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Fujifilm opens $19M inkjet plant in New Castle

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Fujifilm executives cut the ribbon on its New Castle facility with Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall Long in attendance. | PHOTO COURTESY OF FUJIFILM

NEW CASTLE — Fujifilm cut the ribbon on its new $19 million plant off Cherry Lane on June 17, now making Delaware the home to its U.S. base for aqueous inkjet ink manufacturing

Fujifilm has owned the production site near the Delaware Memorial Bridge since 2006, but last year announced it would invest millions to establish a new production plant for pigment dispersions, a colorant for water-based pigment inkjet inks. The new plant added 8,100 square feet of space with state-of-the-art manufacturing and process control equipment.

“We have the capability to make 20 million liters of aqueous ink. It’s hard to picture, but we calculated that it’s eight Olympic-sized swimming pools,” Fujifilm President and Chief Operating Officer Ian Wilkinson told the Delaware Business Times. “Water-based inks is a huge growth area for us, and the segments [of business] we’re targeting are in the very early stages of transition, but we expect that to quicken. And we need to be in a position to serve those markets as these trends accelerate.”

The Japanese multinational conglomerate is perhaps best known for its photography products, but has since branched out to optics, office and medical electronics, biotechnology and chemicals. In 2020, Fujifilm’s drug arm was developing an antiviral that was under consideration for treatment of COVID-19. 

Fujifilm uses its unique RxD (Reactive Dispersant) technology not only for its own inks, but also supplies to ink manufacturers around the world, and they are used in many water-based pigment inkjet inks. With the new facility in the First State, the company will only produce the RxD dispersions at its Scotland facility and Delaware.

Water-based inks are a growing market because they can be used in various applications, from cardboard packaging to fabric. They are also environmentally safe, able to be used in food packaging and cheaper than previous technologies.

“For us, we really think about the indirect food contact packaging, like the packages you see in Walmart, and the textile and commercial markets,” Wilkinson said. “If you look at the textile market, only 10% is produced digitally. Packaging is between 5% and 10% digital. The rest is analog, but it’s soon catching up. That’s the drive for the market”

The addition of pigment dispersions to the inks creates more consistent, fully featured colors and applications, but the technology to produce them is intensive. Wilkinson noted that printed ink is on a journey from analog to digital, and since printing particles are so small, it can cause blockages in the nozzle. Dispersions keep the particles separate and stable for use in their applications.

While Wilkinson said that Fujifilm would be bound by a non-disclosure agreement to serve their clients, he acknowledged the market is driven by brand names looking for flexibility that digital printing could offer, as one item — or scores of products — could be customized.

The Delaware location will also allow Fujifilm to make a concentrate and pump it to its facility next door, allowing it to ship through freight throughout the nation and Latin America.

Fujifilm will hire 21 new employees to run the facility 24/7. Positions will include process engineers, managers and skilled labor positions as well.

But the multinational company is not done quite yet with Delaware construction. Fujifilm is also building a second 11,000-square-foot facility, valued at $28 million, to add even more inkjet capacity. With a targeted completion date of June 2023, the two plants will double Fujifilm’s production capacity in the United States.

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