Nessan Cleary’s letter from London

Look back at…August 2022

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Wales reservoir Nessan
This photo clearly shows how the water has receded in the Caban-Coch reservoir in the Elan Valley in Wales Photo Nessan Cleary

Another instalment in this strangest of years. By now, most companies, not to mention governments, have had to abandon the idea that there is anything they can do to deal with the current economic crisis and are instead just along for the ride.

That said, we can all do something about the environmental issues, and if we don’t then we will continue to see more extreme weather, from the heatwave that has hit India this year, to the flooding in Pakistan or the drought in parts of Europe. This not only threatens lives but brings its own damage to our economies as many countries have seen this year.

It is worth remembering that back in January we were relaxed about the Bank of England’s forecast that inflation would rise to 7 percent in April and then fall back. Back then the issue was shortages in the supply chain and continues to pose a major problem for many manufacturers despite the war in Ukraine and the subsequent rise in energy costs having overshadowed this issue. Currently UK inflation is at 10.1 percent and widely expected to reach 13 percent early next year, with some reports saying it could hit 18 or even 22 percent. These sort of numbers will not go away overnight and will choke off any economic recovery if not dealt with.

Meanwhile, the main news from the UK in August was the election of the new Conservative leader, Liz Truss, in which an electorate of 172,000 mainly affluent, white, older people have chosen a new prime minister for a highly diverse nation of some 67 million, many of who are already living through the worst economic crisis they’ve ever seen with the promise of much worse to come. Truss’s economic plans, which mostly centre around a firm commitment against windfall taxes, say more about her ideology than any practical ideas for dealing with this crisis.

Agfa Offset Solutions sale to Aurelius

So, this is the backdrop to this month’s news items from the suppliers to the printing industry. The most notable story is Agfa agreeing to sell off its Offset Solutions division. The company announced its intention of doing so in January last year to allow it to concentrate its efforts on further developing its inkjet portfolio. The buyer is the Aurelius Group, a European-based asset management company that will pay €92 million, subject to customary working capital and net financial debt adjustments as well as minority share and net pension debt deductions. The deal is not expected to close until the first quarter of next year. It’s worth noting that last year Agfa’s Offset Solutions generated €748m in revenues which translates into a global market share of roughly 20 percent.

Pascal Juéry, CEO of the Agfa-Gevaert Group, said: “The expected sale of the Offset Solutions division is a major step in our ongoing transformation process. It will enable us to increase our focus on our growth businesses, which is crucial to our future success in our markets. After having examined all options, we believe that the proposed transaction is the best possible solution for all stakeholders: the employees working in the division, the customers in the offset industry and our shareholders.”

Meanwhile, Agfa also released its Q2 figures for 2022 showing revenue up 6.4 percent from €441 million to €469 million year on year, which Agfa has said was mainly down to volume increases and pricing actions in the Digital Print & Chemicals division and pricing actions in the Offset Solutions division, where revenues rose by 20.9 percent. Ink sales for sign and display are now above pre-pandemic levels and Agfa has seen growth in sales of its printers. This includes two of its InterioJet 2250i system for printing on décor paper used for interior decoration, such as laminate floors and furniture.

However, the group was badly hit by cost inflation and supply chain issues so that its Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation, once adjusted, fell from €40 million to €32 million. The group expects these problems to continue, noting that “Potential Covid-related lockdowns in China and other Covid-related effects might also have an impact.” However, it expects to see improvements in the second half of the year, mainly as its own price rises start to take effect.

Heidelberg slightly improves operating result

Also in August, Heidelberg released its figures for its first quarter of the year. This shows that sales are up 20 percent with a large order backlog of €969 million. There has also been an improvement in the operating result with EBITDA up from €20 million to €35 million, which Heidelberg attributes to its’ cutting of structural costs. The company notes that it has seen some success in Europe and North America but less so in China due to the extensive lockdowns.

Heidelberg says that it saw increased sales in all areas, with Packaging Solutions, at around 28 percent, being particularly strong. The Group also recorded slight increases in its incoming orders and sales figures in electromobility, even though the availability of electronic components was restricted to some extent. Further growth in this segment is expected to become slightly weaker due to promotional schemes coming to an end, longer delivery times for electric vehicles, and supply chain bottlenecks around installation at customer sites.

Dr. Ludwin Monz, Heidelberg’s CEO, commented: “Provided there is no downturn in the general economic environment, we are confident we will reach the annual targets we have set. We will support our growth by expanding our products and services for digital printing in the label market and launching new, networking-capable wallboxes in the electromobility sector.”

Heidelberg is forecasting further improvement in the EBITDA margin to at least eight percent for the 2022/23 financial year, having managed 7.3 percent last year. The net result after taxes is also expected to increase slightly compared to 2021/22.

Esko acquires Tilia Labs

Esko, which is owned by the Danaher Corporation, has acquired the Canadian software company Tilia Labs, which has developed a number of prepress solutions such as its Phoenix imposition tool that use artificial intelligence. Mattias Byström, Vice President and Group Executive Product Identification for Danaher, explained: “This acquisition demonstrates our ongoing commitment to providing integrated software and hardware solutions that accelerate the go-to-market process for consumer-packaged goods.”

