The yellow box is glowing again. You sense it as soon as you enter the Kodak booth at Drupa 2016. It is the most creative booth I have seen in my eleven Drupas. Every product and service is showcased. Customer samples abound. It is Disneyland for printing geeks.
You also sense a Kodak renaissance when you meet Jeff Clarke, CEO and cheerleader-in-chief. After two years on the job, he has mastered the jargon, the technology, and the industry. He gets it.
But he has his challenges, which is why he gets the big bucks. Half of Kodak’s revenue is plates (offset and flexo). That is good and bad. The good is that the plate business has grown in the last few years as printers ran more shorter runs on their presses. The bad is lots of competition and the knowledge that digital printing is going to erode plate volume.
At three different press conferences, including Kodak’s, it was stated that digital printing is only 3%, 3.5%, or 4% of all printing (each press conference had a different percentage). Here’s the rub: 3% of what? All printing? Offset printing only? All printing would have to include all that wide format print, some of which was done on offset presses and some with screen printing. If you count all printing and all digital, I think the percentage could be as high at 20 percent.
Clarke is savvy about all this and is investing in digital printing. The venerable NexPress (introduced at Drupa 2000) has a new platform, faster speed, and an extended sheet size to 14x48 inches. There are over 1,000 machines out there. The Versamark roll-fed inkjet system is still a best seller. The Prosper continuous inkjet system and all that goes with it is being sold.
Let me go back to plates: the new Sonora plate is processless and environmentally perfect. But other plate companies are announcing plates that sound similar. Flexo plates are doing well, but this Drupa is showing inkjet printing of film. It is not a matter of “if” but “when” digital printing usurps plate volume.
Clarke and his team are pushing hard. Kodak workflows and pre-press equipment are some of the best in the industry and doing well. Functional printing is seeing more activity. There are even Kodak-branded batteries and consumer items. Every part of the printing industry is touched by some Kodak technology.
There is so much happening at Kodak that it would take a book to cover it all. Yet, in the US we hear little. Kodak used to have the best PR in the industry. Now it does not.
I say this because I was impressed with all that is happening at this iconic company. Kodak helped us share memories. Kodak developments helped create the phototypesetting industry. Kodak has made a difference and I think it will continue to make a difference.