The Digital Shift at Graph Expo

By | November 3, 2008

One thing I noticed at this years Graph Expo was the lack of “heavy iron” on the show floor. Heidelberg who always is front and center only had one press in their booth, albeit it was the company’s monster Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105. manroland didn’t have a press in the company’s booth, though if I remember correctly, they haven’t had a full working press at Graph Expo in the last few years. Komori, Mitsubishi, xpedx/Ryobi all had presses in their booth.

Cary Sherburne’s Shifting Sands article at WhatTheyThink by Cary Sherburne provides more food for thought on the equipment shift at the show:

For a few more off-the-cuff stats, of the six front-row booths, which arguably are the prime real estate, four are digital companies (Canon, EFI, Kodak and Océ) and they consumed 74% of the front-row space. That being said, Heidelberg still had the largest booth, at 20,700 square feet. But HP, a couple rows back, was close at 17,600 square feet. Those were the two largest booths on the floor. A quick, non-scientific analysis reveals, in fact, that conventional offset press manufacturers took about 63,500 square feet of space, while digital press manufacturers occupied 77,200 square feet (55%) of space. It would be interesting to go back historically to find out when the tipping point actually occurred, where digital press manufacturers first took more space than offset press manufacturers. Perhaps 2008 was the year.

The lack of offset presses might be simple economics: it costs a lot to bring a press to Chicago. However it also costs a lot to put a digital press on the floor (HP didn’t have their new web press at the show).

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One thought on “The Digital Shift at Graph Expo

  1. George Alexander

    You are certainly right about the “heavy iron,” Adam. I was struck by how quiet the floor was relative to previous years—rarely did I have to raise my voice to be heard over the sound of a press. And instead of the smell of ink as in the past, the characteristic smell of this year’s show was simmering hot-melt adhesive.

    I counted only 12 offset presses in all of Graph Expo, and five of those were more in the “light iron” category: three Presstek DIs, a Screen Truepress unit, and KBA’s ultra-compact Genius. Even Drupa and the state of the economy can’t explain away these changes: it is clear to me that digital printing is gradually but unmistakably taking over from offset–first the trade shows, then (over several decades) the printing industry. (If you are interested in more on this subject, check out my editorial, “The passing of the torch from offset to digital” at

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