Graph Expo 2010: Digital Printing & Workflow - Joining the Jet Set CrowdOctober 2010 By Mark Smith
Change often seems to happen overnight, even when it was years in the making. Digital technology has literally and figuratively been coming to the fore at Graph Expo for the past few shows. Yet walking through the entrance this year, the dominance of digital solution vendors was striking.
Attendees who paused to get their bearings and cast their eyes along the front aisle of the show floor saw a lineup of exhibitors that included Xanté, Xerox, HP, EFI, Presstek, xpedx and Pitney Bowes. Absent were the likes of Heidelberg, Komori and Mitsubishi Litho Presses, while KBA North America and manroland had booths toward the back. McCormick Place South buzzed with activity, but nary a warning chime, ding or song from an offset press reached the ear.
Drupa 2008 has claim to the label, but calling this the Inkjet Graph Expo was even more apt because the technology accounted for much of the printing equipment running on the show floor. That's, of course, factoring in the large number of wide- and superwide/grand-format inkjet printers on display.
Kodak representatives gleefully pointed out that it had the largest printing press on the show floor, with the first U.S. showing of the Kodak Prosper 5000XL inkjet web press. The company's top announcement at the show was that Prosper is "now here" (meaning orders are being taken), bringing 650 fpm printing on a maximum 251⁄2˝ wide roll at up to 175 lpi, and using pigment inks to support coated and uncoated stocks.
InfoPrint Solutions and Screen (USA) leveraged each other's booth space in order to display all three models now in the inkjet web press line they sell. New this year are the Truepress Jet520ZZ/InfoPrint 5000 VP, with a top speed of 722 fpm and maximum 720x720 dpi resolution, and a color version of the entry-level Truepress Jet520EX/InfoPrint 5000 MP, which prints at up to 210 fpm and 360x360 dpi. Both models are set to be available in mid-2011.
Technically, it was Ricoh's booth not InfoPrint's since the two shared a common exhibit space now that Ricoh has full ownership of the former IBM Printing Systems Division. Another part of the booth served as a pad for the official launch of the Ricoh Pro C901/C901s Graphic Arts Edition color press, which adds the ability to print a wide range of media at the engine's 90 ppm rated speed. It features the company's smaller, more uniform PxP chemical toners and oil-less fusing technology.
Canon's acquisition of Océ, on the other hand, is still a work in progress, so those two companies had separate booths. Océ displayed a JetStream 1000 color inkjet web press and noted that it has placed 100 inkjet devices, but was just as happy to talk about the new Canon imagePRESS C7010VP electrophotographic (EP), cut-sheet production system it's now able to offer customers. The 70 ppm color device made its debut at Canon Expo 2010.
Both companies were also promoting business development offerings that will be integrated going forward. The Océ Press Go! program combines printed materials, Webinars, video and live training sessions designed to help print professionals grow print volumes and capture new opportunities.
For its part, Canon rolled out a new RevGen Program addition to is Business Builder Program. It's a 12-week, hands-on mentoring program during which business coaches provide assistance with event-driven marketing efforts, sales training and even go on customer sales calls.
HP elected to only display its Inkjet Web Press line virtually, even though it was announcing a new model—the T350, a faster version of the 30˝ T300 platform that prints up to 600 fpm on uncoated and custom-coated media. Company executives said that prospective buyers are most interested in learning about the experiences of current owners, so samples of jobs produced for sale by install sites were being displayed and four live Webcam feeds of customers' presses were shown non-stop.
Stacking the Paper Deck
Sheetfed inkjet machines also could be found on the show floor, with a little leg work and good timing in the case of the Fujifilm Digital Inkjet J Press 720. The four-up (29.5x20.8˝ sheet) inkjet device built off a conventional press frame was displayed on a stage and hidden by a curtain, except during designated demo times. It's rated to print 2,700 sph on coated stocks at 1,200 dpi using a pre-coat solution and water-based inks. Orders are reportedly being taken for delivery in the spring of 2011.
Representing the third generation of its inkjet platform for page (maximum 13-3⁄8x21-5⁄8˝) printing, RISO's ComColor 9050/7050/3050 family continues its focus on "communication color" quality. The three models are rated at 155, 120 and 90 (simplex) ppm, respectively, and print at 300x300 or 300x600 dpi.
With cut-sheet EP systems topping out in the 100-130 ppm range for a while now, sheet size may be a new battle ground in the toner wars. Xerox launched the iGen4 EXP with support for a maximum 14.33x26˝ sheet size, while Kodak countered with the NexPress SX platform that also supports a 26˝ long sheet.
