Look back at…November 2022

The main theme from November has been sustainability, and the problem of how to pay for it in the midst of the current economic crisis. At every level, from government to the printing industry, there seems to be little understanding that sustainability pays for itself by reducing waste and reusing what we already have.

November started off with the COP27 climate summit, which mainly addressed the issue of our rapidly overheating planet by inviting many heads of state to jet in and talk a lot of hot air. Rishi Sunak, who is surprisingly still prime minister, opted to go to the COP meeting despite clearly signalling his lack of interest in climate related issues, whilst preventing King Charles, by far the most senior member of the British establishment with any standing whatsoever in these matters, from attending.

This was followed by a G20 summit where the Indonesian hosts desperately tried to avoid politics and concentrate on the food and energy crisis. But the reality is that all of the G20 nations are facing serious economic problems that have been either caused by, or inflated by, Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The first step in dealing with all the world’s major problems, from the climate crisis to the economic instability, is to put an end to this pointless and bloody war.  

Meanwhile, FIFA has demonstrated that the footballing world is fully up to date with the climate crisis by spending vast sums of money on building air conditioned stadiums in Qatar. So yah boo sucks to all those people who suggested choosing a colder country, or one that had a reasonable human rights track record, or even some kind of health and safety regulations for building sites. Still, many in the print industry will benefit from all the printed material that football events usually generate, just so long as we don’t mention our LGBTQ+ friends.

That said, I did enjoy watching the wild celebrations of the Japanese fans at a bar in downtown Tokyo when Japan won its opening game against Germany. I travelled to Japan to cover the inaugural Japan Inkjet Technology Fair, which I’ve already written about, and stayed for IGAS, which I’ll get around to shortly. 

One thing that I learned in Japan is that environmental awareness is a state of mind and depends on everyone in a society playing their part. Tokyo is both one of the world’s biggest and cleanest cities. The Japanese generally tidy up after themselves, returning used dishes to a counter, putting cups and bottles into the appropriate recycling bin and don’t seem to drop litter left right and centre. Sadly, London still seems to be a bit behind the curve. 

Then again, I returned to a London that was much colder and darker and gloomier than when I left, and with more groups of workers on strike even than in France, including bus and rail workers, security guards and teachers, not to mention nurses, who it turns out would prefer to be paid with money rather than appreciative clapping. 

Elsewhere, Fujifilm is to shut down its offset plate production line in Tilburg in The Netherlands by late 2023. The company says this is because there has been a continuous decrease in the demand for offset printing plates caused partly by a switch to digital printing, and partly by greater use of digital media over print. The Covid pandemic has accelerated these trends. This situation has been further compounded in Europe by raw material cost increases, the volatility of the energy market, and the impact of higher inflation. Production of plates currently made in Tilburg will be transferred to factories in Japan and China.  

Agfa is to raise prices in its Digital Print and Chemicals division to cope with rising costs

Inevitably there’s been another round of price increases. Agfa announced double-digit price increases across its Digital Print & Chemicals portfolio worldwide, effective January 1st 2023. This is in response to continuing high inflationary pressure on energy, raw material, logistics and salary costs.

Vincent Wille, president of Agfa’s Digital Print & Chemicals division, stated: “Despite our relentless efforts to contain expenditures, we continue to be confronted with historically high costs for raw materials, logistics, energy and salaries. In order to run a sustainable business – allowing us to guarantee supply and to continue to bring innovative products and quality service to our customers – we have no other choice but to increase the prices of our products substantially. At Agfa we take the competitiveness of our customers very seriously and we have done everything we can in the last year to mitigate these increases, but as we see the inflationary pressure continuing and even increasing, we have no other option but to increase prices, next to our continued efforts to increase efficiency.”

Xsys has announced further price rises for its nyloprint letterpress plates of between 8 percent and 16 percent starting from 1 January 2023. Friedrich von Rechteren, global commercial vice president for Xsys, says the company is facing higher transportation and energy prices, noting: “However, when securing contract terms for 2023, we have again seen significant base price increases from our suppliers, which are especially impacting the Xsys Nyloprint portfolio. Raw materials used in the production of this particular range have a higher proportion of specially sourced components, and with only very limited alternative suppliers, we’ve had no other choice than to accept these costs, along with extended and increased surcharges.”

Hybrid Software Group has acquired the technology and intellectual property of French company Quadraxis, which had fallen into receivership. Quadraxis had developed technology in 3D scanning and image processing that will now be incorporated in to other products from within the Hybrid Group’s portfolio, which also includes other 3D applications such as iC3D and Met3D.

Nick De Roeck, co-president of Hybrid Software, explained: “During its 19 years of operation, Quadraxis developed some unique technology to simplify the capturing of 3D models to facilitate the distortion of graphic designs for shrink sleeves, embossed metal, and thermoformed plastic packaging.”

He continued that Hybrid Software wanted to salvage this technology, noting: “Many companies in the packaging industry use Quadraxis technology in automated workflows to make their packaging production less manual and more efficient.”

Jean-Pascal Bobst, CEO of the Bobst Group

Bobst is to delist its shares from the SIX Swiss Exchange now that JBF Finance, which represents the interests of the Bobst family members, holds roughly 85.29 percent of Bobst Group’s shares following its tender offer. The Board of Directors of Bobst Group has also decided to enable the trading of the Bobst Group shares via a Swiss over-the-counter trading platform, effective as from the delisting of the Bobst Group shares.

Stratasys has invested $10 million in med-tech startup Axial3D as part of that company’s $15 million investment round. Axial3D’s artificial intelligence-powered algorithms enable healthcare providers to segment CT and MRI scans for personalized 3D printed anatomic models for pre-surgical planning and diagnostic use without significant investments in time, specialized skills and large upfront costs. 

The two companies also will be providing a joint offering to make patient-specific 3D printing solutions for hospitals and medical device manufacturers more accessible so it becomes a mainstream healthcare solution. Axial3D CEO Roger Johnston, explained: “We believe that to move the industry from early adopters to the mainstream, we need to improve the accessibility of models for healthcare so hospitals and medical device manufacturers can scale their patient-specific programs. Our joint offerings will be the positive, disruptive catalyst that medical 3D printing needs to address 3D printing accessibility.”

This image shows a anatomic model of a large tumour of the right nasal cavity, using scan data from Axial3D’s software and then 3D printed by Stratasys.

Meteor Inkjet, which mainly produces drive electronics for inkjet printers, is collaborating with CoreTechnologie GmbH, a global provider of 3D CAD data conversion software for additive manufacturing.

This should lead to closer integration between their respective software environments. It will also enable complementary tools which provide automation for binder and material jetting applications which use inkjet for 3D printing.

CT’s 4D_Additive is a full suite of 3D CAD model build processing tools offering features such as model repair; geometry analysis and optimisation; support, lattice and texture generation; batch nesting and slicing.  Coupling these with Meteor’s world-leading printhead drive electronics and Met3D Digital Front End, printer OEMs have a straightforward path from development to production for additive manufacturing inkjet print systems.

Rémi Goupil, CT’s product manager – 4D_Additive, commented: “As a result of our collaboration with Meteor, binder and material jetting systems incorporating Meteor hardware and software will integrate easily with the industry standard workflow provided by 4D_Additive, enabling the processing of precise native 3D models from all major CAD software suppliers.”  

Clive Ayling, Meteor’s managing director, noted: “In addition to providing a clear development path for 3D print system OEMs, our collaboration with CT will result in important sustainability benefits for the industry including, for example, real-time sand casting 3D print optimisation with precise density control, reducing material waste and curing time.”

Graham Kennedy, Ricoh Europe’s director of industrial Inkjet solutions, speaking at the Future Print and Pack 21 conference.

Ricoh has hit a major milestone, selling 500,000 of its MH5420/5421 Series printheads. Graham Kennedy, Director Industrial Print Solutions, for Ricoh Europe, commented: “The robustness, reliability and performance of Ricoh’s MH5420/5421 Series printheads, our fifth generation of printheads, have allowed many global partners to develop and launch new systems that have acheived sales of tens of billions. They have confidence in Ricoh’s technology. And the versatility of the printheads has also supported innovation in a wide range of sectors enabling acceleration of development while minimising the risk in time and cost.”

Installations:

Heeter, a commercial printer based in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania in America, has been beta testing Ricoh’s B2 inkjet sheetfed printer, the Pro Z75. The company is an established Ricoh customer, having first installed a Pro VC60000 inkjet webfed press back in 2015 and then become the first printer worldwide to install a Pro VC70000 back in 2018. 

Kirk Schlecker, president of Heeter, comments: “What we’ve seen over the years is that inkjet can deliver better quality than offset, in less time and with less stress on our staff. The Ricoh Pro Z75 is the next step in this evolution.” The press itself appears to have slipped behind its original schedule but is now due to be commercially available from mid-2023.

Wallace Carlson Printing, an American printer based in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota, has become the first offset printer to gain the Color-Logic certification for cold foil. The company used its new Vinfoil Optima cold transfer foiling unit on its new Komori GLX640 Advance press. Wallace Carlson previously gained a 2018 certification with silver ink and CMYK, and white ink and CMYK on metallic stocks. The latest certification allows the company to produce the full range of 924 Color-Logic metallic colours plus its embellishments.

