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GE07: Digital Printing — Applications Being Taken

October 2007 By Mark Smith
Technology Editor
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ONE OF the promotional pieces sent out by the sponsors of Graph Expo made the claim that this year’s event would be the largest digital printing show in the United States by a factor of two. That’s including solutions for page printing, wide-format printing, software and related equipment.

Tuesday was designated “Customer & Marketing Communications Day,” which was supposed to put a special focus on transpromotional printing applications that combine direct marketing with statements/transactional mail. Several digital press vendors did highlight this developing market during their press briefings, and GMC Software had a good-sized booth, but this application was still easy to miss around the show floor.

It’s not yet clear to what extent commercial printers are in a position to—or want to—stake a claim to the business. Hardware vendors see potential for the same color printing systems to produce transpromo and graphic arts applications, but traditional statement printing is extremely cost-sensitive and puts a premium on throughput so output from systems optimized for print quality may be a tougher sell. On the software side, specialized applications typically are used along with the variable data solutions found in digital print shops.

Additionally, in-plants/CRDs, statement service bureaus and mailing services providers are all potentially vying with commercial printers to own this market.

This dynamic is behind Océ’s introduction of the ColorStream 10000, which is based on the same continuous-feed print engine as the manufacturer’s VS9000 series, but has been optimized for graphic arts applications and prints at 172 ipm in process color. Advanced algorithms, GraphicArts dot modulation and other enhancements are used to produce smooth gradations, crisp graphics and other printing improvements. The high-quality model is projected to begin shipping before the end of first quarter 2008, while the VS9000 series will continue to be offered for other applications, including transpromo.

There were several other new color printing engines introduced, but much of the news at the show pertained to new business deals and application of existing technology.

Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. has extended its product line with the bizhub PRO C5500 digital color production printing system, which is based on the C6500 model. It outputs up to 55 ppm in color and black-and-white, uses Simitri HD color polymerized toner and supports a maximum 13x19.2˝ paper size.

Ricoh Americas made the most news at the show, starting with the establishment of a Production Printing Business Group (PPBG) focused on the high-volume production printing market. InfoPrint Solutions is now part of the group, although it will continue to have its own identity for the time being.
 

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