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Let’s face it, you need a compelling reason to take precious time out of work and fly half way around the planet to attend a trade fair. 
And that’s exactly why Fred Soar, John Crothers and Richard Hislop are about to make the pilgrimage individually to drupa in Düsseldorf, Germany. They all have very powerful reasons for being there – the big one common to all three is the need to keep up with trends and innovative technology. 
It’s simply a case of ‘can’t afford not to be there’.
Held between May 31st and June 10th and billed as the world’s number one fair for print and cross media solutions, drupa is all about trends and innovation. The 19 halls of drupa 2016 cover a broad swathe of technology developments in graphic and industrial print, media and multichannel output, and from all around the world. Exhibitor numbers this year are again expected to easily exceed 1500, and from more than 50 countries.
Any Kiwis won’t be disappointed by the sheer variety of technologies on show. A quick scan of the drupa website ( reveals such innovations as a clever time-lapse bio-ink made from algae, a packaging that blushes when touched, and the latest screen printing technology for food decoration. Drupa is definitely not just all printers and papers!
Richard Hislop, general manager of BJBall Papers, attended drupa in 2012 and still remembers the Benny Landa nanotechnology stand with all its laser and smoke effects. 
He says that historically the event wasn’t that significant to him as a paper merchant. It was simply an add-on while visiting key European suppliers. Furthermore, the growth of paper manufacturing in Southeast Asia over the past decade has meant that BJBall’s European supply base has dropped away.
But now Richard has other reasons for attending drupa. With printing technology changing so rapidly and digital and wide format printing growing so fast, he says the technical requirements of paper and non-paper substrates means staying ahead of the curve with product development is vital. 
“Drupa is an ideal way to see all the new technology being demonstrated in conjunction with any new papers, boards or other printing substrates,” explains Richard. “For example, Drupa 2012 featured a lot of inkjet technology, which requires paper to have different characteristics than offset or dry toner.”
He’s looking forward to seeing which stands and technology releases create the biggest buzz. “Gauging the levels of interest shown by customers gives us a head start in terms of our sourcing strategy.” 
He’ll still be personally calling on a European paper supplier, and the ones he doesn’t visit he’ll catch up with at the show “over an ale”.
International focus
For John Crothers, operations manager at Forbes Packaging, drupa is about keeping abreast of digital technology on behalf of their clients, who look to international markets for packaging inspiration. Perhaps the aforementioned blushing packaging is on his ‘must-see’ list!
John loves drupa’s international focus. “[Before departure] I speak to suppliers so I know what to expect and look out for,” he says. “After my last visit we were well positioned with information to make the right purchases.”
He finds the whole experience impressive – particularly drupa’s scale and the logistics of making it all happen. It took him two days just to have a quick look through all the halls.
His advice for new attendees? 
“Make appointments early. Check out what you want to see and find out who’ll be there. There is a lot of stuff not relevant to certain markets. Don’t go alone, and while you’re in Europe have a holiday.” This time John’s planning to see some sights; he’s tacked a holiday onto his trip. 
Meanwhile, at Soar Print, managing director Fred Soar is packing his bags to attend his fourth drupa. Since 2004 he’s seen many advances in digital print technology.
Fred’s approach is to identify three or four technologies he wants to research. “These are split between myself and my colleagues. We do the initial research on day one, then regroup to focus on specific things together over the next few days.
“This year high-speed inkjet printing may be the technology that’s moved the fastest, so I’ll make sure I have a good look at that.”
Fred enjoys meeting print business owners from other markets at drupa, pooling knowledge and experiences. His time in Europe also includes tours of leading printing plants with a supplier.
He’s still in awe of the sheer scale of the Düsseldorf fair, and confesses the biggest fair he’d been to before drupa was Auckland’s Easter Show.
Fred’s tips for first timers?
“Wear soft shoes during the day, moderate your pilsner intake and avoid the pig knuckles for dinner at night!”
For information on attending drupa and other international fairs at Düsseldorf, visit,, or email Robert Laing at Messe Reps. & Travel, [email protected]
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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