Kodak has upped the ante in its digital inkjet press development with Uteco. We have been following what is known as the Uteco Sapphire digital press built using Kodak’s continuous inkjet technology for flexible laminates since a couple of Label Expo Europe shows ago in Brussels, where it was first shown. Subsequently, the 660 mm-wide press was installed in Japan and the US, as revealed to us in catch-up meeting on this with Uteco’s Giuseppi Sauli at the K exhibition in October 2019 in Dusseldorf. Even then, the use of Kodak’s newest Ultrastream inkjet technology was mentioned but without specifics that we learned on 15 June 2020.
In the first half of December 2019, Kodak announced the first sale of the new Uteco Sapphire Evo W flexible packaging digital press. The company said that the first press with Kodak’s Ultrastream inkjet system with a print width of 1.25 meters was sold into the market in advance of its expected debut at drupa 2020 in Dusseldorf, with a healthy pipeline of active prospects. The wider format of the new Sapphire EVO W, allows brands to leverage digital printing in their traditional flexographic print formats.
At Kodak’s press conference yesterday, it became clear that the new 1.25 meters wide (49-inches) model of the Sapphire Evo W digital press is a key joint project with the press being built jointly by Kodak and Uteco in Verona. Kodak in Ohio provides the CIJ inkjet heads and the water-based food contact friendly inks, while Uteco builds the transport, the CI drum, and the curing stations and does the overall integration at Verona in Italy.
Randy Vandagriff, senior vice president, Digital Print, described the development of the Sapphire Evo W, as, “The world’s most productive digital flexible film press.” He asserted that it is, “The first digital packaging press to match the productivity of flexo and the quality of gravure. It uses Kodak’s high-resolution Ultrastream Inkjet Technology and QD Packaging Inks to bring the endless opportunities of digital printing into mainstream production of flexible packaging. With run lengths of up to 20,000 square meters, or more with variable content, the Sapphire EVO W is a disruptive solution that allows brands to adopt innovative packaging that leverages the advantages of digital printing.”
During the virtual press conference or meeting, the ‘crossover’ for the Sapphire Evo W was described as 20,000 square meters, which means that it is cost-effective up to that acreage. It is essentially a 4-color press with inline or offline priming or pretreatment of substrates and coating possible. As announced yesterday, the Sapphire EVO W Press is available today worldwide.
Kodak – You ask us a question, we’re gonna answer it
The virtual meeting discussed Kodak’s ongoing investment in R&D, the next level of Sonora offset plates, a couple of other new webfed digital presses, and the Nexfinity sheetfed digital press. What came across is that Kodak is committed to making its digital presses both toner and continuous inkjet more competitive. Another important takeaway from the meeting is the company’s commitment to and focus on the environment.
The company’s executive chairman Jim Continenza came across as unassuming and straightforward. Answering a question about the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on the company, he replied, “It is what it is – this is our new normal until it changes. But at Kodak, we’re not done.”
Continenza seems to have succeeded in simplifying the company and its goals. In answering a question about the company’s long ago announced plans for a digital currency, he said, “We shelved it. It didn’t fit our product portfolio as a company.” Similarly, in answer to a question about flexo and Kodak’s divestment of the Flexcel NX business to the private equity company that has created Miraclon to take that technology forward, he said, “We love our flexo product. But we sold it not just to deleverage our debt, but also as a part of a strategic decision to focus on digital.” In ending, he said, “You ask us a question, we’re gonna answer it.”