The upcoming drupa will highlight the arrival of digital print into the mainstream, Wayne Robinson looks at the big picture
While digital print has been gaining traction steadily over the past decade there is little doubt that at this year’s show only the deaf dumb and blind (no offence) will be unaware of the sheer explosion of digital solutions, highlighting its rising importance to print, and the impressive number of opportunities digital is now presenting.
Whether you are a local jobbing printer, a commercial printer, a packaging printer, a labels printer, book printer, newspaper printer, transactional printer, variable data printer, some or all of the above digital printing has a solution for you.
Those walking the halls of the Mecca of print, the mighty Messe Centre, on the banks of the Rhine in May will be confronted with a truly dazzling array of digital printing solutions, now coming in a rapidly expanding number of formats. And with entry prices starting from a rock bottom $50,000 for a brand name digital printer that will knock out 60 or 70 pages a minute of very acceptable colour print, of variable data, and present them as folded stitched brochures, with the inline finishing it is easy to see the appeal for many printers. You can also pay up to $5m for a digital print solution, but for that you get a press that will produce two metres of a print every second, and will switch effortlessly between different applications.
Digital presses require comparatively little in the way of skills, so labour costs are low, really they are not much more than green button machines, certainly at the lower end and have now developed into a robust technology. They also, by their very nature, are able to easily integrate with digital workflows and crucially with web to print solutions. Ask most vendors if web-to-print is an option with digital printing and they will say yes, but you would be crazy not to have it.
The toner based systems which run from $50,000 up to 20 times that amount are now, to all intents and purposes, able to print to a similar quality level to offset, certainly enough for all but the most of discerning of print buyers to be satisfied with. The high speed inkjet systems are not yet there, but certainly for books, direct mail, transpromo and the like they are at a more than acceptable quality, and there is no inherent obstacle stopping them reaching the pinnacle of offset quality, it’s just a matter of time.
Alongside is a snapshot of some of what you can expect in May, there are other untold stories here that will be revealed at drupa, notably Benny Landa’s nano printing technology,
High speed webfed inkjet
The big battleground at drupa, expect to see up to a dozen systems vying for your attention. Since their launch at the last drupa four years ago, high speed inkjet webs have now been made available in the majority of cases, and are up and running in half a dozen locations around Australia with more on the cards.
Its Prosper press with Stream technology has the smallest ink drop size of any printer by some distance, giving the Prosper a head start over some other systems. Kodak’s current financial woes unlikely to affect development of the Prosper, which is central to the company’s future fortunes.
Late starter, and appeared to be taken by surprise at the last drupa, but at this year’s event will have its own inkjet printer on show. Still the number one cutsheet provider so has a huge base of customers to go at, but will find competition is tougher in inkjet.
Océ ColorStream & JetStream
Early starter, and along with InfoPrint dominates the market, although that market share won’t remain intact due to the sheer number of new systems coming onto the market. Proven technology, and has the widest range of high speed inkjets, has just installed one into On-Demand in Melbourne, drupa will see the launch of three new models.
Now owned and backed by Ricoh, and running with a Screen engine, the InfoPrint Solutions brand is installed in more than 100 printers around the world. The IBM developed system is available with a powerful data management function.
Aiming to be a major player in digital printing, Screen is pouring its considerable technology skills into new solutions. And as the world’s dominant CTP developer, it has plenty of knowledge to pour in. Screen is marketing its own TruePress Jet 520 and provides the engine for the InfoPrint system. At drupe there will likely be new developments and other oem deals.
HP T series
With the industry’s best marketing operation bar none, HP will be looking to wow the drupa crowds with its latest offerings. Dominates the cut sheet market with its Indigo press, and will be aiming for the same with the T series of high speed inkjets, although too much competition to take it to the same heights.
KBA / RR Donnolley
The industry awaits. Both huge names in traditional print this year long partnership will be showing the results of their collaboration. Donnolley will be providing the high tech, KBA the chassis. Could be a major player, and certainly a must see for all drupa visitors.
Manroland / Océ
This combination will be the Océ inkjet printer with a manroland folder bolted on the back, although there may be some Océ inkjet heads on manroland presses. The companies say the former option brings the best of both worlds to high volume printers, delivering finished product.
Frernch built inkjet web first shown at last drupa. This time the new iPrint eVolution will be launched. The standard version of prints with two print heads at a speed of 40 to 125m/min with resolutions of 1200 to 360 dpi, however he printer’s output can be doubled with the addition of two print heads.
Sheetfed B2 inkjet
Last drupa saw Screen and Fujifilm into this new area, this time around there are likely to be half a dozen players at least, including the new Komori Konica Minolta technology, which actually may be in B1 format as well, if so it will the first to be there.
