This year saw the long-awaited arrival of the much talked about Heidelberg NexPress 2100 in Australia, and three installations have already been confirmed and completed. This is the first digital colour production print offering from Heidelberg, and from all accounts of those who have installed one, the company has hit the mark. With the NexPress, Heidelberg prides itself on creating what it deems to be a "rugged machine", drawing upon its experience in lithographic press development and manufacture, and transferring this to its digital offerings. This feature was particularly attractive to Ken Williams and his team at Excel Australasia in Melbourne.
Excel Australasia specialises in printing for the real estate market. Williams and his team use the NexPress to spearhead the production of high-quality full colour marketing material which at times must be done in low volumes, and strives to do so at a very economical cost. These property schedules and brochures, marketing literature and direct marketing pieces, are time-critical and are often required for nationwide rollout.
"We extensively looked at all the processes. We had prior photocopier technology, and the difference here in quality and the overall construction of the NexPress is huge," says Williams.
"What impresses me the most about this machine is the consistency in print quality. That is the first and foremost aspect. Also, the ability to print on numerous substrates. We use a lot of heavy stocks in our business, and the speed of print is not dictated by the stock. A lot of machines we looked at are speed rated on 80gsm stock, but once you start getting above that, the speed drops by half or worse. The NexPress prints consistently on heavier stocks without paper jams or shift in colour or print quality. The machine is also very robust, and we have the ability to rectify minor things with ease."
"It wasn’t just down to the machine either. It was the after sales support also. Heidelberg literally have a whole system they roll out in support of the NexPress."
According to Williams, the NexPress has become so fundamental to his business that it will form the foundation of the company’s future growth.
"What this press does is give us the ability to now grow our business. We are looking to expand our business significantly over the next 12 months and it is anticipated that we will be buying another press in the near future."
The NexPress 2100 is capable of printing 2100 A4 (letter) 4/4 sheets per hour, 1050 A3 (tabloid) 4/4 sheets per hour, 4200 A4 (letter) 4/0 sheets per hour, or 2100 A3 (tabloid) 4/0 sheets per hour at 600dpi. It is designed to handle paper stocks between 80gsm and 300gsm, at a maximum sheet size of 350x470mm.
The Xerox DocuColor 6060, also released this year, builds upon the DocuColor 2000 series of digital colour presses. It prints at a rate of up to 3600 A4 images per hour, offers a resolution of 600x600 pixels per inch with a full eight bits of colour depth per pixel.
It can print on stock weights ranging from 64gsm lightweight paper to as high as 300gsm cover stock, and allows use of as many as four different stocks automatically in a single job or a full load of 8000 sheets in its four loading trays.
According to Fuji Xerox, when printing on heavyweight stocks, the print speed of the DocuColor 6060 has increased by as much as 50 per cent over previous models. In terms of finishing, customers can choose to add one or two high capacity stackers, a stacker/stapler, or a high capacity stacker with a stacker/stapler. An online booklet maker is also available to produce fully trimmed, scored and folded saddle stitched documents.
Installing its DocuColor 6060 in July, Melbourne’s Classic Colour Copying was attracted to the high-powered digital colour press by its consistent print quality and ability to print at high speed on thicker paper stocks.
Classic Colour Copying offers a range of print services for their customers on the DocuColor 6060, from a one-off proof to promotional leaflets and perfect-bound books.
Jim Morris, Classic Colour Copying managing director, says, "Since installing the DocuColor 6060, our workflow has become more streamlined, our deadlines are easier to schedule and meet and, in turn, our customers are a lot happier.
"Achieving consistent customer satisfaction is challenging. If you offer them a better print service, as we have with the 6060, then they expect that all the time. I’m happy to say the 6060 meets this challenge head-on, fulfilling our customers demands in regards to not only turnaround speed, but also quality."
Print To Post installed its DocuColor 6060 along with Fuji Xerox Australia’s variable software solutions VIPP and Darwin Desktop in August, and, according to Max Decia, Print To Post managing director, the company has not looked back since. The company, located in Brookvale on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, is a mailhouse specialising in boutique applications for innovative direct marketing work including laser printing, envelope inserting, short-run book printing and fulfilment.
"When we show our clients what we can achieve using the DocuColor 6060, along with its impeccable print quality, their jaws literally hit the floor," says Decia.
"The Xerox DocuColor 6060 paired with VIPP and Darwin Desktop has boosted our productivity immensely, giving us a strong footing in the growing variable colour market. It has also given us the ability to get into the door with new clients and say yes to a lot more jobs. I often say to them, whatever you can imagine, we can print."
