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Superior quality for newspapers as a way out of the crisis

UV specialist IST Metz opens up new niches

(PresseBox) (Frankfurt, ) .
Interview with Dirk Jägers

Mr Jägers is the managing director of IST Metz GmbH of Nürtingen in Wurttemberg. IST Metz manufactures UV systems for the curing of inks and varnishes, adhesives and silicones, above all for the printing industry. Among other things, Mr Jäger talks about unexpected growth fields and the chances of digital printing.

Mr Jägers, ink curing with UV technology is a comparatively expensive method which is used above all in high-quality printing. IST Metz has established itself in this market niche. Will this niche be big enough in the future as well?

Dirk Jägers: We see substantial growth potential in packaging printing, including label printing. The customer wants better and better quality; therefore, the printer needs our UV technology in order to enhance the packaging. This market will no doubt continue to increase in importance.

But we also see other possibilities for applications. Recently we received a big order from a Turkish daily newspaper which will soon start printing the cover of every edition with UV technology. This will, admittedly, initially increase the operating costs, but in turn, the newspaper expects higher sales figures as a result of this enhanced presentation. We have received enquiries from other newspapers which even consider enhancing every edition completely. The competition on the newspaper market makes new ideas simply a must. We can profit from this situation. I, for one, hope that this order will have a signal effect.

In addition, there are interesting applications for UV like film and foil printing or security printing.

Why is the curing and drying of ink with UV technology so expensive?

Jägers: In traditional newspaper printing, printing inks dry by absorption, for instance, the absorption of the oils by the paper, so that no energy input is needed. These printing inks are, in addition, very cheap. The quality is limited since newspaper inks often smear.

In other conventional methods, solvent-containing or water-based printing inks are used which are dried by warm air. In the UV technology, solvent-free and, as a result, printing inks of higher quality are used which are dried and cured by means of a UV lamp. This is more energy-intensive than the traditional process. We are, however, quite successful in increasing the energy efficiency of our UV aggregates. With some products, we have reduced the energy consumption by up to 40 per cent by now.

The conventional printing machine manufacturers suffer from weak demand. Total markets collapse, as for instance in North America. How does IST Metz as a supplier respond to this situation?

Jägers: The printing industry has a structural problem. This needs to be solved. In some markets, there are large overcapacities. This causes strong competitive pressure. I do not see any further growth in North America. But there are also rays of hope. We see chances for growth above all in Asia. This is the reason why we established another subsidiary in Thailand. Besides China, we need a second mainstay in Asia. There is also some potential in South America, although the largest market there, Brazil, seals itself off with high import duties. We expect the print volume to continue to grow world-wide, albeit at a moderate pace.

Which role does digital printing play for IST Metz?

Jägers: For us, this is clearly a growth market. At least in the inkjet segment. Its basis is still small at the moment, but this will change pretty quickly. Therefore, we have joined forces with a UK-based company which has specialized in UV applications in digital printing. As the product ranges of this company, Integration Technology, and of IST Metz complement each other perfectly in UV, our customers now have available a complete spectrum of UV solutions for the printing industry and other industrial applications.

Is it reasonable to focus on the graphic arts industry?

Jägers: At present, we make 80 percent of our sales with the graphic arts industry and 20 percent of our sales with other industrial applications. Our plan aims at increasing the portion of industrial applications, but, of course, without neglecting the printing industry. The technical process is basically the same: To dry an ink or varnish by means of the UV lamp. The applications by the customers, however, differ. In other industrial applications, sometimes much higher coating or ink film thicknesses are used than in the graphic arts industry – just think, for instance, of the automotive industry. They require other processes to which we need to adapt ourselves.

Key questions

Why is there a future for printing?

Jägers: People respond to visual stimuli extremely strongly. They buy products which catch the eye due to the way they look. They are products whose package has been enhanced. So the higher attraction of the products themselves as a result of which they are bought is ultimately due to the printing process. Nowadays, even a simple cigarette pack is elaborately printed.

What`s important is that a product stands out from the others at the point of sale. Besides by its location in the shelf, this can be achieved by the packaging.

The drupa is now 60 years old. Will there still be a drupa in 60 years from now on?

Jägers: Of course. For me, this goes without saying. Every industry needs a flagship fair. The drupa will live on – for two reasons: On the one hand, because it is positioning itself on a broader and broader basis and offers a platform for new developments as well, as, for instance, digital printing. On the other hand, because it takes place in Germany, a country which is home to the global market leaders of the printing technology industry.

Which further development was the most important one since the invention of letterpress printing?

Jägers: For me, that`s digital printing. The possibilities provided by this technology are impressive. The quality of digital printing has already massively increased in the comparatively short space of time that it has been in existence. Today, an untrained consumer is often unable to see the difference between a digitally printed product and a product printed with traditional offset technology.

The drupa trade fair takes place in Düsseldorf from 3 to 16 May 2012. A trade show organized every four years, it is by far the largest event of the printing industry world-wide. This is where trends are set for the years to come.

The German printing machinery industry is the global market leader and will continue to maintain this status in future as well. Every month in the run-up to the drupa, the VDMA will offer an interview with one exhibitor of the industry in the form of a press release.