Virtual drupa just finished its day two. The stream of webinars and company presentations did not ease. 61 were listed for the 21st of April and obviously there is no way to cover them all. I managed about a dozen and glimpsed into a few others. Here are my impressions and conclusions.
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.
While the Covid crisis is far from over and health concerns are to remain high on consumers’ agenda also facemasks are here to stay. It is reckoned that 8 to 12 billion masks will be needed every year in Germany alone. With its ubiquity, the face mask is entering popular culture. Despite all current shortages consumers are turning facemasks into a fashion statement and forward-looking companies start to offer printed facemasks. Printers are naturally in a good position to join the trend and exploit the opportunity for printed facemasks.
On-line printers offering facemasks
The latest additions to the market for printed facemasks are Onlineprinters and Print4reseller, both located in Germany. Onlineprinters offers washable and reusable textile masks. Masks can be personalized with a range of templates or custom designs. 10 facemasks printed with a custom design will set you back €67,19 (+VAT), for 500 this drops to €4,20 per mask (again plus VAT). The masks from Print4reseller are more basic and are paper-based. They might be a bit less comfortable to wear, but can be easily disposed of as a paper product. Prices are lower as well, starting at €749 for 1,000 masks, dropping to €3,213 for 10,000 pieces. They can be customized on the outside and do have printed instructions on the inside.
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.