In Memoriam Dr Reinhard Ulbrich

Former DuPont Cyrel business director passes away at 89

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Dr Reinhard Ulbrich
Dr Reinhard Ulbrich, former DuPont Cyrel business director passed away at 89 Photo DuPont

In a message from his family, we learned that Dr Reinhard Ulbrich passed away at the age of 89. Known as the ‘King of Flexo’ in Europe and Asia, Dr Ulbrich was the business director of DuPont’s Cyrel flexo printing plates division outside the USA, which he set up and developed through the 1980s and 1990s. Those who collaborated with Reinhard in several experimental prepress and printing projects knew him as a warm, generous, and simple guy always eager to share newly acquired knowledge. He played a significant role in the development of flexo printing to the high precision technology it is today.

Joining DuPont at its Mylar film division in Switzerland in the early 1960s, Reinhard became the manager for films in Germany in 1969. After a short spell at DuPont’s corporate headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, he returned to the Photo Products Department in Frankfurt, Germany, and eventually took on the role of business manager for the Cyrel business in 1982.

Flexo printing at that time was very much the stepchild of the printing industry, and DuPont’s flexo plates were all made in the United States. After intensive lobbying, Reinhard persuaded DuPont management to install a new production line for Cyrel plates based in Frankfurt and hired young, enthusiastic printing engineers and sales staff to aggressively grow the business.

The Cyrel ‘Grand Prix’ flexo printing competition, which ran throughout Europe and Asia, was an example of Reinhard’s customer-focused thinking. It brought together flexo printers, platemakers, and brand owners to celebrate excellence in flexographic printing on cartons, flexible packaging and labels. Notable personalities such as astronaut Neil Armstrong graced the events with their presence.

Born in Silesia, then a part of Germany that today belongs to Poland, Reinhard turned his attention east during the 1990s. He focused on growing flexo printing in Russia and Eastern Europe. Even after his retirement from DuPont, he helped introduce flexo printing courses at the Russian Academy of Printing in Moscow, for which he was awarded an honorary doctorate.

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.

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– Naresh Khanna

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