By Melissa Donovan
Features like print quality that rivals offset, substrate versatility, the ability to immediately finish after printing, and presses capable of handling unique paper sizes like B1 all make high-volume digital production print engines attractive to print service providers (PSPs) from multiple backgrounds.
DPS Magazine defines the high-volume production print range as production presses offering between one and ten million monthly impressions. High-end toner, electrophotographic (EP), and liquid EP devices fall into this category, but it is a sweet spot for cutsheet inkjet presses as well.
Bolstering growth in high-volume production print are PSPs discovering the need to serve customers in specific vertical markets.
This increases the likelihood of loyalty between graphics buyer and PSP, as the printer is committed to the client’s specific needs whether it be direct mail, books, packaging, or something else entirely.
Above: A recent job for Real Beauty Foods required Premier Press to match paper packaging to a previously printed aluminum can. The Komori Impremia IS29 was selected for the job because of the color consistency and color matching capabilities.
High-volume production printers are utilized in a number of ways. Several PSPs share their stories, but before we dive into them, we also hear from leading manufacturers in the production print space on the biggest trends driving this market.
Donna Covannon, director, marketing North America, Xeikon, notes that today we tend to speak more about “print manufacturing” versus “print production” and this, she says, illustrates a market shift to more companies delivering services to address needs for certain, chosen, vertical markets.
Canon Solutions America sees its printing customers shifting to sheetfed inkjet production to accommodate print on demand at affordable price points as books are ordered in real time. Sheetfed and continuous inkjet are strong options for Canon’s direct mail and transactional customers due to affordable printing with lower ink coverage requirements and variable data printing, explains Eric Hawkinson, VP of marketing, production print solutions, Canon Solutions America.
“We also see many of our commercial customers use high-speed inkjet to complement their offset offering and use the inkjet presses to take on jobs with lower or variable volume while also winning new business by offering the value add of personalization,” adds Hawkinson.
Today’s PSPs are stepping up in the areas of agility and creativity to meet the needs of their customers. “The print manufacturing process enables providers to plan batch production runs based on a number of factors—substrates, quantities, finishing, and deadlines,” continues Covannon.
Beyond these macro trends, Scott Robertz, digital printing systems product manager, Komori America Corporation, shares trends specific to the hardware and its successful advancements over the last few years. He lists print quality, substrate freedom, immediate finishing, and B1-size inkjet platforms as primary benefits.
“The print quality currently being produced by some cutsheet inkjet presses has become interchangeable with traditional offset printing. Printers now base their output press platform decision for short-run static work solely on run length. Their clients don’t care how the piece was produced as long as it looks great and is printed on their preferred stock,” admits Robertz.
Cutsheet inkjet platforms are now able to run many of the same substrates used on sheetfed offset presses, providing a new level of diversity when it comes to media handling. Robertz says this enables high-quality work on substrates such as coated and uncoated offset stocks, plastics, synthetic papers, textured stocks, metallics, and canvas.
Efficiency is addressed with cutsheet inkjet platforms that utilize UV ink and LED curing, offering immediate finishing. “Printers are taking advantage of this as it eliminates the need for post coating of applications such as direct mail postcards—saving time and materials,” shares Robertz.
B1-size inkjet platforms are becoming more commercial. Equipped to handle a 29.5×41-inch B1-size sheet, Robertz says some of these presses reach speeds of up to 6,500 sheets per hour. Available with up to seven colors, they provide the capability to reproduce brand and spot colors and may also include inline coating.
Providing Agility for Coupons
In business since 2001, Direct Edge Media offers both digital and offset printing out of three locations—Anaheim, CA; Orange, CA; and Denver, CO. The company operates out of a total of 135,000 square feet combined between the multiple facilities. Its 175 employees help reach customers nationwide.
For digital work, it runs the sheetfed Fujifilm North America Corporation J Press 720S high-volume production press as well as a Xerox Corporation iGen 5 Digital Press. It also offers grand format digital printing with an Inca Digital Onset X3 and R40. Complementing its print business, the PSP provides cutting, finishing, bindery, direct mail, print on demand, fulfillment and supply chain management, structural design, and installation.
Although it still has offset capabilities in house, Direct Edge produces about 75 percent of its printing for national accounts on the digital devices. “When investing in these presses our goal was to provide agility to our business while giving our clients speed to market. The different configurations we use are strategically chosen to add the highest level of efficiencies when supporting specific client accounts with the ability to print variable and large sheet size projects,” explains Ryan Brueckner, co-founder, Direct Edge.
Core applications that rely on its high-volume production inkjet presses include multi-page catalogs, customizable coupons, menus, and corrugate displays. Brueckner says that runs reach into millions for cutsheet and thousands for large format beds for a single project.
For example, Direct Edge recently completed a project for a large retail chain involving four million coupons with four colors variable front and back. The coupons were store specific, but in addition compromised of 25 different offers and a variable quick response code. Direct Edge utilized its fleet of printers to meet the customer’s deadline.
It took four weeks total to produce and ship to a thousand locations. Artwork was received later than anticipated and some of the variable data was also in under the wire, but these two challenges didn’t prevent the PSP from keeping its customer satisfied. Thanks to its color profiling technology, it printed on multiple devices and achieved consistency across the board.
