Look back at…April 2022

So, the end of another month and the cost of living crisis has now become the dominant news story, certainly here in the UK and it’s hard to imagine that other countries are not also feeling the squeeze. This is mainly caused by supply chain shortages – due to the pandemic and the continuing lockdowns in China – having pushed prices up, particularly for energy. This has been exacerbated in Britain by some very poor government decisions – so nothing new.

Nor is there likely to be any short term fix, with the World Bank having warned that food and energy will continue to be expensive for the next three years as a result of the war in Ukraine. The bank has forecasted a 50 percent rise in energy prices this year. The Institute of Directors has warned that Britain’s ‘pandemic bounce- back’ is running out of steam and that the UK is likely to face an economic downturn later this year. Earlier this month Deutsche Bank became the first big bank to forecast a US recession starting in 2023.

This will have a knock on effect on the printing industry, from direct mail through to packaging as less items being sold generally translates into less need for associated printing. And it follows that if people are struggling to pay for essentials like food then they’re not going to be buying personalised printed items like t-shirts.

Prices for print consumables are still rising. Xsys, formerly Flint’s prepress division, has increased prices on its Thermoflex imagers and Caterna processing equipment, including spare parts and service agreements,  by 10 to 15 percent. The company cited shortages of steel and plastic as well as electronics, plus increased costs for energy and shipping, stating that it sees “no indication for recovery throughout 2022.”

Xsys has announced price rises for its Thermoflexx range.

Xsys has also announced a temporary global surcharge of 6 percent for Nyloflex and 4 percent for Nyloprint products. Xsys had already increased prices on these product lines earlier this year but says that inflation and raw material costs are higher than expected, including electricity and gas for March 2022 costing more than six times the January 2021 levels.

Friedrich von Rechteren, Global Commercial VP at XSYS, explained: “We can absorb some initial inflationary developments by smart hedging, long-term contracts with our suppliers, and continuous operational improvements. It is no secret that supply chains are under pressure, driving the market in the direction of relying on spot rates in order to secure supply.”

New Products

April saw a couple of minor product announcements. Thus Miraclon, which took over the Kodak Flexcell system, has introduced Flexcell NX Central to replace its TIFF Assembler Plus Software. This offers automated plate layout, with Miraclon claiming to improve plate utilization by up to 10 percent. It can fit multiple advanced plate surface patterning features for better print performance – including those delivered within Flexcel NX Print Suite for PureFlexo Printing – into a single automated plate layout to save time. NX Central also allows for multiple users to remotely manage plate layouts, while its job tracking features enables more accurate billing and a comprehensive breakdown of production costs.

Miraclon’s Flexcell NX system can hold multiple plate surface patterns.

Reid Chesterfield, chief technology and innovation officer at Miraclon, commented: “Flexcel NX Central is designed to maximize the performance of Kodak Flexcel NX Technology and the efficiency benefits it brings to the pre-press and press rooms. It serves as the central hub for customers to interact with their Flexcel NX System, Miraclon’s ongoing technological innovations, and technical support teams to ensure the productivity it delivers drives business growth and ultimately their financial bottom line.”

Konica Minolta has developed a new AccurioPro Dashboard software for its AccurioPrint and AccurioPress devices. This Dashboard is targeted at a broad range of print environments including commercial print, direct mail and fulfilment, in-plant and central reprographic departments as well as general office print environments.

There are two flavours. The more basic Essential edition collects and analyses production data such as print jobs and print media.

The Ultimate version delivers detailed reports and compares productivity over consecutive weeks. It links to a cloud service through the AccurioPro Dashboard Ultimate Single Item menu, which offers a more intelligent and simpler information platform for reducing print downtimes or increasing production capacities. It also gives detailed recommendations on how to improve the uptime of available devices. It can offer a deep-dive to determine the root causes for any losses and comprehensive analyses for actual time and resources required during production. 

