Fiery targets industrial printing

Fiery is one of the most recognised brand names in the printing industry, having developed RIPs and digital front ends for over 30 years. And yet, Fiery as a company is a new entity, having been part of EFI until January 2023 when it was spun off into a separate company

Fiery is still owned by Siris Capital, the private equity firm that bought EFI back in April 2019. Separating the two companies frees up Fiery to pursue a broader range of OEM customers to work with. More importantly, it also makes it easier for Siris Capital to make a profit on its acquisition of EFI by breaking the company into its constituent parts to better realise the value of those individual parts, and Fiery ought to have value in its own right. 

Toby Weiss, CEO of Fiery, adds: “Private equity companies typically buy with the goal of doing some kind of growth strategy. For us, not being a public company has given us more focus because not being a public company means not having that spotlight on quarterly earnings so we can take a more strategic approach. Fiery is the kind of company that benefits from that. And Siris was very supportive of breaking out Fiery to be its own business.”

He adds: “Private equity is an industry that uses leverage and I think that it’s getting very good returns because of effective use of leverage. So we have access to capital and use that as effectively as possible to grow the business.” This included acquiring the Canadian RIP developer CadLink. Weiss explains: “They had a lot of similarities to Fiery but were focussed on some markets that we weren’t focussed on, including direct to film and direct to garment. So having access to capital is being able to spend money and do an acquisition like that and integrate it into the Fiery company to support its growth.”

Weiss himself comes from a computer science background and worked for both Computer Associates and Application Security before joining EFI in 2009 as senior vice president and general manager. In 2021 he became chief operating officer of EFI’s Fiery business, leaving him as the obvious choice to take on the role of CEO of Fiery when the two companies separated.

Fiery has traditionally served the small format commercial print market with DFEs for production printers, but Weiss sees more growth in the industrial area, saying: “The problems in industrial and production inkjet print are very much similar. Customers need fantastic colour, higher performance, integration with their other systems, support and something that’s easy to use and can control various equipment. The realities of the technology underneath meant that we had to take our learnings and apply them a little bit differently and do some adjustments.”

He points out that a lot of the OEMs working in the industrial arena are pioneering new techniques, which takes time, adding: “And so we have to help them with reducing the amount of time it takes to do that, having a very fast go-to-market for them. We found that they are pushing the limits on a lot of things and need incredibly high speed but also want something that’s low cost.”

And he says that their requirements may change as they add different capabilities and colours, noting: “Our experience in ceramics printing taught us that you might have 12 colours and none of them be CMYK. Our experience in folding cartons with Landa taught us how many pixels you really might have to pump out in an every-sheet-is-different 13,000 corrugated sheets per hour system. And our experience in high speed rollfed also taught us that you can’t have many skips. You need to stream it at extremely high rates.”

To cope with this Fiery has developed a very scaleable architecture. Weiss says: “We have been a software product in a hardware form factor for quite a while. We make our own ASIC (Application-Specific integrated Circuit) for most of the Fierys which is giving us a gigantic performance boost. And when we built our scaleable architecture, you can add cores and computers to scale in many different ways.”

Partnerships

At the end of last year, Fiery announced a partnership with Global Inkjet Systems, or GIS, which provides drive electronics and wanted to be able to offer its customers a workflow solution. The two companies have now expanded this partnership to include Esko. Weiss explains: “A lot of these presses are in the packaging market. Esko has phenomenal workflow in packaging so it made sense to ask how this will work for customers that already have an Esko workflow or will want to have one in packaging.”

This means that together the three companies can now offer a combined solution for drive electronics, linked directly to the DFE, and connected to the wider workflow, more or less out of the box. 

Weiss explains: “GIS obviously wants their customers to get to market faster. For us these are almost like seeds that are being planted for the next generation of industrial press. And Esko wants their existing customers to be able to use their workflow and wants new customers in labels and folding cartons and the rest of packaging to be able to use their workflow.”

He argues that when OEMs are building presses they do have to think about the workflow that customers are going to want to run and to be sure that workflow is going to integrate fully with their press. He continues: “In commercial print and graphics Fiery has a tremendous workflow and we are providing a big part of the stack of what customers need in that area but when you get into packaging, that’s not something that we have really focussed on in the past. We have some pieces of course but it makes a lot more sense for us to say that what we do best is the digital front end and working with Esko clears things up.”

It’s also worth noting that in the past EFI, including at that time Fiery, also partnered with Esko for the Jetrion label printers for the same reason – to reassure the early Jetrion customers that they would not encounter integration problems.

Weiss points out that Fiery is an open system and will work with as many systems as possible, noting: “When you build a press you want to know from a DFE perspective that it is going to work with the most popular ones, and if there are partnerships and deep integrations.”

Toby Weiss, CEO of Fiery

He adds that the three companies have further plans for how they can work together in the future. This could include print inspection systems. Weiss says: “Inspection in my opinion is something that is often an afterthought to a press build and now we are starting to see some vendors say that we can make some adjustments, like for a nozzle out. But the reality is that there are lots of adjustments that can be made in a digital printing system. Uniformity is one that comes up a lot and if you think about images going into a digital press and the fact that every image could be different and there might not be copies of the image and therefore there may not be a master image copy to do a comparison on, you quickly come to the conclusion that you need a system that can generate an on-the-fly high performance streaming master image.

