by Melissa Donovan
Meeting constantly evolving changing demands is tricky, however nimble solutions that increase efficiency help print providers satisfy these needs. Cutsheet production inkjet offers speed and versatility, making it a strong adversary to toner devices. With more intricate, unique applications—including variable runs—requested, inkjet is well positioned to influence cutsheet production.
Above: The Canon varioPRINT iX prints 320 letter images per minute with a duty cycle of ten million letter images per month.
The Drive to Enhance
The latest advancements in cutsheet production inkjet are a direct result of trends in the marketplace.
Print providers face high-level demands from customers that are in many ways adequately addressed by instituting an inkjet device.
“Faced with shorter runs, higher costs, demanding delivery times, and diversifying print offerings, print service providers are under constant pressure to accelerate production. On top of this, many have highlighted that they are forced to compromise because their existing technologies deliver on either productivity or quality, but not both,” says Lisa Weese, director of product marketing, production print solutions, Canon Solutions America.
Brand owners and agencies demand higher quality, lower costs, and flexibility. “No longer are traditional technologies able to meet these new market trends, as witnessed by the number of print providers that have made the move and invested in the new technologies that change how the relationships have been reshaped with manufacturers that represent this new wave of thinking,” shares Bill Troxil, SVP, industrial and production print, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A, Inc.
Enhancements in cutsheet production inkjet focus on scalability, speed, and versatility. “These advancements are driven by print providers’ demands for a path from offset to digital that makes sense and is efficient for their business to enhance their operations,” admits Mike Herold, director, global marketing, Ricoh USA, Inc.
Scalability in inkjet presses is one advancement that Glenn Toole, VP sales and marketing, MCS, Inc., has noticed in the last two years specifically. “Lower cost, cutsheet inkjet printers are gaining market share in the industry as they can provide the benefits of larger, more expensive systems. They are now available at lower price points and customers are also buying multiple systems to increase capacity as their businesses grow. It is a lower risk investment to purchase one system and then add other systems to scale up.”
Speed is another area seeing big gains. For example, the new Fujifilm J Press 750 HS operates at up to 5,400 sheets/impressions per hour, according to Jeffrey Nelson, national sales manager – J Press, Fujifilm – Graphic Systems Division. “Also, the development of a new ink set allows us to run without primer as well. This lowers the overall cost in use and helps push the crossover from inkjet to offset to longer run lengths.”
Versatility is seen through the vast amount of applications that are printed via cutsheet. “As print providers research inkjet offerings to invest in the future of their business, they look for a solution with all the benefits of production inkjet without limitations. While a few presses can produce high volumes of transactional documents or marketing collateral or packaging materials, companies are most impressed when they learn there is one inkjet press that can do it all, like the AccurioJet KM-1e LED UV Inkjet Press,” says Troxil.
Konica Minolta amplified the benefits of UV LED inkjet technology to maximize quality and printing capabilities with features that include new sensors that allow for printing on transparent films, backlit signage, colored, and highly-reflective media; several enhancements introduced reducing weekly operator maintenance; third-generation Konica Minolta printheads and mounting provide maximum image stability; and an optional tape inserter for separating print jobs, shares Troxil.
Moving from Toner
Inkjet isn’t the only option for cutsheet production. Toner is mature and practical with many legacy devices in place. However, some print shops are migrating from toner to inkjet for cutsheet production due to its inexpensive nature and lower maintenance.
According to Troxil, “digital print volumes continue to grow as the market demands. The need for greater productivity, reliability, and profitability are driving print providers to invest in inkjet presses.”
A move to inkjet presents improvements in productivity and overall operations for some, according to Weese. “Our customers continuously hunt for new and innovative ways to take their operations to the next level and expand to new markets and get jobs out the door faster.” For example, print shops can replace multiple sheetfed toner units with one Canon varioPRINT iX that prints 320 letter images per minute, with a duty cycle of ten million letter images per month. Canon cites print providers achieving an average uptime of over 90 percent by switching to inkjet.
“Like most businesses, print shops are concerned with rising costs and need the flexibility to go after more applications. Cutsheet presses like the Kyocera TASKalfa Pro 15000c are designed to provide strong return on investment (ROI) and secure future business growth with ease of operation, minimal maintenance, and an award-winning support organization. The TASKalfa Pro 15000c allows print shops to meet the demands of the production printing marketplace and onboard new applications while keeping costs down, providing the flexibility and total cost of ownership print providers need to be successful,” explains Fred Morrone, senior marketing manager for production inkjet, Kyocera Document Solutions.
Nelson believes toner has reached its peak in terms of speed, size, and quality. “Today’s inkjet solutions are much faster than toner and significantly cheaper to run. They are also lower maintenance than toner solutions.”
Consider cost, throughput, and uptime.“Customers were initially intrigued by the lower operating costs compared to toner but now they are adding inkjet systems because they are generally faster and have higher uptime due to less moving parts and consumables,” agrees Toole.
Dry or liquid toner devices require many processes and moving parts, adds Troxil. “Paper feed rollers, electrostatic charges, drums, toners, corona wires, transfer belts, heat rollers, blankets, and pips all have limited lifespans. Each component can affect image quality and performance. As print volume increases, so does the need for service. The maximum monthly duty cycle on a toner-based system is limited due to wear and tear of these parts. While some components are user replaceable, most service on a toner engine requires a trained technician resulting in excessive down time.”
This isn’t to say that inkjet is overcoming toner. Herold points out that they both still have a place in the market. “It all depends on the needs of the client, what it is being used for, the budget, the substrate, and how fast the client wants to get to an ROI.”
When we discuss the latest demands driving production inkjet cutsheet enhancements, one trend is the more intricate, unique work being requested. Some of the latest iterations of devices include options like automated feeding, advanced media handling, and inline priming/coating to address these needs.
First off, automation in general is highly encouraged. “Automating the printing and quality assurance process is critical to maintaining a low cost-in-use and moving the burden of quality control from the operator and moving most of this burden to the press itself. This frees up the press operator to focus on other things and decreases the skill level needed to successfully run the press,” admits Nelson.
More specifically, today’s economic environment benefits from automation. “As the discussions around labor shortages continue to increase, it’s more important than ever for print shops to consider ways to minimize operators’ manual touch points. Automating workflow by minimizing items in question will help to satisfy that need as well as enable faster turnaround times using shorter runs,” says Weese.
“The most critical aspects for print providers right now are efficiency and meeting customer requirements. By prioritizing automation, enhancing integration with finishing equipment, and leveraging support for a range of media types, customers can reap the benefits of increased capabilities, without the need to add more employees,” agrees Herold.
Integrated inline finishing options help extend the flexibility that print providers look for in a cutsheet device, notes Morrone. Specifically, it enables to them to go after more applications than ever before.
These options include features that enable high-volume feeding and reliable pallet feeds and delivery systems, shares Troxil.
“In environments without an existing bindery, several inline and near line finishing options are available when solutions are required to automate cutting and stacking. The KM-1e offers an optional bridge interface for third-party finishing systems with two-way communication,” he continues.
Cutsheet production equipment plays a large role in the success of inkjet. In a more general sense, these devices are positioned to meet the needs of print shops looking for efficiency, but also creating variable pieces—something inkjet excels at. Whether direct mail or packaging, many of today’s newest devices are versatile enough to enable to print providers to do it all. dps
Jan2022, DPS Magazine