News Digest…March 2024

In many ways, March has been the calm before the storm before big events like the next round of UK elections kick off – or so the hapless Rishi Sunak must have hoped – before his zombie government next has to face the ire of the electorate.

Lucky for us – but not so much Sunak – there’s been plenty of light relief before the fireworks really get started next month. Sunak started the month by warning everyone about the dangers of extremism, presumably a warning about the return of George Galloway to Parliament in anticipation of Galloway’s propensity for winding up mainstream politicians whilst embracing foreign dictators from Saddam Hussein to Vlad Putin.

Sunak spent the rest of the month trying to dodge various rows about extremism within his own party, and how we can define extremism. For now, it is extremism for anyone to suggest that arbitrarily killing over 30,000 Palestinians is a bit off, but the Tory party donor Paul Hester’s remarks over wanting to shoot the MP Diane Abbott after referring to her being both black and female, are merely racism and not extremism, or at least, not extreme enough for the Tories to give him back his £10 million.

The former deputy Tory chairman Lee Anderson defected to the Reform Party, underlining the pincer that the government is now caught in, with the Liberal Democrats appealing to more moderate Conservative voters, and the Reform Party to the more right wing. This is all largely academic because most polls are predicting a landslide win for the Labour opposition.

March also saw the Spring budget, billed as the last major financial statement  before the next general election, with its promise of a further cut to national insurance rates. This largely backfired against the government as analysts pointed out that fiscal drag – where more people pay higher taxes as wages rise – would mean an effective tax rise for many people while public services were badly cut back. The only real achievement of the budget was to cripple Labour’s plan for rebuilding the economy, which had involved raising tax from the ultra rich non-doms to pay for improvements in public services, but the chancellor used the same ploy to fund his NI cut.

The latest figures suggest that inflation fell to 3.4 percent in the UK for February, though core inflation, which strips out volatile elements such as food and oil prices, is around 4.5 percent. However these figures are constantly reassessed, with the Office of National Statistics announcing that the UK was in recession for the second half of last year after all. Meanwhile prices continue to rise for everything from milk to Easter Eggs. Even the cost of honours has gone up, with businessman Mohamed Mansour donating £5 million to the Tory party before being knighted. 

The inflation issue won’t have been helped by a tragedy in Baltimore, in which a container ship, the MV Dali, took out Francis Scott Key bridge. Ports around the world will have had to reassess the risk to infrastructure that predates the giant container ships, further adding to the logistics problems facing the shipping industry, and by implication, supply lines in general. You can find a longer report on the geopolitical events from March here.

March also saw a number of companies within the printing sector report their financial results. Thus Koenig and Bauer’s preliminary figures for last year showed that the company was broadly on track with its predictions from the previous year. Agfa also had good reason for optimism with its results and I followed that story up with an interview with Pascal Juery, CEO of Agfa, in which he emphasised the company’s commitment to its digital print business. Elsewhere, I was one of the first Western journalists to report on Brother’s hostile takeover bid for Roland

I also covered a prototype DtF solution that Brother showed off at March’s Fespa show. Mimaki announced a new, larger flatbed in time for Fespa, but for some inexplicable reason opted not to bring it to the show. I’ll write a couple of more in-depth analysis stories from the Fespa show over the next week or so.

Ricoh used Fespa to test out its latest printhead offering, which involves selling its valvejet heads to other OEMs. Also on the printhead front, Kyocera announced its KJ4B EX 1200 RC head. In the meantime, Drupa is starting to heat up, with many vendors now dropping hints as to what they will bring to the show. Thus I’ve covered Komori’s new B2 inkjet, which I believe was an exclusive story, as well as several new announcements from HP indigo.

Separately, HP released its figures for the first quarter ending 31 January 2024, which showed that the company is comfortably in the black but with its profits faltering slightly. Thus revenue according to Generally Accepted Accounting Practices fell from $13.8 billion in the first quarter of 2023 to $13.2 billion in Q1 2024 though the GAAP net earnings rose slightly from $0.5 billion to $0.6 billion. 

