Look back at…May 2022

Today marks a grim milestone as the war in Ukraine reaches its 100th day, with little sign of a let-up in the fighting. The effects continue to ripple out around the world, with a growing food crisis looming for many poorer nations as Russia blockades Ukraine’s grain supplies and the war threatens this summer’s harvest.

Meanwhile, Print Against War is rallying support for the Ukrainian printing and packaging industry with some 100,000 people affected, either directly through the fighting or through loss of business as a result of the war. The group is helping to coordinate support for individuals and companies and to help them to continue to work. Anyone interested in this should visit printagainstwar.org.

The war is also a major factor behind the increasing costs and rising inflation, which is likely to lead to recession for much of the world. So no surprise that several more companies announced price increases during May. Thus Fujifilm has raised the prices of its aluminium offset printing plates by double digits. Taku Ueno, Senior Vice President at Fujifilm Graphic Systems EMEA, explains: “Globally, we continue to see an unprecedented rises in costs, particularly for logistics, energy and raw materials. Despite absorbing a lot of these costs, we have no choice but to increase the base price of our aluminium printing plates in order to be able to operate a sustainable business. We understand that passing these price increases onto our customers presents them with difficult challenges, but the business is simply unsustainable without the increases. We will continue to work with and support our customers through this challenging period.”

Flint will increase the prices of its flexible packaging products in Europe, starting from June. The company pointed out that the cost of raw materials, such as binders, additives, pigments and solvents, is continuing to rise. 

Jesper Bødtkjer, vice president and general manager for Flint Group Flexible Packaging Europe, commented: “The emphasis we place on supply reliability has a significant financial implication on our business. Throughout these unparalleled times, we have sought to take a phased, incremental approach to pricing adjustments. However, the expected softening of raw material prices has not occurred, costs continue to rise aggressively and therefore we are forced to raise prices.”

Agfa has also just announced that it will increase its prices by double digits worldwide for its offset plates, starting from 1 July. Agfa has so far dealt with the continually rising prices of raw materials, energy and logistics with a series of quarterly price rises. But this has not been enough as Frederik Dehing, vice president Sales for Offset Solutions at Agfa, explains: “We continue to be confronted not only with historically high costs in raw materials, logistics and energy but also with a very unpredictable supply of some of our key raw materials. In order to run a sustainable business, allowing us to guarantee supply, continue to bring innovative products and quality service to our customers, we have no other choice but to increase the base prices of our offset plates.”

However, Agfa is adding new tools to its ECO³ palette of software solutions that it says will help customers reduce their ink consumption and minimise their paper waste.

Agfa’s SolidTune software is designed to optimise the amount of ink used.

Meanwhile, Agfa has developed a new ink optimisation software, SolidTune, for offset packaging production. It applies a unique algorithm to the solids and text, after screening and just before plate imaging. This process reduces the amount of ink needed for printing by an average of 3 percent. 

In addition, the thinner solid ink film enabled by SolidTune takes less time and energy to dry. SolidTune is available on license in Apogee and Amfortis prepress workflows and can be used with any screening technology, including Agfa SPIR@L

Andy Grant, Agfa’s Global Head of Software, commented: “The packaging market is growing, and the opportunity is growing for converters, meaning they are constantly searching for new technologies that can help them deliver even better print quality with strong colours, but at cost-efficient levels.”

EFI has extended its IQ suite of cloud and mobile applications to include its Vutek wide format and Nozomi inkjet printers. This is a paid subscription service so this means that these printers will now come new with a one year subscription. IQ allows users to monitor production and printer utilisation, including device-level consumable tracking data, to reduce downtime, and costs.

Flint Group has introduced a new heatset ink series, Kryoset, which does not need the conventional drying process associated with heatset inks.

Tony Lord, president of Flint Group Commercial Publication Web and Flint Offset Packaging Solutions divisions, said: ”We have been developing this product for some time, initially directed towards the retail market as a response to the desire to reduce the carbon footprint within the heatset print process to sustainably support their valued customer base. However, with the devastating impact of global gas pricing, which shows no sign of abating, we accelerated the development programme and are now able to provide Kryoset.”

He continued: “Production results have confirmed on various popular substrates that Kryoset is able to provide high quality print with significantly reduced or a totally eliminated drying process thereby significantly enhancing print economics during this volatile inflationary period. The key to this development is the relationship between the ink, fount and substrate, but recognising the prevailing shortages with paper supply to the industry we have consciously developed Kryoset with a wide utilisation bandwidth to ensure optimal performance with those substrates that are commercially available today.”

Mimaki has introduced a new clear material for its 3DUJ-553 3D printer. This material, MH-110PCL, improves upon Mimaki’s previous 3D clear ink (MH-100CL) with increased transparency and negates any yellow tint. This should lead to more clear-cut, transparent modelling. The clear material can also be mixed with coloured inks to create translucent colour models. This allows for designs to have a broader range of colours and visuals than before. 

The use of clear and translucent colour models greatly benefits uses such as medical education as it allows people to see models of internal organ structures, with the colour variations allowing for medical conditions to be far more accurately depicted. MH-110PCL is also ideal for the expression of transparent parts required in product design and other fields such as architectural models, where windows and transparent exteriors are convenient means of showing the internal structure.

Mimaki’s MH-110PCL is a clear material for use with its 3DUJ-553 3D printer.

Mondi has changed its entire portfolio of glassine-based release liners to certified base paper as part of its ongoing commitment to developing more sustainable solutions. Glassine-based release liners are mainly used for labels, tapes, and medical applications. By moving to certified base paper, Mondi is improving traceability, working with partners who manage forests responsibly in line with its commitment to maintain zero deforestation in its forests and supply chain. 

