By Lisa Guerriero
High-volume printing environments embrace digital presses. Select toner/electrophotographic (EP)-based digital printers are capable of duty cycles of approximately one to ten million color impressions per month, falling into the high-volume production color segment.
DPS Magazine continues its series highlighting production segments. Here we focus on high-volume color presses capable of up to ten million impressions per month. This segment is comprised of both continuous and cutsheet solutions. While some inkjet devices may fall into this category, this article focuses on EP technology.
These presses continue to advance, providing greater efficiency and improved volume capacity, making them a viable alternative and complement to offset. Expanded inline finishing options help improve turnaround times. Enhanced media capabilities and features further enable digital presses to compete in this segment. They handle a variety of sheet sizes, thicknesses, and substrates. By accepting coated stock, textured paper, and synthetic media, digital presses enable additional applications.
Commercial printers are among the early adopters of high-volume digital press technologies and continue to make up the core of this segment. These presses are well suited to the versatility—in job size and type—that print-for-pay organizations require. In some cases, vendors note higher placement levels in packaging environments, in part because of the devices’ expanded media capabilities.
“The biggest opportunities for growth continue for short-run commercial print applications,” says Tracie Sokol, VP, marketing, enterprise services and solutions, Canon Solutions America. “Completely finished brochures and printed materials can be produced quickly and easily with our technology.”
More recently, in plants and central reproduction departments (CRDs) began to embrace digital presses as well, attracted by the increased page capacity and quality digital output. These factors allow CRDs and in plants to cost-effectively keep more jobs in house.
“The biggest opportunity for customer growth tends to be adding page volumes that may have been previously done with alternative processes, utilizing new capabilities in digital print—such as more variations of versioning, unique formats and finishes, and value-added applications,” suggests Leonard Christopher, worldwide NexPress product manager, Eastman Kodak Company.
Advancements and Advantages
Expanded media handling capabilities allow digital print providers to branch out with new services and offset organizations to transfer more jobs to digital. Larger sheet sizes support additional applications like signage, packaging, and pocket folders.
In addition to sheet size, production environments utilize a variety of paper types and weights, including specialty media like synthetics and textured paper, as well as heavy, coated stock.
“Production-class digital presses are designed and manufactured to support a usage model of several millions of sheets with a variety of media substrates—size, thickness, and coated finish—to produce consistent, best-in-class, high-quality output with color fidelity,” explains Avi Basu, director of market and business development, Americas Graphic Solutions Business, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
Kevin Abergel, VP of marketing and sales, MGI USA, points out that high-quality production print devices require quality, loading, transport, and stacking mechanisms that operate continually, simply, and with substrate handling integrity. “A good system design will always focus on the human elements that need to support and manage the functional operations of the equipment,” he states.
Specialty ink and toner options are also available for the high-volume production segment, and many presses offer a fifth station option. Depending on the press, specialty options include light black, spot colors, specialized red for barcodes, and magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) for financial applications. Clear ink options provide special effects as well as protection. Spot coating is another popular option, as are raised effects that add texture to a print.
Metallic and clear options are also available. Offering metallic silver and gold “opens the door for new revenues by migrating lucrative foil stamping applications, such as invitations, certificates, and business cards, to short-run, high-value digital production,” suggests Mary Roddy, worldwide product marketing manager, high entry production color, graphic communications business group, Xerox Corporation.
Marketing collateral is well suited to high-volume digital printing, although applications range and include everything from wallpaper to books. Typical output includes brochures, catalogs, and direct mail including envelopes.
Danny Mertens, director, segment marketing document printing, Xeikon, notes a market shift to highly specialized printing companies delivering services to select vertical markets.
The capacity for specialty output, as well high volumes, often prompts shops to invest in a digital device. This combination enables more applications, additional markets, and the ability to shift more jobs to a press without makeready costs.
“The value of digital color printing is a key area of differentiation and not defined by unit volume of pages or linear feet only,” explains Basu.
Targeted software also increases value, improves efficiency, and facilitates better turnaround. “As trends continue for shorter run lengths and personalized printing, new workflow and software tools help support customers’ changing needs,” notes Sokol.
Further, cost considerations are increasingly favorable for high-volume digital print as vendors strive to develop both printers and consumables for productivity and cost optimization.
“Overall, customers should see a lower cost of ownership for producing large print volumes on production level systems,” says Sokol.
Mertens says reduced toner pricing has an impact on total cost of ownership. “It helps us enter new applications and drive bigger volumes to our presses,” he suggests.
While improved color quality is an important market driver for this segment, economics also come into play. Some devices offer an alternative economy mode where lower per-page cost is a priority over attaining peak quality.
“We’ve introduced economy mode, which can be selected on a job-by-job basis and results in less color saturation, but also less ink consumption,” notes Christopher.
Products for Production
Canon Solutions America provides an extensive portfolio of both cutsheet and continuous feed printing production devices. According to Sokol, the company sees production print as a growth business with continuing conversion of offset to digital printing.
Under its imagePRESS umbrella, mid- and high-volume offerings handle media up to 13×19.2 inches. The high-volume imagePRESS C7011VP maintains engine speed regardless of media weight. With 1,200×1,200 dpi, it features a monthly duty cycle of one million. Multi-feed detection prevents two sheets from entering the press at once. The C7011VPS, also with a duty cycle of one million, features PRISMAsync operation management to increase productivity. It offers a wide color gamut and the look of offset, while real-time automated press calibration ensures consistent color throughout a print run.