Gallus One
This Gallus One is a reel to reel digital label press running at 70mpm

New Gallus UV curabe inkjet label press

Gallus has announced a new UV-curable inkjet label press, the Gallus One, which is based on the chassis of the existing Labelmaster flexo presses and takes rolls up to 340mm wide. It incorporates a vision system that helps with quality checks and enables register settings to be done automatically, as well as automatic compensation for missing nozzles and density variations.

For the inkjet engine, Heidelberg has continued its partnership with Fujifilm, using Dimatix printheads. Interestingly, Gallus states that the heads are ‘unique to the Gallus One’ though they look a lot like Samba heads. There are five channels for CMYK plus white.

The Gallus One runs at 70mpm for all colours, including white, and is said to have a native print resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi. Gallus says that it can produce 1428 sqm/hr, which is a strange metric for a label press where linear metres would be more useful. Gallus has also incorporated Heidelberg’s Prinect workflow complete with a cloud connection

Dario Urbinati, Chief Sales and Service Director for Gallus, commented: “Offering all the familiarity benefits of a Labelmaster, Gallus One is a complete solution and not just a standalone print engine. Within the new Gallus One eco system, users have state of the art inkjet technology, a new Gallus One ink set, sophisticated workflow software and a new predictive press monitoring service to ensure minimum press downtime. All of these Gallus elements working in harmony, has enabled us to dramatically increase press efficiency and productivity, to unlock this new market opportunity.”

Gallus has described this as its “first fully digital label press” which is only true if we discount the short-lived Gallus Smartfire, itself a rebadged Lion from the Portuguese company New Solutions.

Screen’s new white for Truepress Jet L350UV SAI S label press

Screen has announced a new high opacity white mode for its Truepress Jet L350UV SAI S inkjet label printer. The company states that this new printing mode, when used with clear film or similar labels, should offer a more opaque white to prevent the colour of bottles or package contents from showing through.

Ricoh

Ricoh has launched a new ‘e’ variant of its VC70000 inkjet press, which appears to offer a number of additions offering greater automation. These include software advances include production automation tools as well as business intelligence capabilities via the Ricoh Pro Scanner Option and Ricoh Supervisor. There’s also an optional undercoating process. Existing presses can be field upgraded to the new VC70000e configuration.

Ricoh has also announced free software updates for several of its large format UV flatbed printers, including the T7210, TF6250 and TF6251. This gives new new print modes that Ricoh says will lead to improved image quality, as well as new print profiles, complete with an all-white mode and multi-layered printing modes, as well as enhanced print modes in 4C Standard ‘Enhanced’ and 4C Quality ‘Enhanced’.

Stewart Cobby, Ricoh UK’s Inkjet Sales Manager, explained: “At Ricoh, our journey with the customer does not end when they have invested in a machine; we are equally dedicated to working with them long-term to support their business goals and continuously improve the quality of output.”

This automotive grill was 3D-printed on a Stratasys Neo800 stereolithography system using a clear Somos WaterShed CX 11122 material from Covestro
This automotive grill was 3D-printed on a Stratasys Neo800 stereolithography system using a clear Somos WaterShed CX 11122 material from Covestro

Stratasys acquiring Covestro

Stratasys is in the process of acquiring Covestro AG, which makes materials for 3D printing. Stratasys is already a distributor of Covestro’s Somos resins and they are already available for Neo and Origin One 3D printers.

Dr. Yoav Zeif, CEO of Stratasys, explained: “Innovative materials are the fuel of additive manufacturing and translate directly into the ability to create new use cases for 3D printing, particularly in the production of end-use parts like dental aligners and automotive components.”

The deal includes R&D facilities and activities, global development and sales teams across Europe, the U.S. and China, a portfolio of approximately 60 additive manufacturing materials, and an extensive IP portfolio comprised of hundreds of patents and patents pending. The purchase price is approximately €43 million, plus additional inventory, less certain liabilities. In addition, there is a potential earnout of up to €37 million, subject to the achievement of various performance metrics.

Zeif added: “The acquisition of Covestro’s highly regarded additive manufacturing business positions us to further grow adoption of our newest technologies. We will now have the ability to accelerate cutting-edge developments in 3D printing materials, and advance our strategy of providing the best and most complete polymer 3D printing portfolio in the industry.”

Precise Digital Printing Graphics, based in the Chicago area of the US, has invested in a Scodix Ultra 2000 Digital Enhancement Press. The company mainly supplies full colour signs, banners, graphics and point-of-purchase displays on a trade basis for a number of large litho houses, print franchises, large format printers, and display companies.

Kevin Grouwinkel, V.P. Sales & Marketing for Precise Digital Printing, explained: “It’s just amazing what this Scodix press can do and the fact that we can spot UV and foil stamp sheets as large as 21″ x 31” is game changing.”

The Ultra 2000 incorporates the whole range of Scodix embellishments and comes with an automated mechanism enabling operators to switch between polymers rapidly and simply. He added: “After more than six months of rigorous testing of all the comparable models on the market, in the end, we felt the build and quality of Scodix was far superior. The feeding system is able to handle all the different papers on our feed table and the paper handling and registration was exceptional.”

