Look back at…January 2023

Hot damn but January has got the year off to a fine start, delivering a full range of political scandal, economic gloom and international tension without any delay. The main issue in the UK continues to be the wide ranging strikes, with everyone from civil servants to rail workers and nurses downing tools, largely driven by the continuing high inflation rate. 

I dropped by a picket line at UCL hospital in London, which was characterised by a mood of cheerful determination, backed up by public support. So far the government has reacted to the strikes by nurses and ambulance workers by suggesting that people should postpone any accidents that they might have planned. But for many British people the NHS represents the best of Britain, and the fact that OUR nurses have been left with no option but to strike is an appalling indictment of everything that is wrong with the country today.

Rishi Sunak, who is still prime minister, has been fined by the police for not wearing a seat belt, his first fixed penalty notice as prime minister but second whilst in government, thus beating Boris Johnson’s record. His claim to lead a government based on integrity has been further undermined by having to sack a second minister, the former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, who was fined by HMRC over an unpaid tax bill. And there are continuing questions over why Sunak appointed Dominic Raab as deputy prime minister despite allegations of bullying against him, not to mention Suella Braverman, who was appointed Home Secretary just six days after being fired for breaking the ministerial code. 

Then again, Sunak might have been distracted by the International Monetary Fund, which now expects the UK economy to contract by 0.6 percent this year with the country slipping from top to bottom of the G7 league table. However, the German economy fell by 0.2 percent in the last quarter of 2022, prompting fears that Germany will slip into recession this winter. 

The end of January also marked the third anniversary of the UK leaving the European Union. Far from the “national renewal” that was promised, we now have Bregret with most British voters now in favour of rejoining the EU. It’s worth remembering that the UK has used vaccine technology to tame covid and get everyone back to work. But following Brexit, the UK no longer holds the EU medicines brief and is not part of the EU’s Horizon Europe research program. Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK, which is Britain’s second-biggest pharmaceutical group, has warned that the country is falling behind in the development of new medicines. 

The same is also happening in manufacturing with the collapse of British Volt, a company that was planning to build Britain’s first plant for supplying batteries for electric cars. The automotive industry is in the process of switching from internal combustion engines to electric so the loss of this plant threatens Britain’s entire car industry, especially since it’s now easier to build cars in the EU than import them from the UK. More to the point, the loss of skills tied up in automotive production will also undermine the UK’s light engineering manufacturing sector for decades to come. 

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine continues, albeit at a slower pace due to the winter weather. The West will now supply tanks but not combat aircraft though the longer the war drags on, the more damage is being done to the global economy. The World Bank has made exactly this point, cutting its global growth forecast for 2023 from 3% to 1.7% citing high inflation, rising interest rates, reduced investment and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as all constraining economic activity.

That said, there has been some activity in the print sector in January. Amongst the main news items this month, EFI has spun off its Fiery division as a separate company. EFI has also introduced a new series of Fiery DFE servers – the N500 and P400 – to support Canon’s ImagePress V900 range of entry-level digital production printers. The Danish company Grafisk Maskinfabrik, better known as GM, has introduced a new 350mm wide finishing line specifically designed to add premium embellishments to labels for applications such as wine, spirits and cosmetics.

Formlabs’ Automation Ecosystem enables machines to run uninterrupted for 24/7 production.

January also saw some new 3D printer announcements. Ultimaker has announced a new desktop 3D printer, the S7, which builds on the existing S5 but adds a number of new features. Formlabs has introduced a new Automation Ecosystem for use with its Form 3 range of 3D printers. BCN3D has introduced a new version of its Epsilon desktop 3D printer with a number of improvements although the basic specifications remain the same.

In other news, Altana, through its Elantas division, has acquired a stake in Saralon, which specializes in the development of inks for printing electronics. In addition, it offers prefabricated electronic components that enable printers to quickly build capacities for printing electronics. The parties have agreed not to disclose the investment sum.

Saralon was founded in Chemnitz in Germany in 2015 and has been supported by the venture capital fund TGFS Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen. Its functional inks can already be used to print batteries and its products are also used in the logistics industry, where printed electronic sensors in packaging measure humidity, temperature, and pressure, among other things.

