Heidelberg has named Ricoh as its digital partner, entering a global distribution contract to sell and support the Japanese company's Ricoh Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition machine and PxP Chemical toner.
The deal, which includes service and support, will roll out initially in Germany and the UK, with a global agreement due to be in place for Drupa 2012. Heidelberg's agreement with Konica Minolta in Australia will remain in place for the time being.
The first public demonstration of the companies' products working together, with the C901 Graphic Arts Edition machine integrated into Heidelberg's Prinect workflow software, will be at the digi:media tradeshow from 7-9 April, Dusseldorf.
Heidelberg's recent UK open house showed a similar printroom set-up, with Prinect simulating the production run and sending work to digital or offset machines depending on which was the most cost-effective, although it was not able to use Ricoh machines at the time.
Initially, the companies will work on integrating colour-management and basic shopfloor data into Prinect, but ultimately this will also include variable data.
A spokesperson said that the Heidelberg had decided that it did not want to partner with digital vendors of performance machines, such as HP, but rather the 'lower value segment'.
"We wanted to find someone to round off our Anicolor," he said.
However, it found that several of the vendors were already in talks with other offset manufacturers. The spokesperson said Ricoh was chosen "in the last several months" because of the high quality of the C901 Graphic Arts Edition print, and the company's strong environmental track record.
Ricoh president and chief executive Shiro Kondo said: "This partnership demonstrates [Heidelberg's] confidence in our digital technology and the ability of Ricoh to meet the needs of the graphic arts industry. Together, we are in a strong position to support businesses seeking to extend their existing equipment and services with a digital solution."
Heidelberg chief executive Bernhard Schreier said: "By rounding off our offset portfolio including Anicolor technology with new digital printing equipment, we are providing our clients the combination of best-in-class offset, and now also digital printing-technology. Utilising both, our customers are able to offer variable data printing as well as shorter runs, next to their established cost-effective and high end quality offset printing.
"With this new partnership we will also address customer demands in the broad spectrum of hybrid print applications, ie, the combination of offset and digital printing within a single print product."