In recent weeks Xeikon has announced an extension to its range of digital colour presses. Last September it announced its new flagship product, the Xeikon 6000. The Xeikon range at that time comprised the Xeikon 330 for label printing, the Xeikon 5000, its established product introduced at drupa in 2004, and the new Xeikon 6000. With the recent announcement of new presses the Xeikon range now comprises four models with the new Xeikon 4000 and Xeikon 5000plus replacing the Xeikon 5000.
If one takes a detailed look at this how does this new range compare with the old range of three digital presses? In fact as I see the situation there are no new presses, just some new marketing approaches.
If one looks closely at the specification of these products the “new” Xeikon 4000 is just a re-badged Xeikon 5000. The specification is almost identical with just one change. The change is the Xeikon 4000 is only available with four colours over four, whereas the old Xeikon 5000 was available with an option to print five colours over five.
The Xeikon 4000, 5000plus and 6000 are all single pass duplex continuous feed reel-fed machines that print both sides of the web in one pass. The Xeikon 4000 is Xeikon’s ‘entry-level’ press and is priced lower than that of the old Xeikon 5000 however the printing speed is the same at 130 A4 images per minute.
Again with the “new” Xeikon 5000plus I don’t see this as a new machine but as a slowed down version of the Xeikon 6000. Its specification is identical apart from the speed of the web and this limits the speed of printing to 130 A4 images per minute rather than the 160 A4 images per minute of the Xeikon 6000.
The Xeikon 5000plus can easily be upgraded to a Xeikon 6000. What this probably means is an engineer will come to the machine and remove a piece of hardware that reduces the speed of the web, while also installing a software upgrade in the X-800 DFE to allow for faster output of data.
I am not being critical of Xeikon in what they are doing, I complement them on widening their approach to the market and maintaining the sales of an older but still very productive press, while giving customers the opportunity to start with the Xeikon 5000plus and upgrade it when their production needs demand.
In the week of March 5, 2007, I expect Océ to announce their new four colour continuous feed press, the VarioStream 9240. This will be the fourth product in the VarioStream 9000 family. This was first announced as a single colour duplex continuous feed press in 2004.
In March 2005 at the Océ Open House event the two colours over two VarioStream 9220 was introduced, and at the Open House in March 2006 the three colour VarioStream 9230 was announced. I fully expect therefore to see the VarioStream 9240 announced at the next Open House. Océ have always said that this was their plan but have never confirmed dates. The expected speed of this unit is likely to be 160 A4 images per minute, the same as the Xeikon 6000. How the machines will compare will be very interesting to see.
<b>Flash fusing from Fuji Xerox</b>
Perhaps the most interesting announcement is the one expected in the March or April timescale in the Fuji Xerox markets. This is based upon reports in the Japanese press that claim Fuji Xerox will introduce a xerographic toner based continuous feed press running at 450 A4 pages/minute.
The report states this press uses light instead of a heater to fix the toner, but I think what this means its uses a technology called flash fusing. Fuji Xerox already uses this fusing technology in the Xerox 495 continuous feed monochrome press that was introduced recently.
It will be interesting to see if this 450 pages per minute is produced by printing duplex like the Xeikon and Océ units, or if it is printing simplex then I would not be surprised if two print engines could be linked together to print duplex and double the speed to 900 A4 colour pages per minute. This would be in the same fashion as the Dainippon Screen Truepress Jet520 inkjet colour press.
It can be seen from the above three companies that high-speed inkjet colour printing from companies like Kodak with the Versamark, Screen with the Truepress Jet520 and Agfa with the Dotrix TransColor will be aggressively challenged by xerographic toner based systems. Such xerographic presses are potentially more reliable than inkjet presses.
One has to wonder whether the new Ricoh IBM Infoprint Solutions operation will have anything to add into this market apart from the already announced OEM agreement for the print engine from the Screen Truepress Jet520?