By Cassandra Balentine
High-speed inkjet technologies represent an important element in the overall print space. As digital print continues to become a more prevalent option, inkjet steps in to take on higher volume, short-run work. This is only the beginning. While inkjet technologies have had their place in the digital print landscape for some time, its presence enhanced as more vendors entered the space, raising the bar on quality and speed, and generating industry-wide interest.
With technology improving rapidly, manufacturers of inkjet solutions are dedicated to removing any barriers for adoption. “Given how inkjet has advanced in recent years, there are fewer inhibitors to adopting inkjet than in the past,” says Mike Herold, director, continuous feed inkjet technologies, Ricoh. He explains that at one time, the largest barrier to adoption was inkjet’s inability to match the quality of offset—but today’s technologies put those days in the past.
Currently, solutions are available with targeted maximum monthly volumes from 500K to more than 100M. As technology continues to progress, we expect to see higher volume expectations, improved media and finishing compatibility, and better quality.
Many options are available for those looking to break into, complement, or upgrade existing high-speed production inkjet capabilities. From continuous to cutsheet, speeds and feeds run the gamut to target a variety of applications.
Canon Solutions America offers the Océ ColorStream, Océ JetStream, and Océ ImageStream high-speed inkjet presses. The Océ ColorStream Series tops out at 417 letter feet per minute (fpm), and offers a print width of up to 21.25 inches.
The Océ ColorStream Series features four models, which can be configured as monochrome 1/1; CMYK 4/4, 5/5, or 6/6; with spot colors and specialty inks such as MICR, security, and fugitive. Mike Poulin, senior manager, Marketing, Production Print Solutions division of Canon Solutions America, explains that these presses offer advanced flexibility and a growth path for customers to break into new markets. “Not many print providers fall into just one vertical segment anymore, and a press like the Océ ColorStream, with this level of flexibility, helps them get there,” he adds.
The higher volume Océ JetStream Series includes both full-color and monochrome options. Many of Canon Solutions America’s continuous feed inkjet customers are dedicated to higher volumes of full-color work. The Océ JetStream Series extends into the 30-inch arena, offering more flexibility and application opportunities.
Finally, announced earlier this year, the Océ ImageStream 3500 features 1,200 dpi resolution and operates at speeds of up to 525 fpm. Targeting the graphic arts market, the Océ ImageStream 3500 press is able to print on standard offset coated media without the need to add primers or bonding agents.
The Océ ImageStream 3500 is the manufacturer’s first full-color press from the Océ inkjet portfolio that can print on offset coated paper stocks.
The Océ ColorStream, Océ JetStream, and Océ ImageStream all utilize Océ DigiDot drop on demand (DOD) technology.
CTC Japan offers a series of inkjet platforms, which are available in both sheet and web-fed configurations. Featuring Kyocera piezo DOD printheads, the devices are rated at a maximum monthly duty cycle of 2M impressions and feature duplex, four-color and monochrome pages at up to 35 inches wide and 600×600 dpi resolution.
HP provides the T230, T260 Mono, T360, and T410 Color Inkjet Web Press solutions, which utilize HP’s proprietary thermal DOD technology.
The T230 offers a monthly duty cycle of up to 50M monochrome and four-color letter-sized images per month. David J. Murphy, worldwide director of marketing and business development, inkjet web press solutions, HP, estimates that the average monthly print volume of actual placements of all T2XX series range from ten to 25M pages per month. The roll-fed devices provide duplex prints and KCMY plus bonding agent at a 22-inch paper and 20.5-inch print width. Target applications include publishing, production mail, and general commercial printing.
The HP T260 Mono Inkjet Web Press offers a maximum monthly duty cycle of 111M monochrome landscape U.S. letter-sized, 123M A4, and 211M 6×9-inch pages per month. The roll-fed machine provides duplex printing and monochrome plus a bonding agent. It features a 26-inch paper width and 24.88-inch print width. Target applications include publishing, production mail, and general commercial printing.
The HP T360 Color Inkjet Web Press features a maximum monthly duty cycle of 129M letter-sized monochrome images per month of 105M letter-sized, full-color images per month. The average volumes for machines running in the field range from 25 to 50M pages per month—this includes all of the T3XX series. The roll-fed devices provide duplex printing and KCMY plus a bonding agent and handle a 30-inch paper width and 29.1-inch print width. The T360 targets publishing, production mail, and general commercial printing applications.
The HP T410 Color Inkjet Web Press feature a maximum monthly duty cycle of 140M images per month in full color, and 175M monochrome images per month. The average volumes of machines running in the field ranges from 50 to 70M pages per month—this includes all T4XX series placements. The roll-fed machine features duplex printing and four-color plus bonding agent at a 42-inch paper width and 41.75-inch print width. Target applications include publishing, production mail, as well as general commercial printing.
KBA offers the RotaJET 76, which is available as a one-color monochrome or four-color system. Utilizing piezo DOD technology with Kyocera printheads, it features a monthly duty cycle of 85M pages. The maximum web width is 31.5 inches and a print width of 30.5 inches. Target applications include books, direct mail, industrial applications, newspaper, and commercial print jobs.
