make a similar impact on the offset press market in larger formats, from B2 to SRA1. We have the most advanced and sophisticated offset presses on the market, bar none, at a very competitive and attractive price point.

“Even though the Hans Gronhi GH series has been recognised and accepted by the majority of the UK’s 52cm printers, there are still some who think the pricing of these machines (in some cases around half the cost of their rivals) makes them too good to be true. I’d say to those printers that seeing is believing, and Ipex is a great oppor-tunity to come and see.”

Driving return

There are, of course, many ways to measure the success of an exhibition, but, in the end, it all comes down to one thing, as Epson’s McMullin confirms when asked what he expects from Ipex:“Ultimately, sales. The economic signs are encouraging, with businesses now looking to invest in quality kit that offers a good ROI and allows them to expand their service offering.”

He continues: “As a showcase of the latest print technology, along with a very good conference and inspiring examples of innovative applications, hopefully Ipex will increase the UK print industry’s confidence, inspire printers about the possibilities and potential of print, and, through that, stimulate business.”

David Smith, marketing and communications manager at Vivid Lamination Technologies,
believes that some of the companies that withdrew from Ipex will now be regretting their decisions


Indeed, when talking to exhibitors, one thing that is consistent across the board is their high expectations for the show.

“Our expectations are high,” asserts Morgana’s Hillhouse, adding: “They have to be. There is no point in investing in such a show without having a positive stance. We expect to take orders on the stand, we expect to receive a significant amount of enquiries, and we expect to meet a great many old friends, new prospects, and potential international distributors.”

Lorenz from Konica Minolta echoes this, commenting: “We have very high expectations for Ipex. We are part of an industry undergoing fast-moving change, which is creating many new opportunities, with software and services bec-oming an increasingly important focus. Print, with all its changes, still has a very bright future, so Ipex should have a markedly positive effect on the UK print economy and further afield.”

I certainly believe that as long as the overall economy continues to recover, then the British print industry will benefit, and Ipex can be part of the contributing factor in the confidence and optimism

Vivid’s Smith has the final word on this point, analysing how Ipex will interact with the moves of the wider economy to impact the UK print industry:“The global economy has obviously suffered in recent years,” he states, adding: “But if you look at the facts, things are rapidly changing. The economy has grown, employment growth is very strong, and there are real signs of recovery. Printers are investing again to replace kit and diversify into new sectors, such as wide format.“UK print businesses looking to purchase new kit won’t wait another two years for Drupa; they’re looking to buy now. Ipex will give them access to a great number of pre- and post-press systems, as well as software solutions and consumables. I certainly believe that as long as the overall economy continues to recover, then the British print industry will benefit, and Ipex can be part of the contributing factor in the confidence and optimism.”