Look back at…December 2023

With the business year drawing to a close, at least in the Western world as everyone prepares to break for Christmas, there’s just time for a brief review of the main news from December. 

December in the UK is supposed to be all about cold weather set against the warmth of the Christmas spirit. We’ve certainly had the cold weather but not much Christmas cheer in the headlines, which have mostly focussed on immigration and the many unwanted foreigners arriving at British beaches. There is little room for irony despite Britain having built an empire by stealing other peoples’ countries though this may explain why so many migrants see Britain as the motherland, the source of all wealth and power. Then again, if they knew how much sewage we were pumping into our coastal areas then they might have picked a different route. 

Rishi Sunak, who is still prime minister much to everyone’s surprise, is attempting to portray himself as a nice super-competent guy but without much success. His latest pitch is that we can solve all of the many problems that currently face Britain – the cost of living crisis, high inflation, huge debt, near non-existent public services – simply by flying a few hundred desperate migrants to Rwanda. So far the government has spent £290 million on this pointless and nasty policy with nothing to show for it but a string of legal defeats.

Fortunately in these gloomy times we still have some light relief from Brexit, truly the gift that keeps on giving. In Northern Ireland the DUP has scuppered the latest attempt to restart the devolved government as part of its continued opposition to the Brexit deal with Europe. Neither the British government or the EU have any desire to revisit the tortuous Brexit arguments, leaving Northern Ireland without a functioning government.

Meanwhile the US president Joe Biden has decided against offering the UK a trade deal before the next presidential election. The possibility of a US trade deal and access to US markets was touted as one of the major benefits of Brexit. 

Nor has Sunak had much success in signing a trade deal with India. The sticking point is that the Indians want an easier visa system for work and travel, which goes against the government’s anti-immigration rhetoric. 

There has been some good news on the economic front, with inflation now down to 3.9 percent. As a result the Bank of England has left the base interest rates at 5.25 percent, prompting many to speculate that the worst is over and the economy will recover next year. However, the official figures for the Q3 period from July to September have now been revised to indicate that the gross domestic product shrank by 0.1 percent. This means that the economy is flat with the fear that a further contraction in this current quarter would mean the country was technically in a recession – though this won’t make much difference to many British tax payers who already feel that the recession arrived some time ago.

Hunkeler recently showed this PF8 Plowfolder as part of its Starbook Plowfolder solution.

Meanwhile, the main news from the print industry this month has been Muller Martini’s acquisition of Hunkeler, which will give it a much bigger stake in the digital print industry. 

Ricoh Europe has announced that it is working with the Chinese manufacturer Flora Digital to develop new wide format printers. The first model will be a compact hybrid flatbed with Ricoh printheads and ColorGate RIP software. Since Flora already makes a similar machine we shouldn’t have to wait too long to see this.

It’s quite common for major established brands to outsource manufacturing to cut costs, especially with a relatively mature area such as wide format printing. However, it’s much rarer for those companies to go public about this. For its part, Flora has been steadily growing its own brand in recent years, complete with distribution in Europe. I believe that Flora also works with other vendors, who have been less forthcoming over their relationship so that’s going to lead to an interesting dynamic come the next Fespa event. 

All4Labels Global Packaging Group and ACTEGA have signed a strategic agreement over the Signite technology.

The All4Labels packaging group has been working with Actega to help develop Actega’s Signite liner-less label technology, which I’ve previously covered. Signite promises to reduce the substrates used in labelling, which should make for a much more sustainable solution. This arrangement will give All4Labels exclusive use of the Signite approach in the European market for the next decade.

Paloma Alonso, All4Labels CEO, commented: “This breakthrough solution not only significantly reduces waste and improves recyclability and reuse, but also offers tremendous design flexibility for brand owners. This technology will let brand owner reduce their net greenhouse emissions compared to traditional printing and move closer to achieving the Fit for 55 EU’s target.”

Agfa has officially launched the SpeedSet 1060 single pass inkjet packaging press, which I have covered earlier this year. It’s designed to print to paper-based substrates, ranging from folding carton and micro-flute to various paper types. It uses water-based inks, primer and varnish, which are more sustainable and comply with food-safety regulations. 

Ricoh has revealed the first commercial customer of its Pro Z75 B2 sheetfed press. The press has been beta tested at Heeter’s in the USA but now Realisaprint.com, a French online printer, has bought the first post-beta machine. The company, which was founded in 2007, already operates a Ricoh VC70000 web fed inkjet press as well as two Ricoh Pro C9200 sheetfed toner presses.  

