Cooperation agreements along our added-value chain are becoming an ever more important factor for success. We have been successfully working together with selected companies and institutes for a number of years. We also acquired new cooperating partners during the reporting year – for example in the consumables segment and in key technologies. With our experience, our expertise, and our global marketing structures, Heidelberg is a sought-after partner.
Because this technology offers opportunities primarily in very short print runs and for individualized printed matter, the previous year we announced the establishment of a strategic partnership in order to strengthen Heidelberg in the digital area. Ricoh is a reliable and innovative partner, and we thereby attained our goal of expanding our offerings in the segment for short print runs and the printing of variable data based on a digital solution. We introduced our combined digital and offset solution for the print media industry at the digi:media trade show with great success. Our solution includes not only the most advanced digital printing press of its type, the new Ricoh Pro™ C901 Graphic Arts Edition, but services and the requisite consumables as well. Our offering initially addresses customers in the German and British market as well as in selected Asian markets. We will gradually extend our sales to all our markets in the runup to drupa 2012.
In the area of research and development, we undertake an exchange of expertise with a number of partners. Working together, this enables us to make more rapid progress with new developments. Partnerships with universities and institutes supplement our in-house basic research. We test new developments before market introduction in cooperation with our concept customers.
Since we work together with our systems suppliers on a long-term basis and include them in the development process at an early stage, we benefit from their experience and development activity – innovative power is an important criterion in the selection of our suppliers.
Since 2009, we have been a member of the top cluster forum organic electronics, which is supported by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). Together with companies such as BASF SE, or Merck KGaA, and the Universities of Karlsruhe and Darmstadt, we have been working on the development of future-oriented products in organic electronics. Organic electronics is based on conductive polymers or smaller organic chemical molecules, and is regarded as an important future-oriented technology. We are looking for intelligent production methods for numerous applications. Although simple circuits can already be printed today, flexible electronics poses the greatest challenge. This latter requires printing on either flexible plastic or paper backing of conductive organic molecules in very homogeneous, nanometer-thick overlying layers that are free of defects. The long-term goal is to develop printing presses for such electronics printing. We achieved initial successes in the manufacture of organic electronics during the reporting year.
In November 2007, we began a research project with the darmstadt polytechnic university on the printing of functional materials in order to develop opportunities to further increase the value of print media – for both packaging printers as well as commercial printers. These include not only new decorative and visual features, but electric or electronic characteristics as well. The project, which was planned for three years, has been completed and resulted in the predevelopment of decorative elements and simple display elements – so-called demonstrators – which are based on electroluminescence or thermochrome inks, for example. Moreover, new effects were discovered in the 3D segment based on structural coating and special optical effects. Print shops will be able to rise above the competition with these new coating technologies. During the reporting year, we decided to extend this cooperation for another two years. Special effects on packaging are an area of application, for example – so-called smart packaging provides final consumers with information about whether the cold chain has been interrupted or concerning the genuineness of a product.
We will further expand our numerous supply and OEM relationships, primarily in the consumables segment. In order to rapidly increase our sales, we work closely with dealers and manufacturers – this is frequently limited to particular markets. We also have regional partners in the area of printing presses. Beginning in the reporting year, we have been selling and marketing large-format digital printing presses in the US via a cooperation partner. Please turn to the Regional Report to learn why we favor an even broader product portfolio in the US.
Our cooperative marketing agreement with POLAR, the leading manufacturer of cutting installations, dates back over several decades. At the Hunkeler innovationdays 2011, held during February 14–17, 2011 in Switzerland, Heidelberg, together with POLAR, Kama, and ATS Tanner Banding Systems, presented the individual steps leading to high-quality brochures with PUR adhesive bindings.
Over a period of decades, we have also been acquiring strong partners in various regions where we do not maintain our own branch offices – for example, in the Benelux countries and southwestern Europe.
Uniform standards for measuring energy consumption are required, among others, to draw up an environmental balance sheet and calculate operating costs. The Printing and Paper Technology Association, which is part of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) – and Heidelberg as well – regards energy efficiency as a decision-relevant parameter for print shops when undertaking a new investment – from both the business management and environmental points of view. Together with VDMA and our major competitors – Koenig & Bauer and manroland – we developed a guideline that establishes uniform basic conditions for the measurement of the inputs for sheetfed offset printing presses. This guideline describes among other things the measuring parameters, the measuring cycle, measurement execution, and documentation of the measuring results. Climate balance sheets for printed products thereby become more objective and easier to compile.
We have been cooperating with the energy supplier MVV Energie Aktiengesellschaft for nearly three years. We offer an economically attractive and environmentally friendly supply of electric power from MVV’s environmental electricity fund for largely medium-sized print shops and print shop service providers in Germany.