Look back at…June 2022

The cost of living crisis is now front and centre the main issue in the UK, with everyone trying desperately not to call it a recession in the vague hope that everything will soon get better. There are still underlying weaknesses in the global supply chain, particularly around computer chips, which has seen steady price increases in consumables such as inks and plates. But the long term problem is the high inflation, currently at 9.1 percent in the UK, driven by high energy prices, largely as the result of the war in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions. There is no end in sight to the war and its pointless cruelty.

Stand with Ukraine – Berlin Hauptbahnof

In the West, we worry that winter will bring fresh demand for heating and will only add to the economic problems. In the East, unexpectedly high temperatures have already pushed up the demand for air conditioning throwing the energy crisis into sharp relief. Britain is experiencing a summer of discontent with a wave of strikes affecting everything from air and train travel to the court system and you know that something is seriously wrong when barristers start striking. Behind all this lurks the certainty that interests rates will continue to rise, which is very bad news for economies like Britain that are heavily dependent on high consumer debt. And yet, there is always someone worse off…

The print industry is not immune to these wider issues as Print against War continues to remind us. This month the organisation has highlighted the struggle faced by New Media, a Ukrainian label and packaging printer based in Odessa, caught up in the war waged by Russia. Viktor Artyushchenko, owner of New Media, commented: “The communications industry in Ukraine is annihilated, and it will take years for the domestic market to restart.” In the first month of the war, New Media lost 90 percent of its turnover. The following month, it regained some of this but by the 100 day mark after the invasion began, its turnover was about one-third of the pre-war level.

But the company has plans to turn this around. Following conversations with Print Against War, New Media is hoping to automate its workflows and create a multiple-language website and an e-shop to sell in Ukraine and abroad. Artyushchenko added: “For the first time, we felt that we were part of a global industry; and it forced us to look inward, redefine our priorities, and convince ourselves that we need to create the conditions to take our products beyond national borders.”

New Media, based in Odessa, prints labels and packaging.

In other news, Agfa completed its acquisition of Inca Digital Printers, which both strengthens Agfa’s position in the sign and display market and gives it a major boost into the digital packaging market. Pascal Juéry, president and CEO of the Agfa-Gevaert Group, commented: “I am pleased that we are now able to start integrating Inca’s activities into our organization. This acquisition is a major step in the transformation of our Group. Our digital printing growth engine has a tremendous potential, which will be further accelerated by the addition of Inca.”

Global Graphics Software has picked up a US patent for ‘Methods and systems for organizing variable data documents including those with long repeat lengths’ (United States Patent No. 11,334,303) from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patent covers how the control system of a digital printer decide which pages to send to which RIP in a RIP farm – where multiple RIPs are running simultaneously – to optimize their delivery. This method is used by Global Graphics’ Harlequin RIP, Harlequin Core; Harlequin Direct and SmartDFE and can help OEMs reduce their costs as it requires less RAM to be used. 

Justin Bailey, Global Graphics Software’s managing director, explains: “Digital print OEMs want to get page rasters out of the RIP farm in the order in which they are to be printed.  But that competes with the need to process them efficiently at speed by sending collections of pages with reused graphics or elements to the same RIP in the farm. This patent is all about optimizing the scheduling and the way in which variable data is handled in the RIP.  Our method is one of the reasons that our Harlequin brand is the fastest on the market.”

EFI has used the proven PDF test suite from the Ghent WorkGroup, or GWG, to set up a new service to help its customers achieve Ghent PDF Output Suite 5.0 Conformance Certification. Printers can use this certification to better market themselves to potential customers. The service costs €380 in Europe, and $399 in North America and the certification is valid for two years. Fiery DFE customers simply order the certification service from EFI by filling out an online form. EFI then electronically sends personalized Ghent Workgroup test forms along with a short video on how to set up their Fiery server to achieve a pass. Once they print the forms, Fiery users can simply take photos of their output using a smartphone and transmit the images to EFI for evaluation of each test element required for certification. EFI and the Ghent Workgroup can complete the certification within a week of receiving output photos.