Cool with Canon
A common feature on the Australian digital printing landscape for some time now is the Canon CLC1150, which underwent an upgrade earlier this year and is now known as a CLC1160. The system now offers 42 pages per minute in black and white and 11 pages per minute in full colour at 400x800dpi, an A3+ printable area and 3DAP approval for proofing when connected with a Cyclone Digital Proofer. Like the 6060, the CLC series of production printers are gaining acceptance as a viable laser proofing option and this was what caught the attention of coolWISE Creative in Melbourne. To assist coolWISE in providing high-quality digital prepress proofs, coolWISE invested in a Canon CLC1150 and ColorBus Cyclone rip.
Nigel Abbott, coolWISE Creative managing director, says, "At coolWISE we had sought a strategic solution on how to re-enter into that market. We decided to get back into the early phase of the production process where we could actually produce the prepress proof for client approval before sending it to the printers and, at the same time, keep the process flowing in one direction."
Previously, the process saw the creative material approved by the client, then sent to a printer for proofing. This proof had to return to coolWISE for final approval before being sent back to the printers for printing. Now, coolWISE can offer its customers a fuller and more efficient solution by providing the proofing as well as the design. However, for Abbott, success boiled down to one thing, the return on investment.
"The decision for graphic design studios to invest in new technology presents an ongoing challenge. An iron-clad guarantee for a return on investment would encourage us to make larger and greater investments in technology. But this is not always possible. We’re finding now that we’ve taken the step and made the investment in the Canon solutions, that we can offer a greater range of solutions to customers and the upside is that we now attract more work as result of the new technology and the efficiencies this has delivered. For those customers coming to us for proofing services, we’re now able to offer them a more controlled, calibrated result. Additionally, there’s the CLC’s native ability to print rapidly. We had a recent client who did 800 prints in a morning from Quark, PDFs and PowerPoint files and the CLC produced the results without the impediments of paper jams or faults," says Abbott.
"The ColorBus Cyclone rip was particularly important in upgrading our capabilities as this rip includes digital prepress proofing via the 3DAP proofing software. Providing services within the 3DAP standards benchmark provides far greater customer confidence and allows us to complete a broader part of the process in terms of proofing."
Océ created waves in the printing industry in 2002 when it released the CPS700, utilising its direct imaging printing process, which transfers the complete toner image directly onto an intermediate before being pressed onto the paper. The reason behind this process is reliability and repeatability, according to Océ. Océ says this imaging method holds various advantages for image quality, and is suitable for high quality printing of shorter run lengths. The image quality achievable with the CPS700 is 400x1600dpi, printing both simplex and duplex at 25 A4 images or 12.5 A3 images per minute. It can handle media from 75gsm to 250gsm, with printing speed not affected up to 210gsm, regardless of the type of media used.
This solution has proven ideal for Melbourne-based Print Quik. According to Paul Higgs, Print Quik director, there are numerous reasons why he chose the CPS700 for printing his company’s staple of short-run books, book covers and marketing materials.
"We have been a user of Océ technology before, and what we were looking for was a solution that would be reliable, with no breakdowns or paper jams, and the CPS700 proved it could offer us that," says Higgs.
"Because of our client base, we also needed a machine that could provide offset-like quality, and colour consistency. Also, the fact that it has a small footprint was a major factor in us choosing it. On top of that, it is not affected by humidity, heat or the environment, and you can laminate the work, and fold without creasing."
Higgs says that in the short time his company has had the machine, he has been very pleased with its performance, and says it is generating a lot of interest among his customers.
"We are getting a lot of interest in he short run book market, and we see that as a future growth area. The CPS700 will definitely be a major part of our revenue stream for some time to come," says Higgs.
So fundamental to Océ is the technology housed within the CPS700, the company has been refining it significantly since its launch 18 months ago, with expectations being that key advances in this area will be exhibited at Océ Open House in Germany in February 2004.
Another high-end production machine that has experienced strong sales globally is the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Indigo press family. The HP Indigo Press 3000 is designed for demanding production environments, delivering up to seven-colour printing, high definition images and a wide substrate selection. Proving popular with short-run and personalised printing, throughput is geared to ensure fast time-to-market, reaching 4000 four-colour A4 single sided images-per-hour (two-up) or 16,000 single-colour A4 images-per-hour (two-up).
Due to this, says HP, the Indigo 3000 can dramatically reduce turnaround time as well as maximising a company’s workflow with electronic collation, automatic duplexing, seamless job changes and colour personalisation. The press also utilises liquid HP ElectroInk to enable colour printing at 800x800dpi resolution and 180 lines per inch, with optional five, six and seven-colour inking stations to enable the printer to augment four process colours with HP IndiChrome onpress and offpress special colours.
