Printing News
Heidelberg and Ricoh Ready Hybrid Digital and Offset Print Solutions

The global strategic cooperation between Heidelberg and Ricoh highlights the need for offset press manufacturers to combine with digital press providers to offer solutions that integrate digital and offset print technology.

News Analysis
On 23 February 2011, Heidelberg and Ricoh announced a global strategic cooperation. Its first step is a distribution agreement enabling Heidelberg to sell Ricoh production printers, starting with the Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition digital color press. The agreement, which includes Ricoh services and support, will begin in April 2011 in the U.K. and in Germany. A phased rollout will follow in other regions with completion targeted for May 2012.

The print industry continues to consolidate with digital and offset press manufacturers teaming up to meet the requirements of a rapidly changing print landscape. In December 2010, Oce and manroland joined digital and offset forces. In May 2010, Heidelberg announced it was seeking a new digital partner (see "Optimism and Inkjet Printing Dominate Ipex 2010"). Since then, the print industry has been speculating about which digital vendor would fit the bill. Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Xerox seemed like the most likely candidates because of past and current associations with Heidelberg. Gartner understands that Heidelberg's agreement with Konica Minolta in Australia will remain in place for now.

The learning curve for both companies will be steep, but Heidelberg and Ricoh are a mutually beneficial fit. Heidelberg has more at stake, and it needs to make its latest foray into digital printing work. The distribution agreement allows Heidelberg to offer its commercial print partners variable data printing capability and fast, flexible short-run digital printing. Heidelberg's sales channels will need to gear up to sell digital, which might prove difficult in offset hotspots such as Japan and Germany (see "User Survey Analysis: Production Print Buyers Prefer Digital Printing to Offset Printing"). By association with Heidelberg, Ricoh will be able to tap into the graphics and offset market and boost its presence and business in the commercial print world. Ricoh has challenges too, as it will have to develop future products robust enough to meet the demands of the commercial print market.

The partnership promises much, especially around the joint development and integration of digital and offset technologies. Hybrid digital and offset print solutions are coming to the fore. At the digi:media tradeshow in April 2011, Heidelberg will premiere a live production portfolio, incorporating job offering and ordering using the Internet and Prinect workflow integration, combining Heidelberg Anicolor offset and Ricoh Pro C901 digital printing technologies.

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