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drupa graphic

After drupa is Before drupa

By Jim Hamilton on July 12, 2024


Sepp Herberger, the coach of the West German national soccer team that won the World Cup in 1954, was well-known for saying, “Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel,” which translates to “After the game is before the game.” What he meant was that the preparation for the next game begins as soon as the previous game is over. Herberger’s quote has even been applied (quite aptly, I think) to the recently concluded drupa trade show (May 28th to June 7th, 2024 in Düsseldorf, Germany): “After drupa is before drupa.” Exhibitors now have four years in which to make their plans for the next drupa in 2028.


Figure 1: drupa 2024
Figure 1: drupa 2024


The good news for those of us in North America is that many of those same exhibitors from drupa will be showing their latest developments in the United States before long. One important show to mark on your calendars is the Printing United Expo in Las Vegas (September 10th to 12th, 2024).


drupa 2024 By the Numbers

drupa’s influence on the printing industry is undeniable. Also undeniable is the fact that it is shrinking in attendance, duration, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the number of exhibitors. In a recent WhatTheyThink video, industry legend Frank Romano displayed a graphic showing the number of attendees and exhibitors since 2000. (Note that drupa was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.)


Figure 2: Attendance at drupa since 2000
Figure 2: Attendance at drupa since 2000

What was a 14-day drupa in 2000 with 450,000 attendees and 1,900 exhibitors in 2000 has shrunk to an 11-day drupa with 170,000 attendees and 1,643 exhibitors in 2024. This is the lowest number of attendees since the inaugural drupa in 1951, which had 195,185 attendees and 527 exhibitors. This decline in attendance is less a reflection on drupa—a contraction of the words “Druck” and “Papier” (printing and paper)—and more an indication that the world has moved in the direction of digital delivery of documents. 

Despite the decline in attendance, drupa’s international impact should not be underestimated. The 1,643 exhibitors in 2024 came from 52 different nations. About 80% of the attendees came from outside of Germany. According to the show’s organizers, attendees represented a record-breaking 174 countries. Most of the attendees came from Europe, but Asia (22%) and America (12%) were also well-represented.


The Printing Intelligence drupa

Industry pundits often assign a theme to each drupa. Topics like computer-to-plate, digital printing, and inkjet have dominated past shows. There was much ado at this drupa about larger format production color digital printing systems for commercial print that offer support for B2 or larger sheets. Since most sheet-fed digital printing systems used in commercial print environments handle sheets in what is commonly referred to as A3+ format (approximately 12" by 18"), it’s not surprising that ones that support B2 (19.7" by 27.8") or B1 (27.8" by 39.4") would grab some headlines. This is an important new development and worthy of coverage, but keep in mind that the acquisition cost of these systems puts them well out of the reach of most small and medium-sized print service providers (PSPs).

For many PSPs it makes more sense to focus on what Frank Romano suggested as the theme for drupa 2024: “Printing Intelligence.” Frank defines printing intelligence as a combination of artificial intelligence, workflow automation, and labor & waste reduction. This brings to mind vital trends related to sustainability of print.


The Bottom Line

If you missed drupa 2024, and I suspect that most of the folks reading this blog did, then I have three suggestions:

  • Explore the excellent drupa show coverage that you can find from online sources like WhatTheyThink.
  • Consider attending the Printing United Expo (September 10-12, 2024, in Las Vegas).
  • Take a close look at the factors related to printing intelligence and consider how they impact your business.


Author bio: Jim Hamilton of Green Harbor Publications ( is an industry analyst, market researcher, writer, and public speaker. For many years he was Group Director in charge of InfoTrends’ Production Digital Printing & Publishing consulting services. He has a BA in German from Amherst College and a Master’s in Printing Technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology.