Look back at…October 2022

So, October. Just to sum up where we in Britain are now – a long time ago, back in July, Boris Johnson was prime minister and his MPs voted that they had lots of confidence in him. But then most of his ministers demonstrated that confidence by resigning en masse. Johnson resigned and then spent much of August abroad on holiday while still being paid to be prime minister. In September, a tiny and very unrepresentative electorate decided that Liz Truss’ economic lunacy was the best plan for Britain. And this month we have Rishi Sunak – my MacOS spell checker keeps correcting his name to Sunk, which accurately describes the situation for most people in the UK now. Confused? Well, that’s politics for you. And at least Britain is better off than some of those European countries where the government changes every month…

Sunak is Britain’s first Asian PM so hurrah for diversity. Then again, he’s another Oxford-educated man, just like David Cameron and Boris Johnson. He’s also Britain’s richest PM at a time when the rest of us are feeling very much poorer (see above; Truss, Liz: lunatic). The currency and gilt markets have stabilised, or at least not got any worse, but the expectation is that interest rates will rise, public spending will be cut back drastically and taxes will go up, maybe even for some rich people. Meanwhile, various groups of workers are on strike or balloting for strike action and there is talk of a general strike. 

Then again, there is also a persistent clamour – though not much hope – for a general election. Sunak has underlined just how weak his position is by choosing a cabinet based less on talent and more on the need to pacify the many warring factions that currently make up the Conservative party. This includes the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, widely regarded as Sunk’s first Big Mistake, who really dislikes illegal immigrants and people who eat tofu, and scuppered a recent trade deal with India on the basis that Indians would be most likely to overstay their visas to the UK. 

But what has any of this to do with printing and manufacturing? Well, the UK’s Office for National Statistics reported that retail sales fell by 1.4 percent in September. This is the first month that volumes have fallen below pre-pandemic levels, with an expectation that this will trend will continue when the October figures are released as the cost of living crisis bites harder. That should be of concern to anyone working in wide format printing since the retail sector is a major market for display graphics. 

Britain continues to support Ukraine, which has enjoyed considerable battlefield success, largely thanks to modern weapons supplied by its allies. However, the World bank says that Ukraine’s economy will shrink by around 35 percent this year and that recovery and rebuilding will cost around $349bn, roughly 1.5 times the size of Ukraine’s pre-war economy. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund has estimated that Ukraine’s allies will have to donate around $3bn a month to keep the country’s economy afloat, and that this figure could rise to $5bn if the Russians continue to target critical infrastructure. 

Meanwhile US sanctions have targeted China’s ability to develop and produce microchips, ostensibly to stop Chinese companies from circumventing sanctions against Russia. But there is also a growing alarm in the West at the threat that China poses to Taiwan. The sanctions have forced American companies to withdraw their staff and expertise from China, which is bound to further worse the supply of micro processors. 

China is still pursuing its zero-covid policy, which has involved putting whole cities into lockdown including some 30 cities in October according to analysts at Nomura. This is damaging China’s economy and forcing international manufacturers to re-evaluate using Chinese companies in their supply chain. However, these lockdowns have given the Chinese government an excellent way of controlling its population and quashing any demonstrations and so there is speculation they could continue until next March to give time for the political realignment as Xi Jinping tightens his grip on power. 

All of this will inevitably have a knock-on effect on prices across many market segments in different countries. Xysys, for example, is to put up prices across its ThermoFlexX range of platesetters by around 10 percent, with spare parts rising by 20 percent, starting from the end of October. The company has blamed this on the global economic situation, in particular shortages in steel and plastics as well as electronics parts plus higher than usual prices in energy and transport, especially sea freight. 

Xsys sells the Thermoflexx range of platesetters including this Catena Plus.

Friedrich von Rechteren, Global Commercial VP at Xsys, explained: “We have been working very hard to mitigate these huge pressures by implementing numerous efficiency improvements, qualifying alternative suppliers, and enforcing aggressive cost control measures. Unfortunately, the extraordinary and persistent inflation levels now leave us no other option than to proceed with the implementation of these price increases.”

