News Digest…April 2024

Phew, Mayday, which means that we’ve all survived April, no mean feat considering the increasingly strident drumbeat towards war. 

This April we’ve seen Iran and Israel stoke further tensions in the Middle East, while delays in Western aid to Ukraine has allowed Russia to recapture more territory. And the US hesitation over agreeing further military assistance to Ukraine has prompted fears across Europe that America might not defend its allies, that Russia might be emboldened to attack other countries sparking a wider European conflict.

Against this backdrop, both Europe and the US are becoming more cautious about China’s intentions and the potential threat it poses, both economically and militarily. China itself is experiencing a slow down in its economy even as its technology and manufacturing capability improves.

The EU’s Copernicus program, which tracks climate data, announced that March was the tenth consecutive month where temperatures across the planet surface rose. Consequently, we have now breached the 1.5ºC benchmark set at the Paris climate change summit, with the planet now 1.68ºC higher than the pre-industrial average. Also in April, the KlimaSeniorinnen, a group of 2,400 older Swiss women won a ruling from the European court of human rights that Switzerland had failed in its duty to stop the planet heating by the 1.5ºC benchmark. This verdict will also apply to all 46 member countries of the Council of Europe, including the UK, and should force governments to take more notice of the environment.

Britain’s economic recovery is stagnating, with house prices having fallen again in April. The UK’s manufacturing output has fallen, with a drop in new orders amidst rising costs in raw materials and logistics. The expected cuts to the interest base rates have been pushed back to later in the year, while the cost of living crisis is still causing consumers to hold back on spending, which is slowing down the economy.

The country is poised to vote in local elections, which the governing Conservative Party is expected to lose badly, though everyone is waiting for the general election later this year, which the governing Conservative Party is expected to lose badly.

Rishi Sunak, who is inexplicably still prime minister, was forced to apologise after he was pictured wearing a pair of Adidas trainers, causing many fans (of the shoes, not Sunak) to say they would now sell their shoes. The British GQ magazine wrote: “Rishi Sunak took an eternally cool sneaker and ruined it for everyone”.

Meanwhile, several horses from the Household cavalry regiment threw off their riders and bolted through central London, covered in blood – prompting much speculation about the coming apocalypse…

Fespa 2024 took place at the RAI centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

There’s a longer version of this first part of the story here. In the meantime, April has been a relatively slow month in terms of news from the printing industry, with most vendors just teasing their offerings from Drupa though the news will ramp up rapidly over the next month as we get closer to Drupa. Consequently, this month’s coverage has mostly about catching up, with a report from a textile manufacturer in India as well as two articles on Fespa, highlighting the increasing competitiveness of Chinese manufacturers and the slowdown in innovation in the Sign and Display market.

In addition, Heidelberg has announced its Peak Performance generation of the XL106 B1 offset press, along with the surprise resignation of its CEO. Xerox released its Q1 figures and has rationalised its product mix. Highcon has announced new digital die cutting devices to be shown at Drupa, while Intec introduced a new B3 cutter and SAi has launched a new version of its Flexi sign making software.

Elsewhere, International Paper is to acquire DS Smith in a deal worth $9.9 billion (£7.8 billion). This has been structured as a combination deal with DS Smith’s shareholders owning 33.7 percent of the combined company, and International Paper’s shareholders owning roughly 66.3 percent. The deal is still subject to a shareholder vote, so its not likely to come into effect until Q4 2024. DS Smith had previously agreed a deal with Mondi, which has since withdrawn its bid. 

Mark Sutton, chairman and CEO of IP, hailed this as a logical step, stating: “DS Smith is a leader in packaging solutions with an extensive reach across Europe, which complements IP’s capabilities and will accelerate growth through innovation and sustainability. We are confident this combination will drive significant value for our employees, customers, and shareholders.”

Color-Logic has teamed up with Sharp, which will now include the Color-Logic Metallic Color System and the Touch7 Neon Color System with its new production press, the BP-1200S, which is a rebadged Fujifilm Revoria PC1120.

Mark Geeves, Color-Logic Director of Sales and Marketing, commented: “This means that printers purchasing the new press can immediately begin offering metallic and fluorescent embellishments to print customers, enabling them to support higher-value applications. In addition, the Color-Logic site license system means that metallic and fluorescent capability is automatically extended to other Color-Logic certified equipment at the same location.”

The University of Wolverhampton has partnered with EOS, which makes 3D printers, and AMCM, which is a subsidiary of EOS and makes customised additive manufacturing machines, to set up a new Centre of Excellence for Additive Manufacturing. This new venture will be based in the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills at the University’s Springfield Campus. It’s been partially funded by the UK’s Regional Innovation Fund and will house an AMCM 290 FLX, which is an adapted EOS M290. This is a laser powder bed fusion system that’s capable of processing challenging materials, such as copper. One of the main aims of the centre will be to develop new techniques for working with copper, which has excellent thermal and electrical properties but is hard to work with.

The EOS M290 will allow for pure copper metal 3D printing for improved electronic thermal management.