Dr. Gerd Krämer, Chief Technology Officer at Elantas, explained: “With its conductive inks and electronic components, Saralon has developed innovative and sustainable solutions that are already in use today. With its years of market experience, Elantas supports Saralon in the further development of its products and their introduction to the printed electronics market across the board.”

CCL Label, which converts pressure sensitive and extruded film materials for decorative, functional and information labels, has developed an ultra thin stretch sleeve at its Voelkermarkt site in Austria. The sleeve has a thickness of 30 micron and was especially designed for returnable 1 Litre PET bottles as used in Germany. Stretch sleeves use elasticity so there’s no need for adhesives or heat to apply them. 

CCL Label has developed a 30 micron stretch sleeve.

Thorsten Umek, Product Manager at CCL Voelkermarkt, explained: “This extremely thin stretch sleeve was developed with sustainability in mind. With 30 micron the sleeve is a lot thinner than the ‘standard’ 45 micron sleeves that are usually used. This accounts for efficiency on the material side – a lot less raw material is needed to manufacture this sleeve and thus it helps reduce the carbon footprint of the product.” He added: “We calculated that beverage brands can save up to 32 tons of plastic material per 100 million sleeves – which is approximately the weight of over 5 adult African elephants.” 

Toray Industries has developed a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film that can be used in a variety of different markets including packaging. Such films can be used with a further processes that rely on solvents, such as mould release agents, adhesives or printing inks that are made with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene, xylene, and ethyl acetate. In recent years, as everybody has become more aware of environmental issues, there’s an obvious desire to replace those solvent-based processes with water-based products. However, there can be problems in getting these alternatives to bind properly with the film, leading to them lifting off or peeling away.

Toray’s solution is to create an ultra-thin layer with nanosized dispersion of hydrophilic components that are attracted to water plus hydrophobic components that are attracted to the resin on the surface of the film. Toray says that this film has demonstrated good applicability and adhesion for an array of water-based offerings from paint manufacturers. It’s said to show good coating and adhesion properties with solvent-free coatings that are also VOC-free.

This new PET film is also compatible with Ecouse Lumirror which uses recycled PET materials. Ecouse is a brand for recycled materials and products that Toray began rolling out worldwide in 2015. Lumirror is a biaxially oriented polyester film. Toray is planning to manufacture this film at a plant in Japan by March 2024

Zund Systemtechnik, which has developed a range of digital cutting tables, kicked off 2023 with the acquisition of its Spanish sales partner Sign-Tronic S.A. Sign-Tronic is based in Barcelona but also serves customers in Portugal and Andorra. The company, which was founded in 1990 and has worked with Zund since 1994, has now been renamed Zund Ibérica. 

Oliver Zünd, CEO of Zünd Systemtechnik AG: “We are thrilled to welcome Zund Ibérica to our global group of companies. Working closely with our new subsidiary will allow us to further strengthen our business in Spain and expand our customer base. I am convinced we will continue to be able to provide our Spanish customers with the best possible service in the long term. The resources at our disposal and our new subsidiary’s extensive experience will allow us to grow further and continue optimizing our customer support.”

The Croatian printer manufacturer Azonprinter has signed a distribution agreement with the Swiss-based IT reseller Also, which will now sell Azonprinter’s A3 sized DTF and DTF UV printers to the French and Scandinavian market. Also is active in 29 European countries and had a turnover in 2021 of €12.3 billion. 

Jeroen Branders, ALSO Group Lead CoC Graphics & 3D Printing, commented: “As market leader in the graphics and large printing business we are very pleased to add the Azon product range to our portfolio. We will bring further added value to our partners in the graphic industry but also to the Value Added Resellers. Our motto ‘Transform2Perform’ really comes to life with a partnership like this, offering our customers state-of-the-art technology which enables them to grow and scale their business.“

Heidelberg has introduced a new mobile Charger Compact.Lite charging station to its Amperfied range of e-mobility solutions for electric vehicles. The new Charger compact.lite can be used to charge electric and hybrid vehicles throughout Europe at blue CEE 16A sockets (so-called “camping plugs”), and can do so faster than using an emergency charging cable connected to a household socket. 

