by DPS Magazine Staff
Toner-based black and white (B&W)/monochrome production presses are an important part of the cutsheet digital production print market.
Above: The Ricoh Pro 8310s/8320s Multifunction Production Printer series is designed to drive growth, efficiency, and volume for B&W prints.
“According to Keypoint Intelligence, sales of B&W devices in the 106 to 134 pages per minute (ppm) and 200-plus ppm grew the most in 2020, even exceeding forecast expectations,” shares Lisa Salerno, manager, product management, production print, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. “The primary driver for this growth is large volumes of print for applications like books and manuals, transactional documents, and direct mail, so a fast printing speed is a desired feature. Lower total cost of ownership is a factor in driving print consolidation at the high end, even though these devices mean a more significant capital investment.”
Colleen Marie Molkenbur, manager, business planning and marketing, Business Imaging Communications Group, Canon U.S.A., Inc., agrees, noting a continued, strong demand for monochrome production printing. “Similar to the broader cutsheet market the advancements have been focused on improving productivity and ease of use through advancements in workflow, print controllers, printer capabilities, and in-line finishing capabilities. This is even more critical in today’s market place with reduce staffing levels.”
Even with a decreased cost of color, B&W is still fast, efficient, affordable, and preferred for several applications. Many also incorporate magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) capabilities for check processing and identification. Major vendors continue to support this space with continued advancements.
“There have been many advancements in monochrome production printing over the years, some of these include improved registration and inline sensors, which help create more precise, higher quality prints, avoiding costly reprints while producing a professional look. We’re also continuing to see some B&W presses improving support for darker substrates, bringing eye-catching color to monochrome print with post-process insertion devices and interposers,” states Bill Donnelly, senior technology portfolio manager, Ricoh USA, Inc.
On the Market
Key players in the monochrome production print space include Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Xerox.
Canon’s digital production monochrome presses include the varioPRINT 140 Series and varioPRINT 6000 Series TITAN. The latest advancements include security improvements that range from Security Access Management Keys for service technicians to Win 10 LTSC OS for PRISMAsync Print Servers to improved compliance with security standards such as HCD-PP and other security features.
The company has also expanded support for Light Weight Media with its varioPRINT 6000 Series TITAN, allowing support for media as light as 12 lb Bond/30 lb Text, opening up sheetfed printing for short-run pharmaceutical- and faith-based printing.
The Canon PRISMAsync Remote and Remote Control tools are designed to help operators and managers do more remotely. With these solutions, operators can print and manage jobs on multiple PRISMAsync driven engines from one web-based interface with a unique multi-schedule view. PRISMAlytics Dashboard records press data and turns it into an easy-to-access and interpret dashboard, displaying usage-, production-, and consumption-related information all linked to PRISMAsync-driven digital presses, providing a tool to help better monitor production uptime.
One of the finishing advancements has been the integration of GBC e-wire inline finishing on the varioPRINT 140 Series. This popular professional finishing of documents is a labor-intensive offline finishing task. Now the finished documents can be printed and finished inline, helping to meet the fast-turnaround demands in today’s market.
Konica Minolta’s AccurioPress 6136 series of digital presses is available with Konica Minolta’s IQ-501 Intelligent Quality Optimizer. This fully automated, closed-loop quality management tool provides customers with the ability to produce high-quality output quickly and easily without skilled operators, meaning increased uptime, productivity, quality, and profit.
The IQ-501 Intelligent Quality Optimizer also features the ability to add Auto Inspection Technology, an extra set of eyes to monitor for image quality defects such as spots, streaks, or missing images, and alert the user of any errors.
Enhanced variable data accuracy for the IQ-501’s Auto Inspection Technology (AIT) compares the printed image to the RIPped image, allowing for inspection of variable data areas for image defects. Real-time variable data print (VDP) inspection monitors a variable job in real time, comparing the scanned data to source data. Like AIT’s image inspection, real-time VDP inspection alerts the operator of incorrect or missing data.
In 2019, Ricoh launched the RICOH Pro 8300 series of sheetfed presses to enhance its monochrome sheetfed press portfolio and meet the production demands shaping the print landscape. From pocket folders and posters to direct mail, brochures, business cards, newsletters, books, and manuals, the RICOH Pro 8300 series helps users take on more jobs while freeing valuable capacity on color printers.
For customers with secure requirements in healthcare, insurance, and finance, the company has merged its print technology with Ricoh Process Director and strategic software partners to ensure HIPAA compliance, privacy policies, and billing statements to deliver solutions that help customers focus on their core businesses.
