IPEX 2017 – feeling the pulse
Many print industry pundits will still eagerly remember IPEX as the second most important trade show for the graphic arts industry. Held at mid-term between two drupa trade shows, IPEX was the show to kick the tyres of new products that just reached the market after being previewed at drupa as technology demo.
That held true until IPEX 2014, when the show essentially imploded. Most major exhibitors pulled out leading to a much smaller footprint with 15,000 m², down from 50,000 m² in 2010. Declining margins in the printing industry did take their toll, with exhibitors questioning the return for a costly trade show presence. The show’s move to London did not help IPEX either. The hope of addressing new overseas visitors failed, and UK printers shunned the travel into central London. Although plans for IPEX 2018 to take place from 19 to 24 March 2018 at the Excel, London were announced, everybody expected this to be the end of IPEX.
As a bit of a surprise came the announcement of IPEX 2017, back again in Birmingham. The timing for autumn 2017 was set as the drupa organisers were still aiming for a three-year cycle, so that IPEX would again fall in the middle between two drupa shows. Certainly, the return of IPEX was not on the big scale it once had. IPEX 2017 occupied just parts of one hall of the NEC exhibition centre, instead of 11 of them in 2010, with ample space left to squeeze in more booths. Most equipment vendors did not join the IPEX bandwagon in 2017 either, with Ricoh being the only major digital print equipment manufacturer exhibiting. Other vendors were present via dealers or driving finishing equipment in the booths of finishing equipment vendors. It is noteworthy that finishing vendors did contribute most to the footprint of the show, complemented by software and supplies vendors.
Still the show held some appeal by offering product launches. IPEX premiered the Presstek 34DI ECO-UV digital offset press, using a low energy UV curing technology. Keeping with the LED theme, Ryobi’s UK distributer APEX premiered the Ryobi 928P, a SRA1 eight colour offset press with LED-UV curing. The show also saw the European premiere of Duplo’s B3 digital spot UV enhancement system to rival MGI and Scodix for the small sheet and cost concerned digital enhancement customer. Duplo Europe termed the device “DuSense Sensory Coater”, somewhat more memorable than the original name of DDC-810. Also Ricoh introduced its pink neon toner for the Pro C7100 Series in Europe. Another stand-out product was the Smart Collator by UK manufacturer Col-Tec. The device is very modular, can be set up for large format prints and can be programmed to collate individual parcels – e.g. collated sets of POS materials consisting of different sets and amounts of posters depending on the size and location of each retail outlet of a national chain.
While the exhibitor contribution was rather underwhelming the conference programmes made up for the lack of vendor support to some extent. IPEX did run three stages in parallel, with strategic and educational content. Francois Martin, former head of marketing for the Graphics Solutions Business at HP, held a keynote focussing on business development for printers. The UK chapter of Dscoop organised a conference program focussing on sales strategies for printers and opportunities in digital print.
The show did not help to dispel the questions of the future of IPEX. The organisers want to evaluate visitor and exhibitor feedback and announce by the end of the year whether another instalment of the show will be launched and by which date. Visitor traffic picked up noticeably on the second day of the show and it seems the name still has some appeal to attract overseas visitors. Purely as a UK show, IPEX will face tough competition from established local shows, however.