There’s an optional wall mount that effectively converts it into a compact wallbox for charging at home. It relies on a padlock to protect the Charger compact.lite from theft. 

Ulrich Grimm, technical managing director of Amperfied GmbH, said: ”With the Charger compact.lite, Amperfied is expanding its range with an extremely compact and flexible solution for charging on the road and at home.” He added: “It enables us to cover even more fields of application in a dynamically developing market environment.”

Installations

DCG ONE has installed an HP PageWide Web Press T250 HD at its base in Seattle, Whasington, USA. The company began as an envelope manufacturer in the founder’s one-car garage in 1965 and now offers print-on-demand, direct mail, binding and finishing, strategic and creative marketing services. The T250 will help the company with faster turnaround times as well as targeting new applications, including longer run direct mail and variable healthcare documents.

DCG ONE has installed an HP PageWide Web Press T250 HD

Brad Clarke, CEO of DCG ONE, said: “We’ve transitioned from an analog to highly digital business largely in partnership and with the support of HP.” He added: “With the addition of this HP PageWide Web Press T250 HD, we are able to expand our offerings and increase our return on investment.”

The Italian label printer Maestri Etichette has bought a Screen Truepress Jet L350UV SAI E narrow web inkjet press. Moreno Maestri, owner and sales manager of Maestri Etichette, commented: “We built our reputation on responding flexibly to customers’ demand.” He added: “One of our strongest qualities, flexibility is key to consistent growth. And even in the difficult COVID-year of 2021, it helped us achieve 9% revenue growth.”

King & McGaw, an art publisher and online retailer based in Sussex, has installed a SwissQprint Nyala 4 flatbed printer. The company sells art prints from its own website, kingandmcgaw.com, and fulfils orders for more than two dozen white-label websites as well as supplying many of the UK’s museums and galleries with prints for their gift shops and creating wall art products for major retail groups. 

King &McGaw’s Operations Director, Ian Brooker, explained: “We were looking to enhance both our performance and our productivity in one acquisition. With the swissQprint build quality and low running costs, the Nyala 4 gave us the answer for which we had searched. It is an investment for our future and its productivity, reliability and flexibility means our ROI is already very positive.”

Appointments

Koji Miyao has succeeded Sergio Kato as the new President of Ricoh’s Graphic Communications Business Unit. Miyao joined Ricoh in 2000, where he was responsible for marketing high speed colour laser printers for overseas markets. In 2006 he moved to Ricoh Americas Corporation as Director of Business Development, where he headed up strategic investment for printer sales through IT distribution channels. By 2014 he was back in Japan as General Manager of the Office Printing Division and in 2018 he was appointed Chairman and President of Ricoh China.

Koji Miyao is the new President of Ricoh’s Graphic Communications Business Unit.

He commented: “As part of my role I will also align Ricoh’s global development, production, sales, and service functions for the success of our clients’ business. I put much importance on “Fulfilment through Work,” Ricoh’s vision for 2036. That means to help employees feel a sense of satisfaction, achievement, and self-realisation gained through work. I aim to achieve this while expanding the reach of print and the scope of our business as well as positively contributing to solving social issues.”

Koenig & Bauer has promoted Dr Stefan Balling to the role of joint managing director of its Coding division, to replace Oliver Volland, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2022. He is an electrical engineering expert who joined the company in April 2016 and soon took on VP responsibilities within product development. He will focus on operations, product development and IT. He will work with German Stuis, also joint managing director, who commented: “With the appointment of Dr Balling as joint managing director of Koenig & Bauer Coding, we have secured the services of an experienced and dependable colleague with a deep understanding of our corporate structures.”

Fujifilm appears to be on a hiring spree with a number of new appointments. This includes Mario Gazzani, who’s just beginning a new job as Packaging Segment Manager in Italy where he will be responsible for selling packaging solutions – including Fujifilm’s inkjet imprinting systems and the Jet Press FP790 flexible packaging printer. He previously worked for Uteco Group, ebeam Technologies and most recently, Cefla.

