News Digest…June 2024

June turned out to be a most entertaining month in Britain, mainly thanks to Rishi Sunak, who is still prime minister, treating the general election campaign as an extended audition for a move into light entertainment.

There has been something for everyone, from offending Welsh football fans to shambolic promises to force young adults into national service, and even a campaign launch at the Silverstone race track prompting jokes that the wheels were coming off. Sunak even managed to upset veterans by leaving the D-Day celebrations early. And all of this delivered in a dead pan style that mainly comes across as a desperate plea for help. 

Naturally, none of the parties vying for a chance to run Britain have mentioned any of the issues that really matter, such as fixing the broken social care system, properly funding the NHS, or sorting out the privatised utilities that have led to poor infrastructure for water and energy as well as the train network. And that’s before we get to the structural issues such as the huge inequalities in vast swathes of the country, largely due to the collapse of one industry after another, and exacerbated by the government’s misguided austerity drive.

There has though been a new twist to the traditional Tory sleaze element in the form of a gambling scandal with several party officials and candidates having been caught betting on the date of the election before it was announced. 

Other leaders have also attempted to follow Sunak. However, Joe Biden just doesn’t have the timing for this sort of comic clowning around, and there’s nothing funny about Donald Trump, at least not in terms of comedy. In France, the joke seems to have backfired on President Macron, with the far right parties gaining the largest share of the vote in the first round of voting. 

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un met for another date as the two men continue with their public romance. The upshot of this meeting is that even if the Ukraine war does not spread further into Europe, the world will have to deal with a much more dangerous North Korea, armed with more up to date technology and further destabilising the Asia pacific region. In other words, anyone in, say, the US, Japan or India, who thinks that the Ukraine conflict is just a European problem should think again.

In other news, the EU has surprised China by slapping tariffs on electric vehicles of up to 38 percent. This suggests that the EU has finally decided that China is as much of an economic threat as an opportunity to the EU. The Chinese government has threatened retaliation, which is less of a surprise. 

Britain has briefly resumed its practice of sending convicts to Australia, putting the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on a private plane home. He struck a plea deal with the US government that will create a dangerous precedent that it’s okay to prosecute journalists who merely embarrass governments. Meanwhile the Russian government is trying the American journalist Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges that are widely believed to have been fabricated to put pressure on the US. It’s hard to see that working since the US has not demonstrated any great concern for the safety of journalists in the past. 

But then neither Russia nor America have the same grasp of comedy that has made Britain such a world leader. Much of Sunak’s problems in his election campaign stem from having made the same mistake that many vendors made at Drupa. He assumed that the most important thing was to keep the election date secret and that everyone else would drop into place once he made his announcement. But he forgot that the world does not revolve around him and that everyone else had their own agenda. In Sunak’s case that meant that some candidates and party officials just gave up because they weren’t ready at such short notice. At Drupa it meant that several vendors didn’t get the news coverage they should have, which may later translate into lost sales. 

Otherwise, unsurprisingly most of the news from the printing sector that I’ve covered in June has been related to the Drupa show. I’ll write a more considered overview of Drupa later this month when I’ve been through all my notes and completed the stories covering individual topics.

Vicky Pryce, economist, speaking at the DrupaCube.

Elsewhere, Fujifilm has partnered with the Dutch company ColorBase, which was formerly known as Color Concepts, and specialises in smart media profiling. This company has developed the  proprietary ColorBase database and accompany software to test print substrates and produce colour profiles. The partnership will help Fujifilm improve its media support for its Acuity Prime Hybrid printer. in the future, customers will be able to download a number of profiles related to specific Acuity machines on a number of certified media. ColorBase also provides colour tools and video content to help print service providers improve their printing performance.

Marco Roos, CEO and Founder of ColorBase, explains: “We are thrilled to bring our profiling expertise to the new Acuity Prime Hybrid platform by Fujifilm – an expert in manufacturing inks and printing technologies. Sharing printer profiles that streamline PSPs’ colour management and reduce waste is one of our core missions, and tracking material performance on this new print platform helps us to build the digital foundation for a smarter printing industry. We are honoured to collaborate with Fujifilm and look forward to a bright future together.”

An American court has found the British business man Mike Lynch not guilty. Lynch sold his company Autonomy to HP in 2011 for a staggering $11.1bn but its value then fell rapidly following the discovery of accounting issues, leading HP to accuse him of fraud. 

From left: Marcus Tralau, founder of Kama; Jordi Giralt, Kama CBO; Stephan Plenz, Tresu CEO; and Henrik Kristensen, Tresu CSO

Kama and Tresu announced a new partnership whilst at Drupa. This will see Tresu integrate its coating unit into Kama’s new Hammerhead 76/106  digital embellishment machine. The Hammerhead already includes UV digital spot varnish and digital foiling but the Tresu unit will add conventional coating options to it, increasing the range of substrates that can be embellished.

The two companies will also explore other options for future collaboration. Stephan Plenz, Chief Executive Officer at Tresu, commented: “Kama is in the right track to bring a disruptive solution to the increasing field of digital embellishment, which could benefit from the knowledge we can add. We want to walk this journey with our new partner, and we expect this is just the first step of a very productive association.”

Fujifilm has signed a deal to supply the Dutch newspaper company DPG Media with six XStream thermal CTP platesetters plus the Superia ZX-N processless plates to go with them. This is part of Fujifilm’s Platesense programme where Fujifilm delivers plates and consumables to its customers when they need them and also manages waste and aluminium collection along with processor maintenance, service and support.