John Henze, EFI Fiery VP of Sales and Marketing, commented: “Print producers are very familiar with conformance to colour standards and what that means in terms of expected results, happy customers, and reduced waste – the interpretation of PDF files needs to be thought of in the same way, it’s equally as important. On the latest Fiery DFEs, set up for certification and ongoing conformance takes seconds, unlike competitive solutions. Plus, we’ve made this service very easy and very affordable to encourage Fiery DFE users to take this important step to higher quality, and more reliable prints.” 

The Delta Group, based in London, has invested in EFI’s Nozomi 18000+ LED, which will be the first in Europe and is due to be installed in Q3 of this year. This variant of the single pass Nozomi is designed for display graphics. Martin Shipp, Delta Group COO, said that the Nozomi C18000 had proven successful for the company, adding: “The new 18000+ model for signage and display graphics will be a welcome development for our customers. The range of applications this printer enables, printing on paper, styrene, corrugated plastic and more at very high speeds, keeps Delta Group ahead in its ability to meet every customer need in the display graphics space.”

Meanwhile, Caps Cases, a corrugated packaging manufacturer based in the UK, has become the first company worldwide to install the new Nozomi 14000 model that was announced earlier this year. Trevor Bissett, Managing Director of Caps Cases, said that he had been watching the Nozomi technology for some years, noting: “It is the first solution that has been suitable for us both in terms of the physical space that the machine demands, and in the quality that it can achieve. We will be able to alleviate some of the bottlenecks we have in our current process in ways that have not been possible with digital until now.”

Richard Towers, managing director of Swanline; Keith Ockenden, CEO of Zeus Group; Nick Kirby, Group CEO Swanline

Zeus Packaging has acquired the Swanline Group, which supplies paper-based materials for print, packaging and POS, and its sister company BoxMart, which supplies off-the-shelf and bespoke packaging. Zeus Packaging was established in 1998 in Ireland and has since expanded into the UK market as well as sites in Germany, Spain, Poland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and China. The deal was worth over €25 million and puts Zeus on track to be the world’s largest sole shareholder packaging company by 2023. Swanline and Boxmart have a total revenue in excess of €30 million which will help Zeus achieve its target of half a billion euro annualised revenue next year. Forecasted annualised revenues for Zeus in 2022 are expected to exceed more than €400 million.

Keith Ockenden, Zeus CEO, said: “It is a significant day for Zeus as we continue our current investment strategy with the acquisition of two very strong players in the UK packaging sector.” He added: “Swanline Group and BoxMart bring with them long-established customer bases, in-depth knowledge about their respective sectors, and dedicated diverse teams who are committed to serving their customers. As a combined entity, we have enhanced our reach and offering across the UK, with further opportunity to maximise efficiencies across our distribution and supply chains, whilst broadening our product and service offerings to our existing customers.”

Canon has signed a deal in the US for its Production Print Solutions division to supply the Contiweb Digital Fluid Applicator  DFA-560 to the US market as an in-line remoisturizer for the Canon ProStream 1800 inkjet web press. The Contiweb DFA-560 is a standalone fluid applicator that uses tap water and a surfactant for intelligent remoisturizing of paper that is processed through an inkjet web press. It offers a water only or water + silicone substrate mixing and application system. This process helps enable increased runnability of lightweight paper applications which require post process finishing. In addition, the DFA-560 can also apply silicone, which helps stabilize the paper after printing, especially for heavy substrates which have heavy ink loads.

Ed Jansen, Vice President of Marketing at Canon Solutions America, explained: “Our customers are under pressure to meet short, demanding deadlines, which means continuous production is a must, often with reduced numbers of operators.”

Ricoh has acquired the assets of Quadient’s graphics business in the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Quadient itself specialises in developing software to optimise communications across mail, email, online and parcels. However, Ricoh’s acquisition only covers print finishing solutions, such as booklet makers, cutters, laminators and binders, Large Format Solutions, Supplies and Consumables and Support Services. As such it improves Ricoh’s production print finishing capabilities and gives it better distribution of wide format equipment in these countries.

Screen has sold its 200th Truepress Jet L350 label printer, after selling a Truepress Jet L350UV SAI S to Hickman Label Company of Lebanon in Tennessee, USA. The company started in 2015 by supplying blank labels but bought the L350 as part of a plan to expand its full service label production.

Yukiyoshi Tanaka, president of Screen Graphic Solutions, commented: “The pandemic has made it even clearer that label printing is an ‘essential business’ in people’s lives. Expectations for digital printing are increasing year by year. The need for non-contact, small workforce systems, and a shortage of intermediate materials due to supply chain-management disruption has led to a significant re-evaluation of the speed and efficiency of printing processes.”

Rudd Macnamara, a printed based in Birmingham, UK, has installed a HP latex R1000 printer. Chris Dickinson, Managing Director of Rudd Macnamara, explained: “The flexibility to print on all mediums was a plus but the biggest selling point was the white print.” He added: “We print onto a number of substrates but mainly metal, foamboard and PETG. The material would usually determine which printing process we would use, but the new HP can do it all. Before moving repeat products across, we go through a colour matching and detail sign off, and so far, all has been well. New work is predominantly all quoted and put through the HP printer. This work varies from pump clips for the brewing industry through to metal signs that go on to be embossed for a variety of businesses.”

The company was founded by Ernest Rudd in 1890 as an engraver and mostly makes nameplates, asset tags and signs. The hope is that the R1000 will help the company to target new markets such as point-of-sale, bespoke packaging and display and design within the travel industry.

Appointments

HP has promoted Haim Levit from general manager of HP Indigo to SVP and General Manager of HP’s Industrial Print business where he will manage several global business units, including the Indigo Division, and lead HP’s overall industrial global digital print strategy. Noam Zilbershtain, has been promoted from VP of Operations at HP Indigo, to General Manager to replace Levit in that role. 

Martin Fairweather has been appointed National Digital Business Manager for Fujifilm UK. He previously spent 23 years at Heidelberg. He will oversee the sales of the Jet Press and 42K Printbar System. Fairweather commented: “I am excited to be embarking on the next stage of my career with Fujifilm. We are seeing a significant shift towards digital right across the market, due to rising consumable costs and raw material shortages. Fujifilm has been paving the way with its inkjet technology for some time now, following the launch of the Jet Press 750S High Speed Model and the 42K Printbar System, and I am delighted to play an integral part in helping to accelerate this growth further, as Fujifilm continues to innovate within this market.”

Kongsberg Precision Cutting Systems has chosen Matt Thackray as Vice President/General Manager of its operations in the Americas, which includes the USA, Canada, Latin America and South America. He was previously general manager for the Americas region for Gravotech, which makes engraving, marking and cutting solutions. He commented:  ”The legacy of the Kongsberg and MultiCam businesses presents an amazing opportunity to build a world class organization, and I’m very excited about our future together”.

Asahi Photoproducts, which develops photopolymer flexo plates, has appointed Gene Martin to represent the company and its products in the United States. He has been a long-time Asahi customer as well as serving on the board of the FTA.

Emmanuel Mougenot has been appointed as International Sales Manager for Asahi Photo Products

Separately, the company has appointed Emmanuel Mougenot as International Sales Manager, responsible for managing sales and distributor resources in Benelux, France, Spain, and other countries. He has previously worked for TKM Group, which sells flexo doctor blades, and Dante, which distributes flexo plates. 

Philip Mattelaer, Managing Director of Asahi Photoproducts, welcomed Mougenot to the company, saying: “He has the skills, knowledge and network to help us spur our growth in Europe even more as a dedicated and effective sales professional, and we look forward to the expertise he will bring to this role.”

Picon has appointed James Boughton, managing director of Edale, as its new Chairman, taking over from Mark Bristow of Friedheim International who served an extended term to cover the Covid-19 crisis. Three other Picon members have joined the Picon Council this year: Neil Jones, managing director of Bobst UK; Kevin O’Donnell, head of  marketing, graphic communications of Xerox UK, Ireland and the Nordics; and Peter Murphy, managing director of Turnbull & Scott.

Bettine Pellant, CEO of Picon, says: “The appointment of James Boughton as Chairman marks the return to business as normal after the pandemic. Picon has provided a valuable networking and communication service to its customers throughout this challenging period and we now look forward to meeting up in person more often and to continuing our work of ensuring the printing supplies industry remains strong, relevant and has a voice in the wider community.”

The summer months typically herald a slowdown in the news cycle but this is not a typical year so it will be interesting to see what stories July brings us. Stay tuned!


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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