Gazzani commented: “Fujifilm is a fantastic company, known for its technological innovation, environmental friendliness and customer care. Its inkjet solutions are unmatched and it has some amazing new products in the pipeline. I am delighted to be joining the company as it embarks on a new direction in packaging.”

Fujifilm has also appointed Eugenia Alvarez to the role of Packaging Sales Manager in Spain where she will be responsible for strengthening the market presence of Fujifilm’s packaging products in Spain, as well as leading the packaging sales strategy in the country. Prior to working at Fujifilm, Alvarez held technical field, consultancy and sales positions at numerous graphic equipment and software manufacturers, including Agfa, Esko and Kodak. She also set up her own graphic consultancy business, Podium, which provided advice about market growth, process optimisation and bringing new technologies to market.

Alvarez explained: “When I was offered this position, I was faced with the decision of closing my consultancy business after having successfully led it for eight years. However, I had collaborated with the Fujifilm Graphics team for some time and I already felt very comfortable working with the team. Additionally, the company’s growing product offering for the packaging market is innovative and set to make a real difference to those operating in the sector. I am delighted to join Fujifilm and to be working for the company at such an exciting time.”

And in the UK, Fujifilm has appointed Andy Webb as Wide Format Sales Manager, where he will be responsible for the sale of Fujifilm’s Acuity range throughout the UK, as well as managing channel partner relationships.

Webb commented: “What Fujifilm is doing in wide format is tremendously exciting – but what I found equally appealing about the company, is that so much is happening in other parts of the business too – and there’s a real sense of joint purpose across the whole company. It’s an established business, doing new and innovative things, and I’m delighted to have joined at such an exciting time.”

SA International, which makes the Flexi range of large format design and RIP software, has promoted Philippe Meyer as Product Manager for its EnRoute CNC software. He will manage updates and developments to EnRoute, oversee the product’s positioning and identify wider business opportunities for the software. Meyer joined SAi in 2015, originally in a technical support role for both EnRoute and Flexi.

Don Feagan, President and COO of SAi, commented: “Having started his career with us at SAi, Phillipe quickly demonstrated a level of all-round expertise, most notably a strong technical aptitude. He has, in a relatively short space of time, amassed a solid level of expertise of EnRoute and is committed to ensuring it maintains its worthy place as the foremost software package for CNC users across multiple application areas.”

Miraclon has appointed Andy Yarrow as its Regional Commercial Director for the Asia Pacific Region (APR), where he will lead the sales, service and business management teams. He has over 23 years’ printing industry experience including the last eight years in the Asia Pacific Region for various companies including Xerox, EFI, Océ and Kornit Digital. Most recently he was responsible for kickstarting the APR operations of innovative Israeli start-up, Twine Solutions.

Andy Yarrow is Miraclon’s new Regional Commercial Director for the Asia Pacific Region.

Meanwhile, Miraclon has moved his predecessor, Joerg Kullwitz, to the new global role of Project Manager, Optimised Flexographic Print, which will see him working with customers around the world who are moving from gravure to flexo print production.

Drytac has employed Cathy Radoncic as its new Northeast Territory Manager for the US, where she will oversee both the building and ongoing support of the Drytac dealer network across the Northeast US region, working with customers and the wider Drytac team to further enhance the manufacturer’s presence in the market.

Integration Technology, which develops UV LED solutions, has hired Pana Vrettos as Senior Sales Manager for the DACH region, Southern Europe, and Poland. He has more than 15 years’ experience in international technical sales of industrial machinery and equipment with nine years specialising in the sale of UV systems. Since working in the industrial print space, Vrettos has developed expertise in printing, packaging, pharmaceutical, coating and wood working and décor industries with a focus on UV, marking, coating, varnishing, and surface technologies. 

Soyang Europe has appointed Gareth Newman as its new Technical Applications Manager, where he will carry out product demos and profile machines for Soyang Europe materials. Mark Mashiter, managing director at Soyang. “We are always on the lookout to add talented staff to our team; I look forward to working with him and seeing our customers benefit from his knowledge.”

Will the inflation rate fall, will the economy grow, will there be anyone left who is not on strike? Will West Ham FC avoid relegation? For these and many more questions – but no answers – tune in for another exciting episode next month.


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