Industrial printing is going digital and right here in Cambridge is a company leading the way. Emily Burton visits Inca Digital Printers on Coldhams Lane and finds out why the whole world is following them into the future...
The Inca Trail
There’s something a bit special happening on Coldhams Lane but it’s likely that you’ve driven past it hundreds of times without realising. From the road, the Cambridge headquarters of Inca Digital looks like a regular office building, but push the door to reveal a manufacturing Narnia and the home of a ground-breaking printer manufacturer which is currently making a big impression on the global printing scene.
A spin-off from product and technology developers, Cambridge Consultants, Inca was formed in 2000 and has since established itself as a pioneer in the digital printing industry. Inca is very proud of its Cambridge roots and it has used local people and local expertise to create a huge global impact. So what does Inca actually do? Mr Otani, Chief Operating Officer at Inca, explains, “People hear ‘digital printer’ and think we’re a printing company when we’re actually an industrial printer manufacturing company. Don’t expect to see little desktop printers in our factory, these flatbed digital printers are big; the print area is 1.6 by 3.22 metres and the bed moves underneath the large carriage of printheads when printing.”
Dr Jim Taylor, Business Development Manager at Inca, explains, “Fifteen years ago Inca’s digital flatbed printers started replacing screen printing. The design on a substrate would previously have been printed using an analogue method, with a screen used to create the same image over and over. This is efficient, but the set-up is time consuming and very expensive. Retailers and consumers want a wider variety of promotional graphics than analogue printing will allow. They want varied, smaller stocks and they all want it yesterday. Plus, most furniture, textiles and packaging has to be printed, so the potential future markets are huge too.”
Marketing Executive, Arianne Winter says, “From the point of view of a company’s marketing needs, personalisation and customisation are key when connecting with customers and this is much harder with analogue printing. With a digital printer, every print can be di fferent. You can do smaller print runs and you can try new things. You can produce highly localised and customised advertising campaigns easily – which would have been too expensive before. Of course there are options to produce a variety of large format graphics but a lot of our customers really think outside the box. One customer printed on real pizza dough for a marketing campaign. Someone else printed on flip flops; another regularly prints on snowboards and skis. Inca flatbed printers certainly print on more than just paper.”
Dr Taylor says, “The worldwide phenomenon of industrial inkjet printing actually started right here in Cambridge and hi-tech companies such as Inca have evolved as part of it. Inca has machines, made right here in Cambridge, in over 35 countries around the world and over the last 15 years the technology has really advanced.”
With development and production all happening right here in the city, Inca is busy expanding its workspace. Arianne says, “We’ve recently acquired a new unit providing more space to our Research and Development team as well as bringing them all under one roof. Also, in October, we are opening our dedicated Training and Validation centre. Inca is growing, and fast, and this additional space will also give us greater flexibility to test the printers’ new features, as well as trial different materials to print on.”
With a dedicated business development team and growth at the forefront of their minds, Inca know their customers pretty well, as Mr Otani explains, “Our people travel the world to better understand our customers and their local businesses and environments.” Inca understand that buying a printer is a big capital investment for a business and to make this decision easier they’ve future-proofed their machines. Dr Taylor says, “As the market develops and people want to use the printer for different applications, we can configure the machines to be better suited for individual needs and this configuration can also be changed if needed. If a customer has a six colour machine today, but later realises that there is a need for white, then this can be added on-site. It allows the customer to respond to market requirements without having to buy a new machine.”
The future looks extremely colourful (excuse the pun) for Inca and Mr Otani agrees, “At Inca, we’re very excited to find new opportunities, develop new technology, face new challenges and take our innovations into the future.”
For further information please contact:
Inca Digital Printers: Heather Kendle T: +44 (0)1223 577800 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Manufacturer of wide format digital printers.