Almost two thousand visitors attended the fourth annual Xeikon Café, which was held during four days (20-23 March) at Xeikon’s manufacturing site near Antwerp, Belgium. Similar to the Hunkeler Innovationdays, 35 industry partners participated in the event, with offline equipment and consumables as well as inline modules and applications at the various Xeikon press configurations. An ever larger part of the manufacturing facilities had to be squeezed to accommodate the nine different live production setups outgrowing the R&D, showroom and customer training spaces.
Xeikon definitely appears to be in business again, after years of tribulations, near-bankruptcy and dubious salvation operations by equity investors. Established thirty years ago as an R&D lab named Ellith (from ‘electronic lithography’), the company after initial successes didn’t have the marketing, distribution and after-sales resources to stand up to the kind of competition as what has become HP Indigo. In the early stages, and after the introduction of the first digital presses at Ipex 1993, Xeikon leaned heavily on Agfa, both for the development of its own E-Print 1000 and the DCP-1 engine produced for Agfa’s Chromapress. However, Agfa changed its strategic priorities over time and sold its 25% stake when Xeikon became part of the Punch International group in 2002, even though Xeikon to this day remains an important OEM partner for Agfa.
What saved Xeikon in the end has been its stubborn insistence on high-pigment dry-toner electrography, and its takeover by Flint less than two years ago. Flint has the financial power and exactly the distribution and support network that the company needs. There is also a large extent of synergy between Xeikon Digital Printing Solutions and Xeikon Prepress on the one hand and various Flint units on the other. Xeikon produces both LED-array based dry-toner electrography and industrial inkjet presses as well as (basysPrint) offset and (ThermoFlexx) flexo CtP systems and sundry OEM equipment, while Flint has a strong presence in the industry with a range of consumables for commercial, label, and packaging printing.
Thus, the company has good reasons, this year, to celebrate the 30 years of its existence and the 25 years of the introduction of its first digital presses. At the Xeikon Café, in addition to the usual technical workshops, supplier presentations, customer cases and networking, what interested visitors most were the non-stop demonstrations on nine running production lines.
Three Xeikon 3500’s were installed with combinations of own and industry partner equipment for the production of carton cups, in-mould labels and folding-carton packaging. A Xeikon 3300, a CX3, and a CX500 were printing self-adhesive labels, while a Xeikon 9800 was set up for the high-speed printing of leaflets. A PX3000 industrial inkjet press also printed labels. A Xeikon FDU flatbed die-cutting unit was processing carton packaging off-line. Multiple third-party converting and press control applications were integrated into the line-ups or shown separately, including equipment from AB Graphic, Argos, AVT, Brotech, Cartes, C Digital, GM, Grafotronic, Kurz, MGI, Rietstack, SMAG, Tronics and a range of software and consumables suppliers.
Although Xeikon largely focuses its sales strategies on labels and packaging, many of the visitors interested in these machines are working in completely different print segments, such as publication printing and wide-format signage. Last year we already saw Thomson Press buying a Xeikon 9600 for its digital printing facility in Okhla, New Delhi, for the short-run production of books. And Xeikon’s PX series of industrial inkjet presses are increasingly popular with signage printers. With the backing of Flint’s sales force and support staff, Xeikon is now also offering ‘Colour Services’, including training for Idealliance G7 calibration and compliance certification.