“It needs to be able to do that comparison at light speed in order to keep pumping out pixels and it needs to be capable of doing a number of corrections and it might be that the only place that fits the criteria of high performing pixels, high performing processing and the ability to know what the image is supposed to be and the ability to make corrections in the way that that image is processed, is the digital front end. So we think the Fiery front end is going to be the centre of how inspections systems are made, the same way that digital front ends are the brains of a print machine, the front end will be the brain of inspection.” 

Weiss adds: “We have a number of inspection technologies in the Fiery today and you will see more from us in the future as we are working with some OEM partners already on what a futuristic self-improving closed loop intelligent press correction system will be. And that’s one of the things that I’m most excited about in terms of the future of digital print because we feel pretty strongly that it’s not done the right way today.”

He continues: “I think that this notion of have a print and then say if its good or bad and not have a closed loop process is not ideal, when the goal is to make the best print in the first place which may mean a correction.” He compares this to spell checkers which correct text as people are typing, saying: “It’s transformative to be able to do it right the first time. What we see now is hints of that, and it’s a million times faster to do that in one process and that’s what we see in digital print.”

Does this mean that in the future we will see tighter integration between the drive electronics at the printheads and the DFE? Weiss says: “In any press you have to stream the data extremely fast regardless of the electronics. So its not dependent. The Fiery Impress comes with some APIs that the customers integrate into, that streams the data at those rates.”

However, he accepts that there may be more need for that level of integration as the digital presses continue to get faster, noting: “I think that if you get into inspection and having to make corrections at the extremely high speeds then you are probably getting there.”

Industrial print

Fiery introduced a new front end, Impress, at the start of 2022 that was specifically aimed at the industrial print market. It’s said to be equally suitable for both specialty inkjet equipment vendors with low unit volumes, as well as single manufacturing lines that want to add in variable or personalised print with a print bar. 

Drupa feels like a coming out party for us

in the industrial print area

Weiss says that industrial printing requires a different way of working, explaining: “Our traditional way of working with an OEM that was building a new press was to ask how many of them do you expect to sell, and what is the price point, what are the speeds and feeds, what is your development and you now have a very different equation where someone might say I want to just put one print bar on top of handbags or suitcases that are going through a manufacturing line and so I want one.

“So our whole way of thinking of big integration cycles and units is going to be thrown out of the window. We need to build something that we can hand to someone and thy can integrate to their processes, whether they are building a press that they are going to sell hundreds of units or whether they are going to build one unit. It will be interesting to see how the industry changes as a result. Print is an industry, but colouring a product isn’t exactly an industry.”

Nonetheless, he believes that industrial printing offers a lot of opportunities: “I think that you will see more and more requirements from consumers. They want personalisation, and marketeers and brands want to be able to do that. And you’ve seen that in some regard, for handbags, shoes, sneakers, and so on. So from our perspective, I think that we will see more inline manufacturing need, and people can do that by sticking an inline print bar in a manufacturing process. 

“But they will still need all these requirements of fast speed and spot colours and integration and JDF and all that. But they won’t come from the world of print so they will need help with that. And I think you’ll see the print manufacturers realising this and embracing that idea of partnering with other manufacturers to do that.”

He adds: “And you will see brands demanding it, wanting to personalise or to advertise or do short run or have many different variations. It is interesting in the direct-to-film business, but true for other areas of textile as well; you are selling a design before you have produced it which is a unique thing. You can have a website with a hundred shirts and so on but not produce a single one until someone clicks on it, and I’m sure that all manufacturers are looking at that and saying “thats really neat, how can I set up my factory to be able to do that”. The supply chains today aren’t there, but brands are asking for that.”

He concludes: “And so in many senses Drupa feels like a coming out party for us in the industrial print area. We’ve been at it for quite a while but have not been known as much in that area.”

You can see the Impress DFE driving EFI’s new Packsize X5 Nozomi, and can find further details on Fiery and its products from fiery.com.

Syndicate content

You can license the articles from Printing and Manufacturing Journal to reproduce in other publications. I generally charge around £150 per article but I’m open to discussing this for each title, particularly for publishers that want to use multiple stories. I can provide high res versions of images for print publications.

I’m used to working with overseas publishers and am registered for VAT with the UK’s HMRC tax authority but obviously won’t charge VAT to companies outside the UK. You can find further details and a licensing form from this page, or just contact me directly here.

Support this site

If you find the stories here useful then please consider making a donation to help fund Printing and Manufacturing Journal, either as a one-off or a repeat payment. Journalism is only really useful if it’s truly independent and this is the only such news source serving the print/ manufacturing sectors.

However, there are costs involved in travelling to cover events, as well as maintaining this site, not to mention the time that it takes to carry out research, check facts and interview people. So if you value this work, then please help to maintain it and keep it free to read.

Subscribe

Never miss a story – subscribe to Printing and Manufacturing Journal to receive an email notification every time an article is published here. It’s completely free of charge and you can cancel the subscription at any point without any hassle. There’s no need to provide any information other than an email address and subscribers details are not for sale so there’s no risk of any further marketing spam.

Related stories

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *