Look back at…June 2023

June and the long hot summer days have brought out the madness of the English, a people who elected a government hellbent on making life even more miserable for migrants, while at the same time accepting the chaos of stopping some London train services to rescue a swan that wandered onto the track. 

The Bank of England has raised the base rate to 5 percent with some economists warning that it could reach 6 percent by the end of the year. Last year’s talk of limiting interest rate rises to promote economic growth has gone out the window with the Bank now concentrating all efforts on dealing with inflation, having finally remembered the lessons we all learned back in the 80s and 90s – inflation wrecks everything and has to be dealt with before anything else.

June also saw the inflation figure released for May, which remained at 8.7 percent. Just to prove that economists do really have a sense of humour, there are different types of inflation. The core inflation, which excludes unnecessary items like food and energy, has risen to 7.1 percent, while services inflation is up to 7.4 percent. However, food inflation has now fallen back to a mere 16.5 percent, which is good news from an economics perspective but an absolute disaster for many families in Britain. More worryingly, the UK’s national debt has now hit 100 percent of GDP at £2.6 trillion. 

The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi visited the US in a further sign of the new Cold War that is developing. India has traditionally tried to maintain a non-aligned status but this is becoming increasingly difficult, mainly due to China’s aggressive expansionism. Modi has signed defence deals with the US and, more importantly, technology agreements that will ultimately make it easier for Western companies to switch their manufacturing from China to India. This comes at a time when Europe and the US look for ways to continue exploiting China for cheap manufacturing whilst simultaneously fighting a new cold war against China.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin, having failed to capture Kyiv last year, has at least managed to hold on to Moscow this year. An armed insurrection by Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has weakened Putin’s position, reportedly adding to his paranoia, and adding a dangerous new instability to the situation.

This has forced many European nations to consider just how prepared their own armed forces are if the Russian regime were to collapse and the war to expand beyond Ukraine. The head of the British army, General Sir Patrick Saunders, has threatened to resign over warnings that the army is short of ammunition and artillery after helping Ukraine, and cannot sustain further proposed cuts. 

Thames Water, the UK’s largest water company, is on the brink of collapse with huge debts and poor infrastructure that has led to sewage polluting waterways. This is the direct result of the wave of privatisations of public utilities in the late 80s and early 90s that was supposed to lead to private sector investment. In reality much of the rail network has been renationalised in all but name, Britain’s beaches and rivers are routinely polluted with sewage and the almost non-existent energy infrastructure has left the country peculiarly exposed to the rising global energy prices. Who could possibly have predicted that investors would be more motivated by greed than philanthropy? Neither the government nor the opposition want to admit the reality here – that the British taxpayer will have to pick up the bill.  

The government’s main response to all these problems has been to distract everyone with some more comic clowning around at Westminster. Boris Johnson, who used to be prime minister, has resigned from Parliament after the Standards select committee found that he had indeed lied to Parliament over the culture of illegal partying at No.10 during the Covid lockdowns. 

However, Rishi Sunak, who still is prime minister, inexplicably rushed to approve Johnson’s list of honours for rogues, managing to destroy any last vestiges of his own integrity whilst simultaneously making the case for Labour’s planned reform of the House of Lords. And we still have Liz Truss’s honours list to come, with a further round of lifetime honours for some of the most useless people in Britain.

This 3.4m wide EFI Reggiani Hypa can produce two 1.5m rolls side by side to produce 20mpm.

June also saw the return of the ITMA textile manufacturing show. The main message from the show was sustainability, with many companies launching new products, all of which would improve the textile industry’s sustainability. Textile decoration is one of the most polluting industries on the planet so it could certainly do with the help. Naturally, everyone politely ignored the most obvious option – buy less stuff – and the cost of living crisis.  

I’ve already covered the new EFI Reggiani Bolt XS single pass inkjet textile printer and Stratasys’ J850 TechStyle 3D printer for the fashion and automotive markets. I’ll write about some of the other new printers and trends during this month.

Meanwhile, Nano Dimension and 3D Systems have both continued to stalk 3D printer vendor Stratasys with improved offers. Nano Dimension increased its offer from $18 to $20.05 per share in cash. Stratasys responded that this “substantially undervalues the Company” and recommended that Shareholders reject the offer and file a Notice of Objection.