Professor Arun Arjunan, director of the ECMS and Centre for Engineering Innovation and Research at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “The establishment of the UK Centre of Excellence for copper AM marks a significant milestone in additive manufacturing, setting the stage for a new era of innovation, sustainability, and responsible manufacturing. Future projects will investigate the integration of laser process data and machine learning, and artificial intelligence technologies for efficient material and laser process development.”

Phoseon Technology, which makes LED lamps, is now being folded into Excelitas Technologies, having been acquired by that company in 2023. Phoseon, which was set up in 2002, has been one of the leading companies in supplying LED lamps for uses such as curing UV inks. It will now operate as a brand within Excelitas, alongside OmniCure and Noblelight. 

Many vendors have highlighted the difficulty of recruiting skilled younger people into the print and packaging industries. The Worldwide Charity Packaging Productivity Competition aims to combat this by encouraging both young people to learn the necessary skills, and teachers to be able to provide the basic background education. This has resulted in a competition that’s been running since the start of this year, and will culminate with a live final at Drupa. You can see the teams’ progress and find out about sponsoring the program here.

Notable installations

Menasha Packaging, which is part of the large international Menasha Corporation, has ordered a third Highcon digital die cutting system, a Beam 2C for corrugated production, to be installed at a North American site. The company, which has 100 facilities across North America and Europe, already has two of the Beam 2 models for folding carton. Menasha has also joined Highcon’s Vulcan Foundation Customer Program to gain early priority for the Vulcan, which I have previously covered, and which is still in development.

Michael Riegsecker, President of Menasha Packaging, commented: “We are impressed with how fast we have started production ramp up. Within 3 weeks from systems delivery, we have commenced full ramp up on both systems and we are certainly off to a good start.” He added: “This has given us the confidence to move into the next phase and extend digital die cutting to corrugated.”

Arc Labels has installed a Konica Minolta AccurioLabel 230 digital label press.

Arc Labels, a flexo label printer based in Yorkshire, UK, has installed a Konica Minolta AccurioLabel 230 toner-based label printer. Allan Ford, Director at Arc Labels commented, “We were looking for a digital solution that would do away with the need to produce expensive plates and allow us to expand our product range with the production of small runs in the region of 5,000 labels, without the cost per label rising too high.”

He added: “We have to keep the flexo side for substrates that the digital machine can’t handle, but the advantages of its speed are obvious. Nobody is prepared to wait these days, so the fast turnaround of the AccurioLabel 230 perfectly fits these requirements! If somebody wants a label on the same day and we have the workload capacity, we can do it. When a customer is running a production line, they often forget to order more labels and subsequently run out, so we can help even at short notice.”


Ben Adner, who founded Inkcups, has now stepped back from the CEO role to become Chief Innovation Officer, and Rick Hajec has assumed the Inkcups CEO position, having been on the Inkcups Advisory Board for nine years. At the same time, James Burns, who has been with the company for ten years, has been promoted from vice president of sales to Chief Commercial Officer.

Adner explained: “I have been running Inkcups with great success for the last 23 years. However, the organization is ready for some new professional leadership that will help accelerate growth. I have known Rick for a long time, and his guidance over the years has been invaluable to the company and to me. He knows our business, our people, our customers, and there is no-one more suited to take Inkcups to the next level. I feel very lucky to be handing over the reins to him.”

Rick Hajec is the new CEO of Inkcups.

Steve Dryden, CEO of Flint Group, has informed the Board of his intention to leave Flint Group effective later this year. He explained: “Leading this company through the challenges of a restructuring and change in ownership has been a privilege. I’m extremely proud of what we have accomplished together, despite the headwinds that we faced in these past years. With the restructuring process complete, a new Board appointed and at a time of strong operational performance, I believe it’s the right moment to hand over to the person who will lead the business through its next chapter.”

Koenig & Bauer Durst has appointed Benjamin Bösch to the newly created role of Sales Director where he will work with existing customers and sales teams and develop new sales strategies. He has over 25 years experience in the printing and packaging industry, having most recently worked as regional manager for Landa covering the German-speaking DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) area.

Daniel Velema, Managing Director of Koenig & Bauer Durst, commented: “Benjamin’s considerable experience in folding carton and corrugated markets will bring another layer of expertise as we continue to expand operations within digital printing in our core markets of corrugated and folding carton that are ripe for digital transformation. This appointment is an important strategic development as we continue to leverage the capabilities and know-how of our parent companies to offer an unrivalled portfolio of digital printing machinery that use water-based, food-safe inks that comply with all regulatory requirements.”

Software development company Eficode has hired Hans Parvikoski as its Chief Financial Officer. He has a broad finance background in IT services companies, both private-equity-owned and stock-listed. 

Ilari Nurmi, CEO at Eficode, noted: “Over the previous five years, Eficode has evolved from a Finnish DevOps pioneer to a leading European company in Atlassian, GitHub, and GitLab technologies and Agile, DevOps, and Cloud consulting. Our commitment to expanding our global presence, organically and inorganically, remains steadfast. We welcome Hans to the CFO role and to the management team. He brings a wealth of experience to our company and the management team and supports Eficode in its next wave of growth.”



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