by Melissa Donovan
Digital inkjet press manufacturers continue to push the limits in terms of capacity—just how much can one press take on? In the digital ultra high volume (UHV) segment of the market, it’s quite a lot. DPS defines UHV as presses with the ability to deliver more than ten million impressions per month.
Above: A comparison of output from offset versus KODAK PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press.
While the combination of hardware, software, and printheads are what make a UHV press perform to expectations, today’s devices are attractive for more than speed. Developments in media handling, for example, allow for running heavier stock through a press, which extends application possibilities; while advanced and modular drying capabilities help drive productivity.
Nachum Korman, VP/GM, Worldwide Industrial Print Go-To-Market, HP, Inc. points out that two primary advancements among products in this space include productivity and quality, increasing speed without sacrificing quality.
Primary applications on UHV presses range from direct mail and catalogs to folding cartons. This continues to morph as devices are enhanced with new features and product introductions, enabling different types of media to run on the presses.
“Typical applications include statements—transactional/transpromotional, explanation of benefits, books, and direct mail,” states Lisa Weese, director of marketing, Canon Solutions America, Production Print Solutions.
Current products on the market like the Canon ColorStream make it possible for such a range of applications to be achieved on one press. Features like water-based pigment inks allow for printing on uncoated paper without pretreatment. The ink formulation is optimized for lightweight media as well as heavier stocks.
Mark C. Little, senior manager, marketing and business development, RICOH USA, says there’s been a sharp increase in direct mail since the “sunset of the COVID-19 pandemic.” In addition, larger commercial printers and data-driven direct mailers experience demand in catalogs as well.
Korman points out that the HP PageWide Advantage 2200 press primarily supports applications within the general commercial print space, including direct mail; the publishing segment including books and magazines; as well as transactional, which is a segment also handled through its reselling partner, BlueCrest.
Jeff Zellmer, global sales and strategy, Kodak, points out that the UHV press category includes the KODAK PROSPER 7000 Turbo Press, the KODAK PROSPER 6000 Press, and the KODAK PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press. “The presses cover a range of applications, such as direct mail, marketing collateral, inserts, catalogs, and books; other commercial printing and publishing applications; and transactional and transpromotional printing.”
The recently introduced PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press extends the range of applications to jobs where uncompromising offset quality is required. “With superior inkjet productivity, quality, and cost, the PROSPER ULTRA 520 is a true replacement for traditional offset,” comments Zellmer.
Overall, digital inkjet technology is seeing exponential growth and is expected to continue to replace offset as quality and productivity equate to that of offset presses. “As the needs for printers change to include more variable print, high quality with shorter runs, and more versatility, inkjet presses are essential for adapting to the new world of print,” shares Zellmer.
Varying factors are at play when it comes to page volume in this segment of the market. Growth is anticipated.
“We expect to see page volumes for high-quality printing to continue to increase over the next several years. The growth of direct mail and data-driven print applications will help drive these volumes greater or as expected through 2025 and beyond,” cites Little.
The RICOH PRO VC70000e produces anywhere from one million to 40 million impressions per month.
Weese says the Canon ColorStream is known for its productivity and minimal operator intervention. This series handles anywhere from 16 million up to 75 million U.S. letter pages during peak months, depending on the exact model and speed configuration.
One recent development featured on the HP PageWide Advantage 2200 is increased drying capability with three modular options, including one dryer zone, two dryer zones with passive cooling, or three dryer zones with active web cooling. This helps to enable more coverage on coated or uncoated. It is also able to run media up to 14 pts—coated or uncoated.
The press is designed to be easy to upgrade, adding performance and versatility seamlessly with the additional drying capacity as well as web cooling, and digital front end capability.
Zellmer says Kodak’s continuous inkjet presses are built to run. “The presses can accommodate high volumes with ease. As print job sizes shrink the economics of inkjet increase, making the sweet spot for PROSPER Inkjet Presses in the mid- to high-volume jobs that might be a little too small for offset presses.”
Print volume on Kodak PROSPER Presses have experienced strong annual growth in recent years, according to Zellmer, which he says can be attributed to several factors, including advancements in inkjet technology, “increased demand for personalized and short-run printing, and a growing emphasis on sustainability. North American businesses have been quick to embrace these trends and are also benefiting from a stronger economy than in some other parts of the world. Nevertheless, the overall trend towards inkjet technology in commercial print applications is a global phenomenon, promising a more sustainable and flexible future for the printing industry worldwide.”
