By Melissa Donovan
Cutsheet or sheetfed inkjet solutions are ideal stepping stones from electrophotographic (EP) presses to continuous inkjet systems. Price point and quality combine to surpass the challenges of toner while offering the benefits of digital. Recent advancements in ink, substrates, and software also play a role in cutsheet inkjet’s growing presence. Many print providers are aware of the benefits of cutsheet inkjet and decide to integrate solutions into their businesses.
Above: PostcardMania offers design services, mailing list acquisition, mailing services, and printing all the way to integrated online and digital marketing.
Cutsheet solutions close the gap between where EP capabilities tend to end and continuous inkjet begins. According to Bill Troxil, SVP, strategic business development, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc., cutsheet devices provide graphic arts quality that rivals offset press quality, with operational cost savings due to the ability to print to larger sheet sizes than EP devices.
“Sheetfed inkjet essentially combines the reduced costs of inkjet with the media and application flexibility of sheetfed production. With recent advances in technology, it truly is the optimal crossover point of quality and affordability. This is done with the increased quality that comes close to the look and feel of toner, but at price points that rival offset printing,” explains Jeff Sarringar, senior product manager for the Océ VarioPrint i-series, sheetfed inkjet press, Canon Solutions America, Production Print Solutions.
Compared to EP, Richard Freeley, manager, inkjet sales, Komori America Corporation, says that unless a fleet of EP devices is employed, sheetfed inkjet enables greater volumes than EP devices are capable of printing. “Sheetfed inkjet offers an uptime of 85 percent or better and less maintenance—no fuser rollers, corona wires, blankets, developers, or toner issues. Sheetfed inkjet allows for complete substrate freedom—take it off the shelf or out of the box and run it all the way up to 24-point board, including gloss stocks, synthetics, label stock, PVC, and vinyl.”
Impact on Growth
Some of the latest advancements in cutsheet inkjet involve ink type, media options, and software that drives the front end of the press.
UV ink plays a large role in cutsheet inkjet’s popularity. “Many sheetfed devices are using 1,200×1,200 dpi inkjet printhead technology with a wide color gamut, allowing the output from these devices to rival that of offset. With UV ink and LED curing, printers are no longer limited to a few pretreated substrates. Now, virtually any offset coated or uncoated sheet can be run on UV inkjet devices, as well as some synthetics and plastics,” shares Freeley.
“Presses using UV LED inkjet technology allow for printing on a wider range of substrate types and weights, without the need for pretreated or certified substrates,” agrees Troxil.
Increased media options are a considerable advancement. Hardware vendors work with major paper vendors to co-develop and test high-quality papers for inkjet. For example, Canon Solutions America tests gloss stocks, textured stocks, and heaver weighted stocks in an effort to offer more high-quality options to its customers, according to Sarringar.
The front end of the press also plays a major impact on inkjet growth, shares Andre D’Urbano, director dealer sales and corporate marketing, RISO, Inc. “Using a spectrophotometer, we can now take jobs off the roll-to-roll inkjet devices and have our cutsheet output match the larger unit when asked to generate reprints or other short-run jobs.”
Continue to Improve
Cutsheet inkjet technology is relatively new to the world of production printing. As such, it has continued to develop and improve. The ultimate goal of cutsheet inkjet technology is to fulfill high-quality and high-speed commercial print needs.
“Since the issue of quality is resolved, the next limiting factor is speed. As we see more inkjet devices coming to market with larger sheet sizes and higher speed, more than likely, inkjet impacts the offset space,” foresees Freeley.
Press manufacturers are working to help bring cutsheet inkjet technology into the commercial realm. For example, Canon Solutions America’s Sarringar explains the company’s goal is for continuous improvement, “we continue to work with paper vendors to develop media options with color quality that jumps off the page. We refine our ink sets to deliver vibrant color and solid ink coverage.”
“We’ve noticed many print shops moving away from a model of highest quality, lowest price to one of acceptable quality at a sellable price. Inkjet cannot compare to the quality of offset or fused toner on paper, but it can provide a high rate or return based on personalized content printed at competitive color costs,” adds D’Urbano.
The Future of Hard Copy
Arna Marketing Group, Inc., based in Branchburg, NJ, is a direct mail marketing company in business since 2005. It started out as a direct mail print facility. Today it considers itself an information technology business that provides full-scale integrated marketing and communications services. Its customer base includes regional, national, and international business-to-business companies including Fortune 500 organizations in healthcare, financial services, banking, retail, pharmaceutical, insurance, and education.
Out of an over 65,000 square foot plant, Arna Marketing offers high-speed digital monochrome and color printing, offset printing, direct-to-plate printing, one-to-one and variable data printing, and inkjet web. According to Steven Hegna, president, Arna Marketing, high-volume inkjet represents the future of hard copy output for the company because of its speed, economy, and consistent print quality. Solidifying his feelings for the technology, the company invested in an Océ VarioPrint i300 sheetfed color inkjet press from Canon Solutions America in 2017. The B3 format device—13.9×19.7 inches—offers a monthly duty cycle of ten million impressions.
Realizing the benefits of reduced cost and the media/application flexibility of sheetfed production, Arna Marketing quickly identified the Océ VarioPrint i300 color inkjet press as the right device for the company. It printed nine million impressions within its first month of installation. The press exceeded the business’ expectations—with downtimes and maintenance times lower than anticipated. In response, it added a second Océ VarioPrint i300 to its portfolio.
