This year’s show will see digital presses out in greater number than ever before
A host of industry giants be showing their particular flavours of digital, among them Canon, EFI, Epson, Fujifilm, Océ, HP, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Screen, Xeikon and Xerox. On top of these will be many less known names with versions of digital printers sucha s Xante, Riso, Sharp, Panasonic. Digital printing is now mainstream, and more than that, it’s recognised as an integral technology for the future of the industry.
Digital printing now complements and in many cases competes with traditional processes in almost every sector of the industry – commercial printing, publishing, direct mail, transactional, industrial, signage, labelling, packaging and decorative. Its pervasive influence is due to a number of factors. Across the board, digital presses are getting better, increasing the print volumes moving to digital. Toner-based presses are becoming faster, although issues around toner fixing and fusing remain an obstacle to higher speeds. Meanwhile, inkjet presses are becoming more reliable and, because inkjet is a non-contact process, they offer the potential of high-speed production alongside their traditional substrate flexibility.
Add in the steady stream of software developments that enhance workflow and business processes – web-to-print is a classic example – and digital technology offers a growing range of new applications that represent exciting opportunities for print service providers. A switched on digital printer using web to print should be able to establish and run the business for a fraction of the cost of offset printing
For commercial printers the combined challenges from e-commerce, new media and globalisation, print-on-demand and just-in-time delivery have accelerated the move to digital technology, with its promises of increased flexibility, greater productivity and higher margins. Forward-looking commercial businesses are now thinking about more than mere survival; the latest developments in digital presses, workflow automation and inline finishing offer opportunities to diversify into new value-added products and services.
Suppliers to the commercial sector will be well-represented at Ipex, with toner based systems (sheet-fed and continuous-feed) from companies including Canon, Océ, Fuji, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Xerox, HP and Xeikon.
One of the crucial aspects of digital printing is variable data printing, and this is where digital is in a league of its own, and where printers can work with margins that most offset printers can only dream about. However those margins exist only when the printer moves outside its traditional sphere of comfort and begins to look at database management, mailing, multi-media communication and proactive client communication. For the past year the pages of Australian Printer have .highlighted printers making the move into this kind of business, and almost always with significant success. Ipex is the ideal opportunity to talk to the printer vendors about the concept of marketing services provider, and it will quickly become apparent that almost all of them offer a host of support services to enable printers to move in this direction, including software support. Most also offer some kind of web to print solution as well, enabling all printers to get closer to their existing customers, and keep competitors away, and develop new business.
Business used to sending out mass mailings with their minimal response rates are beginning to take notice of the claims of the VDP printers, who will tell those businesses that direct targeted personalised communication is many times more effective.
You don’t need to be a big printer with a host of IT professionals to get into the variable data market, opportunities for the smallest players are just as plentiful, maybe more so. One enterprising printer with only a digital lite system worked his way down his local shopping centre and came up with several new solutions for what have become new clients. Working for his local dentist he produced a personalised mailer for the shop’s customers that had not been in for an dental check-up for more than six months, with their name, pics of teeth that went bad, and the dentist reported a more than 100 per cent response, as those that had the beejasus scared out of them told friends and family, resulting in more people making appointments than had been sent mailers.
The hardware and the software is now available for anyone with some business acumen and ability to manage data, and that should include all printers as they have been handling digital files for 20 years now. Widely respected industry consultant Eliot Harper says, “While often perceived to be a complex technology, the principle and practice behind variable data printing (or VDP) is straightforward - it’s about incorporating content from a data source onto a document template. This can be as simple as a mail merge letter, where the recipient name and address block is merged onto the letter for each record, or complex as a direct mail piece which uses business rules to define the inclusion of images, messages and even design, based on the recipient data.
“And VDP isn’t just limited to direct mail. VDP enables a number of other applications and business opportunities. Any printed application which uses a data source to vary the content by record can be classified as a VDP application. This includes children’s books, labels, photo books, social stationery and much more. Several innovative local print providers are already offering VDP applications and enjoying the benefits.”
Software from the likes of Objectif Lune, XMPie, PrintGroove and others that will all be on show at Ipex are allowing small printers to enter the variable data market with relative ease.
Book publishing is a natural candidate for digital printing. Versioning and on-demand printing allow publishers to reduce the risk in publishing decisions, cut stock levels, remove or reduce warehousing costs, and decrease the return and pulping of unsold books. Books also need not go out of print, which benefits publishers, readers and authors. No wonder industry observers predict that books will be the first major category in which more than half of all products will be printed digitally.
But printing is only one stage in book manufacturing, and the move to full digital book printing will take place in phases. Thus far we have witnessed the traditional print-on-demand phase, where digital produces very short-run books. The next phase will involve more radical automation and on-demand high-speed book manufacturing. Toner-based systems have initiated the first phase and will continue to do so, but I expect a shift to inkjet over the next two or three years.
Direct - bull’s eye
Digital printing of direct mail has come a long way since it was used to address envelopes containing a generic mailing item. The advent of new digital colour presses, better quality variable data and software tools make it possible to implement highly effective campaigns that address precisely defined target groups at the individual level.
As corporate marketing departments and their agencies continue to enhance their database management skills, investing in new tools for targeting, modelling and response tracking, the demand for digital and variable printing is sure to increase. I also expect to see more advanced applications for direct mail, including multi-channel linking and validating of results via barcodes, tracking codes and purls. Mailroom automation will streamline mailing processes and automate printing, inserting and tracking of mail pieces from receipt throughout insertion.
At Ipex, check out the developments from electro-photographic systems suppliers such as Canon, Océ, Xerox, Oki, Xeikon, Koniuca Minolta, Kodak and HP
Converters and printers are now seriously investigating digital printing as they seek to reduce waste, handle shorter, more customised print runs, shorten turnaround times, lower capital costs, improve logistics and reduce inventories.
Toner-based printing can do a great many things really well. However, as the market continues to evolve, customers are asking for more performance in both speed and colour, more flexibility in substrates and different ink types – and all at a reasonable cost.
Star solution digital – Konica Minolta bizhub Press 8000
Konica Minolta will launch a new top of the range digital printer which the company says is its next generation digital press. The release introduces a new brand in Konica Minolta’s digital press range, bizhub Press. The launch of bizhub Press signifies the emergence of Konica Minolta into the heavy digital production arena. According to Konica Minolta the Press brand will be associated with products that are designed to meet the stringent requirements of the commercial offset and high volume digital environments. Image quality, durability, flexibility and volume capability are all focuses of the Press brand. Previous Konica Minolta printers have been branded bizhub Pro. Konica Minolta only entered the commercial print segment five years ago, but has quickly established itself as a leading player, and nowhere more so than Australia.
1. Quality and definition
• Data processing and outputs at 1,200dpi×8-bit resolution
• New Simitri HD toner for natural lustrous-looking images on par with offset printers
• New true 8 beam laser unit with ultra durable die casted casing
• IDC (Image Density Control) sensor for real-time colour density adjustment
• Colour density control with newly developed paper density sensor
• New density balance adjustment mode realises stabilised printouts through consistent density
3. Media handling
• Up to 350gsm paper stock handling
• Air suction belt feeding mechanism offers sure paper feeding to handle a wider variety of media
• A hybrid decurling mechanism significantly reduces paper curling
• Operator replaceable unit management allows the operator to make routine maintenances for significantly reduced downtime
• 80ppm on a wide variety of stock with automatic duplex printing for paper up to 300gsm
5. In-line finishing options
• Hole punching, folding, stapling, saddle stitching and perfect binding in a single system