When Kodak launched the Sonora X process free plate in 2018, it marked a breakthrough for this technology. It enabled the market fit for process free to expand to up to 80% of printers, making Sonora X mainstream. The pathway to this moment was guided by several factors that have made Kodak’s long track record of launching innovative, game changing new printing solutions possible; Kodak’s deep commitment to science, robust investment in research and development and world class manufacturing capabilities spanning North America, Asia and Europe.
‘On the research and development side, Kodak today empowers some of the most eminent scientists in our industry to explore new scientific avenues as exemplified by our approximately 4000 current patents,’ said John O’Grady, president, Print Systems Division and senior vice president, Eastman Kodak Company. ‘Kodak’s labs have been leaders in evolving commercial printing and materials. We were a pioneer in developing the print methodologies of the 20th century – and now, we are leading in identifying ways to turn printing techniques into additive manufacturing tools.’
The development of Sonora was born out of a clear mandate that guides the company’s research. Beginning at the initial design phase, it takes efficiency into account, functionally using only the materials that will do what is required for the product, with no waste, trimming or extra finishing. In Sonora’s case, the result of that design philosophy is plates that pack in a tonne of innovation. Turning innovation into reality is where Kodak’s legacy of manufacturing excellence makes all the difference. While some companies have been scaling back their operations, Kodak continues to invest in its manufacturing capabilities to the tune of $80 million over the past 10 years. For example, it has been making plates in Columbus, USA since 1991. Since then the Columbus site has undergone several improvements to increase production quality and capacity, and it currently has leading equipment, advanced technology, and over 200 experienced and talented employees. Starting in 2009, Kodak completed a $15 million expansion that added 26,000 square feet to the existing facility and added a third plate production line.
In 2016 a $16 million expansion added 48,000 square feet and a manufacturing line dedicated to the production of SonoraPlpates. Moreover, in 2017, it installed new auto wrapper equipment to optimise efficiency and process control.
In addition to Columbus, Kodak operates three other plate manufacturing sites strategically located around the globe, including facilities in Osterode, Germany; Xiamen, China, and Gunma, Japan. With continued investments in these manufacturing facilities, it is able to bring the quality of Kodak products to printers anywhere in the world, when they need it, and as quickly as possible. In Asia, Kodak upgraded its Xiamen, China, plant to produce Sonora plates adding a line capable of high speed production, which not only increased capacity to meet the demand for Sonora, but improves the efficiency across the entire plate portfolio. And in each facility, strict compliance with environmental, quality and occupational safety standards, as well as continuous improvements in these areas, is a central element of the company’s philosophy. For example, in 2018, the Osterode facility was recertified for its ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001 management systems, which covers environmental and occupational safety management. In addition, the facility was certified to the ISO 50001 for energy savings management.
‘The excellence achieved in Osterode is taking place across all of our manufacturing sites as part of our sustained drive to further optimise our processes and our resource efficiency with innovative approaches that help raise customer satisfaction,’ said Sven Freyer, WW director Plate and Chemical Operation vice president Print Systems Division, Kodak.
When a pallet load of plates, whether process free or processed, arrives at a customer site from one of these four facilities it completes a journey that fuses Kodak’s research and development prowess, manufacturing excellence, and commitment to customer service. The journey unfurls as a massive coil of high grade aluminum is loaded onto an unwinder, starting an increasingly high speed automated process that moves through six major production steps. The continuous aluminum coil moves through an electrochemical graining bath, an anodization process, then a coating is applied to the grained and anodized substrate and dried. Next, a high resolution surface inspection system provides a quality control check before the coils are cut into individual plates which are wrapped and boxed for delivery, much of which is automated. It is a rigorous process that translates into high quality for the plates Kodak manufactures.
Kodak’s investments in manufacturing excellence means more efficient processes that help keep costs down, decreases environmental impact, while maintaining high quality products for customers. This is the reason why it is constantly looking at new ways to deliver on this commitment, from evaluating new packaging prototypes that will reduce the amount of waste for customers to streamlining the product portfolio. By 2022, Kodak anticipates that nearly 80% of its plate production will come from Sonora and expects nearly on out three plates it sells to be process free by the end of 2019. To meet the demand generated by the tremendous growth of Sonora, Kodak will continue to invest in building the capacity and capabilities of our manufacturing operations around the world.