3D Systems is pursuing a merger with Stratasys and is now offering $7.50 in cash and 1.3223 newly issued shares of 3D Systems common stock for each Stratasys ordinary share, which would give Stratasys’ shareholders around 41 percent of the merged company. Stratasys called this offer “opportunistic”, adding that it “continues to materially undervalue Stratasys”. Instead, Stratasys is continuing with its own plan to merge with Desktop Metal in the belief that this offers better value than either of the other two offers. 

Separately, Nano Dimension has released its Q1 figures for this year with revenues of $14.97 million, which represents a 43 percent increase over Q1 2022. This translates into a profit before tax of $22 million, but a loss of $24 million after adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation, which includes $15 million of R&D costs.

SAi has expanded its operation in India, moving to a new base in Pimpri-Chinchwad and setting up a new Indian subsidiary, ThinkSAi Software, that will allow customers to pay in rupees using local payment methods. This should help the new subscription software offerings, FlexiPrint RS and FlexiSign RS, by removing foreign currency fluctuations. 

Sarit Tichon, Senior Vice President Worldwide Sales for SAi, commented: “India is a region that continues to enjoy a major industrial boom, and we’re delighted to see this growth, and play a part in it. More and more companies are appearing in the sign and graphics and CNC machining industries in this key region, and now we’re much better equipped to facilitate their needs at a more personalized and local level.”

Gallus has celebrated its 100th anniversary by opening its new Gallus Experience Centre at its base in St Gallen, Switzerland. This new centre will be used to showcase the full range of its products, including conventional, hybrid and digital presses as well as software and cloud-based solutions from itself as well as other partners. Dario Urbinati, CEO of Gallus Group, outlined his vision for the future, saying: “Largely, this is centered around a ‘digital transformation’ – using ‘smart, connected printing’ to unlock revolutionary levels of production automation and manufacturing efficiencies.”

Stratasys has opened a new 120,000 sqft logistics hub in Oxfordshire, UK.

Stratasys has opened a new 120,000 sqft logistics hub in Oxfordshire, UK, in order to better support its British customers. It can handle 2400 pallets in 3x 23m double racks. The site includes solar panels and rainwater harvesting technologies to lessen its environmental impact.

Yann Rageul, VP of Commercial Enablement at Stratasys, commented: “The UK has become a highly strategic territory for us, so it’s vital that we are closer to the market in terms of presence while also having the increased versatility to improve our overall service offering. Cutting down lead times is one of our main goals and having this state-of-the-art warehousing facility on UK soil will facilitate that.”

According to Stratasys, the UK AM market is now worth an estimated £500 million and is expected to grow 10 percent annually for the next four years.

Installations:

The Paragon Group has installed a pair of one metre wide Fujifilm imprinting bars on a direct mail production line in Schwandorf, Germany, where they will print to the front and the reverse of the web. This replaces an older inkjet imprinting system and gives more up-time, shorter set-up times and results in far less waste.

Bernd Wein, Paragon Operations Director, Direct Mail, says that the company could not find another supplier able to provide such a wide bespoke system, noting: “Fujifilm has a long heritage in inkjet, and its imprinting solutions are tried and tested. They’re a strong and respected manufacturer and a financially robust and stable company that we know we can depend on over the long term. The fact that Fujifilm acquired Unigraphica in 2022 was also a factor in our investment decision. The combination of Fujifilm and Unigraphica inkjet systems integration expertise was a very attractive proposition.”

From left: Henrik Mølgaard,Production Manager, with Andreas Balleby, Print Operator, of Stibo Complete with their new Vanguard flatbed.

The Scandinavian company Stibo Complete, which is owned by the Stibo Foundation, has bought the first Vanguard VK3220T-HS flatbed printer, which was launched recently at the Fespa Munich show. The company, which employs 500 staff, has three factories in Denmark and two in Sweden and will install the new printer at its headquarters in Horsens, Denmark. The printer will be configured with three rows of CMYK and three white printheads.

Henrik Mølgaard, Production Manager at Stibo Complete, says that he tested various options, adding: “With between 45 percent and 70 percent higher output in the flatbed segment than today, it gives us the opportunity to significantly increase sales of flatbed products and at the same time reduce the use of external suppliers.”