The British company Ibis, which makes bindery equipment, has now set up a new factory in Slovakia, giving the company a European foothold. Ibis says that this is due to heavier demand for its Smart Binder system, prompting the company to move all machine assembly, testing and packing to the new plant. This also means that Ibis gets around all of the odius post-brexit paperwork that has caused such problems for British exporters. However, this also means that UK deliveries will ship from the new European facility.

GMG has updated three of its colour management software programs with the release of ColorServer 5.5, OpenColor 3.1 and ColorProof 5.15. This has been prompted by improvements to the underlying MXN colour engine, with faster colour conversions and separations. There’s also no need to switch between applicatins, which should speed up workflows. However, the new versions also come with a switch to an online licensing model.

GMG has updated its ColorServer software

Jens Bloeck, product manager at GMG, explained: “We now use an improved profiling algorithm and our new MXN separation engine in GMG SmartProfiler to calculate separation and conversion profiles. This allows us to achieve even better color and print quality in digital printing.” He added: “We especially see qualitative improvements in converting files from a large color space to smaller color spaces. In practice, this means that we get visibly better results on uncoated natural corrugated cardboard, even in dark color areas.”

Fujifilm is working with eProductivity Software to demonstrate how its XMF PressReady workflow can be integrated with the ePS MarketDirect StoreFront e-commerce and MIS system. This will be shown in conjunction with Fujifilm’s Revoria and Apeos ranges of digital presses at its European demo centres in Germany and Belgium.

Heidelberg, through its Amperfied subsidiary, has started series production of a new charging station for electric cars in public car parks. Each station has two charging points for up to 22 kW charging power and complies with Germany’s upcoming requirements for credit card terminals. Heidelberg’s electric car charging stations, which are manufactured at its main plant in Wiesloch-Walldorf, has been a major success for the company.

On a sadder note, Dr Gerold Linzbach, who was previously the CEO of Heidelberg, passed away after battling a long illness. He was instrumental in reshaping Heidelberg and returning the company to profitability, largely by concentrating on the core business of printing. Much of Heidelberg’s post-press equipment portfolio was outsourced to MasterWork in China and some areas, such as saddle stitching, were abandoned altogether, with Muller Martini taking up the slack. 


Ink manufacturer Siegwerk has set up a Group Executive Committee to develop, implement, and oversee key decisions and strategies for the company, starting from January 1, 2024. Essentially, this committee is simply Ashish Pradhan, president of Siegwerk Asia, plus the existing board members: Dr Nicolas Wiedmann, CEO; Dr Oliver Wittmann, CFO; Dr Jan Breitkopf, president EMEA; and Ralf Hildenbrand, president Americas. According to the press release, including Pradhan in the new committee shows “the significance of the Asian region in Siegwerk’s global strategy.” More cynical readers might conclude that the asian region isn’t important enough to simply invite Pradhan to join the management board. 

Ashish Pradhan, president of Siegwerk Asia

Pradhan joined Siegwerk in 2015 and held a variety of positions including Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Siegwerk India as well as President India and Greater China. At the beginning of 2021, he was appointed President Asia, which covers India, Greater China, and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile Dr. Oliver Wittmann will stand down as CFO in April next year to be succeeded by Dirk Weissenfeldt who joined Siegwerk in 2006. He has held a variety of roles in the company and in 2017, he became Vice President for the Business Unit Flexible Packaging in Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Koenig and Bauer has announced that Dr Andreas Pleßke has now been appointed CEO of the company, having been a board member since 2014, and taken responsibility for the special printing segment since 2021. At the same time, Dr Stephen Kimmich, who has been the chief financial officer since 2020, has also been appointed deputy chief executive officer. Otherwise, the board remains the same with Christoph Müller (responsible for the Digital & Webfed segment), Ralf Sammeck (responsible for the Sheetfed segment) and Michael Ulverich (COO) all staying in place.

SwissQprint’s UK team have taken on three new members of staff. This includes Yaroslav Kovalev, who will be based in London, and Kevin Hart, based in Manchester, who will help support customers with issues relating to printers. At the same time, Simon Payne, who has an art working and design background, has been appointed as a print solutions specialist. Erskine Stewart, Managing Director at swissQprint UK, said: “Our new members at swissQprint UK are helping to maintain the high support level our growing customer base demands.”

Merry Christmas one and all

And that’s it from me for a while as this is the last story before Christmas. I want to take the opportunity to wish everyone a happy Christmas. I also want to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported me through the year. I hope that you all enjoy a well-earned break regardless of religious affiliations and come back fighting fit for the New Year. 



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