A visit to Heidelberg’s first Primefire customer Multi Packaging Solutions

A visit to Heidelberg’s first Primefire customer Multi Packaging Solutions
Heidelberg Primefire 106 B1 digital press

The Heidelberg Packaging Days opened on the evening of 7 November, at the iconic glass-and-steel Print Media Academy building in the city with CEO Rainer Hundsdorfer welcoming the assembled printers, converters and large contingents of print journalists from Europe and the Asia Pacific region. The Packaging Days demonstrations of a large number of the company’s packaging presses and converting equipment from its partner MasterWork took place the next day at the newer Print Media Academy and demonstration center at the company’s main manufacturing site in Wiesloch just outside the city. Apart from Hundsdorfer’s welcome, a short keynote was delivered by Steffen Schnizer of Multi Packaging Solutions, which just three months ago became the first customer to install a Heidelberg Primefire 106 B1 digital press.

The demonstrations at Wiesloch showed Heidelberg’s strong focus on delivering value to the packaging converter with the multicolor presses and coaters showing value additions that enable them to be the most innovative and profitable suppliers to leading global brands. The demonstrations of the XL75 Anicolor 8-color plus double coater, the XL106 8-color with double coater and foiler and the XL145 6-color plus coater running at a full speeds of 18,000 showed the company’s workflow and make-ready software prowess.

Cartons using Heidelberg’s Multicolor 7-color software and the new Intellistart II lining up the jobs on the press consoles showcased the company’s extensive domain knowledge that is being incorporated increasingly in software-based solutions that enable its customers to be efficient innovators. MasterWork diecutters with foiling and blanking options and a range of folder-gluers rounded out the company’s comprehensive packaging options in an atmosphere where customers could explore their own futuristic solutions. It is clear that with orders for commercial presses quite flat, Heidelberg is gearing up to increase its already strong market share in packaging.

13Heidelberg 5130 Steffen Schnizer, managing director of Multi Packaging Solutions in Obersulm, Germany. Photo IPP

Multi Packaging Solutions
We had an opportunity to visit the first installation of the Primefire 106 B1 digital press at Multi Packaging Solutions, which is a member of the West Rock group, in nearby Obersulm. Schnizer explained that for his company digital means a new level of offerings to its customers that go beyond mere digital printing and offer a range of security and interactive packaging solutions. “Digital for us is not only digital printing. Digital is really helping our brand owners to be more successful.”

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Heidelberg Primefire 106 print samples at Multi Packaging Solutions in Obersulm, Germany. Photo IPP

The highlight was, of course, to see the Primefire 106 in live production inside a sophisticated plant where it was meant to match the quality of Multi Packaging Solutions’ impressive array of special application Heidelberg sheetfed offset presses. And at first look, the press meets the high standard of color reproduction quality and precision that is a part of the Heidelberg promise. There was no banding or missing telltale lines caused by blocked or misfiring nozzles—most likely the result of stochastic algorithms developed by the company to cover up visual artifacts. As Schnizer said, “We are a leading producer of high-quality cartons for the cosmetic industry and we do some work for the luxury liquor brands. Although within the West Group we have had experience with digital for 17 years, until the Heidelberg Primefire 106 press, digital was not good enough for high-value cosmetic and personal care cartons. It is early days, but so far we are pleased with the results of our partnership with Heidelberg.”

Located just 90 minutes from Heidelberg’s Wiesloch factory, Multi Packaging Solutions has pioneered several packaging innovations in partnership with Heidelberg. These include the development of full UV interdeck and end-of-press coating solutions wherein the first presses were installed at Obersulm and went on to become industry benchmarks. At the same time Schnizer is able to already enumerate several ways in which the new Primefire becomes a part of the company’s solutions in delivering innovation and value to its customers.

Initial feeback and visits by interested packaging converters to MPS during the packaging days, are likely to lead to more orders for the Primefire 106—to a 50% ramp-up in productions plans from the earlier-planned 10 or 12 presses in the first year. Two machines are currently being built in the Wiesloch assembly space adjacent to the Print Media Centre showroom. The first of these will go to Colordruck Baiersbronn by year-end and others will be placed in the packaging showroom.

The packaging is digital
The Primefire 106 sells for approximately EUR 3 million and while there is a service charge, ink is sold by volume. It seems clear that the 1200 x 1200 output at 2,500 sheets an hour press can be used for fast prototyping, customer approval, short run packaging for market testing and also personalized cartons that could work well in the luxury cosmetics segment for converters such as MPS. The variable printing, security applications are valuable for anti-counterfeiting measures as they are for the stringent track and trace requirements of pharmaceutical products coming into force around the world.

Another aspect is interaction of packaging with the consumer and Schnizer pointed out that while printed codes can reveal where and when the product is purchased, if the buyer uses the QR code on the package and logs on, there is the prospect of further engagement. As and when Multi Packaging Solutions is able to show the value and creative possibilities of the Primefire project and digital packaging as an ecosystem, the pioneering investment is likely to have considerable value for the other members of the West Rock group.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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