New moves for Inca Digital
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By Sophie Matthews-Paul
12 September 2012
[L-R] Masahiro Hashimoto, president and COO of Dainippon Screen, Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Hugh Duberly CBE, and Bill Baxter, CEO of Inca Digital
It always helps when the sun is bright at an official opening ceremony, and shine it did on September 6th when Inca Digital opened its new manufacturing facility and head office in Cambridge. Just a few buildings along from its former premises, the move gives the company a significant increase in floor space and general facilities, and it also has the benefit of enabling all departments to be housed under one roof, streamlining capacity and improving efficiency overall.
How did Inca get to where it is today? Back in May 2000 a new British company was formed to specialise in developing and manufacturing flat-bed wide-format printing machines for a market which was witnessing the first of these ink-jet engines coming to market. At the time it might have seemed like an ambitious project for a fledgling technology but, a dozen years on, Inca Digital has remained one of those names we associate with UV-curable production using solid, reliable platforms.
Cambridge has become indigenous as the key UK centre for ink-jet knowledge and expertise, with the university and technology groups making it an ideal location for a manufacturing plant. With this part of East Anglia as its roots, Inca Digital is first remembered for making an appearance at Ipex 1998 with a sample printer that no-one at the time appreciated would play a major role in bringing UV-curable production to the market. The subsequent Eagle machine was followed up with the Turbo in 2004, before the Spyder series was introduced during the following two years and then, latterly, the Onset.
A significant turning point for Inca Digital came in 2005 when Dainippon Screen Manufacturing of Japan acquired the company, a marriage that's turned out to be a very happy alliance. Inca's sales channel has always been through Sericol, now Fujifilm, an arrangement that's continued to the present day, leaving the company to concentrate on what it does best – to develop and manufacture high-performance machines for digitally printed graphics.
Since Inca Digital evolved it has followed a product development policy that sees a new product coming to market every 18 months to two years. Most recently this has been fulfilled with its family on Onset printers, originally introduced in April 2007, with its S20 and S40 siblings subsequently joining the fold. The idea behind the S20 was for a smaller platform than the original Onset which still offered the versatility of its larger counterpart, while the S40i (which supersedes the S40) brings the advantages of higher speeds and improved quality for users who need this type of capacity.
Inca has added extra features to its high-end machines, including automation and the ability to print different finishes, from satin through to full gloss. The S40i also has a 15-zone vacuum bed to reduce the need for masking non-print areas, a mechanical substrate height detector for additional print-head protection, and a sensor which monitors maintenance requirements.
The links with Fujifilm extend beyond the use of the company's Uvijet inks, as the machines in the Inca Digital range also use Dimatix print-heads. It should also come as no surprise to learn that the Screen Truepress Jet W1632UV, which was introduced at drupa 2012, also features twelve-picolitre heads from the same manufacturer and is manufactured at Inca's premises in Cambridge.
But, despite its Japanese ownership and world-wide connections through Fujifilm, Inca Digital is firmly entrenched in the UK and Cambridge and has no plans ever to relocate. Founded by the inimitable Bill Baxter, who has now returned as chief executive, and a small team from Cambridge Consultants, the company has now become a £36m business which employs 200 people.
Baxter sees the move to new premises as a significant milestone in Inca's growth, and the start of an exciting new phase. "Despite a difficult economy, we have grown in a highly competitive market to meet the increasing demand from companies around the world who want to invest in high-performance equipment," he states. "Many are taking second and third machines as they start to switch to total digital print production, moving away from traditional screen-print. We are proud to be leading this change to a cleaner, better and more cost-effective print technology."
With its eyes firmly on the future, Inca Digital won't be resting on its laurels when it comes to new developments. It's encouraging to see a UK-based specialist with its finger firmly on the digital pulse, playing a major role in making sure that the latest ink-jet technology can be made in Britain.
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