Kodak offers inkjet production through its Prosper line, Prosper S line of imprinting solutions, and the Versamark products. Most recently, the company introduced the Kodak Prosper 6000 presses, powered by an advanced intelligent print system that continuously monitors, evaluates, and adjusts operations to ensure quality output. Prosper 6000 Presses print at speeds of up to 1,000 fpm on matted and uncoated papers with a duty cycle of 90M A4 top-quality pages per month—up to 2.5 times faster than the Kodak Prosper 5000XLi.
Pitney Bowes offers its IntelliJet printing solutions, which target direct mail, transactional bills, and statements, and one-to-one targeted communications in addition to vertically specific communications such as insurance explanations of benefits.
Ricoh’s InfoPrint 5000 platform is a DOD solution featuring Epson printheads. The roll-fed solution offers duplex printing in color, B&W, and spot colors. Target applications for this press are traditionally book publishing, transactional/TransPromo printing, and direct mail, however, Herold says that new inks and marketing tools promote additional applications including marketing collateral, signage, catalogs, and magazines.
Screen USA offers the Truepress Jet520 series continuous-feed inkjet press, which targets high-volume transactional, direct mail, book publishing, and commercial applications. Controlled by Screen’s Equios universal workflow and RIP, the Truepress Jet520 Series is capable of outputting complex personalized catalogs, color bank statements, technical manuals, and newsletters at full speed. The Jet520 Series features a printing productivity ranging from 210 to over 721 fpm on rolls of general-purpose paper, newsprint, recycled paper, coated and uncoated inkjet media, and peel-off postcards. The Truepress Jet520 engines include single-engine duplex and dual-engine duplex configurations. The Truepress Jet520, Truepress Jet520EX-Color, Truepress Jet520EX-Monochrome, and Truepress Jet520ZZ feature 6.4- to 20.4-inch paper width. The maximum image area is 20 inches wide by up to 157.5 inches in length. The piezo DOD inkjet printheads in the Truepress Jet520 Series can produce a four-level grayscale at two bits per spot. The inkjet printheads are mounted in a single-pass, multiple-head array. Water-based pigment and dye inks are available in four process colors—CMYK. The Truepress Jet520EX-Monochrome uses dye inks that can be converted to print in color.
The Xerox CiPress Production Inkjet System features piezo DOD printheads manufactured by Xerox. The CiPress 325 features a maximum monthly duty cycle of up to 34M images—or sides of a page—per month, or 7.8M feet per month with the twin engine duplex system. The CiPress 500 offers up to 50M images or 11.5M feet per month of a twin engine duplex system. The web width is 20.5 inches single image max—up to 19.5 inches wide and 22 inches long. Target applications include transactional, TransPromo, direct mail applications, and books and manuals that use uncoated paper stocks, including bills, statements, invoices, and personalized direct mail.
The Xerox Impika iPrint Production Inkjet Systems are comprised of three models—Compact, Reference, and eVolution. The iPrint Compact offers a maximum monthly duty cycle of four to 25M A4 images per month—in CMYK, 600×600 dpi; Impika iPrint Reference features two to 25 million A4 images per month—in CMYK, 600×600 dpi; and the iPrint eVolution offers two to 50M A4 images per month—in CYMK, 600×600 dpi. All systems feature three available resolutions—360×600, 600×600, and 1,200×1,200 dpi. Featuring piezo DOD printheads, the systems feature a web width of up to 20 inches with a single, imageable area of up to 18.67×68.6 inches. They offer duplex printing, both single tower two-up duplex or twin tower two-up duplex. Target applications include transactional/TransPromo, direct mail, and book applications.
The Xerox Impika iEngine Production Inkjet Systems utilize piezo DOD printheads and feature speeds of up to 800 fpm in one color and 500 fpm in full-color CMYK. Offering an image area of up to 8.66 inches wide, the system is ideal for a range of applications including marking, coding, envelope customization, inserting, security document printing, industrial object decoration, and material jetting.
Canon introduced its Niagara technology, a platform targeting traditional direct mail, transactional, and commercial print. The cutsheet inkjet press is being developed to rival high-end toner products and will operate with a lower running cost than toner-based devices—giving customers greater flexibility, throughput, and range.
Fujifilm’s J Press line features piezo drop on demand technology and the Fujifilm Dimatix SAMBA printheads. The sheet-fed device offers duplex printing in process color in B2 format—a 29.5×20.9-inch sheet size. Target applications include book covers, direct mail, posters, marketing materials, pocket folders, and dimensional direct mail.
Konica Minota’s KM-1 production inkjet press is currently under development. The sheet-fed press offers duplex printing in process color and a print size of 23×29.5 inches. The target monthly duty cycle is 1.5M impressions. It will feature piezo DOD printheads by Konica Minolta.
“The KM-1 is still under development and the product roadmap for inkjet for Konica Minolta has a bright future. There are many directions we can develop future technologies, whether that is larger sheet size, like B1 format, white ink, and spot varnish for six-color model, or moving to a smaller machine platform like 13×19-inch maximum paper size,” says Todd Smith, manager, product marketing, wide format and inkjet products, Konica Minolta.
