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Exclusive Report: Heidelberg Announces End of Life for its Quickmaster & Speedmaster DI Press Lines

Press release from the issuing company

March 7, 2006 -- (WhatTheyThink.com, By Cary Sherburne) - Heidelberg has announced an end-of-life strategy for its line of Quickmaster and Speedmaster DI presses, indicating it has discontinued production of both the Quickmaster DI 46-4 Pro and the Speedmaster 74 DI series. As the company continues to sharpen its focus on what it categorizes as its core business—conventional sheetfed presses—this move is another step in the divestiture of digital printing and other non-core solutions from its portfolio. Over the last two years, Heidelberg sold its web offset business to Goss and migrated its color and black & white toner-based business to Kodak, once its joint venture partner in their development. According to Andreas Forer, Head of Product Management Imaging Systems at Heidelberg, “Heidelberg’s DI technology enjoyed fifteen highly successful years during which it was at the very forefront of development and saw over 2000 presses installed worldwide. Users focusing on short color runs will still be able to use their DI presses to deliver high-quality, cost-effective results. Heidelberg and its service network will continue to provide them with ongoing support they can rely on.” Heidelberg contends that it sees a trend towards modular offline CTP solutions combined with offset presses, and that its portfolio of CTP products in the Prosetter and Suprasetter series integrated in a Prinect workflow and the Printmaster or Speedmaster models for small format jobs offer users a range of alternatives to meet their varying needs. Heidelberg and Presstek initially collaborated to bring the DI press to market, with a blend of Presstek imaging and media technology and Heidelberg press technology, with the first products coming to market in the early 1990s. Since that time, Presstek has partnered with other press manufacturers, most notably Ryobi, to bring to market additional DI products, and has recently announced the first Presstek-branded DI press, the Presstek 52 DI based on a Ryobi platform. The Ryobi-based DI press, which is also marketed under the Ryobi and Kodak brands, features newer technology that delivers more automation and higher image quality than the Heidelberg implementations, including support for 300 lpi printing and stochastic screening. Heidelberg plans to continue to provide long-term support for existing investments in DI presses, including service and consumables. Heidelberg has two plate offerings for the QMDI 46 DI press: one manufactured by Presstek (Saphira) and one manufactured by another unnamed manufacturer (Caleidoplate). In addition, users have the option of purchasing PEARLdry plates directly from Presstek. Interestingly, as Heidelberg notes a decline in demand for DI presses, Presstek has been touting growth in its DI business. In fact, in its February 16th 2005 4th quarter and full-year earnings release, the company touted record DI press revenue, up 63% from the 3rd quarter of 2005, and 75% year-over-year growth in DI placements. “What continues to be remarkable to me,” said Presstek’s President & CEO, Ed Marino, “is the performance our customers are experiencing with the DI press. Our customers are winning with this technology. It’s not about what we can do, or what Heidelberg can do, but it is about what our customers are achieving in terms of bringing winning solutions to market.” At drupa 2004, Heidelberg announced that it would be bringing to market a DI press based on its own imaging technology, and in fact identified that imaging technology as a core competency. At the time, the company indicated the technology had been in development for three to four years and stated that the new DI press would become available in 12 to 18 months—putting it in the second half of 2005. Following that technology demonstration, little more was said on the subject. Heidelberg indicates that this proprietary imaging technology will continue to be used in its Suprasetter CTP line. As part of its justification for announcing end-of-life of its DI line, the company reports that its new Speedmaster SM 52 with Anicolor inking unit technology – Heidelberg’s Anilox inking solution – in conjunction with conventional printing plates and offset inks will offer reductions in makeready and waste by as much as 90%. Heidelberg expects this technology to be available in the marketplace in early 2007. According to information provided to WhatTheyThink by Heidelberg, the company believes that its market will benefit from this more modular approach, although it indicated in the same document that the Quickmaster DI “remains a cost-effective solution for users producing short color runs.” What is clear is that print run lengths continue to decline, as do manufacturing cycle times, and print service providers must be more efficient in their operations in order to continue to compete effectively in this new market. Heidelberg is betting the company on conventional sheetfed printing combined with its CTP and workflow solutions, having now eliminated all digital printing technologies from its portfolio. WhatTheyThink will continue to closely monitor Heidelberg's results, and that of its digital and conventional competitors, to see how this bet plays out over the longer term.

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