22nd of April is Earth Day – and it is virtual drupa day three 2021. Still there were 57 vendor or conference presentations to choose from. Again, I listened in into about a dozen, with a few more briefly looked at.
As Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection it is no surprise that one of the drupa main conference topics today was sustainability – or in the words of drupa “circular economy”. The other theme of the “connected consumer” was less visible – I guess since all attendees were connected this counts as well.
When judging applications being in demand during and just after the Covid crisis, antibacterial print is certainly high on the growth list. Even beyond the current crisis there will be usage for antimicrobial print and paper to fight germs as consumers become more health conscious. Applications are found everywhere where print products change hands frequently: from paper money, restaurant menus, key cards, safety documents, playing cards and packaging.
Paper itself is a pretty low risk material. Erwin Busselot from Ricoh already laid out some arguments on paper and board reducing transmission risks. He states that tests have found that the Coronovirus survives the shortest on board, when compared to other surfaces. According to the WHO the likelihood of spreading the virus on packaging is low. Also, the paper manufacturing and printing processes do reduce the number of viable particles required to infect someone. Paper packaging or wrapping can also be used reduce transmission risks. Even paper towels are efficient in reducing germs, while hot air driers spread them around.
Coating to fight germs
Paper and print can even go beyond just having a low risk potential of spreading viruses to become a material to fight germs. Antimicrobial paper has been in use for years. There are solutions available adding copper or silver compounds to the paper, to the paper coating or to apply as print. Both are relatively expensive materials however and I am not sure whether they interfere with existing paper recycling processes. But there is more.
Last week IMI Europe hosted a mergers & acquisitions in inkjet forum on the day before the 2019 European digital printing conference. I have to admit that it has been a long time that I gained that much insight on trends that will shape our industry from a conference – although I am not even in danger of buying or selling a company any time soon.
Ken Stack from Proximus LLC led through the forum on drivers and market activity in mergers & acquisitions for production inkjet technology and related companies. Despite the negative assessments print is receiving sometimes, there is a healthy interest in production inkjet companies from various sectors such as public companies, private equity (PE) and increasingly private companies as well. There is no lack of funding capital either, especially in the era of zero interest rates. On the other hand, R&D in new technologies is pricey and protracted, with spending well above a hundred million US$ for a new inkjet head generation or press design. Hence even for established players acquisitions can make a lot of sense.