Key Takeaways from FESPA Global Print Expo 2021
Specialty print, automation, affordability, and sustainability among the many highlights
From October 12-15, thousands of professionals and hundreds of exhibitors gathered for the FESPA Global Print Expo 2021 (Europe’s largest international specialty print exhibition) in Amsterdam. The event, which previously took place in spring 2017, had an in-person and virtual component driven by the inability of some people to attend due to ongoing COVID-related travel restrictions (or concerns related to the spread of COVID). That said, FESPA’s website indicates that thousands of people did show up to the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre for the exhibition.
In-person attendees were required to preregister as well as show proof of full vaccination and complete a health questionnaire on entry. Once inside, which co-located with the European Sign Expo, visitors had the opportunity to connect with other human beings in a way many hadn’t experienced in over 18 months.
FESPA Balanced In-Person with Digital
In addition to stopping by booths for information about new products, seeing demonstrations, and exchanging ideas and business cards, visitors also had the opportunity to watch the European leg of the World Wrap Masters competition (which involves live, timed vehicle wrapping matches).
The virtual version of the event (called “FESPA Live”), meanwhile, consisted of livestream interviews with suppliers and FESPA members focused on market innovations, market trends, and those products launched at the show or within the previous 18 months.
With participants like Brother, Canon, Durst, and Roland DG, FESPA Live included an event centered on wide format and interior décor, and another focused on apparel. The wide format/interior décor sessions welcomed over 1,100 print professionals from 111 countries, while over 700 visitors from 108 countries came to learn about apparel.
While it’s unclear if a virtual event will take place during the next FESPA show, it has been determined the in-person event will take place next year in Berlin, Germany from May 31-June 3.
FESPA Showcases Wide Range of Technologies
As in years past, FESPA was a place for companies to connect with key decision makers, print service providers, and designers. They also showcased their latest screen, digital, wide format, and textile printing technologies, along with inks and consumables.
Here is a sample of the specific offerings showcased:
- White toner printer bundles from Germany-based Ghost priced around £600 and £800
- Chinese-manufactured roll-fed CMYK plus white machine priced around €20,000 and shown by French supplier Promattex
- Digital cutter from Italian manufacturer Elitron that can cut materials like Forex, fabrics, Dibond, PVC, and plastics, and automatically recognizes printed images on the working area
- Entry-level desktop printer-cutter from Japan-based Roland DG priced around £4,779 and aimed at new businesses or those wanting to expand operations by making small-scale but high-quality applications like t-shirt graphics, poster printers, stickers, and decals
- Transparent, opaque, and holographic self-adhesive films from Germany-based Aslan
- Industrial entry-level direct-to-textile printer from US-based Electronics for Imaging (EFI)
- Digital printers from US-based Inkcups for printing on items like plastic water bottles, pens, and luggage
- Technology for interior décor applications (for example, soft furnishings and accessories, tabletop films, window treatments, and wall coverings) from a variety of companies like Canon, Kornit, and ZIMMER AUSTRIA
- PDF quality control, advanced editing, and workflow automation solutions for the graphic arts industry from Belgium-based Enfocus
- Large-format printers paired with software, e-commerce portals, and finishing modules from Italy-based Durst Group
- A high-volume UV flatbed printer, a desktop 3D printer, and direct-to-garment inkjet printers from Japan-based Mimaki
- Inkjet printer for the high-end sign and display market and dye sublimation roll-to-roll printer from Belgium-based Agfa
- Neon inks for UV printing from Switzerland-based swissQprint
FESPA Themes Included Automation, Affordability, and Sustainability
Beyond the focus on print quality and performance, it appears that automation, affordability, and sustainability were common topics addressed by this year’s FESPA exhibitors. In terms of automation, technology providers highlighted the ways in which their software and tools help save time and improve accuracy. For example, Elitron emphasized that its Kombo SD+ 31.20 multifunction cutter is equipped with a patented system that automatically recognizes images on the working area and loads the corresponding cut files.
EFI also promoted a new ink recirculating system in its TERRA Silver textile printer that improves reliability and reduces the need for maintenance. Other automation examples include Asanti software that deploys smart algorithms to ensure the lowest ink consumption in the market and Enfocus’s Switch platform connecting business systems into a single automated workflow.
In terms of affordability, it does seem that exhibitors were trying to appeal to customers that may be facing financial challenges—whether pandemic-incurred or not. Mimaki, for one, demonstrated its 100 series, which it launched during the height of the pandemic as a cost-effective, business-enhancing solution enabling users to drive success despite market uncertainty. Aslan touted the ability of its new SignTack Removable Aslan DFP 13G film to not only adhere perfectly to printed and unprinted PVC substrates like banners, digital print vinyl, and CAD vinyl, but also be clearly removed within three months without damaging the print or leaving any adhesive residue. Consequently, at a reasonable cost it can be used for short-term campaigns where dates and other information change regularly.
Aslan also demonstrated a focus on sustainability, noting that its new LoopLAM Aslan SRL 19 laminate is made of 70% recycled polyester—reducing its CO2 footprint by up to 30% compared to a non-recycled base. As another sustainability example, EFI plugged the fact its TERRA Silver textile printer eliminates the need for steaming or washing on direct-to-texting applications (and instead uses a more efficient polymerization process that takes place as printed textile goes through the device’s onboard dryer), thereby using less time, water, and energy.
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
It is terrific that members of the specialty print community, including print buyers, could come together in person to network, exchange ideas, and conduct business at such a prestigious and educational event. While some people couldn’t make it to the RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre due to COVID-related travel restrictions (or concerns about the potential spread of COVID), at least they had the opportunity to participate in the virtual version of the event.
It appears there was something for everyone at the FESPA Global Print Expo, with the full range of screen, digital, wide format, and textile printing product categories represented. With key marketing communications themes including automation, affordability, and sustainability, there is no doubt that these are areas of growing interest to clients and technology providers alike.
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