Malcolm Smith, category manager of Production and Industrial Print for Konica Minolta UK, stated: “With the exponential growth in Web-2-Print orders, maintaining optimal production resources is critical for business success as customers continue to rethink their efficiencies as part of digital transformation.” 

Color-Logic, which has developed a metallic colours system for print reference, has released its Pattern-FX Volume 6. Mark Geeves, director of Sales and Marketing, said: “In recent years, patterns have become a key element of graphic design. Color-Logic Pattern-FX volumes are illustrator palettes which incorporate the Color-Logic special effects and make pattern usage effortless, predictable, and reproducible. They can be rotated and scaled, and since Color-Logic colours can be gradated, two or more colours can be used within one pattern. When using the six Pattern-FX volumes together with the 924 metallic colours in the Color-Logic Design Suite, graphic designers have access to 665,290 predictable and reproducible embellishment patterns with just a few mouse clicks, although with scaling and rotation, the true number of print embellishments is essentially unlimited. In addition, with Color-Logic Gradation-FX, graphic designers can blend metallic colours into other metallic colours for each pattern or blend process colours into metallic colours for use on conventional or digital presses.”

New installations

McGowans Digital, based in Dublin, has installed a Highcon Beam 2 digital cutting and creasing solution to work alongside a recently installed Landa S10 press. The Highcon Beam 2 will operate as part of an end-to-end digital print and packaging workflow for folding carton and micro flute corrugated packaging jobs as part of an expansion into packaging that the company hopes will lead to a 30 percent increase in revenue within three months.

McGowans, based in Ireland, has installed a Landa S10 and Highcon Beam 2.

Mal McGowan, founder and CEO, explained: “What the Highcon brings to the table is real digital finishing. It’s not only cutting, it is creasing and stripping too. It does so much more than a traditional analogue solution. The introduction of a digital finishing process here has dramatically streamlined our production workflow for increased efficiencies.”

He added: “And crucially, having the Landa S10, Nozomi and HP Indigo working together with the Highcon Beam 2 also means that we can offer customers a ‘virtual house’ for all their packaging or display needs. Literally, customers can now make changes to their packaging designs on the fly, produce a smaller batch or simply run a limited seasonal promotion – but without the expensive or waste of unwanted stock, that also has to be stored in expensive real estate. Cool floor graphics and display applications are also reaping the benefits of digital cutting and creasing including improved production times for point-of-sale displays.”

Raff & Wurzel Druck, a commercial printer based in Riederich in Germany, has ordered a Rapida 106 X offset press from Koenig and Bauer, which should start production later this summer. It’s an eight-colour perfector press with additional inline coater capable of producing up to 20,000 sheets per hour, even in perfecting mode. It will replace a six-year-old sheetfed offset press and offers more automation as well as inline quality control features

Managing director Thomas Uehling commented: “Our production has been running at its limits over the past months. The new press will give us capacity reserves – including ones for additional jobs.”

Raff & Wurzel belongs to P2 MedienInvest Holding and aims to use automated ordering, production and logistics processes. Peter Dankesreiter, one of the co-founders of P2 MedienInvest Holding, added: “The Rapida will even allow a number of smaller jobs to be handled profitably which would otherwise be assigned to a web press. But it is also ideally positioned between digital and offset printing.”

The Swiss company Geissmann Papier AG, which produces flexible packaging, has bought a Comexi F2 MP wide web flexo press in order to strengthen its market position. This is the third Comexi machine that Geissmann has bought. It’s a 10-colour machine that can produce up to 500mpm. 

Geissmann Papier is a family run business that was founded in 1942 and employs around 60 people. It mainly produces papers and films for food packaging. It’s currently headed by executive director Daniel Geissman, who represents the third generation of his family. He explained: “We have invested in this flexographic press because we know Comexi’s excellent technology. This press machine has evident synergies with our other Comexi machines, both printing and laminating.”

Creation Reprographics, which is based in Daventry in the UK, has signed a four-year deal for Fujifilm’s Flenex FW water-washable flexo plates. The company specialises in packaging artwork, reprographics and plate production.

