Making a Show of Industrial Print. Stefanie Thiele. InPrint Show.
Stefanie Thiele is the Exhibition Manager for the InPrint Show. In this interview, we talk industrial print, exhibitions, trends and what to expect at the InPrint Show in November in Munich.
How did you get to be running the InPrint Show? Tell us a little more about yourself including your professional background.
My background is in exhibitions. I have a degree in event management researching the growth and development cycles of shows. I have worked on different exhibition projects for over 10 years now, mainly in new technology sectors and launching and building new shows.
InPrint is an exciting project as it targets a very specific market that is nowhere near mature. There is a lot of development in this sector, which keeps the project fresh and interesting. We consistently have new companies joining, who have either just entered this market or who have made impressive progress and use InPrint as a platform for launching new products. This year, more than 30 new companies are exhibiting for the first time, which reflects the interest in the sector and the high level of innovation and development.
What do you think are the key challenges for industrial inkjet at the moment?
When speaking with InPrint visitors you get a good understanding of the key themes. For example, I gathered feedback about the fact that inkjet cost and speed does not always compare favourably with analogue printing. For example, direct-to-can printing is possible with inkjet. But the speeds that analogue can reach, and the cost per can is difficult for inkjet to match.
There are a lot of developments which are very promising and expected to come to maturity over the next few years. However, when you look at the machinery in detail, it often cannot match up with more established processes in terms of cost and speed of production. Being a new technology in young markets, often a large investment is necessary to achieve the right results. This is something that is very difficult to do, especially for smaller print companies with limited budgets. When you think of a commercial printer who is keen to explore new markets, then adopting inkjet for an industrial print sector is very hard.
So more research is needed that leads to developments faster and makes machinery commercially viable and ready for real production.
We have seen a lot of development in this area, especially comparing the two previous InPrint shows. Initially, technology components and ideas were exhibited at InPrint – now, we are seeing more machinery that is ready to be implemented in production environments at the show. This trend continues as we have exhibitors again bringing more equipment and new solutions to InPrint this time around.
But the reality is that with any sector rich in innovation and development, the market is still at an early phase, and not fully established yet.
What is also interesting in this context is that printing technology for industrial manufacturing is often associated only with digital technologies. I believe that this is because a lot of R&D budget and effort is allocated there. It is digital which opens up a lot of opportunities for new applications, e.g., thinking about the trend towards customisation and individualised products, especially in the consumer goods and packaging sectors – two of our key visitor groups at InPrint.
But we must not forget the other processes. Screen-printing is successfully used in production environments and we have a number of the leading manufacturers in this sector showcasing their technologies at InPrint. On top of this, flexo printing remains a key process in packaging, and in printing on a variety of materials.
Digital printing has enormous potential, but in many sectors, it is not on a level playing field with other processes.
What needs to change for industrial inkjet to become more widely used in new segments?
I think that the manufacturers need to be more proactive about promoting the advantages and opportunities of inkjet, and crucially demonstrating the commercial advantages too where they already exist.
I believe there are end-users who are not fully aware that printing technology, and digital print technology in particular, can solve their respective manufacturing problems. Many commercial printers must think about how to diversify their businesses and how to add new revenue streams – they need to get all the information about how industrial inkjet can be a solution for them and the real capabilities of the technology available.
Companies who are developing this technology need to share their successes and developments better. We need clear and proactive evidence of what is possible with inkjet technology. And InPrint is a good platform to do this!
I appreciate that companies are keen to keep a commercial advantage, but there are so many NDAs in many industries that make it difficult to communicate the success stories. If print technology manufacturers were able to open up more and communicate solutions better to their potential customers, then knowledge and understanding and interest in inkjet would certainly grow which in turn helps the industry to grow.
What is available at the InPrint Show to help exhibiting companies with these challenges?
We offer our exhibitors a range of free tools to communicate their innovations and their products to the show visitors – a high profile target group of manufacturing industry and printing houses, decision-makers and R&D experts looking for solutions ready to be integrated into their manufacturing lines.
We share press releases for exhibiting companies, and they can invite as many of their customers as they like completely free of charge.
My recommendation to all exhibitors is to make use of that. Do not just invite your existing customers, also invite those that you would like to have as customers and all of the companies that could benefit from your technology. With a personal invite, you will attract visitors to your stand, and then you can demonstrate how your technology helps them solve their production problems.
We have two new features this year too.
The ‘New Exhibitor Pavilion’ is specifically designed for companies that are entering the market and want to benefit from participating at InPrint, without a large investment in terms of budget and resources. This is perfect for start-up companies or those in the early days of their development.
And we have a new ‘Consultancy Corner’, where visitors can receive free impartial advice from independent consultants.
These initiatives will help progress technology into production lines – which is good for manufacturers. This is a developing market, so we want to make sure we provide those responsible for integrating the technology with as much information as possible, to help them move their business forward and succeed.
And of course, the conference programme is a cornerstone of InPrint. We have an even stronger line-up of speakers this year, and the programme focuses on technical competencies. The sessions are structured thematically and lead through the necessary steps for the successful implementation of print technology in manufacturing: from choosing the best inks, print heads and software tools for each application to optimising process development and machine integration, presenting practical examples of implementation and addressing the pros and cons of different approaches.
The visitors at InPrint are attending with precise production problems and they are looking for working solutions for these problems.
So keep making solutions more viable and if you are a manufacturer with technology solutions – make sure you’ll be at InPrint, to promote your technology’s capabilities as much as you can, and make sure those looking for solutions know what you can do for them.
Further information on InPrint 2019, check out the website here.