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Inkjet Update

Jul 1, 2013 12:00 AM


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What’s new at HP, Pitney Bowes, Océ, Ricoh/InfoPrint, Screen, Kodak and Xerox

BY KATHERINE O’BRIEN

Inkjet in 2013 means faster speeds, image quality comparable to offset printing, more paper options and larger sheet sizes. These machines are initially targeting high-volume applications such as book publishing, direct mail and transactional printing, but they’ll also have a home in the commercial printing world.

“Production inkjet is definitely picking up some of the slack from web offset as well as electrophotography due to cost and speed considerations,” reports David Zwang, principal consultant of Zwang and Co. “New microgrinds [in the ink] allow a lot more color, a much wider array space and more print contrast. We’ve also seen major jumps in resolution from the inkjet heads.”

XEROX JUMPS AHEAD WITH IMPIKA

Xerox’s recent Impika acquisition signals its intention to be a production inkjet contender. Impika (“Imprinted with Picoliters for Thousands of Applications”) offers a portfolio of aqueous (water-based) inkjet presses based on proprietary technology. Products include the iPrint, a range of continuous feed production printers that print at speeds as fast as 375 meters per minute, and iPress, a range of graphic communications digital presses with resolutions of up to 2400 × 1200 dpi.

“Now Xerox has a full range of inkjet products—this was a game changer,” says Zwang. “Xerox can now concentrate on fine tuning its portfolio.”

What does the acquisition mean for the Xerox CiPress production inkjet system? CiPress, featuring Xerox’s own waterless phase change ink technology and piezo print heads, debuted in 2011. The twin-engine CiPress 500 prints at 500 fpm or 2,180 full-color pages per minute. Users can run color jobs on low-cost, plain paper.

“There’s been a resurgence of interest over the last year or so,” says Zwang. “Being able to use regular paper is a selling point as well as the ability to print on ‘coated’ paper. A number of people are using it to do retail print programs in Europe. It’s been very successful and the costs are much more attractive versus water-based inks.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Impika Founder and CEO Paul Morgavi has indicated the company is eyeing the B2 format. Impika’s jetting expertise goes far beyond inks, potentially paving the way to enter labels, flexible packaging and functional printing markets.

 KODAK’S GOT THE SPEED

Any discussion of Kodak’s presses quickly turns to speed. Its Prosper 6000XL (an upgrade to the Prosper 5000XL model) reportedly can achieve 1,000 feet per minute (304 meters per minute) and prints at a maximum of 175 lpi at 650 fpm, or 133 lpi at 1,000 fpm.

Also: InfoTrends reports the new Prosper 5000XLi includes an extended paper path, an improved transport/drying system, new more durable inks, and software improvements that better leverage existing camera/sensor feedback systems.

“Kodak has quietly been placing Prosper 1000 monochrome and 5000XL color presses around the world,” says Dene Taylor, founder of Specialty Papers & Films Inc. “Book publishers in particular have been strong buyers. At 1,000 fpm, the 6000XL is about 50% faster than the 5000XL and faster than any other current digital press. The extra speed has been accomplished by paying attention to paper physics as much as anything else—the print engine is capable of up to 3,000 fpm, as has been proven by the Prosper S-30 heads installed for imprinting on high-speed web offset presses.”

Technology Watch’s Henry Freedman credits Kodak’s “exceptional dot output” with enabling first-class print quality. “In one second, a perfecting Prosper 5000XL jets an amazing 14 billion color dots of ink,” he says.

Prosper’s nanoparticulate ink reduces clogging concerns while reportedly increasing color saturation with less overall ink usage. The ink requires only a trace amount of wetting agents and therefore poses less of a glossy stock challenge.

WHAT’S NEXT: Timsons’ monochrome T-Press, capable of printing 5 to 14 million books annually, incorporates Kodak’s Stream technology, and more OEM deals may follow. “Kodak will explode in this space,” predicts Zwang. “We’ll see and hear a lot more from them…. They are looking beyond paper.”

HP GETS FASTER

HP, which was first to market with a high-speed production press in 2008, shows no signs of slowing down. At drupa 2012, it showed three new production inkjet web presses: T230, T360, and T410, with new nanotechnology pigment inks and print head technology that supports faster speeds. Also new: a high-speed imprinting solution for adding monochrome or full-color content to preprinted offset materials—a challenger to Kodak’s Prosper imprinting offerings.

Twenty-four of the total of more than 60 inkjet web press installations are at seven HP customers: O’Neil, CPI, Communisis, Emdeon, Courier, King, and Symeta. Two new customers were announced: Be’eri (Israel) and Kodansha (Japan). “What particularly impressed me was the expansion of finishing systems for the T400 series,” says InfoTrends’ Jim Hamilton. “These include Muller Martini’s SigmaLine, a Weko moisturizer, Videk’s DocuVision, Megtec’s zero-speed splicer and turret rewind, and EMT’s Docu-Perf.”