Charlie Cox, chief operating officer at Wallace Carlson, explained: “Using the Color-Logic process on our Komori press lets Wallace Carson demonstrate the full metallic capability we offer customers, with an unlimited number of foil colours and embellishments on our clients’ packaging. Moreover, the packaging produced on our press is fully recyclable. For the graphic designers and marketers we serve, we just produced a display binder showing the complete Color-Logic metallic colour selection – an incredible tool that makes colour selection quick and easy.”

Wallace Carlson Printing has become the first offset printer to gain the Color-Logic certification for cold foil.

Hotpack Global, a food packaging company based in the UAE, has installed a Comexi F2 MB flexographic press and a Comexi SL2 Evolution laminator with Synaptic Closed Loop, that minimises the amount of adhesive used, reduces machine downtime to almost zero, and eliminates quality issues, in order to expand its market share in the flexible packaging sector. 

Founded in 1995, Hotpack Global offers complete range of sustainable food packaging solutions to the foodservice and hospitality industries following the highest quality standards. The group has branches all over the Middle East, UK, USA, Australia, and many regions of Africa, and exports spanning over 100 countries.

Appointments:

Heidelberg has announced that Tania von der Goltz will be joining as CFO on 1 January 2023 following Marcus A. Wassenberg’s decision to step down. Dr. Ludwin Monz, CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board, will take on Wassenberg’s other role as Labour Director.

Tania von der Goltz will be joining Heidelberg as CFO.

Von der Goltz most recently worked as Senior Vice President Global Financial Strategy at Fresenius Medical Care. She commented: “I am extremely excited about my new role at Heidelberg, to work with the Executive Board and employees to help shape the path we have taken towards sustainable value growth. I would like to sincerely thank the Supervisory Board for its trust.”

The Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Dr. Martin Sonnenschein, added: “We are very pleased to have gained Tania von der Goltz, a highly competent financial expert with many years of experience, for Heidelberg. She will make a difference in the successful further development. We were thus able to fill the CFO position that had become vacant in a timely manner and ensure an orderly transition.”

Stratasys has appointed Christian Alvarez as its new Chief Revenue Officer, reporting to CEO Dr. Yoav Zeif. He will help the company develop new go-to-market strategies as well as new partnerships. Prior to joining Stratasys, Alvarez served as Senior Vice President, Worldwide Channel Sales at Nutanix

Alvarez said: “Our opportunity is vast, but seizing it requires even more collaboration with our entire ecosystem of partners who are so integral to our growth. Working together, we can continue creating innovative solutions to address new use cases across all segments and verticals.”

Miraclon has hired David Parker as its new Sales Manager for UK and Ireland. He has over 20 years’ experience in flexographic printing, having started his career in various platemaking and reprographic operator roles. He has since worked in sales and business development roles, most recently as Packaging Sales Manager for Fujifilm Graphic Systems in the UK.

Stephen McCartney, Regional Commercial Director in EAMER for Miraclon, commented: “We are delighted to welcome David to Miraclon. With his experience of the flexographic printing process and the benefits it brings to the packaging supply chain, he can offer excellent support for both existing and prospective customers in the UK and Ireland. I am confident that he will be a valuable addition to the Miraclon team.”

Scodix has appointed Paul Michael Franklin as the Country Manager for UK and Ireland, as well as the Nordic regions. Mark Nixon, Scodix VP Global Sales & Marketing, commented: “Paul’s appointment exemplifies the expansion of Scodix this past year and our guarantee of the highest quality standards and care for customers.”

Screen Europe has promoted Patrick Jud to the role of DACH Area Director to build on the company’s growth in the German-speaking countries. Jud joined Screen Europe in 2012 as an area sales manager for print-on-demand products, and soon became sales director responsible for the DACH region and several other countries, including Poland and Italy.

Ralf Petersen has joined Fujifilm Europe as Workflow & Solution Consultant for Packaging in the EMEA region. He will be responsible for assessing customer workflow needs and managing the integration of end-to-end solutions, from workflow to finishing, considering both Fujifilm and third-party partners’ solutions. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the print industry, including stints at Heidelberg, Canon Europe, and HP, and until recently worked in a workflow consultancy role at Landa Digital Printing.

Manuel Schrutt, Head of Packaging for Fujifilm EMEA, stated: “This role has been created as part of Fujifilm’s strategy to increase our presence within the packaging market. Ralf joins us with extensive knowledge and expertise of software and the analogue packaging market. He is well known and respected within the industry. Ralf’s appointment marks yet another step forward in the evolution of Fujifilm’s wider packaging strategy.”

Lion in Trafalgar Square, London.

Finally, a recent YouGov poll found that 56 percent of the British population thinks that Brexit was a bad idea. November has seen warnings from several senior economists that Brexit has contributed to the rising food prices in the UK, and that Brexit alone is on track to knock around 4 percent off of the British economy, while a recent report revealed that Britain’s post-Brexit trade deals have not delivered as promised. Who could have predicted any of this, huh?


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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