Interview with Prof. Dr. Arved C. Hübler, TU Chemnitz
Arved C. Hübler of the Technical University of Chemnitz, Germany
Prof. Dr. Arved Hübler holds a chair at Chemnitz Technical University,, Institute for Print and Media Technology, and has focused for years on the topic of digital printing. He is author of a Special Report (3.32) commissioned by Ifra and chaired an Ifra conference in Amsterdam in 2001 at which the possibilities and limitations of the use of digital printing for newspapers were investigated. Expectations were high at that time, but the development since then has failed to make major advances.
newspaper techniques: Prof. Hübler, to date digital printing has failed to live up to the high expectations of it, especially in relation to its use in the newspaper sector. Was its potential overestimated?
Prof. Dr. Arved Hübler: It is essential to define which expectations are concerned. Technically, digital printing has developed very well and offers nearly everything that is needed today for the discussed application scenarios in relation to quality, flexibility and reliability.
The cost structure has also improved, as was expected. There are understandable technical reasons why ink-
As far back as the Ifra study five years ago, I proved that no change in this relationship can realistically be expected until after 2020.
Consequently, the problem of digital printing does not lie in the printing technique, rather in the applications: There is still no brilliant idea about how the possibilities of digital printing can be translated into visible and sought after benefits for the newspaper reader.
nt: What advances were made during the last five years? And what is technically feasible, e.g. in relation to speed?
A. Hübler: A continuing major technical problem with the ink-
For this reason, producing high resolutions in an acceptable quality at a high printing speed is problematical. Printing head manufacturers, such as Xaar, have developed new and interesting concepts here.
When in future these high-
The fact that Fujifilm has taken over the ink-
nt: In contrast to offset, where the per item costs drop as the length of print run increases, the costs in digital printing remain constant independent of the length of print run. The point from which offset starts to have cost benefits is frequently given as about 800-
A. Hübler: There will be no big leaps, instead digital will increasingly improve in small steps.
nt: Initiatives such as PersonalNews and improo, with which you are undoubtedly familiar, aim to promote the individualised newspaper. What is your opinion of these concepts?
A. Hübler: Once again, the old familiar topics are being revived, while I cannot recognise any new solutions for the problems identified already years ago: A reader wants a good newspaper, not an individualised newspaper.
It could indeed become better if the articles were tailored more precisely to the interests of the reader concerned. But that would mean more editors for the same numbers of readers, therefore it is more a problem of economics than a technical one.
I do not consider it a major advance in future to shift the work done by an editor today, i.e. to select incoming news on the basis of complex criteria related to the news item concerned, to the reader who then influences the content of his newspaper more or less blindly via a digital profile.
nt: Looking at the situation today, would you say that digital newspaper printing is destined to remain a niche application for the foreseeable future, or do you continue to be optimistic that it will become “the central technology for a new definition of the newspaper of the future”?
A. Hübler: All major innovative technologies took at least 30 years to achieve a breakthrough, even longer in cases where there was a complex value added chain or extensive infrastructural demands (as is the case with newspapers). And the idea of Print-
Digital printing is undoubtedly a central future technology of the printing industry, but also the mobile phone and the Internet slumbered in a niche for more than 30 years before the big boom came. And before digital printing was able to replace the photo, as was the original intention of the inventors of the xerographic process some 50 years ago, the digital camera had first to be invented.
The printing industry, that has little experience of its own of research and development, is unfamiliar with such lengthy and in part laborious development processes: If an idea is suggested, then the supplier should also be named with whom an order can be placed.
Page first published: 06.12.2006