Pitney Bowes’ HP-powered IntelliJet offerings now include the IntelliJet 20 Printing System, IntelliJet 30 Printing System and the IntelliJet 42 Printing System.

WHAT’S NEXT: HP’s newest inkjet web presses were somewhat overshadowed by its B2 news and news packaging presses at drupa 2012. Having boosted machine speed and output quality, it is determined to expand beyond its direct mail and book market strongholds to capture more high-volume general commercial customers.

OCÉ OFFERS EXPANDED INKJET OPTIONS

Océ’s calling card is its expansive inkjet portfolio—no other vendor offers this range of continuous-feed machines. The Océ JetStream presses are built in Japan by Miyakoshi; Océ produces the ColorStream machines in Germany. Both lines use Kyocera’s KJ4B piezoelectric print head.

The JetStream is probably best known in its monochrome incarnations, but Océ has stayed current on the color side, too. Launched in December 2012, the JetStream 5500 full-color inkjet printing system produces 5,452 letter images per minute on a 30-inch-wide web. Image quality of 600 × 480 dpi is produced at 833 feet per minute or premium 1,200 dpi “perceived” output at 656 feet per minute.

With a print and paper width of 21.25" (approx. 540 mm), Océ’s ColorStream 3500 incorporates innovations perfected on earlier continuous feed devices, including its DigiDot piezoelectric DOD technology. Resolution is 600 × 600 dpi; optional multilevel dot modulation provides higher quality at full-rated speed.

Rated at 75 meters per minute, the production printer lets users minimize their risk when upgrading to the latest technology—simplex users can step up to duplex configurations, and monochrome users can ease into full-color or five- or six-color printing at their own pace.

The modular device has a crawl/walk/run/fly strategy:

  • Crawl: Start with a 537-ppm monochrome simplex printer, either replacing or adding capacity.
  • Walk: Add a second engine as necessary for additional volume or duplex printing.
  • Run: Add color if business growth provides the cost justification.
  • Fly: Add specialty colors or MICR for enhanced printing and a competitive edge.

In February 2012, Océ announced its ColorStream 3700, a higher-speed model rated at 100 meters per minute. According to the company, the 3700’s higher speed at consistent quality will let a wider range of print providers make the transition from offset- or toner-based printing into high-speed inkjet printing.

WHAT’S NEXT: Beyond its high-speed inkjet initiatives, Canon/Océ’s liquid toner developments promise to shake up the packaging sector. Its InfiniStream Platform uses liquid toner with soft roller technology. It has demonstrated excellent print quality on carton stock, with an 18-meter-long press producing 14,000 B2-sized sheets per hour. Stay tuned!

THREE MODELS FROM RICOH/INFOPRINT

The Ricoh InfoPrint 5000 offers three models: Multi-Purpose (MP), an entry-level press; GP (General Production); and VP (Volume Platform).

  • The MP can print monochrome or on-demand MICR at up to 420 ft./min. It can also be purchased or upgraded to print full color at up to 210 ft./min.
  • The GP can be purchased or field upgraded to print full color or monochrome at up to 420 ft./min., with optional integrated MICR.
  • The VP (Volume Platform) can print full color at up to 722 ft./min.

The MP and GP can print in two-up duplex mode at up to 1,832 letter-size pages/min., and the VP up to 3,150 letter-size pages/min.

WHAT’S NEXT: Did you know the Ricoh/InfoPrint 5000 family of presses is actually manufactured by Screen? “These presses are ‘similar’ to the Screen Truepress Jet520 series of presses, but there are many Ricoh-designed differences in the available products,” says David Zwang. “Ricoh has done a great deal of R&D on its own, and in conjunction with Screen, to enhance their respective machines as well as to tailor features and functions to better serve the Ricoh customer base.”

THE BIG FINISH…

One machine seldom fits every need. It’s not unusual for printers to have a stable of inkjet equipment from different vendors, each serving a different niche.

Moreover, while the latest inkjet devices are exciting (and ever evolving), it would be premature to write off electrophotography or offset. Remember the wisdom of Frank Romano! “No printing process will ever die,” he asserts. “In fact, letterpress is making a comeback. We are using more offset plates than ever even as offset volume declines. Why? More short runs.”

BACK TO BASICS

Inkjet printing can generally be divided into two categories: continuous inkjet (CIJ) and drop on demand (DOD). With CIJ, a stream of ink is created; with DOD, a drop of ink is created. DOD can be further subdivided into thermal inkjet (the heat creates the drop) or piezoelectric inkjet (pressure creates the drop). Kodak is known for its CIJ “Stream” technology, while HP champions thermal inkjet. Océ, Ricoh/InfoPrint, Screen and Xerox are prominent users of piezo heads.

Katherine O’Brien, senior editor of American Printer, also serves as an associate editor of GreensheetBIZ. Talk to Katherine at B2Me.me/BC4.