However, the revenues from HP’s commercial printing segment do appear to be falling, from $1388 million in Q1 2023, to $1281 million in Q4 2023, down again to $1227 million in Q1 2024. Consumer printing revenues have also dropped 22 percent year on year. 

That said, HP has listed industrial graphics as a growth area, including Large Format Industrial, Page Wide Press, Indigo and Page Wide Industrial packaging solutions and supplies. HP also includes its Portfolio of additive manufacturing solutions and supplies including end-to-end solutions such as molded fibre, footwear and orthotics as a key growth area, meaning markets that the company expects to grow at a faster rate than its core business.

The British packaging company DS Smith is the subject of a £5.7 billion all-stock takeover bid from the American paper and pulp company International Paper. DS Smith had agreed a £5.14 billion deal with Mondi, which is currently on hold while DS Smith considers its options. 

Xerox has sold its operations in Argentina and Chile to Grupo Datco, a technologies and fibre optic network services provider in Latin America. Grupo Datco will continue to service Xerox devices previously sold in Argentina and Chile and will become the exclusive partner for Xerox in these markets. 

John Bruno, president and chief operating officer at Xerox, explained: “As Xerox continues its reinvention journey, the company is committed to helping our clients reach their goals. Across geographies, we rely on our partners to help steer the channel and accelerate growth for our clients, making them more productive and successful.”

Adphos has modernised the technical centre at its German headquarters, with an advanced pilot plant for testing and training. This allows Adphos to simulate almost all scenarios of thermal drying, heating, sintering or curing for applications ranging from thin film drying and thermal processes to thick film (especially relevant in the battery production), low viscosity, slurry and even powder coatings. Application-relevant drying tests are possible for aqueous and solvent-based processes. The pilot plant can be adjusted modularly to the respective customer specific temperature-controlled processes and enhanced through accurate inline-measurements. These developments allow more and more specific applications to be decisively advanced prior to industrial implementation.

Soyang has set up a new demo centre in Cambridge, UK, for its large format hardware.

Soyang has renamed the former Josero site in Swavesey, just outside Cambridge, UK, as its new Hardware showroom after Soyang acquired Josero. The new site is in addition to Soyang Europe’s headquarters in Accrington, Lancashire. Sarah Fenna, Sales Director (Hardware Division) at Soyang, commented: “We’re delighted to be opening another specialist showroom, allowing visitors from the south of the UK and further afield to find out more about our leading range of hardware solutions and how they can support their businesses moving forward.”

Quantica has teamed up with Altana Cubic Ink to develop new materials for 2D and 3D inkjet printing. Essentially, Altana will provide a starter kit of materials from its Cubic Ink brand to users working with Quantica’s NovoJet Open system, which itself has been designed as a lab printer to help OEMs develop their own inkjet solutions. The two companies will also work to introduce new materials and enhance current ones in the inkjet market, including developing higher viscosity variants to expand end-user applications.

Dr. Max Röttger, Head of Cubic Ink, stated: “Quantica’s high viscosity printing technology has the potential to bring multi-material 3D printing to an industrial level. We are excited to support, thanks to our in-depth knowledge in UV-formulation chemistry and in both inkjet as well as DLP/LCD 3D printing technologies.”

Quantica has teamed up with Altana Cubic Ink for materials for inkjet printing.

Stratasys is working with Northrop Grumman on two experiments to test the performance of 3D-printing materials on the surface of the moon. This will include Antero 800NA, a PEKK-based thermoplastic FDM filament filled with tungsten to shield against harmful radiation, and Antero 840CN03, an FDM filament with ESD properties for use with electronics. The samples will be subjected to moon dust, low pressure and rapid temperature swings. 

The parts will be brought to the lunar surface by an unmanned lander in a Stratasys 3D printed carrier structure made from Ultem 9085 thermoplastic, which is a material also commonly used in commercial aircraft interiors. This will form part of the Space Science & Technology Evaluation Facility mission (SSTEF-1) by a commercial company, Aegis Aerospace, as part of NASA’s Tipping Point program to provide R&D services on the lunar surface.

