Print Matters for the Future Conference

Commentary by Lasse Krogell, NOPA:

Intergraf together with NOPA recently organized the Print Matters Conference in Riga. The conference attracted more than one hundred attendees and was a great success. We organized also for NOPA members a visit to Livonia Print, the huge book printing company.

Below you can read some remarks I wrote down when listening to all the speakers.

Sean Smyth is a print consultant working for Smithers that publishes regularly reports on the developments in the print industry. Smyth pointed out that global print volumes are still slowly increasing although in Europe we have seen clear drops. But publication print will go down, commercial print will stay flat or show a small decline and packaging will continue to grow. Perhaps the most interesting points in the presentation was Smyth’s strong comments on the huge quality increase in high-speed inkjet printing. This makes a clear potential to find totally new markets for print. At Livonia we could see a live proof of the quality. They had prepared for us example of books where they had two copies of the same book. One printed in sheetfed offset and the other on a Canon inkjet printer. It was practically impossible to tell which is which without using a loop. Smyth also pointed out the possibilities highly automated workflow brings.

Christof Walter from the European Printing Ink Association talked about mineral oils mainly in packaging but also commented on the French decision to forbid the use of printed products printed with inks containing mineral oils. In heat-set printing there is no alternative ink available which means that products printed in heatset are not allowed in France.

Webprinting in challenging times was the headline for Johannes Helmberger’s presentation. He is the owner of the German heatset printing company Niedermayer. He presented new figures he just had received from Eurograph where they estimate the decline in graphic papers in Europa will this year be 27 %. The huge price increases in material and energy have led to print buyers ordering smaller volumes and some even switching totally to digital from print. Paper prices have come down from their peaks but Helmberger commented that prices must still come down to stop the falling print volumes. The development by web printers in Germany has been drastic. In 2009 there were 134 heatset and gravure printers. The estimated number for 2024 is 55 companies. The opportunities for those willing to invest in web printing are by Helmberger; Agenenig of the press fleet will free capacity, Leaflets are still important in the advertising mix, Awareness and demand for sustainable production will increase.

From Norway we had a presentation by Morten Gunnarshaug on Aksell AS, a new company formed by consolidating several printing companies. The key points in succeeding in the consolidation process is to know your partners and competitors both as companies but also to know personally the owners and leaders of the companies to join.

On the video screen we could see and hear Morten Reitoft from INKISH in Denmark who was not able to attend in person but gave us an interesting and entertaining presentation. He pointed out some interviews he had made lately and published on INKISH TV. Recommendations: Anthony Thirlby, about whom I also wrote in my previous posting here, Benny Landa and Henrik Christiensen.

Manon Lassaigne was the winner of the Intergraf Youth Talents Award and gave hope to all attendees on the future importance of printed communication. It was really refreshing to listen to her strong belief in print.

Still I want to remind you to write down in your calendar the NOPA  seminar in Berlin November 8th and the visit to Druckhaus Main Franken and Koenig & Bauer in Dresden the following day. In Riga there was a very positive feeling concerning this event and many members already asked about it.