Digital printing is showing the strongest growth in the field of printing, as printers and their customers see the advantages of inkjet, such as the ability to do short run and customizable projects. As the quality of inkjet continues to improve and cost comes down, digital printing will make further gains on conventional technologies.
Wikoff Color has been exploring the inkjet field for some time, and has decided the time is right to expand its participation in the market. As a result, the company has made a major investment, converting a space in their Fort Mill, SC manufacturing plant into a state-of-the-art energy-cure inkjet ink manufacturing facility and cleanroom.
“Wikoff is making a major investment to manufacture inkjet inks of the highest quality with the expectation of becoming a strong competitor in a growing segment of the graphic arts industry,” said Geoff Peters, Wikoff Color president and CEO. “We are bringing our well-known, industry leading service and custom product formulation to serve the existing digital market as well as support our current customer base entering that arena.”
Daryl Collins, Wikoff Color’s vice president sales and regional operations, said that Wikoff Color’s mission is “to be a responsive manufacturer of inks and coatings for technically demanding print and packaging customers.
“A few things can be inferred from this statement: there is always a service element to Wikoff’s approach, Wikoff has a concentrated focus on being customer-oriented and Wikoff will continue to drive innovation for a technically demanding industry,” Mr. Collins said. “The addition of inkjet chemistry to Wikoff’s product line is a logical progression to the rapidly expanding segments of inkjet printing, which are 1) our traditional customer base migrating toward inkjet and 2) the emerging industrial inkjet market.
“As printhead technology continues to improve, costs will keep going down and speeds will keep increasing, which has already opened the doors to the label and packaging markets plus the industrial print space,” Mr. Collins added. “Wikoff’s color management history and ink and coating formulation experience for demanding packaging requirements position us to be an innovator within both of these inkjet segments.”
In addition, Wikoff Color has brought on Chris Cudzilo as business development manager for its inkjet ink division. A founding member of the LexJet Corporation, Mr. Cudzilo is an 18-year inkjet industry veteran. He will work with inkjet integrators and printhead manufacturers to develop custom ink solutions for Wikoff Color’s industrial printing customer base and those looking to add custom inkjet solutions.
Mr. Cudzilo noted that Wikoff is initially targeting the industrial inkjet market.
“Our new facility is dedicated to the production of energy-cure inkjet inks for the industrial segment of the market,” Mr. Cudzilo said. “Unlike the sign and banner inkjet space, where one ink series works for many applications, our focus is custom manufactured solutions that address the precise needs of the customer, such as adhesion to unique substrates, color and durability.”
For many conventional printers, the inkjet field may offer new opportunities as well as challenges, and Mr. Cudzilo said that Wikoff is working closely with its customers to show how inkjet can benefit their businesses.
“Wikoff ought to be leveraging our formulation expertise, service excellence and other assets gained from our history supplying the packaging industry in every discussion we have with customers and potential customers,” Mr. Collins said. “That expertise and history are what we bring to table, in addition to our high-tech manufacturing capabilities.”
“Most of our traditional customers who are not yet in inkjet are curious, leading to questions about how inkjet might fit into their current business and what new business it might drive,” Mr. Cudzilo added. “Customers currently jetting are more inquisitive about our capabilities and how we can help them improve their current supply source. Also, Wikoff works with inkjet integrators that are constantly expanding on the industrial inkjet possibilities.
“Current industrial inkjet customers, who previously had looked for solutions for several months, even years, are pleased to find an attentive supplier in Wikoff,” Mr. Cudzilo noted. “Our goal is to deliver custom solutions as quickly as possible, which should fuel the growth of the industrial inkjet market. We continue to be amazed (and supportive) at what companies will put ink on.”
Mr. Cudzilo and Mr. Collins both noted that Wikoff has already become involved in projects, and that the company’s expertise in all aspects of printing is proving to be a major benefit to its customers.
“We are delighted at the speed we have been able to develop unique products for our customers and the steadiness of incoming projects,” Mr. Cudzilo added. “Subsequently, we are in the hiring process for additional chemists and production staff.”
“We entered the digital frontier because we saw the need for our formulation expertise and how it can help the market progress,” Mr. Collins concluded. “Our knowledge of how primers and top coats interact with a variety of different inks and substrates, our knowledge of the rigorous demands of the end-customer, our knowledge of color space are all reasons to consider Wikoff as a source for inkjet inks. Most of our projects result in supplying our customers with a complete solution, not just an ink.”