Australian pioneering developer cut off from developing and manufacturing Memjet-powered narrow-web inkjet label presses in a shock, seemingly arbitrary, business manoeuvre by US private equity owners.

Memjet, the US company that in 2012 acquired the patent portfolio of Sydney-based Silverbrook Research relating to MEMS-based inkjet digital printing, has terminated its OEM partner agreement with Australia’s Rapid Packaging Services. The agreement has three more years to run until 2017.

Memjet refuses to say why the agreement was torn up citing commercial confidentiality. A Rapid spokesperson said they have not been given a legitimate reason why and that Memjet management will not negotiate, referring them only to their lawyers.

According to Bruce Mansell, founder of Rapid, there are no outstanding commercial liabilities between the two companies. “Absolutely not; we have been paying in advance for print engines, heads and ink. We have not been given any legitimate reason why Memjet is cutting us off after years of pioneering work deploying their technology in the digital label printing sector.”

Speaking from Boise Idaho, USA, Memjet spokesperson Kim Beswick, confirmed that Memjet has terminated Rapid’s license to sell and service the technology. While acknowledging the dispute she refused to say what was the cause of the rupture, describing all dealing between the two companies as “confidential.” She did say there were ongoing negotiations and described the publication of any news report of the dispute and its ramifications as ‘premature.’

When pressed as to how Rapid’s 250 plus Memjet customers around the world would fare without the company being able to continue to supply them with ink, she said she would consult with colleagues as to how the customers could get in contact with Memjet and its resellers. However she did say, “those who need to know, know.” She said that in the Memjet label user community, “no one would be left behind or stranded.” Memjet subsequently nominated an overseas competitor of Rapid’s as a new line of supply for ink and printheads to Rapid label machines that use Memjet inkjet consumables.

She added: “Although we regret that Rapid Labels is no longer an authorized Memjet partner, Memjet has over 30 OEM partners worldwide. It is only natural that there is some ebb and flow in our business relationships.”

Rapid Packaging Services was the first company to exhibit a Memjet-powered label press, at Ipex 2010. It is the sole Australian OEM Memjet developer. Rapid had recently released the XL220, a fully integrated print-laminate-die-cut-matrix strip and rewind system using Memjet technology. The converting end of the XL220/330 can run with any web-based digital printing system.

According to Nick Mansell, son of the founders, Rapid Label presses incorporating Memjet print engines were delivered through a network of resellers internationally.

Established by Bruce and Marion Mansell in 1977 Rapid has posted over three decades of successful Australian manufacturing of label presses, exported to over 50 countries. Bruce Mansell was severely injured in a vehicle collision in September 2013 and is now blind. He has resumed active participation in the business although not fully recovered.

Further comment is being sought from both sides…more to follow.