Fujifilm Jetpress 720
Showed at drupa four years ago, the Fujifilm sheetfed B2 inkjet press will print onto standard paper stocks, can utilise existing finishing kit, and its inkjet heads will last up to a million sheets before they need replacing. The Jetpress will be commercially available at this drupa.
Screen Jet SX
As above. The Screen and Fujifilm solutions were launched virtually side by side at the last drupa, and Screen has faced a similar struggle to Fujifilm to gain credibility for the B2 sheetfed concept, but that is likely to change this time around as the needs of printers to produce superfast short run work multiply.
Komori / Konica Minolta
The Japanese twosome will be showing a concept press as the Komori seeks to make its claim to inkjet having watched its German rivals all stake their positions. The B2 sheetfed press promises 3,300 sheets an hour. Once feedback has been evaluated launch date is likely to be 12 months down the track.
New at drupa will be the Elan range of sheetfed inkjet from Delphax, and with the print engine provided by Australia’s own super-quick Memjet technology this will certainly be one to watch, as they are believed to be able to print 500 A4 pages a minute with a 66cm width, that’s an impressive 30,000 A4 pages an hour.
High end cutsheet digital
The quality level at this end of the cutsheet market is now recognised as on a par with offset. Expect higher speeds and high resolution at drupa. At the high end, three companies compete, and offer a sizzling series of features.
Originally developed with Heidelberg, now actually sold by them in this country Kodak’s Nexpress will come with more added value innovations such as the raised ink embossing. The latest SX version comes with a long sheet option up to 660 mm to print 6-page brochures or 3-up A4/letters. It also has a matte finish option and a new light black for smoother tones
Fuji Xerox iGen4
Now in its third incarnation the iGen4 has proved a popular printer in Australia and overseas. Latest version EXP comes with a 364 x 660 mm sheet capability designed to expands the applications you can offer, for instance it will create six page A4 tri-fold brochures, it prints more jobs per sheet - up to 12 postcards or 42 business cards (full bleed) per 364 x 660 mm sheet, and says Xerox prints more jobs per shift - large sheet productivity technology delivers forty 364 x 660 mm sheets per minute - the equivalent of 120 A4 ppm.
Market leader in this sector the HP Indigo is now available in a variety of guises, and continues to raise the bar for quality digital print. There are now eight presses in the series, drupa will surely be the Launchpad for more. Current top of the range is the 7500, which can print up to 120 A4 pages per minute (ppm) in full colour or 240 ppm in either monochrome or two colours, and is enhanced with a patent-pending Vision System for hands free automation.
Konica Minolta bizhub
From unknowns to serious payers, in six years Konica Minolta has come a long way, with its bizhub presses winning plaudits aplenty. The full range of bizhubs with new products will be on display, including the new 8000 series.
Selling like hot cakes in Europe and New Zealand, but hasn’t quite got off the ground to the same extent here, Canon will be hoping this drupa marks a turning point in the fortunes of imagePress here.
Still market leader in cutsheet, the big daddy continues to launch innovative solutions, the latest being its Color 1000 that pumps out 100 colour sheets a minute.
Ricoh ProC series
Didn’t exist in print until five years ago, but as the world’s biggest office products company was never going to be a fringe player when it got in, its global deal with Heidelberg gave it instant credibility.
Now owned by Canon, the Océ cutsheet range of printers is set for a serious revamp, with the VarioPrint DP first out of the blocks, with a promise to cut turnaround times and ramp up productivity.
Launching into production print last year with its ProC901 and ProC751 Lanier is already making a splash in commercial print thanks to its big pictuire approach.
Labels & Packaging
Agfa’s dotrix press has been around for a while now, and continues to offer printers much in the way of quality output in this sector.
Along with Indigo, Xeikon was the pioneer of digital printing, launching onto a disbelieving world at Ipex 93. Without the backing of Israeli millionaires or HP the Belgium outfit has wisely decided to focus.
The case for labels has not been lost on HP, which claims market leading position with its Indigo label presses, which bring the same level of quality and productivity to the sector as in commerical.
Openly committed to becoming a major player in labels and packaging Epson will launch a new version of its Surepress, the Surepress X, which will use LED inks
Fujifilm will be showing a concept folding carton press, which will use the same technology as the B2 sheetfed inkjet Jetpress. According to Fujifilm it wil print on board up to 0.5mm thickness at up to 1,200dpi.
Memjet / Rapid
In this application Memjet is twinned with Rapid’s label chassis to produce a sub-$20,000 digital label press, that operates at super-fast speeds.