The Spanish label printer Germark, which is based in Barcelona, has installed a Bobst Digital Master 340 narrow web hybrid press. Germark is a family-owned business that dates back to 1958 and has an annual turnover of €14.5 million. The company is split into two divisions, with label production accounting for 70 percent of its activities, while the remaining 30 percent comes from developing labelling machines, coding systems, and RFID projects.

The new press includes Bobst’s AccuCheck system for quality control and calibrating the digital printing unit. It can produce up to 100mpm at 1200 dpi resolution. Ivan Cid, Germark’s CEO, explained: “The objective for Germark is to automate more of the processes in our label production, so we can be more efficient, reduce waste and provide the best possible service to our customers. The Bobst Digital Master 340 will allow us to meet these targets and grow our digital printing offering.” The company already operates three other Bobst presses, with two M5 flexo presses and a seven colour Mouvent LB702 UV inkjet machine. 

Etiflex, a label printer based in Poznan in Poland, has installed a Xeikon Panther PX3000 UV inkjet label press. This has allowed the company to expand into new areas, including craft breweries, juice, and other beverage producers as well as cosmetics and the automotive market. 

The company was founded in 2009 and specialises in producing self-adhesive labels. Przemysław Wagner, one of three co-owners of Etiflex, explained: “We chose Xeikon PX3000 UV inkjet label printing press because it allows us not only to increase productivity, but also to expand into new market segments due to its ability to print white with high opacity in a single pass.”

Appointments:

Peter Cederholm has been appointed as CEO of Grafotronic. He has an M.Sc. in Industrial Management & Mechatronics and his roles over the years have included Vice President at Reachstackers and Senior Vice President of Sales & Markets at Kalmar, as well as President of Bromma at Cargotec.

Grafotronic has also established two new subsidiaries, including one in Benelux to be run by Patrick Brouns and the other in the UK, headed by Paul Hughes

Ben Mitchell, Chairman of the board at Grafotronic, said of Cederholm: “His international experience, extensive leadership background, and strategic vision make him the ideal candidate to lead our company into the future. We are also thrilled to have Patrick Brouns and Paul Hughes join us in driving our expansion into Benelux and the UK, respectively. Together, we will work towards achieving new heights of success and cementing Grafotronic’s position as a global leader in the industry.”

Roberto Martinez Porta, Avery Dennison’s new Vice President of Sales of Labels and Packaging Materials.

Avery Dennison has promoted Roberto Martinez Porta to Vice President of Sales of Labels and Packaging Materials following the recent reorganisation of the Materials group. He joined the company in 2011, working mostly in Procurement and since 2020 being VP Procurement for the Materials Group EMENA while also leading Global Indirect Procurement and Procurement Excellence.

Porta commented: “Our experienced sales team has continuously demonstrated that transparency, consistency and collaboration are key to navigate challenging times. I am thrilled to lead this team and work with our customers to drive our business with the agility needed to accelerate our sustainable growth together.”

He succeeds Burak Sahbaz, who has been promoted to VP and General Manager of the Reflective Solutions Division.

Mark Lawn, head of Print-on-Demand for Fujifilm Europe, and Steve Turner, managing director of Komori UK have both joined the management council of Picon, the UK’s printing industry confederation.

Turner explained: “The Picon member companies are diverse in their product ranges, the markets they operate in and the size of their organisations. Picon strives to offer value to all its members, be it: creating opportunities to attend seminars that are interesting, relevant and educational; organising high quality networking events with peers; or providing information and help on employment and training programmes. It is the responsibility of the Council to engage with members, listen to their views and consider how best it can offer support.”

Lawn added: “Our industry needs young talent, with fresh ideas and perspective. To evolve, thrive and remain relevant we need to bring new ideas, initiatives and energy. This also serves to inform other similar topics such as diversity and inclusivity. Picon has an important role to play in supporting members to achieve these goals.”

Next month promises more drama, with the Bank of England expected to raise its base rates again, plus a couple of by-elections with the strong likelihood of the government losing two more seats. Oh, and there’s still three more test matches to come for this year’s Ashes though at this stage most English cricket fans will be hoping for more rain. 


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