Inca Genius: Collaborating to Create New Markets for Industrial Inkjet

At Drupa (Dusseldorf, 31st May to 10th June) this year, Inca/SCREEN made an announcement about a strategic partnership. Here I’ll explain more about the Inca Genius strategy and why partnerships are so important for the future of digital printing.

Inkjet has been very successful over the years, especially in the POP (point of purchase) market. Traditionally, POP had been manufactured by screen printing, but the whole process was time consuming and very expensive for short runs, which is where digital printing succeeded.

Inkjet has also seen success in the ceramics sector, but the advantage of inkjet here was not so obvious. Due to the contactless nature of digital printing, a benefit, unknown at the time, of using this method meant there were far less breakages to the tiles. This enabled the converters to use much thinner tiles, which was the hidden cost saving that allowed digital to boom.

For other applications, the real advantages of inkjet are not necessarily obvious. Last month InPrint published their décor survey, which revealed strong growth for inkjet. However it found that suppliers of inkjet technology, like us, need to do more to communicate the considerable benefits inkjet printing can bring. We all know that inkjet is far superior for short runs, fast turnarounds and variable data, but without understanding the whole production process of an application, we will not find any unique advantages of digital printing.

Despite Inca’s knowledge of inkjet, it is tough to communicate this to the right audience. This is why it is so important to partner with companies who are already in the industry to develop the right solution for the application.

There have been several strategic partnerships announced in 2016, amongst them was the collaboration between SCREEN and BHS Corrugated, where some of the core inkjet technology is being provided by Inca. BHS Corrugated is the leading supplier of corrugators with 50% share of the global market, which makes them the ideal partner for this sector. The project is to develop an inline digital printing solution for the corrugated board industry, which will revolutionise the way packaging is currently manufactured. This is a much longer term project, with a beta site planned for 2019.

Another collaboration established this year is with Marabu GmbH, where they have been appointed as an Inca distributor for industrial applications. Digital printing is rapidly being adopted within manufacturing environments to enhance or replace analog production processes and enable new applications, which Marabu understand very well. Marabu developed a combined screen and digital printing solution for the manufacturing of input devices. The design can be printed on surfaces such as coated films and glass or plastic panels with suitable Marabu inkjet inks without the need for time-consuming traditional prepress stages. Depending on coverage and durability requirements, a suitable ink for the blocking layer is applied using screen printing.

It is these types of partnerships that will enable digital printing to become a larger part of industrial manufacturing.

Of course, it is not only partnerships that will enable access to new markets, the technology itself has come a long way since the launch of the Eagle 44 (the world’s first wide-format flatbed UV inkjet printer, designed and manufactured by Inca). Inca is working on developing single pass, but is also continually developing its multi-pass technologies as these can be seen as an entry way into inkjet for some industrial printers. Single pass is a massive investment for most companies and is not always the best solution for their business. Our current platforms offer a solution for a variety of applications, but we are also looking at industrial requirements while continuing to develop this technology.

We can’t say too much now, but 2017 will see some exciting developments for us.