The company also focuses on inline finishing capabilities to provide a range of options to improve efficiency and turnaround time.
Several HP Indigo presses target high-volume production, including the Indigo 10000, which handles media up to 29.5 inches wide; and the 7800 for media up to 13 inches. The Indigo 10000 produces up to 4,600 color B2-size sheets per hour in enhanced productivity mode (EPM). The Indigo 7800 produces up to 160 8.5×11-inch color pages per minute (ppm) in EPM.
Both HP Indigo models offer 2,438×2,438 dpi and utilize HP’s ElectroInk. They support seven colors, including white and other special effect inks, and enable spot color. The Indigo 7800 offers Invisible Red, which is only visible under UV light, for barcode applications like coupons, tickets, and cards. It also enables raised ink effects, creating embossed-style textures. Light cyan and light magenta bring out skin tones for professional photographic printing, while light black enhances the quality of B&W photo reproduction.
Kodak’s NexPress line has several high-volume production options, each offering an economy mode, four internal paper supplies, and an environmental control system. The 2500, SX3300, and SX3900 offer a fifth station featuring a variety of finishes and colors, including gold, light black, clear coating and clear dimensional, MICR, red fluorescent, and glossing. The Dura Coat mode allows for applying clear ink only on CMYK areas, providing protection while minimizing clear ink use.
The Kodak NexPress 2500 model produces up to 91 ppm, with a maximum monthly duty cycle of up to 1.9 million. It handles sheets up to 14×20.47 inches. The SX3300 boats a monthly duty cycle of up to 3.7 million and up to 109 ppm. The long sheet option accepts media up to 14×39.37 inches. The SX3900 model also offers the option of sheets up to 39.37 inches. Its duty cycle is 4.4 million, up to 131 ppm. A long sheet pile feeder and delivery unit is available for the SX3300 and SX3900.
Konica Minolta’s bizhub PRESS C1100 offers a monthly volume of one million sheets, as well as scanner and copier functions. It prints 100 ppm in both color and B&W. Designed for offset-type quality, it features SEAD IV screen processing to maintain image stability over long runs. A hybrid de-curling function enables higher productivity and air suction paper handling limits jamming. With a sheet input capacity of up to 13,890, the C1100 handles media up to 350 gsm. Konica Minolta offers multiple options for inline finishing equipment and an image controller.
MGI offers the Meteor DP 1000 XL, which utilizes dry toner and achieves up to 100 ppm and a monthly volume of up to one million pages per month. Key features include an integrated finishing feature set for cutting, creasing, perforating, and trimming. The device handles a variety of substrate types include thick, magnetic, synthetic, PVC, and adhesive substrates. The product also features extra-long formats—up to 47 inches—to handle gatefold brochures, as well as complex publishing, packaging, and sign and banner applications.
Xeikon recently introduced its 9800 model. The X-800 front end’s variable data capabilities make the press ideal for direct marketing work. It features One-Pass-Duplex web fed printing for productivity and 1,200×3,600 dpi resolution. Its five color stations come standard and its web speed is up to 70 feet per minute. The 9800 is part of Xeikon’s Leaflet Production Suite, a complete solution that produces different types of extended content labels.
Xeikon designed the dry toner used in the 9800, QA-CD. Lower manufacturing costs allow the company to make it more affordable for users. The company also offers the 8600 and 8500 models for this segment, which have monthly duty cycles of six and five million impressions, respectively. They both feature a fifth-station option and handle media up to 20.2 inches wide.
Xerox developed its new models, the Color 800i and 1000i Presses, to suit a variety of print-for-pay demands. The devices have a maximum monthly duty cycle of 1.5 and 1.75 million, respectively. They feature an optional fifth color station; options include metallic gold and silver as well as clear to enable a variety of textures and finishes. Using the specialty inks does not affect printing speed, and the cartridges are replaceable by the customer to prevent downtime.
The 800i and 1000i presses handle sheets between 7.2×7.2 and 13×19.2 inches. Media capability includes polyesters, coated and uncoated paper, and other synthetics and specialty stocks. They support mixed-stock jobs. The devices automate color control and image-to-media alignment, and feature automatic tray switching that allows the user to reload during operation. Inline finishing options include face-trimming, saddle-stitching, stacking, multi-position stapling, punching, and tri-folding.
The company also introduced the Xerox iGen 5, which features an optional fifth color option. The platform is available in a range of speeds, including the iGen 5 150, which produces up to 150 ppm and monthly duty cycles of up to 3,750,000.
Productivity and Quality
Digital printers offer new capabilities and efficiencies for high-volume production environments, including commercial printers, in plants, and CRDs. Higher page counts and robust performance enable more jobs to be produced digitally and cost effectively without sacrificing quality.
“We’ve seen a healthy cross section of many industries investing in new equipment,” notes Abergel. “For commercial printers looking to develop customized variable data applications, there are tangible benefits to the fast implementation and quick turnaround that digital systems offer. Printers with business growth perspectives are buying new digital machines because of the compelling return on investment of increased capacity and enhanced personalization options to deliver high margin, smaller runs of well designed, high-quality output,” he continues. “Many in-plant operations that serve corporations with national distribution networks are also purchasing new high-volume printers because of the scalability digital print on demand services provide to support integrated multi-channel strategies and customer relationship management technologies that blend mobile, Web, mail, and brick and mortar retail operations,” he adds.
Print providers benefit from the latest equipment features that present high-value options for digital production environments. dps
Sep2015, DPS Magazine