Notable installations

Agfa has announced the Delta Group, based in London, UK, as the first customer for its SpeedSet Orca single-pass inkjet press. The SpeedSet, which I’ve covered previously in more depth, is a B1 machine that’s able to print up to 11,000 boards per hour, using water-based inks. The Delta Group provides multi-channel marketing services to the Retail, FMCG, Film, Gaming and OOH markets. Martin Shipp, COO of the Delta Group, commented: “We at Delta are excited to get our hands on the first SpeedSet Orca in the world in our plant. We will be pushing it to the limit and expect great things from the press.”

This Agfa SpeedSet is a high speed single pass inkjet printer targeted at the packaging market.

Image Data Group, a family-owned display graphics business based in East Yorkshire, UK, has bought an EFI Nozomi 14000 SD single-pass inkjet printer. The Nozomi SD is a variant of the flatbed for display graphics and can produce up to 1,100 boards/sheets per hour. The company already has two EFI VUTEk Q5r roll-to-roll printers in the ImageData plant.

Glen Patrick, COO of ImageData Group, explained: “We are committed to remaining at the forefront of innovation and taking what we offer to our customers to the next level. This investment in the Nozomi will allow us to significantly ramp up our sign and display volumes without losing the superior print quality. This represents a significant milestone for ImageData and will empower us to keep delivering exceptional printing solutions that exceed our customers’ expectations.”


Ferdinand Rüesch, the former owner of Gallus, who has sat on Heidelberg’s supervisory board for some years, is stepping down this year. He explained: “After more than 40 years of service in the printing industry, I would like to devote more time to my family at the age of 65.”

Ferdinand Ruesch is to retire at the end of this year from his role at Gallus as well as Heidelberg’s supervisory board.

At the same time another member of Heidelberg’s supervisory board, Dr. Fritz Oesterle, is also retiring after reaching the age limit. Heidelberg is to appoint replacements for both of these men to the supervisory board at its Annual General Meeting in July 2024.

Esko has promoted Joël Depernet from chief technical officer to president. He studied engineering at École Centrale Paris and École Centrale de Lyon and went on to work for a number of companies, including Dassault Systemes, Cegedim and latterly Axway, before joining Esko in March 2020.

He commented: “I have been a part of the Esko journey for many years, and as we move into this new chapter I am delighted and deeply honored to now take on the role of President.”

Kongsberg Precision Cutting Systems has employed Nimil David as its new Product Manager for Automation and Robotics, who will be based at the company’s production site in Brno, Czech Republic. Frank Adegeest, VP Product Strategy and Business Processes for Kongsberg PCS, said of David: “With his many years of experience and significant technical knowledge, coupled with a boundless enthusiasm for the subject, Nimil’s appointment illustrates the importance of automation as we look to the future.” He added: “We know he will make a huge contribution to the team, and to advancing our technologies to maximize the benefit to our customers.”

MPS, a Dutch manufacturer of narrow web flexo systems, has picked up a new UK sales manager, Sebastian Bolingbroke. He commented: “I started my career as a printer running MPS machines but had a goal to help improve the system of production, so I moved into production management.”

InkTec has promoted Michelle Thirlby to Operations Director where she will manage the daily operations of the company, including overseeing the finance and service teams. Her responsibilities will also encompass employee welfare and development.

Joey Kim, Managing Director of InkTec Europe, commented: “As InkTec continues to grow with new product developments being launched and more in the pipeline, it’s an ideal time for Michelle to assume the role of Operations Director. Her leadership will be key in further building our business and maintaining high-quality, uninterrupted customer support.”

Finally, spare a thought for the world’s dictators who are forced to vent their own failings on journalists. Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati, 36, who works for Iran International, a television broadcaster that has covered the protests in Iran, was stabbed outside his home in London just before Easter. The station was forced to upgrade its security recently following threats from the Iranian regime. Meanwhile, Russia continues to detain the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich as well as Alsu Kurmasheva, a journalist with dual Russian and American citizenship, based in the Czech Republic, who was arrested whilst visiting her sick mother in Russia. 



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