Eastman Kodak Reaffirms Its Market Position with Well-Timed Press Conference

Virtual Event Coincides with Original drupa 2020 Date

06/17/2020

 

On June 15, 2020, the Eastman Kodak Company held a long-awaited (based on current market disruptions) press conference. As is the case with many other vendors, Kodak is facing the uncertainties associated with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Print vendors are now exploring how to best introduce the products that they’ve developed over the past year or two with the delay of drupa. Originally scheduled for June 2020, the world’s largest printing equipment exhibition has now been postponed until April 2021.

 

Kodak’s virtual press conference was advertised as “A New Kodak,” and it didn’t fall short with a fresh new company strategy and exciting new products for print. The company’s newest digital products are expected to accelerate the adoption of digital print while also driving home the industry’s ever-increasing awareness of sustainability.

 

As the fifth largest exhibitor at drupa 2016 in Hall 5, Kodak provided a technology demonstration of its next-generation Stream head technology (UltraStream). At that same time, Kodak’s board announced the sale of the Enterprise Inkjet business, including Prosper. As we fast-forward to present day, when drupa 2020 was originally expected to take place, we now see:

 

  • A change in leadership at Kodak’s helm
  • A re-invigorated approach to the company’s research and development organization
  • Corporate doubling down on inkjet and digital print technology
  • Kodak becoming one of only a few hardware vendors that met its drupa 2016 promise to deliver in 2019

 

In addition to launching its UltraStream technology by 2019 with OEM partners, Kodak continues to keep its promises with the announcement of a new platform and products for high-speed inkjet presses.

 

KODAK PROSPER ULTRA 520

Randy D. Vandagriff, Senior Vice President of Digital Print at Kodak, presented the company’s new Prosper Press line-up. Building on the legacy of the KODAK PROSPER 6000 Press, Kodak asserts that its new PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press delivers offset-like quality. The device features a consistent production speed of 150 mpm/500 fpm, which is half of the speed of the prosper 6000 press. This is the first Kodak-manufactured press using the company’s ULTRASTREAM writing system, which employs high-precision placement of smaller, round, satellite-free drops to produce high inkjet image quality.

 

Kodak Prosper Ultra 520

 

Whereas the PROSPER 6000 was positioned at the high end of the market, the PROSPER ULTRA 520 represents a departure from this strategy. Positioned further down market to capture a wider range of cost-conscious customers, the PROSPER ULTRA 520 offers commercial printing quality with a resolution of 600 x 1,800 dpi and droplets that are one-third smaller than the previous Prosper generation. In keeping with its new strategy, Jim Continenza (Kodak’s Executive Chairman) also hinted that the company may consider developing a cut-sheet inkjet press in the future. While the PROSPER 6000 is targeted toward monthly print volumes of 40 million, the 520 is designed for volumes about half of that.

 

The PROSPER ULTRA 520 is engineered to maximize productivity by printing across a broad range of substrates, including glossy media. This new press comes in two different versions: one for publishing and the other one for commercial applications. The PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press is scheduled to be available at the end of 2020 for an estimated cost of $2 million.

 

Kodak also announced an enhanced portfolio of offset and digital solutions. Continenza reinforced that all the company’s future developments would be within its core businesses of print, film, and chemistry. He notes that Kodak’s key to success focuses on leveraging its industry expertise and partnerships to develop innovative technologies that accommodate customers’ needs while also remaining environmentally friendly. Continenza also acknowledged the company’s departure from a divisional structure to a functional structure, driving home a fundamental positive change for customers to do business and foster a total solutions portfolio.

 

During the virtual press conference, Kodak’s senior functional leaders presented the following products and updates.


KODAK NEXFINITY Digital Printer

Jeff Zellmer, Vice President of Kodak’s Global Sales & Strategy division, announced the re-launch of Kodak’s NEXFINITY five-color CMYK+ digital press, which features a higher speed of 152 pages per minute (8.5” x 11”). It can also accommodate a larger sheet size of 51 inches. According to Kodak, this device offers a very competitive cost per print for customers with mid-range to high volumes. The NEXFINITY features 12 standard fifth imaging unit options for digital enhancements, including specialty inks, spot colors, as well as matte and gloss finishes. Kodak claims that the change over time for the fifth imaging station is four-times faster than the competition, allowing for greater application flexibility and lower running costs. According to Keypoint Intelligence’s 2020 Annual State of Marketing Communications Consumer Survey, of those direct mail respondents that favored CMYK+ embellishments, almost 60% found it highly effective in getting them to engage. With its newly expanded application range, the Nexfinity is poised to help print service providers and brands capture even more high value direct mail work. For the first time, Kodak will be able to demonstrate the Nexfinity platform alongside the Prosper platform, showcasing electrophotographic and inkjet technologies in one setting. A new digital print demonstration center was expanded in Kodak’s Dayton, Ohio facility to offer customers access to the full line of Kodak digital products from software to hardware.

 

UTECO Sapphire EVO W Press

Ready to shake up the packaging industry, Kodak released its YouTube sizzler for the UTECO Sapphire EVO W press. According to Continenza, Kodak is doubling down on digital printing while also shifting from a mentality of producing everything in-house to a strategy of shared development and partnerships.

