News Digest…May 2024

May saw election campaigns in many countries, including India, Taiwan, South Africa and the EU. Britain went one better, having started the month with local and mayoral elections, which the government lost just about as badly as everyone expected. But Rishi Sunak, who is still prime minister – but not for much longer – then surprised everyone at the end of May by calling the long awaited general election for the start of July, so we can all look forward to the joy of 24/7 election coverage. 

There’s no need for any of us to waste any time with the election campaign as we already know what all the parties stand for. Labour’s pitch is to be slightly less incompetent and less evil than the Tories, at least for a few months. The 15 Liberal Democrat MP’s are the only people – out of a population of 64 million – who think they have any chance of forming a government. Plaid Cymru are Welsh and the SNP are Scottish, which for the benefit of international readers are the little bits on the edge of England, so of no interest to the vast majority of voters in Britain. And none of us want to think about the cess pit that is Northern Ireland’s political scene. 

May also saw several long running scandals back in the news thanks to ongoing public enquiries, including NHS infected blood, Post Office Horizon and Partygate, plus a new scandal over the brutal treatment of unpaid caregivers by the Department of Work and Pensions. Together these underline the utter moral corruption at the heart of the British establishment. Sadly history suggests that a simple change of government won’t make any difference to this. 

There was some good news on the economy, with a drop in inflation to 2.3 percent. However, this was less than expected so the Bank of England has kept base rates at 5.25 percent amid warnings that gross domestic product will only improve marginally and not enough for most people to really notice the difference.

In any case, Sunak has managed to ruin this piece of good news by calling the election months earlier than necessary, a clear signal that the government expects the economy to tank in the next few months. If the economy were likely to improve further then Sunak would have waited to give him the best chance of electoral success. 

Across the pond, Joe Biden has done a good job in revitalising the US economy but a terrible job in communicating this to American voters. Donald Trump meanwhile has followed up on his hit appearance in a US civil suit, where he was found guilty of sexually assaulting the writer E Jean Carroll. His latest blockbuster played out at a New York State court, where he was convicted of 34 counts of electoral fraud. Trump has claimed that the justice system is heavily biased – which it is – but massively in his favour since he appointed many of the judges and they have repaid him by delaying all of his other criminal trials till after the election. 

Meanwhile, the Russians have enjoyed considerable success in their war against Ukraine, opening up a new front near Kharkiv. This has largely been blamed on America’s delay in sending military aid, which was caused by Trump’s supporters in Congress and led to the Ukrainians running low on ammunition. This all but guarantees that the Russians will interfere in this year’s US presidential election, since a win for Donald Trump will almost certainly be followed by a considerable drop in US assistance for Ukraine and further battlefield success for Russia. 

The Chinese president Xi Jinping has toured European capitals in a bid to stop the EU from imposing trade tariffs on Chinese goods. The EU has become increasingly alarmed at the Chinese dominance of electric cars, steel, solar and wind technology, which are all heavily subsidised by the Chinese state. The French have led the calls to be more wary of China, backed by the EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. The war in Ukraine has also made European leaders more aware of strategic defence needs.

For now Xi is balancing two different and competing demands. On the one hand, he is ideologically opposed to the West and its democratic principles. But at the same time the Chinese economy is experiencing considerable turmoil and so Xi would prefer to do business with the West rather than risk sanctions. 

And of course Xi knows that the more deeply embedded Western businesses become in China, the harder it will be for the West to take any action against China. This was even more apparent at Drupa, where a large number of Chinese companies exhibited.

From left: Peter Wolff, senior vice president Production Printing for Canon, with Dr David Schmedding, Global Head of Sales and marketing for Heidelberg.

Drupa also dominated all the news from the graphic arts in May, right up to the show’s opening when Heidelberg and Canon successfully surprised journalists with a partnership over inkjet presses. I will cover the rest of the Drupa announcements separately over the next few weeks. That said, a number of new 600dpi printheads have already been announced, including Fujifilm Dimatix’s SkyFire SF600, Seiko’s RCE2560, Toshiba Tec’s CX1 and CF6/R and the Kyocera KJ4B EX600 RC. I also covered the Archipelago PowerDrop, which is a very high viscosity approach to inkjet, and Xeikon announced its 1200 dpi Panther inkjet label press. On the business front, AstroNova acquired Mtex NS while Brother has all but abandoned its bid for Roland DG.

Elsewhere, Agfa released its Q1 figures which in comparison with the previous year’s Q1 show a fall in revenue from €270 million to €250 million across the board, which translates to an 87.4 percent drop in Earnings Before Interest Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation, from €13 million to €2 million, when adjusted for restructuring and non-recurring items. Despite this, the net result improved from a loss of €66 million to a loss of €5 million.  

Pascal Juéry, President and CEO of the Agfa-Gevaert Group, explained: “As indicated before, the first quarter was very soft. In the field of Digital Printing Solutions, we went through a transition as we renewed our mid-range offering at the end of March. The impact of the product launches and the agreement we signed with EFI is expected to kick in later on in the year.”

He explained that the HealthCare IT had a slow start and that the Radiology Solutions division’s had been hit by changes in the Chinese market. At the same time, Agfa is still developing its Green Hydrogen Solutions. He concluded: “Overall, we were able to keep our working capital well under control and restructuring costs were at a low level.”

The British company Celloglas, which offers prepress services including coatings, lamination, foiling, die-cutting and folding, has been brought from administrators by a consortium led by Dara Changizi, who is a director at ACA, a large packaging postpress specialist in Glasgow. He is joined by Richard Pinkney, former director of Celloglas, and Ian Fergusson, the former commercial director of Mirri, the substrate brand of Celloglas.

