Fifteen years ago in 1998, a small team from Cambridge Consultants exhibited a prototype of the first ever flatbed inkjet printer at Ipex. It immediately became clear that flatbed inkjet printing represented a clear opportunity for the printed packaging market and that, in addition, both the point-of-sale and signage markets could benefit from this innovation, provided that suitable inks could be found for these applications.
To take flatbed inkjet printing into the POS and signage sector, Cambridge Consultants entered into their first discussions with the world-renowned screen ink manufacturer, Sericol (now Fujifilm) to develop inks that would provide excellent printing quality on a variety of materials at high speeds.
Two years later Inca was officially formed by a team with venture capital support who were determined to take the Inca/Sericol partnership forward and create a successful flatbed inkjet printing business. In the same year, Sericol launched its first digital range of inks - the Uvijet range - designed specifically for use in Inca printers. These inks would soon prove to be essential in Inca’s continued success and Fujifilm remains to this day, the sole supplier of Uvijet inks.
From the outset, Sericol was the perfect match for Inca. As well as being a highly acclaimed ink manufacturer, the company also provided a well-established worldwide distribution network and global support service, which gave the two companies the means to reach out to a wide audience with their new products.
Shortly after Inca’s creation, it celebrated its first official product launch with the Eagle 44, in partnership with Sericol. As the first wide format flatbed inkjet printer on the market, the Eagle 44 proved immediately successful, providing a strong foundation for growth and development.
Between 2001 and 2005, inkjet technology evolved at a fast rate and with this rapid development, new opportunities for flatbed inkjet printing continued to emerge. Inca, together with Sericol, enjoyed several years of regular product launches, with each product proving more sophisticated and more capable in terms of speed and quality than the previous one. This pipeline enabled Inca to increase sales and, with the help of the Sericol global distribution network, expand to new territories around the world. This demonstrated that Inca’s technology, coupled with Sericol’s ink knowledge and well-established sales channels had the ability to be a powerful and highly successful combination.
In 2005, Sericol was acquired by Fujifilm, a global powerhouse with businesses in a number of technology sectors. This acquisition not only gave Fujifilm more opportunities in the fast-growing inkjet market, but also served to make the partnership with Inca an even stronger one. Inca itself was bought by the Dainippon Screen Group in 2005, providing support to develop new products and advance its technological expertise.
By 2006, wide-format digital inkjet printing had become a well-developed, highly regarded and extremely influential industry. As such a huge number of competitors had emerged, each one trying to offer new and innovative capabilities. During this period, Inca and Fujifilm worked even harder to strengthen their global position and reinforce their joint reputation as suppliers of ultra-productive and reliable systems of the highest quality.
This resulted in the highly acclaimed Onset printer being launched in 2007, which revolutionised the wide-format digital printing market. With its breakthrough speed and superb printing quality, the Onset became Inca’s flagship product with full width printheads, representing a huge step change in wide format printing and gaining an instant reputation for technological excellence. Even today, the Onset is virtually unrivalled in terms of quality and speed. This highly successful product launch and the continued success of the Inca/Fujifilm partnership around the world served to consolidate the pair’s reputation for excellence.
The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the subsequent global economic downturn led to a decline in sales for many wide-format equipment suppliers including Inca and Fujifilm. However, the two companies had the strength to look at the positives and find new opportunities. Despite the tough economic climate, the product development programme continued, and the Onset S20 printer was successfully launched in May 2009. This product filled a gap in the market and offered customers speed, quality and versatility at an affordable price. So, as sales of other products slowed, the popularity of the Onset S20 brought a needed boost.
As the economy started to pick up, Fujifilm and Inca continued to innovate and reinforce their position a global leaders in inkjet technology. Thanks to their robust partnership, the two companies have succeeded in regularly introducing impressive new Onset models that offer customers solutions to the challenges they encounter.
Inkjet technology is still evolving at an extraordinary rate. In 2013 alone both companies grew still further. Inca moved to a new, larger production facility which will enable the company to maximise opportunities and increase its overall product portfolio. Fujifilm continues to invest in new ink technologies and has opened a brand new digital ink manufacturing facility at its Broadstairs site, built to accommodate a projected annual increase of 56% in the production of UV ink, manufactured in a range of batch sizes of up to 4000 litres. With this ink expertise, Inca will be able to develop systems that meet a wide range of customer needs, such as the recently launched Onset Q40i which brings a new level of quality to wide format flatbed digital printing.
Inca and Fujifilm have demonstrated from day one that a strong and stable partnership is the key to success. As 2013 marks the 15th anniversary of working together, the knowledge, expertise and determination to succeed will ensure that the partnership continues to deliver innovative production systems for an even wider range of applications that break new ground in terms of wide-format digital inkjet printing.