Appointments

Evolve Additive Solutions, which has developed an interesting electrophotographic-based 3D printing process, has appointed Jeff Blank as chief operating officer. He previously worked for Tektronix and Xerox before moving to 3D Systems to run their worldwide engineering and product delivery organization and was most recently the COO at NanoVox / Vadient Optics.

Blank commented, “EAS and STEP will bring high-precision true thermoplastic parts to production customers in ways unheard of up until now. I am looking forward to bringing my experiences in both 2D and 3D product development to the organization and accelerating our path to growth.”

Evolve has also hired Jeff Hanson as vice president of Sales and Marketing. Hanson has over 30 years experience in additive manufacturing, having been one of the initial employees of Stratasys, working in early product development and picking up three patents on Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). He co-founded RedEye on Demand, which 3D-printed parts for manufacturers, and more recently set up Digital 3D Manufacturing, which provides consultation to manufacturers on adopting 3D-printing. Joe Allison, CEO of Evolve Additive Solutions, commented: “Jeff’s expertise in startups and high growth environments is critical to our future success.”

Hybrid Software Group, which includes Global Graphics Software as well as Hybrid Software, has promoted Joachim Van Hemelen from CFO of Hybrid Software to CFO of the whole group. He started his professional career in 2010 as a financial auditor at BDO and more recently was involved in the merger of Hybrid Software with Global Graphics PLC, before the company changed its name to Hybrid Software Group.

He takes over from Graeme Huttley who has left to work in private equity. Guido Van der Schueren, chairman of Hybrid Software Group commented: “Graeme Huttley has been with the company for more than 25 years and we are extremely grateful for the contribution he has made to the Group, including in many areas outside of the pure finance role. Joachim is a worthy successor with the right combination of technical ability, a strong focus on financial reporting and controls, and good knowledge of the industry that we serve. The board of directors welcomes him into his new role.”

At the same time, Peter Goodwin is being promoted from group financial controller to group finance director and company secretary, and Floris De Ruyck, currently the Group’s legal counsel, will be responsible for market relations and compliance.

Philipp Zimmermann has been appointed Vice President of sales for Koenig and Bauer’s Digital and Web-fed division.
Philipp Zimmermann has been appointed Vice President of sales for Koenig and Bauer’s Digital and Web-fed division.

Koenig and Bauer has appointed Philipp Zimmermann as head of sales for its web offset and digital printing presses. He will be responsible for expanding the RotaJet digital presses in the packaging, decor and book printing segments as well as further consolidating the close business relationships with commercial and newspaper printers. For the past ten years he worked for KraussMaffei Technologies, a leading manufacturer of machinery for the plastics industry. Stefan Segger, previously Vice President Sales for the business unit Digital & Webfed at Koenig & Bauer, will in future focus entirely on webfed digital printing, which is an important segment for the company.

Deana Conyard has joined Miraclon as its new director of Product Marketing. She previously worked for Xerox for over 20 years in a variety of marketing-related roles, most recently as senior global product marketing manager and value proposition leader.

Emma Weston, Miraclon’s Chief Marketing Officer, commented, “We’re excited to welcome Deana to the Miraclon family. Her proven track record has her well positioned to help drive value-oriented solutions and the long-term growth strategies for Miraclon and our customers. I am confident that she will be a valuable addition to the team as Miraclon stays focused on our innovation strategy to enable our customers to continue driving the transformation of flexo.”

Fujifilm Europe has appointed Raynald Barillot as Category Manager for Digital Packaging covering the EMEA region, where he will manage Fujifilm’s digital packaging product portfolio. Barillot has more than 29 years of experience working within the packaging industry in France, across companies including Brodart Packaging, SAC Emballlages, UNI Packaging, Landa Digital Printing, Schur Flexibles Group and HP.

He will report to Manuel Schrutt, head of Packaging for Fujifilm EMEA, who commented: “Raynald joins us with a very deep background of analogue and digital packaging production and will add very valuable additional knowledge to our growing team. He is well known and respected within the packaging sector, and was one of the first people in the industry driving the analogue to digital conversion by implementing one of the world´s first digital machines into the flexible packaging industry. This experience will help Fujifilm and even more our customers, to drive the analogue to digital conversion. Raynald’s appointment marks another step forward in the evolution of Fujifilm’s wider packaging strategy.”

Meanwhile Fujifilm UK has appointed Shaun Holdom as marketing manager for its wide format inkjet systems. Holdom has over 20 years experience having started his career in 1998 with ink manufacturer Lyson, which is now part of Nazdar, before moving into substrates. He was most recently global product manager for Drytac.

In conclusion, there is still considerable disruption to Chinese manufacturing caused by lockdowns to counter further outbreaks of Covid and this will continue to cause supply chain issues worldwide into next year. Meanwhile, things have been so bad in Japan that the National Tax Agency has had to run a competition for 20- to 39-year-olds to come up with proposals to help revitalise the popularity of alcoholic drinks to counter a loss of tax revenues. Of course, I’m happy to drink more Sake if that helps!

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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