in return to the digital market
Agfa has made a surprise return into the digital print market by acquiring Dotrix NV, the inkjet press developer based in Ghent, Belgium. In September 2002 Dotrix was spun-off from Barco Graphics, which developed “the.factory” before being absorbed into Esko Graphics. Mark Andy chose Dotrix’s drop-on-demand piezo technology, based on UV-cured inks, for its 13" DT2200 Digital Printing and Converting hybrid flexo press.
Agfa’s ticket back into digital printing seems to be a good deal at around e6 million ($7.5 million). Its previous involvement centered on the Chromapress sheetfed system. This ended in 2000 and the Intellistream front-end was inherited by Xeikon, which had supplied the print engine. Agfa was also a partner in Xaar’s Page-Wide Array project. Although the Cambridge based firm canceled its own development work, Agfa gained valuable inkjet expertise. It could help consolidate plans to raise its prepress profile in the labels and packaging sector. As Albert Follens, Agfa’s general manager of Graphic Systems remarks: “This acquisition fits into our growth strategy. Dotrix will allow us to take positions in the markets of digital printing and to gain a larger access to industrial printing niches, such as decoration, packaging and security printing.”
Dotrix has 75 employees, and in 2003 sales were worth around $6.5 million. Its latest development is a mechanical interface that connects the.factory engine with standard finishing equipment, including varnishing units. The company plans to introduce a dot.factory module coupled with a jumbo unwinder and sheet cutter at Drupa 2004 in May. It will interface with its parent’s ApogeeX prepress workflow. Also featured is the incorporation of SPICE (Single Pass Inkjet Color Engine) as a variable data system linked with compatible OEM production systems.
With the might of Agfa behind it, one could feasibly expect to see Dotrix carving a useful niche in the high quality narrow web market. After all, it is using a proven inkjet technology — with all the variable numbering and personalization possibilities that that implies — which has attracted the attention of assorted graphics industry pundits.