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Xeikon Café Opens Shop in Chicago

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  • Xeikon Café Opens Shop in Chicago

    By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

    If you aren’t a Xeikon customer or prospect, or just didn’t go to the recent Xeikon Cafe in Chicago, you missed a great event. We’ll get to that. But first, a bit of history.

    That was then…
    A quarter century ago, at a trade show called IPEX (now a mere shadow of its former self) two smallish companies rolled out their full-color digital printing presses. Today, the latest iterations of their machines are still influencing the ever-expanding world of digital printing.

    This is now…
    Xeikon, the Belgian company that rolled out its DCP-1 press in 1993, is now owned by Flint Group, once known to the world as Flint Ink. Xeikon is on a quest to expand market share via a compelling range of products using toner, inkjet, and UV inkjet technologies. More than half the company’s current business comes from the label and packaging market—the segment of printing with the greatest potential for digital growth. This places Xeikon in the number two position in that segment which is led by, you guessed it, HP, which makes the Indigo press—the other digital color press was rolled out at IPEX in 1993.

    The balance of Xeikon’s business comes from various parts of commercial printing including, books, direct mail, wall coverings, and more. In each of its market segments Xeikon continues to roll out new machines and software that cater to the needs of those markets. It is leveraging its own toner and inkjet technologies, plus that of a new relationship with EFI through which Xeikon will sell and service the Jetrion line of inkjet label printers. This, in my opinion, is a good move for EFI and Xeikon.

    The Café
    The latest embodiment of Xeikon was on full display at Xeikon Café, held in early October in Itasca, Illinois. Under the theme of Innovating and Profiting with Digital Print, this inaugural Café event for the U.S. followed three very successful runs at the company headquarters in Lier, Belgium (where the European edition will take place next spring). Hosted by Xeikon and 27 partner companies, more than 70 print providers attended conference tracks in commercial printing and label and packaging printing. On the label and packaging side, attendees heard how Xeikon technology is used in labeling applications for wine, beer, spirits, and soft drinks, in-mold and blow-mold work, plus folding cartons, corrugated containers, health and beauty, and direct-contact food labels. Specialized applications included logistical and security jobs, pharmaceuticals, and more. Commercial applications described included direct mail, shelf strips, various types of retail signage, posters, book covers, and more. Many applications take advantage of the 20-inch print width of many Xeikon presses, plus simultaneous duplexing, and broad substrate flexibility.

    Technology agnostic
    Company president, Benoit Chatelard pointed out that because Xeikon is technology-agnostic—offering toner, inkjet and UV inkjet systems—it is able to offer print providers multiple choices under one brand. This was demonstrated in visits to the all-new Customer Innovation Center that showed off machines and software, including the company’s Fusion technology that enables production of digital embellishments such as foiling, gloss spot varnish, tactile varnish, digital braille, and opaque white. These are vital elements in the label and packaging space and should help strengthen Xeikon’s position in that segment. Chatelard said the acquisition of Xeikon by Flint Group provides technical expertise, capital and, perhaps most importantly, access to conventional print providers who may otherwise not consider digital solutions like those offered by Xeikon.

    The company also used the Café to promote its aXelerate business development program which is tailored to help print providers, especially label and packaging converters, acquire and retain new business by selling digital printing with an emphasis on training for sales and technical support.

    And there was more…
    Outside speakers took the stage in the main hall and in several meeting rooms. The inimitable Jeff Hayzlett, former Kodak CMO, author, and high visibility cable TV presence offered an engaging keynote about the importance of not letting fear of failure get in the way of success. He encouraged attendees to think outside the box and take chances.

    Dr. Joe Webb, every bit as inimitable as Mr. Hayzlett, showed his usual colors as “Dr. Doom,” in noting that print volumes continue to shrink. But, he emphasized, all print providers should be looking forward and taking advantage of digital print technologies and rolling out offerings that leverage those technologies. He echoed Mr. Hayzlett in urging attendees to make smart choices on the technologies they select and to take customers in new directions.

    Why? Because the future for inkjet remains bright. Mark Hanley, president of consulting firm IT-Strategies, backed up Mr. Hayzlett and Dr. Webb noting that the “inkjet revolution” is yet to take place. This means the banner days of inkjet printing lie ahead and that companies that move now to take advantage of inkjet in labels, packaging and commercial print are positioning themselves for success. The message was clear: do what Mr. Hayzlett and Dr. Webb suggest: think outside the box and don’t be afraid of the future. In fact, you can actually make your own future.
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