Von Rechteren added: “We certainly understand that higher prices will add to the already difficult situation for our customers, but given the current market conditions we have little choice but to pass on a portion of these significant increases in order to secure an uninterrupted and reliable supply of XSYS equipment.”

JBF Finance SA, which previously announced its intention to buy back all the publicly owned shares of Bobst, has now said that its offer has been accepted giving it control of around 85.30 percent of the share capital once payment is made on 4th November. This will lead to Bobst being delisted from the SIX Swiss Exchange, allowing the Bobst family to take the company private again. 

Koenig and Bauer has introduced a new energy management solution, VisuEnergy X, to help customers stay on top of their energy usage. It records the consumption of all equipment connected to a given machine, analyses this consumption in relation to the production output, and can then calculate job-specific parameters such as the energy consumption per 1,000 sheets. It is possible to upgrade the system beyond energy data to include production-relevant parameters such as temperature and humidity. It’s offered on a subscription basis as an SaaS solution (software as a service). It’s already in use in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and should be available worldwide at the start of 2023. 

Michael Billa, product owner for digitalisation at Koenig & Bauer, stated: “VisuEnergy X allows our customers to achieve sustainable energy savings of 7 to 10 per cent on average – and that usually from the very first year” .

Coincidentally, Contiweb has also looked at energy usage in its dryers. The company has replaced all types of its Ecotherm, Ecoweb and Ecocool with equivalents based on the latest Ecoset technology. This covers the full range from 16-page up to 96-page (1020-2860mm) applications. The key functions of drying, afterburning, and chilling are integrated in a single unit. The afterburner incinerates the solvents from the ink to minimise emissions whilst the gained thermal energy is effectively re-used in the heating process, reducing gas consumption bu up to 40 percent. 

Rob Bosman, Sales Director at Contiweb, explained: “We have noticed that the gas crisis has acted as a deciding factor in the increasing demand for these products. This has led us to further focus on the development of new enhancements of this kind and on the discontinuation of dryers that no longer meet today’s environmental requirements.”

Ricoh has previewed this prototype of a new DtG printer that can print to darker materials without pre-treatment.

Ricoh is planning to introduce a new desktop Direct to Garment printer, showing a prototype at this month’s Printing United show in the US. It will be able to print to dark materials without requiring any manual pre-treatment thanks to new inks combined with a new enhancer. This enhancer is jetted just to the areas where its needed and does not require an intermediate drying stage before the colours are jetted on top.

Plockmatic has released a multi-purpose stacker, the MPS XL, for use with a number of Xerox printers. It connects directly to the Xerox Production Ready Finisher Plus and currently works with the Iridesse, Versant 4100 and Versant 280 production presses. It offers a simple link between the printer and any finishing device. It includes a docking/ undocking system to enable the easy transportation of printed work, while the motorised Stacking Table makes it easy to lift and manage heavy paper stacks. It can handle paper stock up to 400 gsm and takes sheets up to 1.2m long. 

Jakob Ekeberg, vice president of product for Plockmatic, said: “The market is evolving towards new digital applications that require longer sheets, so print room operators need a solution that will allow them to stack, handle, and transport them. The MPS XL makes printing and transporting long sheets as easy as standard size sheets. The product offers a unique combination of features – stacking, lifting, and transporting – in a single product that cannot be found elsewhere.”

Drytac has improved on its ViziPrint Impress Clear UVL film by adding a new thinner face film, which makes the media easier to work with. This is an optically clear gloss PET printable film designed for trouble-free installation of graphics onto glass and other smooth flat surfaces. It is compatible with UV and Latex printing and uses a mechanical bond to gently adhere images to surfaces and can be repositioned and reapplied multiple times. It’s completely recyclable and resistant to both wear and tear and water, and can be removed without leaving behind any residue. It’s available worldwide now.


HP has signed a deal with ePac Flexible Packaging to install 50 new HP Indigo digital presses at some 36 new and existing sites across five continents. This is said to be the largest single order in HP Indigo’s history and represents a large expansion of ePac’s production capacity and its stated intention to disrupt the global flexible packaging market. The company already operates a fleet of HP Indigo 20000 and HP Indigo 25K digital presses.

