Litho Printers Now Paying Higher Prices for Printing Plates Due to Tariffs on Aluminum (printingimpressions)

No matter which side of the aisle you find yourself standing on from a political standpoint, the 10% tariff that the Trump administration has imposed on imported aluminum is now being passed through as a surcharge by major lithographic printing plate manufacturers to their U.S. customer bases.

And, while the cost of aluminum printing plates may only comprise 1-2% of the cost of goods sold for a typical offset printing job, add that to the higher prices printers are now paying for ink – and, especially, paper, which can account for up to 25% of the cost of goods for a typical print job – and the already tight profit margins offset printers face are being squeezed even tighter.

(The paper market, in particular, is facing upheaval with printers facing allocation and availability shortages from mills and distributors, and is being compounded further by the up to 20.26% tariffs that are being charged for imported Canadian uncoated groundwood (newsprint) grades. Click here for my latest update on where the paper tariffs issue stands.)

Surcharges for Litho Printing Plates Now Being Passed Through
Printing Impressions reached out to the largest U.S. litho printing plate manufacturers – namely Fujifilm, Agfa and Kodak – to find out how they are addressing this increased pricing resulting from the tariffs for the specific, higher-grade aluminum that is required for them to manufacture printing plates. Pittsburgh-based Alcoa had been the only U.S. supplier of the specialty aluminum used to make printing plates, but it stopped manufacturing that special grade of aluminum in 2017 in order to focus on other, more sought-after, grades.

According to Richard Rindo, GM of worldwide sales and VP of Eastman Kodak, and Kelly Mandarano, director of worldwide marketing and communications, and VP of Kodak’s Print Systems Div., Kodak recently implemented a pass-through surcharge representing the tariff impacts for its printing plates sold in the U.S., which are primarily sourced from its Columbus, Ga., plate manufacturing operation. (Note: the exact surcharge amount may vary, due to the amount of aluminum required for varying litho plate gauges, thicknesses and sizes.)

“We’re trying to be as fair and transparent as possible,” Rindo said. “It’s certainly tough for everyone, but the feedback from customers has been [one of] understanding.” He noted that aluminum typically comprises more than 50% of the cost of a printing plate, including thermal, violet and process-free types. “We’ve spent many years looking at substrates to replace aluminum, but have never been able to find anything that comes close to the performance of litho aluminum.”
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