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Fujifilm gets $1.6M grant for plant expansions

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Fujifilm will invest $26 million to build this manufacturing expansion at its New Castle plant over the next year. | PHOTO COURTESY OF FUJIFILM

NEW CASTLE – Fujifilm received $1.64 million in taxpayer-backed grants Monday to support its two expansions underway in New Castle.

Last month, Fujifilm announced its second expansion in less than two years, investing another $28 million to add more inkjet printing capacity to its site off Cherry Lane in New Castle.

That investment comes on the heels of a $19 million production plant for pigment dispersions, a colorant for water-based pigment inkjet inks, that it started building last year and expects to bring online this summer. That project is Fujifilm’s first dispersion manufacturing facility in the U.S., with current production completed in Europe.

The Japanese multinational conglomerate perhaps best known for its photography products has operated an inkjet production site near the Delaware Memorial Bridge since 2006, although the site has been home to manufacturing back to the ’40s. Its latest investments by subsidiary Fujifilm Imaging Colorants Inc. will triple its global production capacity of pigment dispersions.

Frank Chalk and Melissa Toledo, of Fujifilm Imaging Colorants, address the Council on Development Finance on Monday. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

“We’ve definitely suffered with a decrease in [the home printing] market but what is coming is the more industrial market – printing of things like magazines, commercial printing, displays, signs, textiles, food packaging, flexible packaging, labels and industrial products,” Melissa Toledo, general manager of the New Castle plant, told the state’s investment board, the Council on Development Finance (CDF), on Monday.

Such water-based inks are a rapidly growing market because they can be utilized in a variety of applications and are also environmentally safe, able to be used in food packaging and cheaper than previous technologies.

The addition of pigment dispersions to the inks creates more consistent, fully featured colors and applications, but the technology to produce them is intensive. While pigment particles are incredibly small, in ink they can aggregate and sink, causing blockages in nozzles that apply the ink. Dispersions keep the particles separate and stable for use in their applications.

“Some of these industrial printers are as big as a city bus, for example, so being able to have high throughput is very, very important,” Toledo explained.

Fujifilm uses its unique RxD (reactive dispersant) technology not only for its own inks, but also supplies to ink manufacturers around the world – in fact, one of its largest previous customers was a rival company, Toledo said. It currently only produces the RxD dispersions at its Scotland facility but will branch into the U.S. with the new Delaware investment.

Construction on the 11,000-square-foot facility began last month and is expected to be operational by the summer of 2023, officials said. The pair of facilities brings Fujifilm’s recent investments in the First State to nearly $46 million.

“A lot of our customers think we can’t build these plants fast enough at this point. They’re really desperate for us to get up and running, which is very exciting,” Toledo added.

To support that expansion, Fujifilm was unanimously approved for more than $1.64 million in taxpayer-backed grants by the CDF. That includes funding to support the plant expansion, as well as to hire 32 new workers. The plant previously employed about 75 people.

The roles would include 10 professional or managerial roles, and 22 engineering or skilled labor roles, with a minimum annual salary of $50,000, according to officials.

While Fujifilm’s Delaware operation has traditionally had a global customer base with a small U.S. segment, Toledo said the company was looking to increase its customers regionally as well as in the South American and Latin American markets.

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