What began as a collective effort of Europe’s major screen printing suppliers, has grown and evolved to become the home of industrial printing in all its facets. Turning thirty in 2020, the European Specialist Printing Manufacturers Association (ESMA) represents the best in both screen and digital inkjet technologies, and looks with optimism into the next decade. Some of the key figures look back at their time with the association and share future outlooks.
ESMA was founded in 1990 in the United Kingdom as a supplier-led initiative to stimulate the growth and potential of screen printing. Derek Down, then the General Secretary of FESPA accepted the additional responsibility of ESMA General Secretary and continued in this role until 2002 when Bryan Collings took over. “Working for ESMA was a privilege and introduced me to so many genuine business people in our specialist printing community”, recollects Bryan Collings, now the Publisher of Specialist Printing Worldwide, “The organisation has come of age over the last decade and now offers its members great networking facilities and marketing opportunities through its seminars. With my Specialist Printing Worldwide hat on, we are proud to be partners of such a great organisation as ESMA and look forward to a great future together.”
The Specialist Printing Worldwide magazine was launched in 2007 and this was also when ESMA moved to Belgium and appointed Peter Buttiens as the new CEO. He brought new enthusiasm and grew the organisation to where it is today. “As a member-based community it has always been a priority to serve our existing supporters but also to make ESMA attractive enough for new members and steer it towards industry innovations”, says Peter Buttiens, “The combination of the committee work and broader involvement from the team in conference development have positioned ESMA at the forefront of the European industrial printing sector. Screen and inkjet are the two pillars which carry the association and fuel our continuous search for new exciting technology applications. From industrial decoration to functional printing, we maintain an ever-expanding focus on various markets.”
“For over thirty years ESMA has successfully adapted and diversified through innovation and partnerships to continue to provide valuable services – not only to its membership – but also to the wider printing community through its ‘Knowledge Hub’ and industry-leading conferences. The membership may have changed over the years, but the focus of ESMA has always remained the same – to promote specialist printing processes, both screen and inkjet, with equal focus”, comments Debbie Thorp from Global Inkjet Systems, the current Chair of ESMA Board, and adds “On behalf of the Board and the membership I would like to take this opportunity to thank the ESMA team for all their efforts and dedication to maintaining so well the core ethos and goals of our association established 30 years ago.”
As a community of major industry players, as well as partner for a number of recognised research institutes, ESMA has established a community of professionals that help each other excel through education and collaboration. Currently, the association counts 67 member companies, with Zeller+Gmelin and Ricoh as the latest additions. “Ricoh decided to join ESMA to engage in the strong network supporting both screen and digital printing. As a technology provider to the inkjet industry, Ricoh industrial print division wants to help customers to generate all possible benefits of going digital, particularly in the textile sector. Contacts facilitated via ESMA will help Ricoh understand the detailed needs of the market”, says Dominiek Arnout, Head of Business Development EMEA at Ricoh Europe.
Since ESMA’s inception, industrial printing has come a long way and the association has been a consistent supporter in this journey – through its committee meetings and cross-technology expertise, through technical and networking events or through professional peer advice regarding health, safety and environmental legislation. “How much has changed in our industry during these thirty years? Nearly everything!”, exclaims Walter Frick, ex-Marabu and one of ESMA’s ‘founding fathers’, “The technology has permanently been improved, the machines and printing materials have completely changed, and the markets have moved from graphic applications towards many high-tech industrial operations. But the fact that ESMA members are working together for the benefit and further growth has not changed since the very beginning in 1990, when we started to create a platform where all suppliers, competitors or not, could meet and discuss. Good luck for the coming 30 years!”
As the current general commitment to safe events does not call for extensive celebrations, ESMA has postponed its 30th anniversary General Assembly to 2021 when the occasion can be marked with strong member attendance. More details will follow later this year.