Screen USA offers the Truepress JetSX inkjet sheetfed press, which is a B2-format digital duplex machine boasting four-color variable data printing. It accommodates a variety of media including offset paper, inkjet paper, and packaging board. It prints on coated and uncoated cut sheets, including any gloss or matte standard stock, with no need for a precoating stage.
The Truepress JetSX incorporates a printhead that prints at a resolution up to 1,440×1,440 dpi with a two-picoliter drop size. The press prints on 11×8.3- to 20.8×29.1-inch duplex sheets. The maximum output size is 20.4×28.7 inches. The Truepress JetSX is ideal for photobook and other publication work, posters, calendars, folders, and book covers.
For those running offset or target digital work, inkjet is an appealing technology. However, it does often require a significant upfront investment and should be a careful decision.
HP’s Murphy says customers exploring inkjet fear making mistakes when entering new markets, creating a new business model, or adopting unfamiliar technologies. “For some print service providers, the apparent safe bet is to wait to see how the market technologies will evolve and then invest when the right path forward is clear. However, waiting on the sidelines is actually not the safe bet in this ever-changing, dynamic environment,” he adds.
The initial investment in inkjet is a tough pill to swallow for some. Dustin Graupman, VP/GM, inkjet business, Graphic Communications Business Group, Xerox, points out that this should come down in time. “An associated challenge is securing enough pages to generate an ROI on the initial investment, despite many early adopters finding that much of what they are running is not new work to the overall operation after install. One other common challenge is truly understanding what it will take to covert from a legacy process—offset plus mono imprint much of the time—to a full solution of white paper in and finished document out. Workflow and color management are critical to success and this is often underestimated in the project scope.”
One advantage of digital print is its ability to produce variable print runs, however the data needed to drive these campaigns is not always available. Paul Foszcz, product marketing manager, Fujifilm North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division, points out that while the technology to handle more large and dense variable data campaigns continues to evolve, the most advanced marketing programs today have sophisticated data tools to build and maintain customer data. “A large segment of the marketing community does not have access to high-quality customer data. The key to drive the marketing power of variable data will be improved user tools to create higher quality end user data sets,” he says.
“Transforming a business takes vision, courage, and a strong partner and support system,” adds Murphy. “It is a substantial investment to migrate from operating as a traditional, static-data, long-run print operation to one that is profitable in producing short-run, data-driven print with segmentation and personalization. Transformations are challenging, but the opportunities are limitless.”
Bill Schweinfurth, category manager, inkjet components, Kodak, sees continued growth in the adoption of hybrid printing into existing offset printing and finishing to leverage existing investments and growth revenues.
Oliver Baar, project manager, business development, KBA, notes that there are no general inhibitors to inkjet adoption. “Each customer case is different and there are always good arguments—pro and con—for high-volume inkjet. Some potential users doubt if their customers will accept inkjet print quality—however, not all of them ask the end users if they will. Other customers try to reproduce an offset product—without questioning if the product could be changed to make it suitable for inkjet production,” he says.
Future advancements continue to address these challenges hindering adoption.
Aron Allenson, sales support specialist, Screen USA, sees paper as the biggest area of advancement in terms of future inkjet technologies. “Inkjet print quality is highly influenced by paper properties. Advances in inkjet technology have placed new demands on the media because of faster printing speeds and greater resolution through reduced drop volumes and improved ink performance. To meet these requirements, paper makers are developing new paper grades. After paper, finishing equipment is the next major area of advancement,” he says.
Konica Minolta’s Smith agrees, noting that if you look at web-fed inkjet solutions, paper costs, and the availability of coated media have been a challenge to overcome. “As more print volume is being output on web-fed inkjet, paper manufacturers will find ways to reduce the costs of coated media,” he says. For cutsheet inkjet marketing—where Konica Minolta plans to start—Smith sees the biggest inhibitor is that the segment is still in the early adopter stage.
In the future, Herold also expects improvement in terms of media support. “Forthcoming inkjet hardware will be designed with enhanced media handling in mind, being able to accommodate a wider range of coated and heavy stock papers. Advanced ink and inkjet printheads will be introduced, and both of these will contribute to improved quality and durability.”
HP’s Murphy points out that a critical consideration for future improvements in inkjet is the path to upgradability. “Customers don’t want to be told that new technology improvements introduced two years from now are not backward compatible with the inkjet web press they already own,” he explains.
Grant Miller, VP, global strategic product management, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies, notes that some of the most impressive innovations include improvements in finishing equipment that enable more dynamic print production. This includes the White Paper Factory concept, an end-to-end solution that eliminates the need for pre-printed forms and envelopes, helping to streamline print and mail processes and lower operational and postage costs, all while adding greater value to each mailpiece.
Those well rooted in inkjet have dug in their heels against emerging competition, boasting proven success along with new feature sets to intrigue a new generation of applications. Newer players enter the space in full force, each offering advantages from the spaces in which they traditionally play. dps
Oct2014, DPS Magazine