Matt Francklow, managing director at Creation, commented: “Our equipment has always been vital to our business, as we use it for so many different areas. But we are also very in tune with sustainability; in fact, it’s at the heart of everything we do – an ethos that we put into practice every day. We created our own internal programme to achieve zero-carbon reprographics by making small changes at each stage of our work.”

From left: David Parker, UK Packaging Sales Manager for Fujifilm with Matt Francklow, Managing Director of Creation Reprographics.

He adds: “We were aware of Fujifilm’s Flenex plates for a while and were attracted to the sustainability characteristics as much as the high print quality and productivity they offer. We are confident Flenex can help us build on the positive name Creation Repro has in the packaging industry, as pioneers for both quality and sustainability. Having a world-renowned partner in Fujifilm, to help market and grow our business, is fantastic for us.” 

Baker Labels has produced a compostable pouch pack that was printed on an HP Indigo 6K digital press and is said to have comparable lamination and sealing performance to a conventional plastic-based pack. The base material for the pouch was Futamura’s NatureFlexT 23NK, a cellulose film that’s certified for home and industrial composting. This was laminated with Mitsubishi Chemical’s BioPBSTM FD92PM sealant film using Sun Chemical’s SunLam SFC100+HAC306, which is a solvent-free, industrially compostable adhesive.

All of the individual components of the laminate have been individually certified by independent bodies. However, for the full laminate (and pouch) to be fully certified, it would need to pass a disintegration test. Marcos Valdezate, Sun Chemical Global Business Development Manager for SunEvoT Coatings for Digital, commented: “We have also been working hard to develop products, such as SunLam, which meet compostable standards and will ultimately help our customers to expand their circular economy.”

Partnerships and acquisitions

Agfa has pulled off the deal of the year, at least so far, by buying Inca Digital, which I’ve covered more fully here. This should expand Agfa’s wide format offering as well as helping it leap straight into the digital packaging market. 

Separately, Agfa has partnered with Atos, which specialises in cybersecurity, cloud and high performance computing. Under the arrangement, Atos will provide and manage a major part of Agfa’s internal IT services and will support its plans to transform its IT to help simplify it and make it more agile. Atos will help with mainframe services, hosting, workplace management, cloud solutions and network. Atos will also overhaul Agfa’s ERP, CRM, HR and digital workplace solutions and will also take over Agfa’s IT teams, helping to cut Agfa’s costs.

From right: Ralf Sammeck, director of Koenig & Bauer Sheetfed, Daniel Würgler, director and managing owner of System Brunner, Daniel Pfeiffer, managing director for System Brunner, and Dirk Winkler, head of process technology at Koenig & Bauer Sheetfed.

Koenig and Bauer has extended its ten-year partnership with System Brunner, makers of Instrument Flight, a colour control software that uses AI to automatically compensate process fluctuations and colour drifts in a way that mimics human colour perception in order to cut down on complaints and reprints. The system integrates with Koenig and Bauer’s QualiTronic and ErgoTronic measuring and control systems for its Rapida sheetfed offset presses, leading to end-to-end colour management from pre-press through to job production.

The current version of the Instrument Flight software release is the first to use an end-to-end ICC colour management workflow. This can generate a completely new job report, which assesses print production statistically based on selected visual criteria and, for the first time, distinguishes between compliance with a specified print standard (target match) and visual colour stability over the length of the run (consistency).

System Brunner is now developing Instrument Flight EXG for extended gamut printing with the seven process colours CMYK+OGV. The two companies are also exploring whether other print processes could benefit from the system.

Durst has started working with Four Pees, which mainly distributes and integrates prepress software. Michael Deflorian, who runs the Durst Software & Solutions division, explained: “We wanted to serve our customers even better in consultancy and integration and make our product portfolio easily accessible. We started looking for an experienced integration partner in Europe, and Four Pees quickly appeared on our radar. They have their finger on the pulse of the global printing industry and a proven track record in delivering complex automation projects. When we started talking to each other, we found that we were very complementary to each other in the way we work.”

