Kodak showed 20 new technologies and products at drupa but there are two or three main themes that one has to keep sorting out when referring to its overall presence at the show. The first is Kodak’s announcement a few weeks before the show that it was pursuing the sale of its Prosper Enterprise Inkjet Division because it did not have the extensive capital and other resources to market this technology. The company said at its drupa press conference that there were several suitors looking to buy its Enterprise Inkjet Division.
Since Kodak is collaborating with Bobst in the development of its corrugated carton printing printing press, we asked Bobst CEO Jean Pascal Bobst on the possible effects of the Kodak inkjet division sale on this project that has resulted in the building of a 60 metre long – ‘too big for bringing to drupa’ – press. Bobst replied that he did not expect any negative effect on the corrugated press project no matter who acquired Kodak’s inkjet business.
At the same time, Kodak showed its new Ultrastream continuous inkjet technology press at its drupa stand. Both Ultrastream and the Prosper technology and their accompanying research and development will go to whoever buys the Kodak Enterprise Inkjet Division. After the show, Kodak announced six Prosper sales including four Prosper 6000C and two Kodak Prosper 1000 presses. Toppan Forms in Japan is now Kodak’s biggest Prosper press customer with its order for a fifth Prosper, while Leaderform in Italy ordered its second Prosper 6000C and Meiller in Germany signed on to become the first Prosper customer in Germany. Another Prosper 6000C was sold to Lettershop in the UK while two Prosper 1000 presses were sold to customers in the Asia Pacific region. Declaring drupa 2016 a resounding success, Kodak says it achieved 181% of its sales target on the final day of the show.
The second important theme running through the Kodak story is that of its strong showing in packaging – particularly the success it is now enjoying with its Flexcel NX technology for imaging flexo plates. At drupa the company introduced its new Flexcel NX System ’16, which builds on its Flexcel Advantage and includes Digicap NX Patterning with its Advanced Edge Definition technology that is said to result in cleaner print with improved inkflow at the edges of objects for greater visual edge definition and increased contrast. Kodak says that the NX System ’16 combined with its plate materials can uniquely work for a wide range of print applications including wide web flexibles, narrow web labels and paperboard printing, with a single plate type.
The company’s daily announcements at the show included that of the 500th order of a Kodak Flexcel NX. Polish flexo plate supplier Multidruk bought its second Flexcel NX system for expanding its services in Europe. However, it should be kept in mind that so far our hopes of seeing a Kodak flexo direct laser engraver (a non-running machine was shown at drupa 2012) have come to naught. At its press conference the Kodak brass said that the low demand for sleeve plates and the lack of consumable suppliers had more or less compelled them to put this much touted development of the past six years on the back burner. (To be sure Fuji’s flexo DLE seems to have met the same fate with that company re-badging and selling the Hell flexo direct laser engraver in various markets.) Moreover, in its Ultra NX Experience room, Kodak previewed its next generation flexo tech claiming that it demonstrated its commitment to sustainability and ongoing innovation.
It also became more apparent at drupa 2016 that Kodak is emerging as a strong workflow and digital front end supplier to the print and packaging industry. Although this is not really something new for the company, at this event and at this juncture it seems as if there is a renewed attempt by Kodak in leveraging its data handling, workflow and prepress technologies.
Kodak is offering its software modules and products as a part of the integrated solutions that numerous vendors now feel compelled to bring to their customers. Kodak and Landa Digital Printing announced a strategic collaboration to provide an automated digital workflow to drive Nanographic Printing presses for mainstream commercial applications. Kodak and Komori announced a strategic partnership to deliver seamless interoperability between Komori KP-Connect (K-Station 4) Printing Task Control Software and Kodak’s Prinergy workflow. Kodak also announced partnerships with Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Matti Technology, and manroland web systems.
There is more to write about what Kodak showed at drupa including its environmentally friendly Sonora processless plates but let me just end this first piece by mentioning that environment is an abiding theme for the company. As the show ended, Brad Kruchten, senior vice president, Kodak said, “We are committed to sustainability, profitability and growth in this industry. Our solutions that drive real value for our printers, materials science expertise, industry partnerships and strong brand recognition all helped Kodak exceed expectations at drupa 2016.”
Packaging Soth Asia is a cooperating media partner for drupa 2016 which was held from 31 May to 10 June at Dusseldorf, Germany