Virag Patel, COO of ePac, commented: “As we recently announced, ePac aims to accelerate its growth and expand its global footprint.  Our 50-press acquisition will enhance ePac’s record breaking flexible packaging production on HP Indigo Digital Presses, further rooting our longstanding collaboration with HP. This transition will leverage ePac’s vast market experience together with HP’s unique digital printing technology.”

Curtis Packaging, which specialises in luxury folding carton packaging, has bought a Scodix Ultra 6000 enhancement press complete with the SHD technology. This is the first installation of this device in the world, which also marks the 400th Scodix device to be sold. 

Don Droppo Jr., Curtis Packaging President and CEO, explained: “We are also excited to offer our customers new and unique treatments for their existing and upcoming product lines. We feel that these new capabilities will help us take our customers to the next level in terms of the visual impact of their products, but also get the job done cost effectively.” 

He added: “Aside from saving dollars, each and every run could be customized with its own unique, complementary feel. It’s imperative for strong brands to jump out on the shelves in the ultra-competitive markets of cosmetics, chocolates and spirits that we operate in. And we see many brands achieving that extra impact with customization and personalization, the demand for which, continues to grow.”

From left to right: Lonnie Melskens, COO and partner at Color Label, Jesper Jørgensen, Nilpeter’s global sales manager, and Erik Grønning, founder and CEO at Color Label, with the new FA-17.

Color Label has invested in a new 8-colour Nilpeter FA-17 complete with full Automation package, which will replace a couple of old FA-4200 17ins flexo presses to modernize and automate in-house processes. The company already runs 10 Nilpeter flexo presses. 

Color Label supplies self-adhesive labels to the food industry, the chemical industry, and for retail trade. The company is based in Aarhus, Denmark and was established in 1980 by owner and CEO Erik Grønning. It has expanded steadily and now operates out of a factory with more than 3,600 sqm. Grønning explained: “The installation of our new Nilpeter FA-17 is a great step forward for Color Label, and it is definitely a milestone for us towards digitalising flexo. It gives us a wide range of new possibilities when it comes to automation of our in-house processes, and it optimizes our operation, quality, and effectivity significantly.”

Digital Process, a prepress specialist based in Karachi in Pakistan, has bought a large ThermoFlexX TFxX 80S from Xsys to support customers in the corrugated market. This is the company’s third, having also installed a ThermoFlexX TFxX 48 just last year and a ThermoFlexX TFxX 60 in 2019.

Digital Process was founded in 2006 by CEO Zain Fazal. He explained: “We produce over 10,000 sqm of photopolymer plate material each year, and our customers expect best-in-class products and services from us. The ThermoFlexX imagers support us in being able to meet and even exceed these expectations. This robust and innovative technology has already more than proven itself in our busy working environment for our label and flexible packaging clients; we are now ready to extend this service to the corrugated market.”


Marcus A. Wassenberg, Heidelberg’s CFO and Labour Director, is intending to leave the company on 1 April 2023 to join the board of another industrial company.

Marcus A. Wassenberg, will step down next April from his role as Heidelberg’s CFO.

Dr Ludwin Monz, Chairman of Heidelberg’s Management Board, commented: “In Marcus Wassenberg, we are losing a committed innovator and I am losing a very valued board colleague. Despite the unexpected challenges of the pandemic and the current uncertain geopolitical situation, he and his colleagues have restored the company’s robust economic performance. We will now continue unwaveringly with the strategic development of our portfolio and business model innovation. This is what our Supervisory Board, the management team and I stand for together.”

Fujifilm Dimatix has appointed Steve Billow as president, saying he will target new growth opportunities, and lead the development of new environmentally-sustainable products and innovations from concept through commercialization. Billow spent 20 years working in Kodak’s R&D department and has since been vice president and CTO at EFI inkjet solutions and was most recently president at 3D printing firm Desktop Metal. 

Martin Schoeppler, chief executive officer for Fujifilm Dimatix,commented: “Steve’s breadth of knowledge and extensive experience with inkjet technology coupled with his team-building strengths will help our organization pursue new avenues while driving growth and continued success in this market.”