Products to Point Out
While we’ve provided examples throughout the article of UHV printers, we dive a bit deeper here.
Canon ColorStream offers several enhancements that impact image quality, personalization options, and media range. New native 1,200 dpi printheads deliver stunning, consistent print quality from the first page to the last. In addition, a powerful SRA controller RIPs print data with fully variable content at rated speed. With control over every nozzle in the printheads, the controller is able provide a consistent droplet size and placement, forming the basis for striking print quality. Another attractive feature of the ColorStream is its paper waste reduction features, including waste-free print pause and printing in speed ramps.
Among products in this line up, the ColorStream 8000 series is designed to meet tight service level agreements and reduce market price pressures with uninterrupted productivity and increased output volumes at print speeds of up to 525 feet per minute (fpm).
Last year, HP announced two major presses—the HP PageWide Advantage 2200 and the HP PageWide Web Press T485 HD. Both of these products provide HP customers with the ability to print high quality, productively, and with the versatility to print on a range of media to produce different types of jobs on one press.
When HP announced the PageWide Advantage 2200 press, the maximum quality mode print speed was 333 fpm. Today that speed is 50 percent faster—at 500 fpm. This means that customers can print at the highest quality level even more productively, according to the company.
HP presses use water-based pigment inks. Its most recent ink, HP Brilliant Ink, delivers a wide color gamut on a range of media, including offset coated, offset uncoated, and inkjet optimized papers.
HP’s solution includes an Optimizer fluid applied digitally to allow the ink to adhere to coated offset paper or to deliver pop on uncoated offset paper. Customers can vary the amount of optimizer used depending on the paper type and desired output. No Optimizer is needed to print on inkjet papers. HP also works with paper mills to offer ColorPRO papers that further enhance a customer’s experience to deliver high print quality and high productivity.
This September, Kodak introduced KODAK EKTACOLOR Inks used in Stream Inkjet Technology, including the KODAK PROSPER 7000 Turbo Press, KODAK PROSPER 6000 Press, and KODAK PROSPER Imprinting Systems, which are specially formulated to create brighter, clearer, punchier print, at speeds faster than any other commercial inkjet system on the market, according to the company. EKTACOLOR Inks are available for both pigment and dye-based applications—PROSPER Imprinting Systems only, allowing maximum versatility for its customers.
Additionally, as a complement to EKTACOLOR and KODACHROME Inks, Kodak launched a range of KODAK OPTIMAX Primers. By applying these primers, printers can avoid using expensive inkjet-treated papers and other specialty substrates. OPTIMAX Primers improve ink receptivity, ink adhesion, rub resistance, and image quality across a variety of substrates, including paper, cardboard, plastic, film, and metalized materials. In addition, OPTIMAX Primers facilitate the recyclability of printed products by improving deinkability.
Kodak recently announced Mercury Print Productions of Rochester, NY, as its first customer for the KODAK PROSPER 7000 Turbo Press. Utilizing KODAK Stream Inkjet Technology and KODAK EKTACOLOR Inks, the PROSPER 7000 Turbo Press is designed for monthly print volumes of up to 239 million A4 pages. The press offers printing speeds of up to 1,345 fpm and a throughput of up to 5,523 A4 or U.S. letter ppm. The PROSPER 7000 Turbo Press has three optimized print modes—Quality, Performance and Turbo, which allow easy adjustment of print speed and quality to the requirements of each job.
The RICOH Pro VC70000e is rated for one million to 40 million impressions per month with a resolution of up to 1,200×1,200 dpi. An artificial intelligence powered, closed-lop web inspection drives continual improvement. Patented drying technologies make exceptional quality possible on offset-coated stocks. The press runs with high-density aqueous-based pigment inks, with options for MICR and extend gamut ink. Dynamic variable drop size technology produces up to three different drop sizes at a page element level.
A single-pass inkjet, drop on demand piezo printer, the Truepress Jet520NX features a five-inch printhead module that delivers up to 600×900 dpi resolution and a maximum speed of up to 590 fpm. The gap between printheads was reduced to one-eighth of earlier Screen systems to deliver even higher quality and more stable printing. The printing width of the full-color variable printing system ranges from 6.5 to 20.4 inches.
UHV presses make up a powerful segment of the market. Reaching print volumes of more than ten million impressions per month, the hardware is designed to produce quality final pieces while performing as the workhorse of a business. Thanks to recent advancements in features like material handling and ink sets, the range of media able to run on the presses has increased, which directly effects the number of applications now possible.
Nov2023, DPS Magazine