by Cassandra Balentine
High-volume production print is increasingly complex with both toner and cutsheet production presses well adept at hitting a sweet spot of one to ten million impressions per month.
Shown: Xerox Fluorescent Yellow Dry Ink in the 5th print station of a Xerox iGen 5 Press.
This article highlights the latest advancements in this space, including target markets and applications with both toner- and inkjet-based equipment. For a webinar on the topic, please visit dpsmagazine.com/webinars.
Looking at Toner
While the latest in production inkjet may take the headlines as of late, toner is a tried-and-true technology for the high-volume production print segment.
“The benefits of production cutsheet toner technology are high speed and quality output at a relatively low acquisition cost, easy operation, compact footprint, automated quality/color controls, and a wide variety of inline finishing options,” says Bill Troxil, president, Industrial & Production Print, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, U.S.A., Inc.
These systems are suitable for mid- to high-volume production environments and offer a predictable cost per print with click-based service models. “The limitations are a smaller sheet size, fixed click charges that can be higher than consumables-based plans with inkjet and they may require more frequent service by trained service technicians,” he adds.
“Cutsheet toner excels in commercial print—even signage with a long sheet feeder, book printing—book jackets with a long sheet feeder, and in-plant markets,” offers Lisa Weese, director of marketing, Canon Solutions America, Production Print Solutions. Cutsheet toner also does well in higher ed/educational in-plants like school districts as well as B&W toner for statement printing and customer communications markets.
Troxil agrees, noting that production toner systems are found in many print environments, from school district copy shops to large commercial printers and everywhere in between. “In the smaller environments, they are the primary production devices and in larger environments they handle the shorter runs or rush jobs that would not be economical to produce using offset or larger digital devices.
Their versatility makes the systems popular in these environments as they produce anything from variable business letters, statements, envelopes, brochures, and booklets to large banners.”
However, production toner systems meet a limit in terms of volume. “Cutsheet toner maxes out with a duty cycle of 500,000 to one million impressions per month, depending on the technology. From there, cutsheet inkjet picks up as a great next option with monthly duty cycles up to ten million,” shares Weese.
Cutsheet toner-based solutions are on the market with continued developments.
The Canon imagePRESS C10010VP Series offers a range of distinctive and vital technologies that help drive productivity, versatility, and high image quality. From the R-VSCEL Laser and Active Registration System to the Dual Fixing Technology and In-Line Spectrophotometric Sensors, the digital color press is designed to help make an impact for both current and future customers.
Kodak’s NEXFINITY Digital Press features a writing system that quadruples the density of information being imaged—to 1,200 dpi by 256 exposure levels. The result is consistent, outstanding detail in highlights and shadows.
Heidelberg’s Versafire line of digital printing systems are designed for the cost-efficient manufacture of short runs and print products that are difficult or expensive to produce using offset.
Among its Indigo line, the HP Indigo 35K Digital Press is well suited for high-value folding carton production. The solution is able to print on substrates from 150 microns to capture applications such as rigid boxes. New HD printing features 1,600 dpi for enhanced print quality.
Within its high-volume cutsheet color line up, the Konica Minolta AccurioPress C14000/C12000 Series provides high-volume CMYK cutsheet toner presses complete with advanced automation to maximize production and consistency.
The Ricoh Pro C9200/Pro9210 color cutsheet printer reaches speeds of up to 135 pages per minute. It supports media up to 49.6 inches simplex and 40.5 inches duplex and 470 gsm.
The Xerox iGen 5 Press features advanced automation, an optional fifth print station, and extra-long sheet capabilities up to 35 inches.
Looking at Inkjet
The presence of inkjet in high-volume digital print environments continues to increase. Lance Martin, VP marketing Komori America & MBO America, points out that it works well for short runs, variable data, and new customer proofing.
“Many clients are also seeking a companion printing device to use with existing color inkjet continuous printers,” agrees Steve Coburn, director, global production print product management, BlueCrest.
Inkjet solutions are popular in general commercial print applications such as short-run brochures, catalogs, book publishing, variable/versioning/customization, and any environment looking to improve their process, increase profit, and provide additional value to their existing customers while attracting new clients, says Aarona Tesch, product marketing manager, inkjet technologies, Fujifilm North America Corporation.
“Our clients are seeing great success when they move from color cutsheet and/or monochrome cutsheet toner devices to full-color inkjet. Printing in inkjet allows them to lower the operating cost compared to printing in color toner while matching the productivity of their monochrome toner devices. The result is they can transition more work to full color at an affordable operating cost improving their bottom line,” shares Coburn.
Certain devices in this sector allow commercial printers to run litho-grade coated and uncoated stocks from lightweight bond to board stock for the production of brochures, direct mail, statements, letters, synthetics, signage, including backlit signage, posters, point of purchase displays, books, and packaging, all without applying a pre-treatment in the printing process.
Direct mail benefits from the ability to cost-effectively produce personalized letters, statements, inserts, and postcards on one device in one pass, as opposed to printing shells on offset and later overprinting the variable. “The durable LED UV ink naturally resists scuffing by mailing equipment and does not require an additional protective coating,” says Troxil.