Using the two inkjet presses, Arna Marketing plans on phasing out its use of preprinted shells for jobs containing variable data. What once took days—printing the static portion of a shell on offset and then digitally overprinting the variable content—is cut down to hours with the Océ VarioPrint i300 presses.
In addition to meeting customer demand and phasing out preprinted shells, sheetfed work benefits further thanks to Canon Solution America’s iQuarius water-based pigment inks, which work with ColorGrip precoating technology. ColorGrip controls dot gain and expedites drying so that standard offset stocks can be printed with the Océ VarioPrint i300.
Customer demand is routinely met. The Océ VarioPrint i300 enables the Arna Marketing team to consolidate sheetfed B&W, highlight color, and full-color digital workflows into one production printing system. “Our customers are happy with the quality that comes off the press,” says Hegna. “Arna Marketing is ecstatic with the production. It is a win-win for everybody.”
Based in Carmel, IN, Bacompt is a provider of data processing, printing, and mailing information-sensitive documents. It is an expert in personally identifiable information and protected health information. Maintaining this title means monitoring every part of its clients’ data processing and printing as well as staying ahead of the latest postal developments and regulations out of its 50,000 square foot facility.
Founded in 1980 as a laser printing service bureau, the company is contracted by many high-end customers including the U.S. government. Bacompt produces financial statements, collection letters, healthcare and insurance enrollment forms, tax-related forms and documents, legal notices, voter registrations, and university and non-profit solicitation letters. These information-sensitive documents are printed and mailed to customers, employees, constituents, and patients in high volumes.
Looking to enhance its quality, security, and service expectations, the company installed its first inkjet device in 2017—an Océ VarioPrint i300 color digital press from Canon Solutions America. Moving from toner-based printing to inkjet, the company maximized uptimes and produced five million printed impressions within the first month of installation.
Bacompt relies on the press’ Sense and Support maintenance feature, which helps minimize unplanned service activities and optimize planned maintenance. Additionally, it is equipped with a PRISMAsync controller, allowing advance job planning and uninterrupted runs. “Without question, efficiency and dependability drew us to the Océ VarioPrint i300,” says Dwayne Hurt, EVP/ COO, Bacompt.
With iQuarius water-based pigment inks and ColorGrip precoating technology, uncoated stock and preferred finishes are attainable at high speeds with a lower per-page cost. Bacompt continues using its tried-and-true stocks, which minimized training on the press and accelerated the time it took to get fully up and running.
“The fact that the Océ VarioPrint i300 is an inkjet production press, combined with its ColorGrip technology and output quality, allowed us to improve everything on the transactional side,” adds Hurt. “Low cost, high quality, and the right time. Before, it was always a tradeoff—if you wanted inkjet’s low cost of operation, you had to give up some of the quality work. We don’t have to do that anymore.”
Adding the Océ VarioPrint i300 inkjet press also expanded Bacompt’s services. It now offers marketing-oriented print jobs like monthly statements that can be branded with clients’ corporate colors, logos, and typefaces.
Another change, offering transpromotional printing to credit unions. Most of these jobs were produced on preprinted forms with monochrome overprinting to add variable data. With the Océ VarioPrint i300, Bacompt now provides a color-branded statement, digitally printed, with logos and watermarks.
More than Postcards
PostcardMania dipped its toe into the world of cutsheet inkjet back in 2016 when it invested in a Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 inkjet press. Two years later the company purchased its second AccurioJet KM-1. But first, a bit of background on the company.
PostcardMania started 20 years ago in Clearwater, FL out of a need for a business that could develop and print postcard-based programs for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Joy Gendusa, CEO, PostcardMania, realized how difficult it was for SMBs to execute effective direct mail campaigns and wanted to fix that. “Even though I didn’t have any experience as a printer or manufacturer, I knew I could provide a better product than what was currently on the market,” shares Gendusa.
Today, the company offers design services, mailing list acquisition, mailing services, and printing all the way to integrated online and digital marketing. This includes personalized variable data printing, email marketing, website and landing page development, and social media management.
Offset presses account for the company’s static printing work. Prior to the first AccurioJet KM-1, variable jobs were completed on toner-based digital printers. The impetus for moving to digital involved Gendusa recognizing that SMBs were increasingly embracing variable data marketing. Using its existing toner-based presses was not a cost-efficient method to address this growing need.
Several features of the AccurioJet KM-1 drove the PostcardMania team to choose it. First, the 23×29-inch sheet size allows for quicker completion of more jobs, which equates to immediate delivery. The press is offset paper compliant, eliminating pretreated paper costs, which translates to client cost savings. Automatic duplex printing saves time, materials, and client postage fees. Running UV ink eliminates time-consuming, post-processing that occurred with toner pieces to protect them against smudging during postal sorting.
“The AccurioJet KM-1 was what we needed to expand our digital printing business. Since we installed it two years ago, our digital printing production is up 340 percent,” shares Mike Custer, VP, digital printing, PostcardMania. Adding the first AccurioJet KM-1 led to rapid growth for the company and thus it purchased a second device in 2018.
The Worth of Cutsheet
Cutsheet or sheetfed inkjet is one of the best ways for print providers to experience the benefits of digital. The technology rivals offset in price with an appearance and feel similar to toner. Many available presses are poised to disrupt the market in terms of cost per page and quality, allowing for the transition from offset or toner printers to inkjet with minimal challenges.
Jul2019, DPS Magazine