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Xpanding document systems' horizons at Xplor

Nov 6, 2001 12:00 AM


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Last week, I spent a few days at the Xplor International Global Conference & Exhibit in Orlando. Xplor International (Anaheim, CA) is a worldwide association representing more than 5,000 members in more than 2,500 companies that develop and use document systems technology. And what is a "document system?" Based on the exhibit, it consists of digital printing devices, software, mailing/distribution equipment, stitchers and information management solutions. A "document" seems to run the gamut from statements and invoices to proposals to booklets to books to electronic bill presentment.

What is an EBPP?
Still, in spite of the depressingly low attendance figures, commercial printers flocked to Orlando in record numbers, hoping to get a better understanding of the solutions, tools and process for communicating customized information. The association reports that the event featured more than 150 exhibitors, and drew 4,500 attendees. Xplor is all about networking equipment, people, systems and ideas. And commercial printers can find no better place to learn more about their corporate clients than at Xplor.

Xplor tends to be closely focused on the data center, the IS department and transaction-based documents. But the commercial printing industry can also benefit from sessions focused on emerging technologies, customer relationship management, print on demand and outsourcing. Its also fun to figure out the acronyms used in other industries. Do you know what EBPP is? You should. If our mail continues to be infected with anthrax, more and more people will turn to Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment (EBPP).

This year1s Xplor, while reduced in size due to problems with the economy and edginess on the part of Americans to travel, did provide a platform to become acquainted with some of the new trends likely to influence our world.

Convergance: it's the new synergy
Perhaps the most prominent was "convergence." Convergence is one of those terms that carries with it a lot of meanings. In the corporate world, or "enterprise," convergence tends to focus on a closer relationship between the data center and the IS department.

For others, convergence revolves around markets and technology. For example, Xplor showcased continuous-feed digital printing devices with user-selectable resolutions--600 dpi for those high-quality black-and-white books with halftone images and 300 dpi (or 240 dpi) for transaction-based printing applications. The same machine capable of providing cost-effective technologies for a variety of products.

And companies are tending not to differentiate their products so sharply between the data center and print-for-pay (commercial printing) markets. Instead of two completely separate product lines, we are starting to see one product line, more modular, with a variety of print and finishing options available to meet specific market and user needs.

Many clustering solutions seen
One of the unique technology demonstrations at Xplor was at the Océ booth where InvisiVision invisible ink marketing was shown on 401k applications. This technology offers a method for printing and verifying invisible ink marks for high-speed imaging of OCR, linear and 2D barcodes and other symbols. In the demo, an Océ connection captured data from the print stream to drive a UV inkjet print head. A self-contained camera system immediately verified that the InvisiVision mark is correct. There is lots of potential in this technology, which can be used to ensure image integrity for post-print document handling in versioned or personalized applications.

The Océ InvisiVision is based on technology available from Videk, who specializes in process automation. For more information, contact Videk at www.videk.com or Océ at www.oceusa.com.

Xplor also saw an array of mid-range cut-sheet printers rated in the 75 to 90 pages per minute category. Many are designed to take on Ricoh, who has had the most success to date in this arena.

Xerox (www.xerox.com) introduced two cut-sheet digital printers, The DocuTech 90 and the DocuPrint 90, each with print speeds up to 90 ppm and 600-dpi resolution. These are entry-level production printers designed for on-demand applications such as books, manuals and brochures. The printers feature an array of finishing options, increased paper handling and are served by the DocuSP controller.

The Océ 750 and 3275 mid-range printers support multiple data streams, including PostScript, PCL, LCDS and IPDS. The 750 is a 75 ppm digital printer, while the 3275 is a printer/copier/scanner version. These units, like many in this category, are also designed to be used in clustered network printing environments. They feature built-in finishing capabilities such as saddlestitching, post-sheet insertion with trimming and three-hole punches.

Speaking of clustering, IKON (www.ikon.com) showcased its Color Cluster at Xplor. Color Cluster is a bundled system incorporating an EFI Velocity Server that directs workflow to two Canon CLC 5000 color printers driven by EDOX document servers. This configuration should appeal to commercial and quick printers looking to shift jobs, such as booklets and brochures, away from more expensive output devices. The Velocity Server can load-balance long documents or multiple sets to the two 50 ppm CLC 5000s.

High-speed black-and-white devices
One final trend at Xplor revolved around the proliferation of high-speed black-and-white continuous-feed printers. While these machines have been around for some time, the latest iterations are worth taking a look at.

IBM's (www.ibm.com/printers) Infoprint 4100 features a 19.5-inch paper width, enabling printers to produce three-up 6 x 9-inch booklets. Running at 175 fpm, the 4100 incorporates features that enhance its 600-dpi resolution. Halftone images at Xplor were clear, sharp and smoothly shaded. The Advanced Function Common Control Unit (AFCCU) is capable of delivering native impositioning support, which streamlines workflow and finishing.

The new DemandStream 8090cx from Océ, introduced at Print 01, also was featured at Xplor. In addition to featuring user-selectable resolutions as described above, the 8090cx supports simplex and duplex printing and black-and-white and highlight color applications. It automatically adjusts to incoming data and produces jobs at 240, 300 or 600 dpi. It also has the ability to run 600 dpi data streams at 1062-ppm speed using 300 dpi consumables. For more graphics-intensive runs, finer 600-dpi toner is available at speeds to 744 ipm.

There was no doubt that this year1s Xplor was much reduced in scope. With many exhibitors deciding not to participate (Xeikon and Danka, for example) and others still formulating their future strategies (such as Indigo and Hewlett-Packard), the show did not overwhelm. Still, a day or two on the show floor was well worth the effort. We can only hope that by next November, our world will have settled down enough to allow Xplor to shine as it has in the past.

For more information, see www.xplor.org.