This project illustrates the core strength of digital technologies. “The main advantages of inkjet are the quality and uptime in printing. We feel that inkjet technology will never be replaced and will eventually grow to be the primary method of printing in the future,” says Brueckner.
BIP Printing Solutions of Beachwood, OH celebrates a rich history in education. Its parent company, Simple Solutions, is the brainchild of Nancy McGraw. Driven by a passion to help children excel at mathematics, McGraw created the Simple Solutions approach. In 2003, to support her mission, she began publishing workbooks for elementary school students.
In 2013, McGraw and company VP, Kim Dambrogio, decided to bring the printing of the workbooks in house, with a goal of improving customer service. This decision formed Bright Ideas Press and from there BIP Printing Solutions was born.
Today, BIP prints about a half a million books a year for Bright Ideas Press and thousands more for outside customers out of one 25,000 square foot location with three employees. Reaching customers nationally, it offers toner and inkjet digital printing, perfect binding, and storage and fulfillment services.
Outfitting the operation in the realm of high-volume production presses is a Canon ColorStream 3900Z inkjet press with a Hunkeler roll to cutsheet finishing line and inline perforating capabilities. Its toner devices include a Xerox iGen 4, Xerox Color 8250, and Xerox Nuvera 314 EA. According to Joseph Dambrogio, GM, BIP, the presses provide high output at a low cost with minimal operational overhead.
Specifically, the Canon ColorStream 3900Z met two important company needs—cost and efficiency. “Adding the ColorStream allows us to cut down to a single shift, while increasing output four times over. After analyzing the additional savings using ink over toner and lower maintenance fees, it was an easy decision,” explains Dambrogio.
The Canon ColorStream 3900Z primarily produces perfect bound books in volumes of 6,000,000 9×12-inch sheets on a monthly basis. It regularly completes work for MosDos Press and has produced perfect bound books for the publisher since 2017.
Annually, MosDos requests 12,000 perfect bound workbooks. The most recent run was produced in 40 hours using the Canon ColorStream 3900Z with inline perforating for the interior print and the Xerox iGen 4 for the cover. A Standard Horizon BQ-470 perfect binder with attached Standard Horizon HT-80 three-knife trimmer was used for finishing.
According to Dambrogio, MosDos consistently requests high-quality output but wants to keep costs down. “Inkjet offers cost-effective, high-speed solutions. The image quality is perfect for our product application,” concludes Dambrogio.
Packaging Meets Minimal Prepress
Based in Portland, OR, Premier Press services the Pacific Northwest out of a 180,000 square foot space with 150 employees. In business since 1974, the print provider offers complete services from creative to installation of retail environments, point of purchase displays, marketing materials, direct mail, and custom packaging.
In 2017, the commercial printer considered adding a mid-size variable data press to its portfolio, specifically one that could “produce consistent high-quality product on a variety of different substrates,” according to Michael Zienty, electronic prepress and pressroom leader, Premier Press.
It chose the Komori Impremia IS29, actually becoming the second install in the U.S. at the time. “After a number of tests between multiple manufacturers, we determined the Komori Impremia IS29 was the best choice for the organization. This was based on color consistency, double-sided printing, and substrate compatibility,” shares Zienty.
Applications that run on the press include business cards, packaging, small run catalogs, labels, plastics, variable data mailings, and posters in quantities ranging from ten to 21,000 sheets. A recent job for Real Beauty Foods, a new client, involved matching paper packaging to a previously printed aluminum can.
The Komori Impremia IS29 was ideal for this particular job because of the color consistency and color matching capabilities. For the Real Beauty Foods project the preprinted aluminum can was originally seven PMS colors and black. “The client was pleased at how we were able to achieve a perfect match to a previously printed piece on a different substrate,” admits Zienty.
Thanks to the inkjet press, it took a total of two days from job submittal to completion. No PMS inks had to be mixed and no extra time in prepress was required.
The PSPs contributing to today’s current high-volume production printing environments are molding the future of the industry.
Covannon sees more PSPs moving to shorter job lengths and higher quality work—this is already happening and will continue to do so into the future. “This includes commodity-type applications in mailing and transactional print. They are shifting away from the traditional mall mailings to much more targeted or higher end printed mail or postcards.”
The trend of transformation, as Covannon refers to it, benefits applications of all types. “Transformation from traditional offset to the benefit of possibilities that digital production printing brings. Along with the transformation comes the ability to consolidate, and optimize workflows and create more value for customers and PSPs.”
Robertz believes the progression of B1-size inkjet presses’ capabilities will be impactful on the industry as a whole. “We see single-pass presses that allow commercial printers to produce many applications on a variety of substrates. There will be higher throughput of B1 and B2 inkjet products. Some of these presses have the ability to handle sheets at rates of up to 18,000 per hour. The gating factor is the speed capability of inkjet printheads and data transfer—each of which has consistently increased as technology improves,” he admits.
“We expect to see more PSPs shift their production models to incorporate high-speed inkjet presses—both continuous feed and sheetfed. Inkjet allows for advantages like versioning, on demand printing, and personalization—all with the same high-capacity output expected from traditional offset presses,” shares Hawkinson.
Higher Volumes for All
High-volume production printing is used in a number of segments from mailing to books and catalogs, as well as traditional commercial print. Technology advancements make these devices attractive to PSPs from many different backgrounds. Forecasts into future trends prove this will be no different as the industry moves forward.
Jan2020, DPS Magazine