After revolutionising web printing with inkjet systems in the past half decade, with press lines from Kodak, HP, Fujifilm, Impeka, KBA, joining Océ, Ricoh and Screen, the major press vendors are now spruiking the advantages of sheetfed inkjet – at the larger-format end of the spectrum.
The speed/quality gap with offset is narrowing, but how close is parity with litho? Parity is the holy grail, really. Producing print of comparable quality and at comparable speed to offset would give inkjet the natural, digital advantage: no pre-press, no plates and no makeready, culminating in the prospect of a production expressway, and warp-speed productivity.
Heidelberg and Landa have B1 sheetfed inkjet presses in beta testing, while Konica Minolta and Komori are now also in the game with their B2-sized sheetfed inkjet presses. The first Konica Minolta printer, named the AccurioJet KM-1, was bought by Melbourne print hub Jossimo to supply its three franchised print outlets with on demand print.
Fujifilm Australia is not offering the Fujifilm Jet Press B2 sheetfed inkjet device locally, nor at this stage the 200sph Inca M B1 sheetfed industrial press shown at Fespa in May, says Steve Peck, Fujifilm Australia’s project & marketing manager.
However, the company points out that B1 production of up to 1,080sph is possible on its existing range of Inca flatbed UV printers such as the Onset X3 and can feature automated sheet handling, with the added advantage of larger size production on a huge variety of substrates up to 3.2×1.6m in size, an intriguing possibility for a press used mainly for display work.
Not if, but when
Two years ago, ProPrint asked Ken Williams about his thoughts on sheetfed inkjet. At the time, the CEO of versatile print and fulfilment company Excel Australasia was keeping a watching brief on what was then an emerging technology. But now, after a drupa and a PacPrint at which inkjet was a dominant force, times have certainly moved on.
Williams reflects: “The question of Excel adopting sheetfed inkjet is not a case of if but when.”
In his eyes, sheetfed inkjet is a proven print platform for medium-length print runs, due to its speed and its favourable cost of production, compared to rival digital print technologies, which generally have been cost effective at the shorter end. At the same time, inkjet brings digital’s interface with data management to the table, which older analogue technology cannot deliver.
That calculus makes inkjet the optimal partner for a plethora of untapped marketing opportunities, he says, “We’re only doing a fraction of what we could be doing in bringing print to marketing, and that means
using print for highly specific and personalised print-on-demand and multimedia campaigns.”
Sheetfed inkjet will disrupt the marketplace and will certainly divert some of the work now running through litho presses and more established digital printing technologies, but he predicts the synergies of marketing, technology and printing will create far more opportunities than they displace. In fact, he believes the prospect of dynamic marketing across medium-to-high volumes will rekindle some of the confidence in print that has been lost in the past two decades.
Excel Australasia currently runs Xerox iGen and Nuvera laser digital production presses but regularly evaluates the sheetfed inkjet propositions on the market to gauge the best fit with the company’s diverse and geographically far-flung activities. These include cross-platform brand management solutions in finance, real estate, gaming and retail – with operations in Australia, Thailand, Myanmar and Norway, servicing clients throughout Australia, Asia, Europe and Scandinavia.
AccurioJet KM-1 all-rounder
Mark Brown, product marketing manager at Konica Minolta, says the new AccurioJet KM-1, a sheetfed B2-plus-sized UV inkjet press, is a hybrid of the best of offset and inkjet technologies. “The chassis, paper path and paper handling is offset technology, so it is robust, can handle high volume easily and is very reliable. The inkjet components are the latest print head technology from Konica Minolta and include high nozzle density per head, minimising image quality issues.
“In addition, the inks are LED-cured, which saves energy and also eliminates substrate distortion due to heat. Lastly, we also have ‘closed loop’ image quality adjustment, which means there is a sensor which detects any image quality issues and immediately compensates by firing other nozzles – all on-the-fly at 3,000 B2 sheets per hour. The combination of speed, reliability and quality make it the best digital press in its class – nothing comes close.”
Brown sees the target customers for the KM-1 as “pure digital print companies who need extra capacity and who may already outsource offset”. But the KM-1 also targets “more traditional offset printers who may be selling off their old offset equipment”.
He sees the KM-1 as suitable for most general commercial print applications – even up to light folding carton. “With falling run sizes, it is more commercially viable to choose a hybrid offset/inkjet printer like the KM-1, which is far more economical on short runs than a traditional offset press. The other advantage is because it is a UV ink, customers can use all their current offset media – no need for expensive specialist materials like other digital printers. The KM-1 is an all-rounder,” concludes Brown, “so any application which offset uses is suitable.”
Heidelberg’s Primefire partners with offset
Richard Timson, Heidelberg A/NZ managing director, describes Heidelberg’s Primefire 106 as the first digital press in format B1 for the packaging market, offering dependable high-quality and industrial production. “It combines the most reliable offset platform in the market, the Heidelberg XL106, with a direct printing process that ensures repeatable high quality results and it can be plugged and played within your existing workflow by using our Prinect solutions. On top of that, customers will receive support from their trusted Heidelberg Service Team.”