Siegwerk is a major supplier of inks and coatings.

Ink manufacturers Siegwerk has tidied its strategic focus on coatings by bundling all circular coating solutions into a new CIRKIT product portfolio and applied a uniform naming cocept. Gilles Le Moigne, Head of CE Coatings at Siegwerk, explains: “Especially in light of the increasing importance of sustainability, functional coatings offer a high potential for the future of packaging. As they provide specific functional properties that are crucial for the performance and durability of packaging, they play a key role in realizing packaging solutions in the sense of a Circular Economy. That is why we will strengthen our focus on the development of innovative coating technologies going forward.”

Screen has developed a Digital Primer Option for its Truepress 350UV SAI S inkjet label press. The primer should improve adhesion and overall print quality across a broad range of substrates. Screen left space within this press for additional heads, which this option fits into to create a neat inline inkjet primer unit

Fujifilm Europe has announced a new range of A3 multifunction office printers, the Apeos series, which have been developed by the FBI – Fujifilm Business Innovation – not the US law enforcement agency. These were already available in the Asia pacific region, including India. They offer speeds of 20 -70 pages per minute, with 1200 x 2400 dpi and Super EA Eco toner with low energy IH fusing

Taku Ueno, Senior Vice President of Fujifilm Europe, commented: “We’ve had tremendous success in the last three years introducing high quality Fujifilm branded production printers to the market, and the launch of our office printers is the natural next step.”

Memjet has added the ability to synchronise just-in-time print stream to its DuraFlex print engine, and this has already been implemented by several OEMs. The print engine is based around Memjet’s DuraFlex print head, which is a thermal head that has four channels allowing OEMs to develop a relatively cost-effective CMYK printer, capable of producing up to 46mpm. 

This latest software update means that those OEMs that want to target personalisation applications can now synchronise variable data streams more effectively. 

Xsys has introduced a new cloud-based service, Catena ProServX, for remote monitoring of its Catena plate processing and ThermoFlexX TFxX Imaging equipment. Thus it can report on items such as the number of plates produced during the specified period, along with the materials consumed. It can also send out warnings of any problems. 

Bert Eeckhout, Product Manager Prepress Equipment & Software, commented: “This new software development, provides a unique access to plate processing data which until today was not available. Now, with the launch of ProServX customers can access and use this data to optimize their operations, and make fact based decisions.”


Smartpress, a commercial print group in the US and Canada, is adding to its fleet of HP Indigo presses with the recently launched 120K and 18K presses, which I’ve previously covered here. 

Jonathan Beck, Director of Print Production at Smartpress, commented: “By installing the Indigo 120K and 18K, we are able to satisfy increased customer demand for materials such as booklets, brochures and marketing materials.” The presses will be installed later this summer after Drupa.

Michael Kille, Managing Director at Impress Print Services

Impress Print Services, a family owned printer based in Walton-on-Thames, UK, has installed three presses from Fujifilm, including the inkjet Jet Press 750S, plus the dry toner Revoria Press PC1120 and monochrome Revoria Press E1. 

Michael Kille, Managing Director at Impress Print Services, comments: “The quality produced on our previous digital machine was good, but there were productivity issues. Now, the Fujifilm machines do what we need them to do straight away, with minimal downtime, enhancing our overall business productivity and efficiency. Furthermore, our production capabilities and our value offering have been significantly enhanced through the addition of B2 digital, which complements our litho offering.”

He added: “The special colours on the Revoria PC1120 have really helped us to retain certain types of work that would previously have been B1 litho printed, and we’re delighted with the quality and productivity of the monochrome Revoria E1.”


Komori Europe has expanded the role of Thomas Heininger, who has been CEO of its subsidiary MBO, but has now also been given the role of CEO of Komori Europe. This is an unusual appointment since most overseas Japanese companies are led by a senior Japanese manager, for whom running the US or European operation would often be a stepping stone to a more senior role in Japan. In this case, Komori appears to have prioritised the need to grow its European business by appointing a European head. 

Komori Europe has also picked up a new COO, Naomasa Hashimoto, who will provide continuity with the Japanese management. At the same time, Eiji Kajita, the former President of Komori Europe has taken up a new position in Komori Japan as Head of Packaging Solution Business Unit.

Peter Jolly has returned to Duplo as its Chief Innovations Officer, following a stint of seven years at HP Industrial as UK and Ireland manager. Bruno Picquet, CEO and Chairman of Duplo International adds “Peter’s visionary leadership and passion for groundbreaking ideas will play a crucial role in shaping our organisation’s trajectory. We are excited to welcome Peter back in our Duplo family”.

From left, Mitsuo Takatsu and Frank Schenk of Mutoh Europe.

Mutoh Europe has promoted Frank Schenk from General Manager of Sales to Managing Director of Mutoh Europe nv & Mutoh Deutschland GmbH from 1 July. He succeeds Mitsuo Takatsu who was brought in to improve the company’s sales and lay the groundwork for further growth. He will be returning to Japan at the end of September 2024.

In addition, Daniel Morassut has joined Mutoh to take on Schlenk’s previous role of general manager of sales. He previously worked for Oki and Seiko.

Inkcups, which makes inkjet direct to shape printers, has employed Sebastian Tillen as Head of Europe Service, where he will oversee and optimise technical service and installations across Europe as the company looks to expand its European operations.

Tillen has over 28 years experience in production, technical service, manufacturing setup and business operations. He previously ran his own carton packaging company for a decade and was most recently Group Technical Director at Numaco Packaging overseeing two manufacturing facilities in Vietnam and China.

NB: There is a longer version on the first part of this story covering the geopolitical news but without any mention of the print industry, which you can find here:



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