Stefan Schönberger, head of Product Sustainability Release Liners for Mondi, explained: “As part of our MAP2030 ambitions, we commit to taking action on climate change, and setting an example for others working in international manufacturing, production and logistics to help them make sustainability a key priority. Offering certified base paper is part of this. It is the first step to upgrading our entire release liner portfolio, which will manage our impacts while providing the best possible solutions for the customer and the end consumer.”

The Slovenian printer COECO, based in Nova Cerkev, has bought a second Smart-Binder from Ibis in order to produce A5 instruction manuals for Gorenje home appliances as well as BSH (Bosch) and Hisense TVs. The company has two continuous feed inkjet printers, a Screen TruePress Jet 520HD and Ricoh IP5000, which between them print to a range of papers including a 45gsm recycled stock, plus both a 60gsm and an 80gsm wood free paper. The printed rolls from these devices are fed from a Hunkeler unwinder and CS6 web cutter via an MB buckle-folder at 120-150 mpm. COECO to produce around 78,000 A5 product manuals each week, all containing a different number of pages, different orders, different product codes, and different types of papers.


Pulse Roll Label Products, which mainly develops inks, varnishes and so on for narrow web flexo applications, has appointed Andrew Didcott as General Manager. Didcott previously worked for the company as production manager but has since had a number of other jobs, most recently as operations director for the Smurfit Kappa site in Yate, Bristol. He also holds a master’s degree in Lean Efficiencies.

Andrew Didcott, general manager of Pulse Roll Label Products.

Managing director Gary Seward commented: “We are keen on increasing our OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) across our operations to help increase quality and capacity, as part of our wider growth strategy for Pulse Roll Label Products. Over the past few years, the business has grown significantly, expanding into new markets so we need to make sure we’re equipped to handle the increase in demand. By focusing on our OEE, we can assess availability loss, performance loss and quality loss and set improvement targets to increase our overall capacity. With his knowledge and expertise of Lean Enterprise and his extensive career in manufacturing, I am confident Andrew will be a valuable asset to the business and I look forward to working together again.”

Integration Technology has promoted two of its management team to director positions. Thus Holly Steedman, previously business development manager, is now the business and technology development director, while Koen Santegoeds, previously business development manager for Northern Europe, becomes the global sales director.

Simon Roberts, group managing director, comments: “Both Holly and Koen are talented and enthusiastic assets to ITL, with the precise skills to create and develop the right action plans for both our clients’ goals and our strategic direction. Holly’s industry experience and background in chemistry and business development perfectly positions her to identify new applications and focus on strategic development in these emerging areas, coupled with Koen’s extensive technical sales background and commitment to our customers’ success, is guaranteed to play a key role in continuing the significant growth we’ve seen over the past two years. They have my full support in these new roles and I look forward to continuing to work alongside them as we continue to push the boundaries and create new opportunities.”

Amir Dekel has joined GEW’s American operation as vice president of sales. Dekel has an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and was previously worldwide manager of the Print division for ISRA Vision, which makes automatic inspection and automation equipment. 

Robert Rae, managing director of Sales at GEW, comments: “Amir joins GEW at an interesting time as we reorganise our team in the US, to enable growth in new UV curing markets without losing focus on our core label printing customers. Amir’s long experience in narrow web in North America (as president of AVT) makes him the perfect candidate to manage this key part of GEW’s business, with his extensive market knowledge. In addition, during his comprehensive training at GEW, I have been very impressed with his technical grasp of our products and technology, which will be invaluable in the field.”

GEW has also promoted Jennifer Heathcote to vice president of Business Development, which will see her focus more on business development in the industrial, coating and converting markets.

Harry Danford has joined XJet’s North American operation in the newly created role of vice president of Sales. Danford has experience in the industrial, aerospace, oil and gas, agriculture and construction, medical and automotive sectors. The appointment is part of a wider strategy to establish presence and nominate leaders in major regions, with Andy Middleton assigned in Europe and Lior Meron in Asia Pacific. Danford called his new role a “fantastic opportunity”, adding: “It’s such a positive culture and I am really looking forward to working with my XJet colleagues to drive the adoption of the technology further in North America.”

Andreas Karch has joined Screen Europe as Solutions Sales Manager, having spent 15 years as Sales Director at Hunkeler. He commented: “Digital printing is expanding rapidly across Europe and I’m proud to make Screen’s technology available for printers in the rapidly evolving digital print industry. I know from experience that Screen not only provides excellent technology, but also high reliability and top service.”

Andreas Karch, solutions sales manager for Screen Europe.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the US president Joe Biden has unequivocally stated that the USA will use military force to defend Taiwan from an invasion by China. This effectively ends America’s one-nation approach to China and recognises Taiwan as a separate state that should be defended. China has already said that it will use military force to re-integrate Taiwan at some point and Biden specifically linked Taiwan to Ukraine, suggesting that the West would unite to use all the tools at its disposal including economic as well as military. 

This has nothing directly to do with the printing industry but is another nail in the coffin of the idea behind globalised supply lines and that will eventually affect printing and all other manufacturing industries.

However, to close on a more positive note, May also saw a number of international trade shows and conferences, indicating growing confidence that the vaccine programme has maybe tamed the Covid-19 virus and that it is safe to travel again. I’ve already reported on the Print4All show in Milan at the beginning of May, and will write further stories on the IPI conference held in Düsseldorf and on this week’s Fespa in Berlin.

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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