better inkjet through partnership

Inkjet, Partnerships, and Joint Development Agreements

By Kelly Lawrence / Published:

With drupa on the horizon and the impending unveiling of new inkjet innovations, this article digs into how solutions can be created through partnerships. We’ll look at when partnering makes sense, some examples of recent Inkjet industry partnerships and share tips from a legal expert regarding considerations before entering into a Joint Development Agreement.

The Innovation Process

In the world of innovation, we first figure out unmet customer needs and market opportunity. Then, the exciting process of developing solutions ensues. This is when companies get to apply their unique capabilities and ideally leverage them to create the best solution for their targeted customers. Done well, the full innovation process should lead to significant results of higher revenues, higher margins, a bigger moat to defend competition and of course improved conditions for customers. In Inkjet, we’re always innovating. How many new products do you expect to see at drupa this year? How many is your own organization launching? From new printers, cutters, inks, substrates and chemistry, every area of inkjet is actively innovating. Moving into a new market? Maybe you are used to printing labels and now you want to print flexible packaging. That’s another form of innovation.

How to Know When a Partnership Makes Sense

In an industry that is always innovating, why not go-it-alone? When does a partnership make sense? In the innovation process, we try to match customer unmet needs with our unique capabilities to solve them. What happens when your company is missing some of the capabilities to deliver the ultimate solution to solve these customer unmet needs? What if your grand vision can only be achieved if you somehow can gain access to these capabilities?

Maybe our organization has an awesome channel to market but lacks the capabilities to develop the chemistry to make an incredible ink or surface treatment. Maybe we have chemistry capabilities, but don’t make the equipment and need a partner that gets fluid dynamics with a different perspective. Whatever the reason, sometimes partnerships make sense as a way of gaining capability.

Why partner when we could build capability internally? Speed to market. Partnership can accelerate the process of having access to the capabilities that we need to develop a better solution. Building everything internally may be the ultimate goal, but it takes time. While you’re building capability, it’s possible your competitor is partnering with someone who has the capability you are building. Together, they solve the problem faster. They launch faster. They deliver revenue faster. They diagnose any bugs and deliver generation two faster. Meanwhile, you’re still building capabilities, have not launched anything and are now further behind. Your moat just shrank, and your business is at a greater risk of being displaced.

To summarize, partnerships often make sense when our customers have unmet needs that we can only solve by gaining access to capabilities we do not yet have and a need for speed exists within the market that makes internal capability building an unviable solution.

Examples of Recent Inkjet Industry Partnerships

Commercial Printing and Publishing
SCREEN Graphic Solutions Co., Ltd. and Kyocera Document Solutions recently collaborated to launch the TASKalfa Pro 55000c. Its official debut will take place at Drupa 2024. Kyocera has long been recognized for printhead technology. The TASKalfa Pro 55000c is the company’s second production inkjet printer. SCREEN has a reputation for technology that enables ink compatibility with standard coated papers and development of groundbreaking continuous feed inkjet presses under both the Screen and Ricoh banners.

Heidie-Mari Middel, Production Specialist at Kyocera Document Solutions South Africa, says she can’t wait for the availability of the unit for the local high-end commercial graphics market, as it is competitively priced, has a relatively small footprint and there are numerous options that can be utilized with this device. With larger printheads capable of producing 1 200 x 1 200 dpi resolution and advanced edge smoothing technology, the 55000c promises exceptional image quality.

“This printer can handle both coated and uncoated stock of up to 400gsm, making it ideal for short runs and a wide range of applications,” says Middel. In addition to this, the durable inkjet device brings the reliability, sustainability and versatility that has become expected from Kyocera’s technology.

Key features of the new TASKalfa, according to Kyocera’s website include:

  • Exceptional speed: The TASKalfa Pro 55000c can print at an impressive 150 SRA3 pages per minute.
  • Versatility: It excels in high-end graphics, marketing collateral, cookery and children’s books, photo books and more.
  • Advanced technology: The infrared curing unit, coupled with our water-based SC/SC+ inks, ensure instant ink curing, enabling 24/7 printing capabilities.
  • Unmatched print quality: The printer produces ultra-fine dots, smaller than industry standards, resulting in crisp and vibrant colors.
  • Reliability: With a set target user range of between 1 million to 2 million and a maximum of 5 million impression monthly duty cycle with minimal service intervals, the TASKalfa Pro 55000c offers excellent uptime.