One area receiving a lot of focus recently is election mail. “Election officials and their service providers need a reliable, flexible printing system that integrates into a high integrity, demanding environment to produce the growing volume of vote-by-mail or absentee ballots and other critical election material,” adds Coburn.
Packaging also benefits from inkjet. “The packaging market benefits from the ability to print on a variety of label materials as well as board stocks including 24-point on the Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1e. Its wider color gamut and reliable color reproduction aid in brand color matching, critical in the packaging space,” offers Troxil.
With Kyocera’s own printhead technology, the TASKalfa Pro 15000c achieves high quality and color reproduction, sharp fine lines and text, and smooth gradients. “This cost-effective digital solution for transactional, transpromotional, and direct mail applications has quickly become a customer favorite for tasks such as transaction short-run applications from their larger inkjet or toner devices for direct mail, statements, and postcards,” says Fred Morrone, senior marketing manager, production print, corporate marketing group, Kyocera.
The Canon varioPRINT iX is popular in the commercial print, direct mail, and book printing markets. “We also have some customer successes in educational in plants and recent success with the photo specialty market—thanks to 1,200 dpi output,” notes Weese.
There are many benefits of using cutsheet inkjet technology in high-volume print environments, including lower operating costs compared to color toner devices, increased productivity, and ease of use. “The added flexibility created by white paper input results in fewer paper changes, reduce/eliminated need for pre-printed material, and less paper waste,” says Coburn.
Troxil believes the benefits of digital inkjet in general include the ability to print an image using fewer components compared to toner technology or traditional offset, resulting in high-volume production with greater uptime. “With fewer moving parts, the process is fairly simple and reliable. Of course, digital inkjet allows for variable printing, which is not possible on offset. The advantage of cutsheet over continuous feed inkjet is paper handling. With cutsheet, paper changes and finishing can be as quick and easy as toner devices but at a lower cost if there are no click charges.”
The only major limitation is media flexibility. “Some stocks that work well in toner environments are not ideal for inkjet devices,” admits Coburn.
Troxil agrees, noting that limitations of cutsheet inkjet would have to start with media compatibility with most models. “Manufacturers of water-based inkjet systems require the use of approved special stocks and/or a primer for best results. Even when special inkjet media is used, the paper can become distorted when there is heavy ink coverage. All paper is in limited supply these days, so having a limited selection of approved stocks can be even more difficult,” he shares.
Across all inkjet devices, Tesch says the cost of the ink can be a limiting factor on long runs.
“Inkjet technology provides value to print of any run length through use of variable data and customization of individual pieces, which traditional print processes cannot provide. However, speeds and consumable costs do not make it an offset replacement technology for static products,” notes Martin.
Many cutsheet inkjet-based solutions are on the market.
BlueCrest’s EvoluJet printing system is a four-color cutsheet printer ideal for those looking to upgrade/replace toner printers or add a more effective platform for shorter runs and reprints.
Canon’s cutsheet inkjet technology allows users to replace multiple sheetfed liquid toner units with one varioPRINT iX that prints 312 (4/4) letter images per minute, with a duty cycle of ten million letter images per month and achieve an average uptime of 94 percent.
The Fujifilm JPress 750 is a B2 press is built on an offset press chassis, which Tesch says differentiates the product by offering the reliability of an offset press with 90 percent uptime. The company recently released a high-speed version that is reaches speeds of up to 5,400 sheets per hour (sph), compared to the legacy system’s 3,600 sph.
Komori’s Impremia IS29s UV Inkjet Press is a B2-plus machine that prints four colors in straight or perfect mode, runs at speeds up to 3,000 sph, and performs on a range of substrate thickness on a 23×29-inch sheet.
The Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1e LED UV Inkjet Press offers a B2-plus sheet size of 23×29 inches on which full-bleed letters can be imposed six-up with room for crop marks. The AccurioJet KM-1e LED UV Inkjet Sheet-Fed Press does not require special paper stocks and the LED UV cured inks do not distort the sheet.
The Kyocera TASKalfa Pro 15000c is a color cutsheet printer that prints up to 146 pages per minute and offers support for sizes up to 48 inches with the oversize tray option and 360 gsm.
MCS offers the Merlin K146c cutsheet inkjet production press. The device features no click chart, an easy to use cutsheet format, and low capital cost.
RICOH Pro Z75 B2 sheet-fed inkjet press features 1,200×1200 dpi that’s designed to be reliable on uncoated, inkjet treated, and offset coated stocks.
The Xerox Baltoro HF Inkjet Press enables new application opportunities on a range of offset coated media including gloss, with the optional Color Accelerator Module with High Fusion Ink. The High Fusion print engine with Xerox High Fusion W-Series Inkjet Heads provides true high-definition 1,200×1,200 dpi resolution.
The capabilities of digital print continue to expand. Toner- and inkjet-based systems each provide competent solutions for high-volume production environments, whether it is for direct mail, packaging, or book manufacturing.
Jul2022, DPS Magazine