In recent years, Canon has become a major player in production in digital printing. While having a strong market position in commercial and transactional print, Canon had less to offer in labels and packaging. Obviously, the importance and growth potential of the packaging segment has not eluded them. Three years ago, Canon launched the LabelStream 4000 for the label market, the only dedicated label and packaging press the company offered so far. Canon placed several presses and learned that most customers are looking for a fully integrated solution. About 70% presses purchased have at least one flexo print unit.

Enter edale

On April 4, 2022, Canon announced the acquisition of 100% of the shares of edale. Edale had already been the press base manufacturer of the LabelStream (with the inkjet imaging unit supplied by FFEI), including all paper transport, optional flexo units, and finishing.

Edale is a manufacturer of narrow web printing presses and finishing equipment, based in Fareham, UK. The company is 75 years old and has about 80 employees. Presses are tailor made, with design and manufacturing done in-house. The four main business lines are:

  • Flexo carton web press (including the latest FL5 roll-to-blank solution).
  • Web finishing equipment—mostly for digital presses and sold as OEM equipment.
  • Digital presses as OEM manufacturer.
  • Label and packaging web flexo presses.

Edale exports 80% of the presses and covers five continents. Japan and China are not on the install destination list.

edale FL-5 flexo carton press

Canon sees three main advantages in bringing edale into the fold:

Improved LabelStream economics and access to label customers. The acquisition should result in a much faster path of improvements for the LabelStream to reach the customers. Canon also hopes to learn from the requirements and growth plans of edale’s more than 80 global label accounts. It also provides an opportunity to move analog customers to digital solutions.

Access to folding carton customers. Canon does not offer a dedicated folding carton solution yet, but edale currently has 37 presses in the folding carton market. With the roll-to-blank concept of the FL5, edale offers an integrated solution including converting steps. As in the label market, Canon can gain valuable insight into folding carton customers and draw conclusions for the design of a future inkjet folding carton press—which is no doubt somewhere on Canon’s roadmap.

Ability to offer complete end-to-end solutions. As Canon learned from the LabelStream, being able to offer end-to-end solutions is crucial in the label and packaging market. Edale has important know-how in embellishment and converting solutions, offering these solutions as part of presses or as separate lines. Canon aims to combine that application and substrate handling knowledge with digital print solutions, not just in label and packaging, but potentially in commercial markets as well.

The Next Steps

Legally, edale will be part of Canon Production Printing in the Netherlands, but for all practical purposes, edale will be reporting to the Digital Packaging Print business line with Walter Vogelsberger as head and VP of Canon. Edale will continue operating as an independently managed company with its own branding and keeping the current management team. No changes in its strategy of providing printing and finishing solutions directly and as an OEM manufacturer are planned. Edale will continue with its own sales, service, and manufacturing, although over time it is likely that there will be more Canon resources being used. An easy step would be utilizing the global market access Canon has for countries in which edale is not active.

The declared vision of Canon is to establish Canon Production Printing as the leading digital solutions supplier to the labels and packaging market. Accordingly, the acquisition of edale was labelled as the second step in that strategy (following the LabelStream launch). It strongly hints that there is more to come. For a company the size of Canon, acquiring an 80-employee company and its business is a small step and will not add much to the bottom line, especially considering that analog presses promise little growth, even in packaging. In label printing, considerable parts of the hardware sales have moved to digital print already. The bigger significance lies in the application know-how edale has in label and packaging, the access to customers, and the technology for handling and finishing packaging substrates. It is likely that we will see more inkjet packaging web presses from Canon soon and, with the digital folding carton printing market still underserved, this could be a promising first target.