Separately, Durst has also signed a distribution partnership with Masaka Business Solutions in North Africa and West Africa for its Label & Flexible Packaging business unit. Houssine Chekkar, owner and managing director of Masaka Business Solutions, noted: “Tau RSC technology will be invaluable for the establishment and development of digital label printing in North and West Africa in 2022 and beyond.”

3A Composites has acquired a 25 percent stake in Swedboard International AB via a direct capital increase in order to strengthen its own portfolio. Swedboard, which is based in Katrineholm, Sweden, manufactures three main categories of boards. These include SB Fibre,  a FSC-certified, CO2 negative, rigid paperboard which is offered in different variations. SB Composite is a lightweight foam board and SB Solid Premium is a fully food compliant, white paperboard.


Hanan Gothait, founder of 3D printer vendor XJet, is taking on the role of president in the company and passing the job of CEO to Yair Alcobi to help expand the company further. Alcobi was previously president of the PCB Division of KLA, and president of Orbotech East Asia Subsidiary, with a proven track record in growing revenues. 

The company has recently strengthened its board, with Avi Cohen joining as Executive Chairman last year and Orit Tesler Levy, formerly of Applied Materials in Israel and Silicon Systems Segment in California, becoming CFO. Cohen commented: “It has been a comprehensive process to search for a new CEO for XJet. We interviewed and considered many candidates before making our decision. Yair’s record in scaling businesses is enviable and exactly the right fit for taking XJet to the next level.”

Alcobi added: “As someone who has worked closely with many top-tier, global manufacturers, I fully understand the potential of additive manufacturing, and especially in materials like metal and ceramic. XJet technology is remarkable and I’m extremely motivated to expand the business and ensure XJet becomes a clear leader in its market.”

Yair Alcobi is the new CEO of XJet from May 1st 2022.

Esko has appointed Richard Roth as general manager of its EMEA region. The role fell vacant when the previous holder, Eddy Fadel, was promoted to Global Commercial General Manager. Roth has worked in the Danaher Product Identification platform for almost a decade, most recently leading X-Rite’s R&D and Product Management having joined as Vice President in 2017. He commented: “I am delighted to now take on the role of General Manager, building on Eddy’s work in successfully bringing teams closer together to better serve our customers. Following the market uncertainty and volatility that we have all experienced, our business has a clear focus on delivering innovations that support our customers along their digital transformation journey.”

Mondi has appointed Thomas Ott CEO of its Flexible Packaging and Engineered Materials business, where he succeeds Peter Orisich who retired recently. Ott commented that developing sustainable solutions in response to climate change is one of the main challenges, adding: “Mondi’s entire business activity is driven by our commitment to sustainability. As part of our Mondi Action Plan 2030 (MAP2030), we aim to make all Mondi products reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. We are also taking action on climate with MAP2030 Climate Action Roadmaps and committed to a science-based greenhouse gas emissions Net-Zero target by 2050.”

Finally, the war in Ukraine continues, reaching a new low recently with a Russian missile attack on Kyiv during a visit by the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres. This war will continue to push prices up and stretch supply lines as countries rethink their strategic alliances. There is no end to the fighting in sight, with both sides preparing for a long conflict, possibly spanning several years. Worse still, there is a growing likelihood that the fighting will spread, with Moldova now also fearful of a Russian attack. Indeed, the war has already changed from a regional conflict that Ukraine was expected to lose into an existential fight for democracy and European values that the West is determined to win. Regardless, we’ll all end up losing, some more than others, such is the madness of war.

Usually I end these stories with a note asking readers to consider donating to help support my work but instead I’d like to point readers to the two appeals that I’m supporting:

The International Red Cross, which does incredible work around the world’s troublespots, has set up a special fund for the Ukrainian crisis and is helping civilians caught up in the fighting there.

The International Federation of Journalists has set up its Ukraine Safety Fund to support Ukrainian journalists and enable them to continue to report on the war, including any war crimes that have been committed.



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