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DIGITAL COLOR PRESSES -- Digital Devices' Dance Card

February 2005

Technology Editor

It’s been more than a decade since the first high-volume, modern digital color printing systems were introduced. Heidelberg and Presstek teamed up to launch the digital offset (GTO DI, in this case) product category in 1991. A few years later, the Indigo EPrint and Agfa/Xeikon Chromapress ushered in the era of the all-digital production color printing systems.

In the future, though, 2004 may be looked back upon as a key transition period in the maturation of digital printing as a business segment—both on the vendor and user side. No fundamentally new technologies were unveiled, but all the vendors introduced more robust and/or higher quality versions of what’s come before. There also was significant activity in the product marketing arena, headlined by the transfer of Heidelberg’s digital printing holdings to Eastman Kodak.

Given the myriad of announcements made, it can be difficult to keep straight what combinations of technologies (hardware, software, consumables) are being offered through which channels (direct sales, OEMs, resellers, etc.). The various business arrangements also raise the question: Who’s responsible for service and support after the sale?

The drumbeat for variable data printing and personalization for a time had all but drowned out any word of developments in digital offset. Advances in the technology and addition of a new channel now have this technology making news again.

Presstek Inc. introduced ProFire Excel imaging and ProFire Digital Media, which work in combination to produce a 16-micron spot that enables 300 lpi output and supports use of enhancing screening options. The company also announced it was seeking to broaden the market for DI (Direct Imaging) technology by launching an entry-level, ProFire-based platform through its OEM partners.

Since becoming one of those OEMs, Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG) has registered a steady stream of installs. Those machines have chiefly been the earlier KPG DirectPress 5034 DI configuration, which the company says is now being phased out.

High-end Takes Stage

KPG reports it began installing the higher end ProFire-based DirectPress 5634 DI model last summer. Toward the end of the year it also started installing the entry-level version, KPG DirectPress 5334 DI. Both can be driven by the KPG DirectWorks Suite workflow.

According to John Schloff, KPG vice president, digital printing, key differences in the machines include use of six lasers versus three, resulting in shorter makeready on the DirectPress 5634 DI, and a motor-driven paper feed/delivery tray as opposed to mechanical components on the DirectPress 5334 DI. “Otherwise, a KPG DirectPress 5334 DI can be fully optioned up to a KPG DirectPress 5634 DI press,” Schloff says.


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