According to Don O’Hara, Imatec Solutions director, all this adds up to a machine capable of quality printing for the most demanding of customers, the very reason he chose the machine for his Sydney-based establishment back in March this year.
"We’ve been in digital printing now for seven years, and we started with older equipment before moving to the Indigo 3000 when it became available. The print quality is amazing. It has actually escalated our revenue due to our customers appreciating how good the print quality is. Talk to some printers, and they say it is litho quality. We are very happy with it," says O’Hara.
"The 3000, which has reintroduced quality to the business, has actually brought back clients that had become sick and tired of poor quality. We have greatly increased our client list, so they are very happy with it for sure."
The Indigo 3000 heads up the company’s driving force of marketing solutions and digital printing, which includes proofing services. For O’Hara and his team, the machine’s flexibility as a proofing solution, coupled has proven to be a big plus.
"That’s what we like most about this press, the ability to be able to proof a job while we are actually running a commercial job, because it has secondary feed and delivery. For our clients in the digital arena, that means quick turnaround and we find that they like to get their proofs back as quick as possible. In the old days, it was a bit of a tedious operation. Also, the 3000 has the ability to print on the stock that we proofed it on," says O’Hara.
"We have another Indigo that we bought some 18 months ago at our Perth operation, and it escalated the turnover in that business by 200 per cent. We found that the Sydney market was ready for the quality level to lift, and when this 3000 became available we decided to put one in here. We did look at others, but this suits us and fits where we are going."
Konica Minolta delivers
Inner-Sydney franchised print and copying house MBE Newtown has revolutionised its colour print production, thanks to a digital colour production system from Konica Minolta brought online last May.
Douglas Catt, MBE Newtown owner, says that while his earlier Minolta colour copy machine "did a superb job", it was considerably slower than the current 32 page/min digital system, and some more complex jobs previously required considerably more man-handling.
"We have managed to slash production times, in some cases by more than 50 per cent, double colour output and halve production costs," he says. "This new system means we no longer face dramas when it comes to tight production schedules – and we have been able to win a lot more high-value colour work than was previously possible."
MBE Newtown, while addressing walk-in, one-off consumer printing requirements in the local area, now handles much larger, higher-quality colour print jobs, courtesy of the new production system.
Having delivered six months of solid production, more than 250,000 clicks, according to Douglas, the system isn’t missing a beat.
"We produce a wide variety of work for a range of customers. We’re now regularly printing for larger corporates and retailers in and around Sydney, and we have a Central Coast mailing house spending thousands of dollars each month on full colour output," Catt says.
"One interesting customer is a training house, for which we produce accreditation manuals."
Catt says this double-sided manual, containing as many as 2800 full-colour images, used to take more than 18 hours to produce. With the new system from Konica Minolta, production time has been slashed to about six hours.
Most colour print work now coming to MBE Newtown is either double-sided or single-sided, saddle stitched or single stapled.
"We’re also starting to see off-set printing houses pushing short-run, quality colour work our way," he says. "We recently produced a short run of high-quality high-gloss colour video box sleeves for one such printer – and we would not have been able to produce this quality using other equipment," says Catt.
"When an offset printing house out-sources a job for a customer, it doesn’t want to see something that obviously looks like it was produced on a colour photo copier. With our new colour production system, you can’t tell the work hasn’t been done offset."
He believes Konica Minolta’s Polymerised toner is helping to provide that quality edge.
Catt says colour consistency, especially on longer runs containing multiple colour images, is critical to the overall quality of his print shop’s colour output.
He says, "We no longer see colour fading on longer runs, or banding on solid blocks of colour. And the colour is much stronger than on some other colour systems."
Another plus is the new system’s ability to handle a wide range of stock weights – up to and including cover weights of 300gsm.
"This ability to handle heavier stock means our new digital colour system can handle 250gsm with ease," Catt says. "We have gone as high as 300gsm without any problems, but the bulk of our heavier output is around 250gsm."
Catt sees colour print production as the way of the future. In the case of MBE Newtown, it’s adding higher value in quicker time. And Konica Minolta is adding the quality needed to see the company take on larger jobs from more exacting customers.