 

The launch of the EVO W Press signifies the second product development and launch for the UTECO Group in the flexible packaging segment. Introduced at the end of 2019, the press was set to debut at drupa 2020. It showcases the latest collaboration of UTECO’s transport and integration know-how coupled with Kodak’s inkjet writing system expertise from ULTRASTREAM. Featuring an analog speed of up to 150 mpm (500 fpm), the EVO W is said to be eight-times more productive than competitive products for flexible film packaging. Meeting the compliance for indirect food contact requirements mandated by the US FDA, Kodak’s water-based QD Packaging inks are certified and can be used with several plastic films, foils, and papers.

 

In today’s ever-changing world of shorter run lengths and local versioning, the EVO W is positioned to accelerate the adoption of digital printing in the packaging space not only with its variable data capabilities but also with ULTRASTREAM’s wide printing capabilities of 1.25 meters or 49.2 inches. With run lengths of up to 20,000 m2 (more with variable content), the Sapphire EVO W enables brands to adopt innovative packaging that leverages the advantages of digital printing. The Sapphire EVO W Press is currently available worldwide, and the first US customer will install later this year. Full specifications can be found here.

 

UTECO Sapphire EVO W Press

 

Although digital is driving the future of print, Kodak is also investing in new developments for offset printers with an emphasis on sustainability. These are described below.

 

KODAK SONORA XTRA Process-Free Plate

John O’Grady, President of Kodak’s Print Systems Division, reports that its SONORA XTRA Process-Free Plate delivers stronger image contrast, improved handling robustness, and faster imaging speeds. The SONORA XTRA Process Free Plate is scheduled to be available at the end of 2020.

 

KODAK MAGNUS Q800 Platesetter with T-Speed

O’Grady also highlighted the KODAK MAGNUS Q800 Platesetter with T-Speed. This new device can image up to 80 plates per hour to help maximize the productivity of offset workflows. Faster imaging speeds need automation that can keep up, so Kodak is also introducing an updated Multi-Pallet Loader that matches the 80 pph speed with a capacity of up to 3,200 plates. The T-Speed MAGNUS Q800 Platesetter will be available for beta testing this month and in production in September 2020. There is a 1,500 plate per pallet capacity for Single Pallet Loaders/Multi Pallet Loader; the device will start shipping in June 2020.

 

KODAK MAGNUS Q4800 Platesetter

Scheduled to become available in 2021, the new MAGNUS Q4800 Platesetter will deliver speed and productivity for extra-large format (XLF) plate making. It will offer throughput for XLF size plates for 96-page presses as well as throughput for 1,650 mm size plates with dual plate loading. It will also have a flexible pallet automation with up to 8 plate sizes online and up to 4,800 plates online.

 

KODAK PRINERGY Workflow with the KODAK PRINERGY On Demand Workflow Platform

Todd Bigger, President of Kodak’s Software Division, announced a name change from Kodak PRINERGY VME to the new PRINERGY On Demand. PRINERGY On Demand is a new global platform that hosts a suite of offerings that modernize and maximize a customer’s PRINERGY Workflow investment. PRINERGY VME was rolled out at several trade shows last year and is separate but interoperable to other cloud-based services, like Decision Analytics, that Kodak has been developing over the past several years. PRINERGY On Demand uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service to host a customer’s PRINERGY installation while taking advantage of robust security and uptime. Print service providers (PSPs) also benefit from one predictable monthly expenditure that includes the functionality and maintenance for the workflow system.

 

Another often-overlooked benefit of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) is the scalability of the cloud to increase or decrease productivity based on peak periods of print production—a feature that William Schuring, COO of Wilco, sees as a benefit to his operations. Wilco is a publication printer based in the Netherlands that has implemented PRINERGY On Demand. Schuring explained, “When it was time to replace our existing server infrastructure, Kodak proposed we switch to the PRINERGY On Demand Workflow. We have an excellent, long-standing partnership with Kodak, and utilizing PRINERGY On Demand gives us unprecedented data security and a much better ROI compared to a traditional on-premises server environment.”

 

Based on our research, workflow management solutions rooted in supporting offset printing operations (such as PRINERGY) are challenged. One of the main obstacles is that fewer computer-to-plate (CtP) devices are being placed as PSPs continue to increase and (in some cases) shift to digital print operations. Those CtP placements are often the catalyst for selling prepress workflows as a bundled solution. While Kodak PRINERGY has supported digital printing devices for some time, it is also reassuring to see the company expanding its cloud and subscription software services, which are increasingly being favored by PSPs.

 

PRINERGY On Demand is available now, with new options planned to be rolled out at the end of 2020.

 

The Bottom Line

Even with the postponement of drupa and the current market disruptions associated with COVID-19, Kodak is making good on its promise to create new opportunities for growth. By doubling down on digital and inkjet, Kodak is well-positioned to capture the opportunities with the accelerated shift to digital print that the world is now experiencing as we look to enter a “new normal.” While Kodak has always led the industry with new and innovative technologies, it all comes down to one thing: execution, execution, and execution! With Executive Chairman Jim Continenza reshaping the company’s structure and molding a new organization, we can expect a very aggressive Kodak to emerge in our changing digital print world.