Last week I covered Xeikon’s attempts to develop an inkjet label press based on an existing design from an unnamed vendor. Yesterday, I reported that EFI was planning to spin off its Jetrion inkjet presses to an unnamed developer. So, it’s not surprising that today we have news that Xeikon has been working with EFI and has signed a deal over EFI’s Jetrion label presses.
The irony here is that EFI bought the Jetrion business from the Flint Group back in 2006. However, Flint now owns Xeikon and has clearly decided that digital inkjet in the packaging and labelling market is a good idea after all.
This arrangement has been characterized as a partnership rather than an acquisition with neither side mentioning how much money has been paid, though some Jetrion staff will transfer to Xeikon/Flint. Under the partnership, Xeikon will service, support and supply the worldwide Jetrion customer base, and continue the direct sales of Jetrion digital label printing systems as part of the Xeikon portfolio.
EFI, however, has kept the ink business, meaning that Xeikon will have to rely on EFI for ink manufacturing for years to come. There also seems to be some suggestion that EFI will continue to develop its productivity software for the platform, though it seems logical to assume that Xeikon would prefer to use its own X800 front end.
More importantly, EFI is also retaining the intellectual property for the Jetrion label presses. This makes sense for EFI, which will need both the ink business and the narrow web inkjet IP in developing its own industrial printers.
But this will tie Xeikon’s hands as it seeks to develop an inkjet side to its business. Xeikon has managed to develop some of its Panther technology in-house, including the intelligent curing system that minimizes the heat from the curing to work with thinner materials.
So what Xeikon is really doing here is cutting corners, getting a seat on the inkjet train without having to spend many years and a ton of money in developing the technology from scratch. But it remains to be seen how far Xeikon can ride that train and how quickly it can develop its own inkjet IP if it’s going to develop other, wider web, inkjet presses.
One further thing to note is that Guy Gecht, EFI’s CEO, claimed that EFI Jetrion has “the largest installed base of UV inkjet label presses in the world.” However, EFI’s sales in this sector fell from $4 million in Q3 last year, to nothing in the Q3 figures for this year. Gecht himself has said that EFI was abandoning labels to move to more profitable industrial printing markets. Xeikon is arguably in a better position to realise the potential of the Jetrion line, having a much larger market share in labels than EFI thanks to many years of selling its dry toner label presses. But I think that this will largely depend on whether or not Xeikon can further develop either the Jetrion or its own Panther inkjet presses.