Ted Cyman to receive Friedrich Koenig Medal!

For the first time ever, the Friedrich-Koenig-Medal honors a non-German engineer. Ted Cyman, vice president of advanced development at RR Donnelley, is honored for his merits in the field of digital printing.
The Friedrich-Koenig-Medal has been awarded for special merits in the field of printing technology manufacturing since 1953 in memory of the inventor of the printing machine, Friedrich Koenig (1774 – 1833). The medal is awarded to distinguish persons active in the printing machinery industry for their merits for the technical design and construction of printing machines, research and teaching of printing technology manufacturing.

Here, Ted Cyman explains what the award means to him, that the potential of digital printing has not yet been fully exploited, and why patience is required in the field of printed electronics.

You are the first non-German to receive the Friedrich-Koenig-Medal. What does that mean to you?

Ted Cyman: I feel incredibly honored because of the tremendous respect I have for German engineering. It is precision, reliability and quality. The fact that I got a medal from a German engineering organisation is a great honor.

Did you ever hear about Friedrich Koenig before?

Cyman: Yes. I have heard about him. He invented the high-speed steam powered rotary press, which in his time was an amazing feat. I did a little bit more research now and interestingly enough, Koenig had a customer in mind for his invention, which was the London Times. His idea was customer-driven. And, another interesting fact is that it was a disruptive technology, like digital technologies are today, and Friedrich Koenig was concerned about the pressmen that worked with him. Finally, he took the press to the London Times for the optimisation. The result was more prints at lower costs.

Do you reflect on digital printing as a disruptive technology?

Cyman: Yes. That is exactly the crossover. Digital printing obviously is disruptive and there are many different flavors of it. As digital print continues to improve, it is creating new opportunities to reach targeted audiences in a cost effective manner in our evolving world of multichannel communications. Dynamics in the industry are changing and, in the end, customers are getting better cost and improved quality due to the ongoing technological advancements in digital print. Digital printing is the up and coming technology in the print area.

The medal honors your outstanding contribution to digital printing technology. In retrospect: Which of your inventions ranked most important?

Cyman: I´ve been working in the area of variable printing for 38 years now. Obviously, we went through a number of different technologies. Incredibly, we started with inkjet, went on to some toner technology and then back to inkjet because quality has improved. The patents that were most effective across this whole time span were variable printing patents, meaning for variable data-ripping and the variable components needed for digital printing. And, we also have quite a few patents around ink-jet-systems, which are now at the forefront of the industry.

In spite of its 150 year history – not everyone in Germany knows RR Donnelley. Could you please give an overview of your company?

Cyman: We are a leading provider of integrated communications services and the largest print-provider in North America. We offer creative and design, content management, digital and print production, supply chain management, fulfillment and distribution services in support of our customers’ communications objectives. Our digital and analog printing solutions are a part of our unparalleled platform of products and services that utilise to support the communications needs of our 63,000 customers in 39 countries around the world.

Q: Do you build and sell digital and analog printing machines?

Cyman: We do both, based on our customer’s and our internal needs. Depending upon the specific opportunity, we buy commercially available equipment and we build our own proprietary equipment.

RR Donnelley seems to actively shape the transformation from analog to digital printing. To what extent will analog printing be replaced by digital processes?

Cyman: Analog has been the standard and if you need to print higher volumes of high quality static print, it is going to remain as the primary printing process. For short run variable printing, digital is growing as the preferred printing process but there are quality limitations for the types of products that can be produced digitally. As the quality and efficiency of digital technology continues to improve, more products will be able to utilise the digital printing process. There is a lot of research and development being done around the world that is going to push the limits for digital technology and as demand for variable messaging increases; the demand for digital print will increase as well.

Do analog and digital processes co-exist in the supply chain solutions that your company offers? What are the challenges in fusing the best of both worlds?

Cyman: Both analog and digital processes are critical to RR Donnelley’s ability to support the diverse communications needs of our customers. We strongly believe that the future of innovative communications will be a combination of digital and analog printing depending upon the needs of our customers. We will also see a combination of analog and digital printing occur as offset is being augmented with digital capabilities. Then you have the best of both worlds - high quality offset printing that is matched up with digital technology.

Where do you see the most important trends in printing technology – besides the digital trend?

Cyman: Printing is continuing to evolve. Today, we print graphic arts and communications but going forward printing will be utilized more and more for functional components. A good example, and one that RR Donnelley is also involved in, is printed electronics. Print is no longer just for communicating with words and images but for new functions like passing electrons. Think of RFID labels. We print those antennas. We print RFID and other smart labels for customers, including printing metallic fluids. To your point, the greatest challenges in the printed electronics market are the development of materials and the development of the market itself, as it is still in its infancy. New materials are continuing to be developed and we have developed some new techniques which we believe have significant potential.

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