Kodak's acrimonious split from former Versamark OEM ink manufacturer, Cincinnati-based Collins Ink, has taken another twist after Collins announced that it would be entering the printhead refurbishing business.
Collins said that the move, which comes just over a month after it terminated its OEM contract with Kodak for the manufacturer's own-brand Versamark inks, was in response to an alleged attempt by Kodak to force it out of the ink market.
Collins has accused Kodak of trying to manipulate the market by allegedly adding punitive printhead refurbishing surcharges for customers who aren't using its own-brand Versamark inks - now manufactured by Kodak at its Dayton, Ohio facility.
In a statement, Collins said the alleged move "would seem to indicate Kodak’s intention to force Collins Ink out of a market it has operated in for over 20 years".
In an interview with PrintWeek, Collins spokeswoman Kristin Adams said: "Collins does plan to get into the printhead refurbishment business. Details about Collins' plans in that regard will be announced in the next few weeks."
Adams added that the move was in response to letters Kodak had sent to customers announcing that it will charge a premium to refurbish printheads that use Collins' inks.
"There is no valid technical reason for charging more," she added. "The printhead refurbishment business is profitable, and it costs the same to refurbish printheads that use Collins Inks as it does printheads that use Kodak inks."
Collins Ink has been formulating and manufacturing inks for Kodak Versamark printheads for over 22 years, Adams said, adding that one of the principle formulators at the company has been working on inks for Versamark printers since 1982.
"Collins' inks were more reliable than Kodak inks well before the two companies entered into a supply agreement. That continues to be the case," she continued. "So yes, it does appear that Kodak is trying to manipulate the market by charging extra to refurbish printheads without which the printers are useless.
"Kodak has a monopoly on the printheads. In tying the price to refurbish printheads to the brand of ink a customer uses, Kodak appears to be trying to gain a dominant position in the market for inks."
Kodak declined to comment directly on Collins claims. However, Kodak vice president and general manager of Inkjet Printing Solutions Michael Marsh told PrintWeek: "From our viewpoint, we put a match writing system out there and ink is but one component of a match writing system.
"Comparing us to Collins is like comparing apples to oranges. Collins supplies just one component of the system — we own the entire writing system and our goal is to provide our customers with the best output possible and the way we do that is to provide the best materials that match the equipment the customer is using."
The Kodak/Collins dispute began last October when Collins tried to abruptly end its contract as an OEM supplier of Kodak branded Versamark ink, citing concerns over the Kodak's financial health.
Kodak quickly took Collins to court resulting in Collins being ordered to see out the maximum six month notice period stipulated in the contract between the two companies.
Throughout the feud, and even during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Kodak said it would boost ink production at its Dayton, Ohio facility to make up for the lack of supply from Collins.
Marsh said that that operation was now up and running, adding: "Various customers have come in and done testing to make sure our ink meets their qualifications and those went well and our production has ramped up. Specialized ink is part of the component business and that is the ink that we are supplying to our customers."
Marsh added that Kodak’s commercial printer partners have stayed with the company throughout the past six financially challenging months. "We had a tremendous Drupa where customers were impressed by not only the inkhead printing systems Kodak has to offer, but also by what Kodak has to offer the graphics arts market in general," he said.
"Our customers look at us as a solutions provider. We’re not just here to provide one component - if you look at the Versamark system and you look at the Prosper system - our customers understand that we have a path to bring them real solutions."
Collins, on the other hand, is making sure Versamark users realise that Kodak’s future is far from certain. "Obviously, many people are concerned about Kodak possibly going out of business," Adams said.
"There is a large installed base of printers and moving to other technologies would be expensive even if there were alternatives that could give customers everything they get from their Kodak Versamark printers.
"At the urging of its customers, Collins has taken on the task of preparing for what happens if Kodak Versamark fails. Collins can easily absorb the extra demand for ink."
To read Collins' strongly-worded statement in full, click here.Tweet
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