The collaboration led to SCREEN launching the Truepress JET S320 prototype, an A3 sheetfed digital inkjet printer at the PRINTING United Expo in October 2023. SCREEN notes that the commercial printing and publishing markets have shifted toward businesses utilizing digital print technology. These businesses have demand for data driven targeting and personalized advertising materials. This has resulted in a shift toward production that involves printing only the necessary quantity at the required time (print on demand), often with targeted messaging. In response to these needs, SCREEN is offering not only the S320, but a line that includes the Truepress JET 520 series and the most recent Truepress JET 560 HDX.

Using our formula for when partnership makes sense, the TASKalfa and Truepress JET series printers appear to have been developed based on unmet market needs and enabled two companies to bring their technologies together to launch a superior product versus one that each company could have done solo. The collaboration passes our test. Let’s see what the market says after drupa and how sales perform. After all, the ultimate measure of innovation success is your customer’s willingness to implement your solution.

Corrugate and Folding Carton

In another industry example of collaboration, HP developed the PageWide T700i Press in cooperation with Koenig and Bauer. The was press unveiled at Corrugated Week 2022 as a new 67 inch, digital web-fed platform to help converters achieve greater operational efficiency for high-volume production of digital single-face lamination, corrugation, and folding carton applications. Here HP is a long known figure in digital printing going after a relatively new space. Koenig and Bauer is known as one of the world’s leading traditional press manufacturers with extensive expertise in the packaging market. This is the second press collaboration for HP and Koenig and Bauer following the launch of the T1100S Press in 2015. This newer partnership notes the capability to configure the press to address specific customer and market needs.

T700i Key Features

  • Print speed: Maximum print speed of 305 m/min (1000 ft/min)2
  • Print technology: HP Thermal Inkjet Technology Native resolution: 1200 nozzles per inch Ink type: Water-based HP pigment inks, Bonding Agent, and Priming Agents Ink colors: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, Orange, and Violet (CMYKOV) Printable width: up to 1.7 m (67 in) Printable frame length minimum: 0.3 m (12 in) Printable frame length maximum: variable up to 2.7 m (108 in). Extended frames above 2.7 m (108 in) with gapless printing

Using our criteria for when partnerships make sense, these two companies came together to introduce a technology where one partner had expertise to a new market in which the other partner had significant expertise. The collaboration enabled both companies to learn from one another and more quickly come to market with a solution that addressed comprehensive needs that neither company had intimate knowledge of individually. Second partnerships are of course an excellent indication that the first partnership went well for all involved. We look forward to hearing more as installations increase.

An example of what’s possible with the digital printing of corrugated boxes.

Considerations Before Entering a Partnership or Joint Venture

You’ve decided to explore partnership. Marriage is a type of partnership and those have a ~50% failure rate with arguments over finances being a top cause of dissolution. So how will you ensure your business partnership survives the odds when love and kids are not involved? I recently had the opportunity to hear Ted Theofrastous, a Corporate, Intellectual and Non-Profit Counsel speak regarding the upfront considerations for entering a Joint Development Agreement. Below are some considerations Theofrastous was kind enough to share. Be sure to engage your own legal counsel as this article does not constitute legal advice.

  • Get clear on your why: What are the specific goals that your company hopes to achieve? Could you do it alone? In what time frame? Good projects for joint development projects include:
    • New technology development
    • New market expansions
    • New product development
  • Know your partner: Do you share similar values? Is the potential partner financially stable? Do they have the resources (technology, time, and people) to deliver what they promise? What’s their track record on past collaborations?
  • Know your assets: What unique differentiators do you bring to the partnership? Do you have patents, technology, special knowledge, or processes to share? Are there any licenses you will need from others to make the partnership viable? Do you have the resources (technology, time, and people) to deliver what you promise?

Want to learn more about building mutually beneficial partnerships? Reach out. We would love to hear from you.

About the Author

Kelly Lawrence

Kelly Lawrence is a recognized business growth expert and the Founder and CEO of Lawrence Innovation, LLC, a business growth advisory. Kelly’s clients learn the process, insights, strategy and tactics to deliver new business results through innovation. Kelly helps clients win in new markets, develop and launch new technologies, products and services and establish new business models that generate sustainable profitability. Kelly has served the print industry for over 20 years – first as print specifier with Fortune Brands' Moen, and later as a print innovator with Berkshire Hathaway's Lubrizol. Lawrence now serves the print industry as a contributor to Inkjet Insight and an Associate Consultant with Smithers. Connect with Kelly on LinkedIn

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