The Xerox Nuvera family is built for high-production environments with its customers making more than 35 billion a year. The Xerox Nuvera 157 MX Production System and Xerox Nuvera MX Perfecting Production System monochrome production presses have upgraded MICR print speeds. MICR, the line of numbers that allows certain computers to read and process information, is key for processing bank, payroll, and government checks with tested and trusted Xerox Nuvera security.
Several monochrome applications benefit from continued advancements and vendor support in this space.
Monochrome presses are ideal for transaction printing and publishing environments such as on demand books, manuals, newsletters, and personalized marketing materials.
Another popular feature is high-speed check printing. Salerno points out that the Konica Minolta AccurioPress 6136P with MICR leverages the company’s expansive history of print innovation with TROY’s patented MICR Toner Secure technology that delivers high-quality, tamper-resistant MICR documents in high-volume production environments.
Donnelly says Ricoh Production Monochrome devices are producing booklets and daily communications in the education segment especially K-12; forms in the public sector enable governments to reach constituents without online access; MICR check printing is critical for work like processing insurance claims and rebates with explanation of benefits; and it still has customers using its B&W devices to add variable data on pre-printed shells.
There is still significant demand for monochrome print capabilities in a diverse market. Therefore, continued advancements support evolving needs.
“There are shared challenges across the sheetfed digital print market, including more jobs with shorter run lengths, faster turnaround times, and the need to do more with less. The advancements need to improve productivity while helping reduce production costs through automation or other means,” says Molkenbur.
“The industry is continuing to transform, but what remains the same is that customers expect high image quality and fast turns. Customers are looking for adaptive partners that can help them deliver what their customers need before they even know what they need themselves, which is really what drives these advancements,” says Donnelly.
The monochrome production print market continues to demand increased productivity and efficiency as well as advanced automation.
The need for increased productivity and efficiency in print drives Konica Minolta to develop advanced automation options for print providers. “Opportunities that allow print providers to maintain lower running costs when the print industry is seeing consolidation enable them to remain profitable. Automation is a critical tool for that. It can offset the need for additional skilled labor reducing the workload on current employees. Automation is more than adding a piece of hardware, such as the IQ-501’s Auto Inspection Technology, to a print shop; it brings another set of hands to help turn jobs around quickly and accurately. In business terms, this means increased profits and the potential for new revenue streams,” offers Salerno.
Molkenbur sees demand for increased security. “Monochrome volumes are still high in corporate in-plant and government print centers where security has become a top priority. Because of this we continue to see improvements in security and data protection and our PRISMAsync print server includes many security features including optional McAfee Embedded Control.”
Continuing on the trend of improved efficiency and productivity, key features of today’s production monochrome devices play to this demand.
Of course the speed, duty cycle, and the cost are key starting points that print providers are looking at when researching any digital print device. “Next is the uptime and reliability of the engine along with the local service and support they will receive. Many applications can have peak volume and customers may require 24/7 service,” says Molkenbur.
Salerno points out that high-speed B&W presses are workhorse machines, and getting the best productivity is crucial. “We believe print providers recognize the importance of investing in workflow automation solutions to improve and grow their operation. It allows for better utilization of their presses and increasing productivity for faster job completion, reducing waste, and overall cost savings.”
“Customers look to enhance their operations’ efficiency and profitability. So, the opportunity might be to right-size from larger, more cumbersome legacy engines and into products with a smaller footprint and robust inline finishing or to address a variable data requirement. In my estimation, the value of monochrome production cutsheet devices has never been greater than it is now. Our teams are poised to build the correct solution set needed to meet a range of goals,” says Donnelly.
Customers producing statements, transactional documents, and direct mail on monochrome devices may require supporting unique workflows and file/data formats, adds Molkenbur.
For on demand book production, which is a growing digital printing market opportunity, Molkenbur comments that customers may also require workflows to help gang and impose the book blocks as well as more advanced inline finishing for high-volume perfect bound book production.
Popular features that providers look for in monochrome devices include high-image quality, speed to adhere to accelerated tight turn times, and productivity/the ability to meet high-volume demands. “The interesting thing is monochrome applications drive the solution just as they do in production color,” he adds.
“Customers have the same needs—versatility of substrates, flexibility in finishing; we just listen carefully to the mix of work and our client’s voice before we jump to solutions and recommendations,” says Donnelly.
Print providers and in-plants continue to invest in B&W production presses as part of a digital print strategy. Many applications rely on B&W and advancements on the latest presses support automation to improve speed and efficiency.
Oct2021, DPS Magazine