DuPont Imaging Technologies earns around $500 million from selling Cyrel flexo plates, Cromalin proofing systems and associated hardware. Europe accounts for 40 percent of this revenue. Therefore, it was fitting in a Drupa year to tell the European print and packaging press about its latest plans to strengthen an already strong flexo presence in the labels and flexible packaging markets. In fact, during the next five years DuPont seeks to double its revenues, with computer-to-plate technology and satellite based remote proofing playing stronger roles as the digital prepress market matures.
Mathias Henzel, marketing director at the European headquarters in Neu-Isenberg, near Frankfurt, says DuPont is still committed to its analog photopolymer plate products. They account for 70 percent of total plate revenues and DuPont will continue to invest in analog. He announced NOWS as the new “universal” DuPont flexo plate, which has a medium durometer; HIQS is a new premium hard plate for finer halftones on smoother paper and film stocks, while the softer NEOS grade is for less demanding work. They replace PLS, PLSi, HOF and POF, to tidy up choice and stockholding.
Henzel said there were some 650 flexo CTP units around the world, and 130 were installed in 2003 alone. Dupont’s Cyrel Digital Imager accounts for some 400 of them, of which 60 percent are ready to handle Cyrel Round, a seamless plate based on existing photopolymer technology. So far there are only four European users and four American users, but the company thinks it has good growth potential, some outside its current flexo patch. CDI Round is also seen as a possible gravure-to-flexo facilitator in key packaging markets.
The world’s first dry process flexo plate, Cyrel FAST is now well established, with 250 user sites worldwide, 50 of which are in Europe. FAST also fits within the concept of satellite operations. A new product is TD 4260, a large-format plate aimed at trade shops for maximizing ganged-up platemaking procedures. As for Cromalin Digital, there are more than 2,000 of these proofing systems worldwide. Much is made of its implementation of seven-color drop-on-demand inkjet technology to give “professional proofing”, rather than the ambiguous contract proofing norm. New is the b3, a smaller-format model to the b2, which has an on-board spectrophotometer for calibrating color values. These form part of the iCertification program introduced two years ago. This Web-enabled remote proofing system is intended to standardize the process from design to print, using the actual substrates used for the job.
Barry M. Grainger, VP and general manager based in Wilmington, DE, says DuPont Imaging Technologies plans more “commoditizing” of products in response to consolidations among converters and their customers. More intense global competition was compounded by a shift in DuPont’s own customer base to emerging economies, such as China, central and eastern Europe and parts of South America. This suggested a realignment of manufacturing capability — backed by training programs and partnerships with other suppliers — and a refocusing of customer groups and where they are located. “We also have to tie innovations more tightly to customers’ needs. This means building up our sales and service competency, while streamlining the bureaucracy and driving out unnecessary costs.” Having prospered for 202 years, it would be unreasonable to deny that DuPont has plenty of experience in adapting to changing market conditions, wherever they are.