Xeikon has appointed Jens Henrik Osmundsen as Head of Corrugated Sales for the EMEA region, which is a new role where he will be responsible for marketing the new Idera press. Osmundsen stated:  “We are at the tipping point where digital can start to play a very significant role in corrugated and I believe I can contribute a great deal to Xeikon becoming a major player in the digital transformation of that segment based on my technical background in printing, my experience in the market and understanding of the varied needs of the customers that mix combined with Xeikon’s capabilities, I hope will be a very powerful cocktail.”

Nick Dinges has joined 3D printing manufacturer Replique as Chief Technology Officer, where he will be responsible for developing its technology platform that enables OEMs to provide parts on demand to their customers. Previously he was CTO at Hitchhiker where he coordinated the development of a platform designed to manage flight bookings with hundreds of data sources.

Dinges commented: “Replique’s model enables the fundamental promise of 3D printing – parts when you need them, where you need them, in the exact quantity you need them. Decentralised production using 3D printing has great cost, design and logistical benefits to OEMs, and as supply chain disruptions continue, Replique’s proposition becomes increasingly beneficial. I’m excited to be joining the company at such a pivotal time”.

Flint Group Packaging has appointed Terry Davis as Vice President of Strategic Accounts, Flexible Packaging North America, where he will be responsible for driving the sustainable long-term growth of key flexible packaging accounts in the North American market. He has 33 years experience in ink and coating

Nicki Kerrigan, VP & GM Flexible Packaging at Flint Group Packaging in North America, said:  “I’ve known Terry for many years and always appreciated his integrity and approach to the business. Terry has extensive knowledge in the packaging sector, and his experience will be extremely beneficial to our flexible packaging customers here in North America. We are delighted to welcome him to our team.”

Screen Europe has appointed Matthias Puers as its national sales manager for Germany where he will be responsible for sales of the Truepress Jet520HD range of high-speed inkjet printers. He started his career as an offset printer in Hamburg, at Lagebartels und Jürgens, and has since worked as sales manager at Flint Group Germany and was most recently key account manager at Epple Druckfarben. 

He commented: “Digital presses require less energy and don’t use chemicals nor metal plates, so they are better for the planet, which is just one of its big plusses. Demand for high speed inkjet will continue to grow, as costs of digital printing are coming down every year, making it more cost-efficient to print larger volumes. Digital printing also allows companies to print on demand at very short timelines, with a high level of personalisation.”

Tomasz Kropinski is Miraclon’s new sales manager for Poland.

Miraclon has taken on Tomasz Kropinski as its new sales manager for Poland. He has previously worked in various sales and account management roles at Tesa Tape Sp. z o.o. since 2010. Stephen McCartney, commercial director for Miraclon in the EAMER region, said: “Tomasz is a valuable addition to Miraclon and brings a wealth of industry knowledge and relationships with him. His deep understanding of flexographic market trends will ensure that customers and prospects benefit from his know-how and expertise as they utilize Flexcel NX Technology to shape the future of flexo. It’s a pleasure welcoming him to the team.”

Integration Technology has promoted Elizabeth Bentley from sales support manager to commercial manager, and Stuart Scarsbrook from product and logistics manager to general manager. Bentley joined the company in 2008 as office junior before moving on to sales administration roles and completing a degree in Business Management. Scarsbrook has more than 20 years’ experience within the UV curing sector before joining Integration Technology in 2017. 

Simon Roberts, managing director of Integration Technology, commented: “We are delighted to offer greater roles to two integral Integration Technology colleagues. Lizzie and Stuart are enthusiastic and committed members of the team, both of whom understand our mission and our ambitious growth plans, and their additional responsibilities will see their contributions to our success as a company become even more significant.”

Finally, looking ahead to November, interest rates are likely to go up worldwide. In the US, the Federal Reserve Bank’s policy-making committee is expected to raise rates at its November 2 meeting, possibly by a further 0.75 percent, while the bank of England has already said that it expects to raise interest rates significantly at its next meeting on 3 November. This has generally been interpreted to mean a 0.75 percent rise to 3 percent. The European Central Bank has just hiked its base rate by 0.75 percent to 1.5 percent – that’s a 2 percent rise in three months – with an expectation that it will rise further next year. This signals that central banks now see the need to deal with inflation as being more important than the risk of stifling investment. 

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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