Timson also notes that Heidelberg partners with Fujifilm to control more than 12 billion drops per sheet in seven process colours (CMYKOVG), providing around 95 per cent Pantone colour gamut coverage with Heidelberg Multicolor Technology, while the Saphira water-based consumables, conforming to Swiss Ordinance, offer the best available conditions for low-migration products.
He outlines the business case for the Primefire as, “Accelerating business growth in a world of increasing short runs, faster turnaround, versioning and personalisation through dependable, high-quality performance.”
The Heidelberg Primefire 106 is being introduced in the folding carton segment, says Timson, as the demand for versioning and personalising, short runs and higher supply chain efficiency is growing fast. “At the same time, cost effective production of high volumes is a must in this segment and that is why a combination of the new Primefire 106 with traditional offset production provides the best solution and offer customers the flexibility and consistent quality they need, using trusted platforms, working within the existing workflow and minimising disruption and arduous integration projects.”
EFI’s Nozomi value adds
Mark Fletcher, associate marketing specialist, APAC, for EFI, says that as run lengths reduce, his company has developed a cost effective response to today’s customer demands for even faster job turns, versioning and variable data, and just-in-time and on-demand printing, while reducing inventory costs and waste.
“The new Nozomi C18000 answers the challenge with high-quality, high-speed digital LED printing up to 75 linear metres per minute (with one-and two-lane printing) on substrates up to 1.8m wide.
Designed with the ability to drive continuous operational, environmental, and competitive improvements for innovative print providers, the Nozomi delivers high-quality output with resolutions up to 360×720 dots per inch, and single-pass, LED, digital drop-on-demand piezo inkjet technology with four-level greyscale imaging.
Fletcher says, “Combined with this is a variety of configurations including CMYK, CMYK+W, CMYKOV and CMYKOV+W and an inline primer that allows dot gain and ink absorption control over a range of corrugated top sheets. EFI is the only manufacturer to offer a fully integrated platform with top- and bottom-feed options for a digital corrugated packaging. These use a patented system that handles media separation, lift, transport and alignment at full press speeds, with programmable features for faster, automatic feeding configurations on repeat jobs.
“The more obvious advantages with the Nozomi digital packaging solution are in the elimination of waste by printing only what you need and when you need it. There is also the opportunity for ready market segmentation and the enabling of time-and/or region-sensitive marketing promotions.
“However the trend towards ship/ shelf-ready packaging favoured by popular Big Box retailers is where multiple products remain inside the outer corrugated carton from warehouse to shelf. This is an opportunity to upscale the printing of higher quality, full colour graphics rather than just boring, one-colour solid blocks with heavy text and barcodes on the outer box,” notes Fletcher.
In addition, he sees strong growth in online shopping and of corrugated packaging used by internet retailers such as Amazon to protect goods en-route from automated warehouses to residential addresses.
SHEETFED INKJET B2 and B1
Canon’s Océ VarioPrint i300
Canon’s Océ VarioPrint i300 Canon’s Océ VarioPrint i300 is a productive, precise sheetfed inkjet colour press to handle a plethora of printing requirements in colour or mono. The VarioPrint i300 has a resolution of 1,200 dpi perceived image quality and can print as fast as 300 A4 images per minute. Using Océ’s iQarius inkjet technology, the i300 is a sheetfed colour inkjet press in B3 format which Canon sees as a crossover system, leveraging its piezo jets and ink developed for the ColorStream 3000 web press and integrating these into the paper transport from the sheetfed VarioPrints. (See profile).
EFI Nozomi C18000
With output of up to 75 linear metres (246 linear feet) per minute, producing up to 9,000 80x60cm boards per hour, EFI’s Nozomi C18000 press is a 1.8-metre-wide, single-pass sheetfed carton printer built and designed to target short-run, on-demand work in up to seven colours, including white, at a 360x720dpi resolution. At the same time, it can handle materials of up to 1.8×3 metres and thicknesses up to triple-wall board at full rated speeds.
EFI states that, as run lengths and turnaround times morph, the C18000 offers a cost effective response to customer demands for even faster job turns, versioning and variable data, and on-demand printing, while reducing inventory costs and waste. The key is high-quality, high-speed digital LED printing up to 75 metres per minute on substrates up to 1.8 metres wide.
Fujifilm Jet Press
Although not available in Australia at present, the Jet Press from Fujifilm 720S has received much acclaim from overseas B2 printers. It prints a 74cm sheet in a single pass, generating speeds of 2,700 sheets per hour, with printed sheets produced dry to the touch. extending the cost effectiveness of inkjet printing further into the traditional litho area.
The Jet Press also distinguishes itself with the use of standard coated and uncoated stock instead of specialised digital paper. After imaging, standard substrates can be treated like offset stock and finished using conventional bindery equipment.
Fujifilm says the half-size solution enables print runs of just one or thousands, where traditional offset and digital printing are failing to perform, and provides a superior solution for the fastest-growing segment of the market where the majority of print jobs reside and where the opportunities will be in the future.
