In a surprise move the two companies announced a partnership deal this morning (5 November), at the same time as Heidelberg announced its half-year results.

Described as “a broad alliance aimed at strengthening existing business and establishing a platform for future-oriented markets,” the manufacturers highlighted the commercial and packaging print markets as key target areas.

Heidelberg chief executive Gerold Linzbach said he envisaged Heidelberg’s digital business overall (including its existing equipment) generating sales of more than €200m within three years.

The two suppliers will also aim to exploit synergies in each company’s global network of customers, and sales and support operations. As well as next-generation inkjet printing products, they will share their know-how in pre-press.

Shigetaka Komori, chairman and chief executive of Fujifilm corporation, described Heidelberg’s reputation among printers as “unique”. “With Heidelberg’s global market present in the printing industry we can introduce our products to new customer groups and increase their potential.”

Fujifilm acquired inkjet head manufacturer Dimatix in 2006. It first showed its sheetfed B2 inkjet colour press, the Jet Press 720, in 2008 and subsequently launched a colour inkjet web.

The first Jet Press 540W in the world has recently been installed at book printer Bell & Bain in Glasgow.

This is Heidelberg’s third major alliance for digital printing. It teamed up with Kodak to develop the NexPress, which launched at Drupa 2000, but the joint venture came to an end in 2004 when Heidelberg sold its stake for just $1 and Kodak took sole ownership. In 2011 Heidelberg teamed up with Ricoh for production printers, in a partnership that is ongoing.

Stephen Palmer, production print director at Ricoh UK, said: “It is business as usual for us. We are delighted with the progress we have made with Heidelberg, both at head office and UK levels, and we will continue to develop the partnership going forward.”

This is the second major manufacturer alliance to be announced within a week. Komori and Landa announced a strategic alliance on 1 November.