The Xeikon experience
Xeikon has being making steady sales in Australia with its high-end digital colour production units over the years. The Xeikon DCP-50 and is an eight colour 4/4 CMYK machine capable of printing on sheet sizes of 500mm in width and anywhere up to 11.8 metres in length. It prints both sides of a job simultaneously ensuring accurate front to back registration. It has a paper weight range of 60gsm to 250gsm and can use paper, synthetic and label stocks, and can print at 3000 duplex A4 sheets per hour, or 9.6 metres per minute. The newest model, the DCP-500, differs mainly in that it can print at 3900 A4 sheets per hour. According to Xeikon, its solution is the only high volume digital printing solution that is not limited to a maximum of A3, printing jobs up to an A2 size poster or banners up to 11.8 metres long, as well as being the only machine that prints both sides of a sheet in one pass.
Currently there is only one installation of such a machine in Australia, at WYSIWYG Design in Sydney. WYSIWYG offers a range of prepress and digital printing solutions to its customers, with the Xeikon DCP-50 at the heart of the business.
Michael Tan, WYSIWYG managing director, says that the purchase of the DCP-50 came as his company recognised a specific need for it, and since installation, it has fulfilled all his expectations.
"We first had two similar machines, and they were essentially A3-oversize presses. We saw a market-niche for a bigger format machine, A2 and larger, and Xeikon fulfils that sector for us. It really opened up a whole new side of the business," says Tan.
"This is the larger size machine. We can do a lot of A2 posters, short-run customised A4 folders, broadsheet newspapers, newsletters, double-sided, double page A3 spreads, and banners. It’s more forgiving when it’s printing large panels of solids. All digital presses have some sort of laser beam head technology, and lasers are not traditionally really good when they print solid areas. The Xeikon can handle that better, and that is really one of the reasons why we went with the Xeikon. To us, it really is a complimentary technology."
According to Tan, a fair portion of the business relies on the Xeikon, something that has occurred over a period of time. He is also surprised that he remains the only owner of such a device in Australia despite extensive installations worldwide. However, this gladdens him since for Tan, it is a case of "less men, more share".
The driving force
Like two sides of the one digital printing coin, the print server is a fundamental part of the process, and a regular sight around the digital production printer is a server from Electronics for Imaging (EFI). The company offers workflow software and server solutions for the full range of the graphic arts market from offset printing to digital on-demand printing to the growing hybrid offset and digital printing environments. EFI technology drives short run office printers, high volume production level digital engines, as well as platesetters, DI presses and wide format inkjet printers. Beyond speed (up to 2000 pages per minute in colour) and quality, today’s Fierys offer award-winning software tools for colour management, calibration, workflow and variable data printing (VDP).
The latest line of Fiery servers demonstrate an EFI breakthrough in colour printing solutions for the production market. The Fiery S300 and Fiery S500 servers are designed to drive mid-range and high volume print engines at full speed, while the Fiery Q4500 is expressly designed to bring a quantum leap in power to colour production class engines and digital presses. Both server platforms feature the latest version of EFI’s award-winning Fiery System software, recently named Best Graphic Arts Color Software in the BERTL’s Best 8th Annual Digital Office Awards.
From the first Fiery server, EFI says it has set the pace, and the standard, for high quality colour digital printing. The company claims rich, accurate and consistent colour can now be achieved across all media and printing devices faster than ever before with EFI’s in-rip colour management system, ColorWise. Designed for both the entry-level user as well as the most advanced color professional, ColorWise tools help deliver the highest quality colour possible on output devices and accurately simulate the output of other color devices. EFI’s Graphic Arts Package is an additional suite for graphic arts professionals to achieve their demanding vision of colour and print quality with ease and precision. It features more sophisticated tools for managing colour, proofing and controlling workflow.
EFI offers the infrastructure to support high-speed variable data printing as well as software to make it work as easily as any desktop application. The open Fiery architecture works with the most extensive range of VDP languages available, including EFI’s Fiery FreeForm, the industry standard PPML, and even proprietary languages such as Xerox VIPP and Creo VPS – making it one of the fastest, most flexible VDP platforms on the market. The company says that because EFI offers a flexible and open architecture, users can choose any third-party software application to create static and variable elements. Additional productivity-enhancing tools help to maximise throughput and create a complete VDP production workflow.
EFI’s colour servers are complemented by the productivity-boosting Velocity suite of workflow software tools that provide end-to-end printing solutions from job submission to prepress to production. Following the acquisition of Best and more recently Printcafe and T/R Systems, EFI has furthered this vision of providing customers with complete, integrated workflow solutions.
As the aroma of the Christmas turkey grows closer to reality this year, proponents of digital printing can dig in, satisfied with the knowledge that the uptake of this technology progressed in leaps and bounds this year, and that the stage is set for an equally, if not more, successful 2004.