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DIGITAL digest 9-01

September 2001
Setting the Toner

ROCHESTER, NY—This town might seem an unlikely place to be ground zero in the next big battle for dominance of the color digital printing market. That is, until one takes into account the city is the corporate hometown of NexPress Solutions LLC and Xerox Corp.

PRINT 01 brought a temporary shift in the battlefield to Chicago, setting up a head-to-head bid for attention between the NexPress 2100 and FutureColor digital presses. (For its part, Xerox contends that its DocuColor 2000 Series is the true competitor to the NexPress.) In preparation, both companies decided to launch advance campaigns by inviting members of the trade press to Rochester for first-hand product inspections, status updates and visits with customers.

The NexPress 2100 prints 4,200 8.5x11˝ four-color, one-sided pages per hour, or 2,100 four-over-four-color pages. It can print stocks from 80 to 300 gsm, with the "DryInk" transferred by an intermediate blanket (NexBlanket) that is said to conform to the substrate surface for better image transfer.

The manufacturer promised to release more detailed product information at PRINT 01, but its initial projections put the cost of output (in cents per page) in the single digits. Configurations of the printing system will start at around $350,000.

NexPress Solutions is saying that it intends to "selectively place machines for the next two years" and already has the first 48 customers lined up. This includes sites in North America and Europe.

Venkat Purushotham, president and CEO, explains that the company is more focused on seeing the total number of pages produced grow dramatically, rather than the installed base of presses.

"I'm more interested in seeing the first billion pages printed rather than 500 units sold," Purushotham asserts. He adds that the manufacturer considers customer satisfaction to be its number one priority.

A key element of NexPress' plan to improve reliability and keep costs down is the adoption of an engineering concept it calls ORCs—operator replaceable components, Purushotham says. More than 40 press components reportedly can be replaced by the operator in a matter of seconds to minutes.

To help ensure that the press meets customer expectations, a developmental version of the NexPress 2100 was put into operation at Spire (an evolution of Graphics Express) in Boston for almost a year. For most of that time, the company reports it sold work produced on the press, even though it was restricted from revealing what device it was using. In late summer, Spire was scheduled to have its original press swapped out for a "commercial unit."
 

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