From left: Thomas Kurz, head of newspaper sales for Fujifilm Europe; with Andre Fokkema, director of printing at DPG Media.

Andre Fokkema, Director Printing at DPG Media, comments: “We came to Fujifilm because of its established presence in the market and its proven, high quality printing technologies. We want to achieve unattended plate production. In addition, with the help of the Platesense programme taking away the stress of plate production and management processes, we’ll be able to concentrate on running our businesses while benefitting from automation, productivity and operational cost savings.”

Installations

HP has announced that ePac Flexible Packaging has committed to updating its fleet of presses to HP Indigo’s 200K machine over the next few years. The company specialises in packaging for small to medium brands and has achieved impressive growth since its establishment in 2016. 

MSM Print & Promotions, based in Northern Ireland, has invested in a second SwissQprint flatbed. The company had used a Nyala in 2022 to replace two older flatbed UV printers, which led to an improvement in productivity and reduction in running costs. Now the company has installed an Impala complete with a 36-month warranty for service and maintenance. Both machines run CMYK, white, and varnish.

Tom Smyth, Managing Partner at MSM, commented: “The decision to purchase a second swissQprint was an easy one. Our transition to swissQprint has not only improved productivity and lead times, but also resulted in significant savings in ink and energy costs.”

MSM has installed a SwissQprint Impala alongside its Nyala flatbed.

Comexi is hoping to install an F4 wide web CI flexo press complete with electron beam curing at Ruey Chang Printing and Packaging in Taichung City in Taiwan. Energy Sciences Inc, better known as ESI, will supply the EB system, having developed this technology over many years for the packaging market. In theory the low energy usage should cover the cost of installing the system. 

The press will use Gelflex EB ink, which has been developed by INX but is only sold through ESI, which ensures that the ink and curing system work together. This ink is said to produce a very robust finish that withstands scratching and rough handling so that brands can eliminate the need for surface lamination in their packaging. In addition, the GelFlex inks cure to a very thin film, with bright colours. This inks is also free of Volatile Organic Compounds and has very low migration, making it suitable for food packaging. This will be the first EB flexo press on the island of Taiwan and should be up and running in 2025. 

Appointments

Koenig and Bauer has made changes to the management of its Digital and Webfed division. Thus Philipp Zimmermann will take over as CEO from Christopher Muller, who will continue as a board member of Koenig and Bauer and will focus on advancing technologies and partnerships for digital printing. Markus Dörr will move from the Industrial division to Digital and Webfed as CFO. Thomas Potzkai will continue as CTO. 

The backdrop to these changes is the continued losses within the Digital and Webfed division and the D&W 2.0 reorganisation programme that aims to address this. The idea is to to implement organisational, structural and operational measures to enable the company to be more agile in responding to market changes. In recent years, the focus has moved to inkjet, CI flexo and corrugated printing presses in addition to the extensive service business – also for the installed base of newspaper presses.

Koenig & Bauer Digital & Webfed’s new management team. From left: Philipp Zimmermann, CEO; Markus Dörr, CFO; and Thomas Potzkai,CTO

Contiweb, which makes a range of solutions for web printing, has hired Sean Springett to take over as Managing Director for its North America operation. He has been in the printing industry for over 30 years, with 17 years in senior management roles, including more than 8 years as CEO for Manroland Sheetfed USA and Canada. 

Joost Smits, CEO at Contiweb. “He brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success in executing strategic initiatives, driving sales and expanding market presence. We are confident that he will be a tremendous asset as we continue to design impactful solutions and technical innovations for our customers.”

Evolve Additive Solutions has appointed a new CEO, Jeff Blank, who has been the company’s President and COO. Meanwhile, Joe Allison, who has been the CEO of the past two years, will become Chairman of its Board of Directors. Evolve has developed an interesting 3D technology called STEP, which is based around electrophotography.

Blank previously worked for Tektronix and Xerox before moving from 2D to 3D by joining 3D Systems. He commented: “I joined Evolve two years ago because I believe in the combination of our technology and people – and their unique abilities to address critical gaps in scaling additive manufacturing for production.”

Sulapac, which develops new materials for industries such as packaging and 3D printing, has promoted Antti Valtonen from chief commercial officer to CEO to help the company transition from an R&D focus into a more commercially driven operating mode. Co-founder and former CEO Suvi Haimi will now be the Chair of the Board of Directors. He commented: “Adopting a more commercial approach is essential at this point, while scientific knowledge and innovation will remain at the core of Sulapac.”

Soyang Europe has employed Dave Newbery in the role of Technical Sales Manager, where he will focus on Soyang’s extensive range of self-adhesive vinyls, working with customers to help them identify the most suitable solutions for their applications. Mark Mashiter, Managing Director of Soyang Europe, welcomed him, saying. “He brings with him incredible experience having worked in and around the print industry for more than 35 years. Dave is an invaluable addition to the team and his appointment will be of significant benefit to our customers across all markets.”

In conclusion, the outlook for July is almost optimistic at least for some of us. We’ve all survived Drupa, England is through to the quarter finals at the Euros – not sure how – and the wall-to-wall coverage of the election is almost done, plus there will almost certainly be a new government, and the summer has more or less arrived – what’s not to like?


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