Heidelberg Primefire 106
Primefire 106, Heidelberg’s B1 entry in the sheetfed digital stakes, uses drop-on-demand inkjet that optimally blends Fujifilm’s inkjet technology with Heidelberg’s premium-class sheet transport system.
Heidelberg says it is fully integrated into Heidelberg’s Prinect workflow, the Primefire 106 enables printers to turn reducing run sizes and increasing variability of content to their favour.
It also allows servicing of clients who need language versioning, a variety of package sizes and late changes.
With a native resolution of 1,200×1,200dpi for maximum printing quality at up to 2,500 sheets per hour, Primefire’s seven-colour inkjet system covers up to 95 per cent of the Pantone colour palette. (See profile).
HP Indigo 12000
With the HP Indigo 10000 platform as its starting point, the drupa-released B2+ HP Indigo 12000 – supplied here by Currie Group – is built for the hybrid digital-offset commercial production floor.
With a versatile range of substrates, the full sheet can be used to print canvas wall art, high-impact posters, folders, oversized books, specialty products, and more.
Using HP Indigo’s liquid ElectroInk technology and digital offset process, as well as dozens of software and hardware innovations, the press delivers what HP Indigo claims is ‘the smoothest and sharpest prints in the industry, matching or even exceeding offset quality.
Printing 74cm sheets in colour or double-sided monochrome at up to 4,600 per hour, the press is capable of producing more than two million colour sheets per month.
The new High Definition Imaging System for the HD version is said to double image resolution to 1,625 dpi, providing what HP says is sharper, smoother, finer print.
Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1
The AccurioJet KM-1 is a sheetfed B2-plus-sized UV inkjet press, combining offset and inkjet technologies. It is designed for digital print companies that need extra capacity and might be outsourcing offset orders. However, it is also ideal for traditional offset printers diversifying into commercial digital printing. (See Jossimo profile).
Komori Impremia S29
Essentially the same machine as the AccurioJet KM-1 is a sheetfed B2-plus-sized UV inkjet press, combining offset and inkjet technologies. It is designed for digital print companies that need extra capacity and might be outsourcing offset orders. However, it is also ideal for traditional offset printers diversifying into commercial digital printing.
Landa Nanography S10
One of the biggest qustions in print is will Landa be able to deliver on its promised nanographic printing technology. First announced almost six years ago nanographic printing is a new technology created by the man who invented Indigo liquid toner printing, Benny Landa. He says nanography is an inkjet printing system but one which uses ultra tiny droplets, which enable offset quality print at offset speed on offset stocks, but with all the benefits of digital – no plates, no make ready, variable data, on demand print, a winning combination.
Such was the interest at drupa 2012 when it was launched that 400 printers from around the world, including several from Australia, coughed up $10,000 just for a place in the queue, for if it does come to fruition it could well become a major technology, depending on costs of course. But it seems to be a big if, and visitors to drupa four years later were left with a sense of deja vu, great spiel but no working presses. However this year the first Landa Nanon press went into beta testing, at an Israeli printer, with two more planned before the end of the year, in the US and Germany, and the company continues to provide reassuring updates for its customers, although Benny Landa could sell coal to miners. The company is apparently attempting some fairly new physics and chemistry, although the latest delays have been blamed on the inline quality control management system, AQM, a joint development between Landa, AVT and Techkon.
If the technology does get off the ground the first iteration will be a B1 single sided carton press, which will go head to head with the Heidleberg Primefire 106 and the EFI Nozomi. The nano presses will also be sold under the Komori Impremia S40 brand, supplied here by Print & Pack.
Screen Truepress Jet520
The Truepress Jet520 range has been widened this year with a new NX variation and an HD variant. The Jet520NX features new five-inch printheads that can generate 600x1200dpi, and the new offering runs at a rated speed of 150 metres-per-minute. An additional ‘fifth colour’ printhead can be fitted, opening the door to printing with MICR black ink, invisible UV fluorescent ink, and other specialties.
The Jet520HD is a commercial press, as distinct from a transactional and direct mail line. It has three speed settings for various print quality levels and deadline requirements. At the top speed of 120m per minute, the Jet520HD produces around 1,600 A4 pages per minute. Screen says the Jet520HD is set to change the way the industry thinks. With a paper range of 40gsm through to 250gsm, a wide-gamut ink set that rivals offset, and a workflow that makes businesses far more efficient, the Truepress Jet520HD is marketed as the tool of choice for commercial printing and publishing applications. Screen says that what initially sets the Truepress Jet520HD apart is its printhead technology. The press is able to place 2-picoliter droplets — the world’s smallest level — exactly where the dots are required on paper as it moves through a high-speed transfer system. Screen says that combined with resolution of 1,200 dpi, the Truepress Jet520HD clearly images detail smaller than 0.10 of a point.
The printer uses new SC inks that allow printing on coated and uncoated offset stocks without priming. It comes with Screen’s Equios universal workflow platform.
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