Kodak acquires ECRM’s CtP biz

Pioneering imaging company taken over in the pandemic

ECRM Computer to Plate output device (CtP)

On 19 April 2020, Eastman Kodak announced its acquisition of the assets of ECRM Incorporated’s CtP (computer-to-plate) device business for the graphic arts and newspaper industries. Based in Massachusetts, ECRM was a global leader in imaging technologies for the graphic communications industry. The transaction includes the equipment, contracts, inventory, and intellectual property of the acquired business. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Kodak offers a portfolio of traditional and digital solutions that help printers, including thermal CtPs and thermal offset plates, which it pioneered. It develops and sells prepress and workflow software and digital presses – both drum and toner and continuous inkjet for commercial and packaging applications. Its CIJ flexible packaging presses are developed in collaboration with Uteco. The acquisition will strengthen Kodak’s position in the CtP segment of the commercial and newspaper printing industry. ECRM was a formidable manufacturer of violet laser CtPs preferred by some Indian language newspapers because of their speed and simplicity of operation.

An imaging company from the start, ECRM was founded just north of Boston by the legendary American engineer William Schreiber while he was a professor at MIT. Schreiber was also a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur from 1964 to 1966. He motivated the first generation of Indian engineers and students to develop the software and hardware for implementing Indian scripts using computers.

“This acquisition reflects Kodak’s commitment to the printing industry and our focus on investing in growth,” said Jim Continenza, Kodak’s Executive Chairman and CEO. “Acquiring these assets of an impressive company like ECRM makes us an even stronger player in the CtP category, and we will continue to look for ways to better serve customers across the spectrum of traditional and digital print.”

“In the wake of a challenging pandemic year, and on the anniversary of ECRM’s 50th year, we decided that this is a good time to rest on our past successes, yet protect and service our many long-term customers with an established company of appropriate size, CtP competence, and resources. We are pleased today to place our company assets with Kodak,” said Rick Black, chairman, and CEO of ECRM.

Kodak has had a few rocky years and a couple of years ago it was compelled to divest its flexographic plate business to Miraclon. Kodak was one of the earliest investors in China and in the past few years, both Kodak and ECRM have manufactured their CtP output devices there. Kodak products, including its environmentally friendly no-process Sonora plates, are distributed in India by Kodak India and its channel partners.

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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