Agfa building on digital print

A few weeks ago I interviewed Pascal Juéry, CEO of Agfa, who discussed the opportunities for growth in the packaging market and reaffirmed Agfa’s commitment to large format printing. 

He began by saying: “Clearly digital printing is a growth engine for Agfa. A few years back we were a good player in the sign and display market with a product range that we started to build over the years and tried to go up the food chain, to provide faster and more productive machines. 

“Then we organically went into two markets. The decor market, for which we have a double play. On the short run part of the market we have our own complete solution, and on the higher end of the market we provide water-based inks. And then we went also in a niche, in leather. 

“But originally we were operating in the sign and display market and I believe the competence of Agfa is excellent and we are probably the best ink developer and maker in the digital space.”

He continued: “The sign and display market is an attractive market. Its growing but it’s growing in low single digits and it’s a relatively small market. So for us, when we looked at the business and at what we had to offer, my goal was to accelerate the growth.”

Agfa has developed this high speed large format hybrid printr, the Jeti Tauro H3300 UHS LED.

This led Agfa to buy Inca Digital, as Juéry explains: “Really the reason to buy Inca was not only to take over an installed base to which we could supply inks but mainly also to have access to single pass technology, which in turn is opening up a market in packaging that is orders of magnitude more important and larger than Sign and Display. Sign and Display is a €1.5 billion market, but for packaging you are talking tens of billions, potentially, meaning that we have opened new fronts for Agfa.”

He says that ultimately the decision comes down to choosing between a ‘make or buy’ strategy: “If I want to develop single pass technology, it’s going to take me dozens of engineers for many many years and I’m going to be late so should I make or should I buy? No, I need to buy and we bought Inca.”

Agfa and EFI

However, he argues that in some cases it’s better to buy in existing technology to save the R&D costs of developing it. Last month Agfa announced a partnership with EFI that will see EFI sell two of Agfa’s 3.3m wide Jeti Tauro H3300 hybrid models, while Agfa takes on EFI’s 5m roll-fed Vuteks, the Q5r and 5r+. Juéry says that this simply allows both companies to close a gap in their portfolios and that it is not a precursor for any kind of merger. He notes: “We knew that we were missing a kind of a roll-to-roll machine that would be wider than what we could offer today. But it was far more efficient for us to source this than to spend the R&D time to develop it ourselves. So we are plugging a hole in our range and I had to spend zero for development on it.”

This leads to the obvious question, why not source the printers that Agfa needed from a cheaper manufacturer in an emerging market such as China, which is the route that other major vendors, including Fujifilm and Ricoh, have opted for? He explains: “For us it’s just to be able to plug a hole for our customers in the market. And don’t forget that it is a two-way deal. For EFI, by sourcing from us the high end of the sign and display machine, they are sourcing the best-in-class technology and they cannot find that in China.”

Both companies will rebrand the other’s products with their own livery but to avoid any unnecessary development work, they will each sell the other’s printers with the original inksets and RIPs they were designed for. 

Juéry explains: “It’s very simple, it’s going to increase our top line when the deal goes through by 15 to 20 percent in one go.” He continues: “They are strong in geographical areas of the market where we are not strong so I don’t expect any significant conflict in doing that. And, given the size of EFI, it enables us to considerably increase the number of engines we are going to build and therefore also make us more competitive.” And as he points out, Agfa will also supply the ink for those printers, adding: “I am super happy with this deal.”

Juéry went on to say that he was happy with the overall direction that Agfa is taking, saying that the company has three growth engines. “One is IT healthcare-based, which is totally different, then Digital Printing Solutions, and then our green membrane. So for me it was an organic play to make the Inca acquisition and if it makes sense we will make more acquisitions to speed up our growth but strategically we are going to be very disciplined, and we are going for value, and we are going for blue ocean markets rather than red ocean markets, meaning the Sign and Display market is already supplied, but the packaging market we need to invent, to make the market. SpeedSet is not fighting against a digital solution, it competes with offset so that’s the direction for us.”

This Agfa SpeedSet is a high speed single pass inkjet printer targeted at the packaging market.

That said, Agfa is not planning to be at Drupa. He explains: “We find it way too expensive for what we need to do. With the speedSet our goal is to have two beta customers this year, So we have got our work cut out. We don’t feel the need to be at Drupa. Drupa is an expensive investment. I prefer to put my money into R&D.”

And it’s worth noting that since this conversation Agfa has announced the first beta site for the Speedset will be at the Delta Group, which provides multi-channel marketing services to the retail, FMCG, film, gaming and OOH markets and is based in London. Agfa also has a second beta site lined up and is due to announce this shortly.

Agfa has also had some success with developing its own ink for use with the Inca Digital Onset printers. Juéry says: “It took us less than a year to develop the right set of inks for the Onsets, which is quite an achievement. And not only that but we are proposing to the installed base to switch to Agfa inks and that is a resounding success. The customers are thrilled even if it takes a bit of time because they have fantastic quality and they use up to 30 percent less ink with our solution. That’s what customers are telling us.”

He explains: “We have a bit of know how in terms of colour management and as well we have specific software that actually optimises the layout of the ink, meaning that we need a very thin layer of ink.”

He accepts that Agfa’s ink might be more expensive than Fujifilm but points out: “At the end of the day the value is still a win-win and there is enough benefit to be shared here.”

He adds: “Our goal is to move at least 50 percent of the installed base. For the time being, we do it step by step because it does require a few weeks to do that so it’s a process that goes very well but we are focusing on the very large users with a lot of Onsets where it’s really worth it. We are on track but it’s going to take a few years.”

Juéry is keen to point out that Agfa is also slowly growing its industrial printing portfolio. He says: “We are a very dynamic player and we are chasing value here. Our goal is to install digital printing where it’s not yet reached.”

He notes: “Leather is a very high end niche, and on decor I think it’s a market that will take time to develop. A lot of customers in Europe, the new designs for floors for example, all the new designs are going to be digital. But it takes time”

He points out that the current economic climate, first with the Covid pandemic, and then the war in Ukraine, is challenging, adding: “Even if it’s a slow ramp-up, we are happy, we have a solution in place, we don’t spend any more R&D on it and it’s going to ramp up at its own pace and we are happy with that.”

Agfa has now certified its own inks for the Inca Digital Onset printers.

This week Agfa will exhibit at the Fespa show in Amsterdam, and will show the two EFI printers complete with Agfa branding, just as EFI will add its branding to Agfa’s Tauros. Agfa will also use the show to launch the next generation Anapurna H3200 hybrid that it announced earlier this year, as well as a brand new mid-range printer.

Juéry concludes: “Sign and Display is a great market and we have product initiatives and we are renewing our mid range. Starting with the Anapurna version 2.0 which is significantly different, we are going to have a lot of product initiatives at Fespa so we are certainly not giving up on the Sign and Display market. It’s a profitable market, it is still growing and we have a very good effort and that will remain the case. Our installed base is increasing year after year, meaning that our ink and service business is increasing as well so we are happy to be in this market and we will stay in this market.”

So, stay tuned for further announcements from Agfa this week. In the meantime, you can find further details on the company from



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