When running 26˝ sheets—which can be fed via a modified feed tray or the optional DocuSheeter iG and roll system—the iGen4 EXP prints 40 sheets per minute, which Xerox says effectively increases its speed to 120 (A4) ppm. Xerox also launched the Color 550/560 printer models, which print 50 ppm (color) or 55 ppm (black) and 60/65 ppm, respectively, using low-melt emulsion aggregation toner.
MGI USA has now made the previously optional Super Format (13x40˝) a standard feature of its Meteor DP60 Pro digital press that is capable of printing on multiple substrates, including plastics. It also introduced the DF360 five-in-one finishing system that laminates, cuts, slits, creases and perfs in one pass, and is designed to complement digital and offset presses.
In other EP developments, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. leveraged the technology in its recently commercialized C8000 model to produce two "scaled down" versions—the biz–hub PRESS C7000 (70 ppm) and C6000 (60 ppm). The new models also offer a 1,200 dpi resolution with true eight-bit color, automatic Image Density Control (IDC) and Simitri HD toner for high-quality and consistent color imaging.
The Bigger the Better
Grand-format inkjet printers had a commanding presence on the show due to their size but also in terms of their relative number. They were, of course, outnumbered by wide-format models.
Agfa also employed a virtual presence of sorts for its largest inkjet machines—M-Press Tiger and Dotrix—by printing representations on cloth banners that hung above its booth. In the case of the M-Press, even the very large banner was still not quite to full scale. Down below, the Anapurna M 2050 hybrid (flatbed and roll) inkjet printer made its North American debut, offering six-color plus white printing on a maximum 3x2m format at 720x1,440 dpi.
Having closed its acquisition of the Pitman Co., Agfa was able to use the latter's reserved booth space to also launch the Apogee 7 workflow update, which features the company's own Apogee Impose imposition technology and a WebApproval upgrade that enables print buyers to create their own new jobs in the system. The Amigo TS thermal plate, said to run up to 50 percent faster with improved contrast and daylight stability, had its debut as well.
EFI's new Rastek H652 UV hybrid and T1000 UV flatbed inkjet printers are said to be designed for production print shop environments. Both offer 1,200 dpi printing with white ink capabilities on up to a 65˝ wide (H652) or 52x98˝ (T1000) format. The company also announced an agreement with xpedx that allows the latter to distribute numerous models of EFI's Rastek and VUTEk printers.
Label It a Success
Packaging prototyping and labels were the featured application in the Roland DGA booth. It teamed up with CGS Publishing Technologies to demo the latter's ORIS Color Tuner//Web software driving the recently introduced VersaCAMM VS-420 42˝ eco-solvent printer/cutter that prints six colors plus white and metallic silver.
Along with its ColorProof 5.2 upgrade that integrates the Adobe PDF Print Engine 2.5, GMG Americas announced availability of a direct print driver for the Roland VersaUV LEC-330 printer/printer cutter model and was driving the Mimaki UJF-706 inkjet printer in that company's booth.
GMG can also drive the new Epson Stylus Pro 4900 17˝ inkjet printer that uses UltraChrome HDR ink, and the Stylus Pro 7890 (24˝) and 9890 (44˝) inkjet printers built on the same technology as the Stylus Pro 900 series.
Epson's big announcement, though, was the chemical-free Stylus Pro 7900CTP system designed for two-color printing applications. It combines a 24˝ Stylus Pro 7900 printer with a heat curing device to image Epson's own DirectPlate aluminum plates that reportedly produce up to 20,000 impressions.
The PriscoDigital division of Printers' Service conducted live demonstrations of the HP Scitex FB500 and LX600 wide-format inkjet printers as a channel partner for the product line.
Some of the other digital developments at the show included:
• Presstek featured the new chemistry-free Aurora EXP thermal plate, along with the four-page Dimension Pro 400 metal and two-page DPM Pro 400 polyester/paper platesetters that were introduced at Ipex earlier this year.
• The Processless DigiPlate (PDP) system from Mitsubishi Imaging is a chemical-free plate-making system consisting of the PDP 6-VL platesetter and PDP-VL polyester or paper plate material available in roll format in various thicknesses. The violet-sensitive plates use a polymer cross-linking technology that only requires a water rinse.
• ECRM was touting a new DM Screening RIP upgrade option that is said to analyze and "digitally modulate" every pixel to produce more image detail, smoother vignettes and no moiré. It also added two- and four-up models to its family of MAKO violet platesetters.
• XMPie has launched an entry-level, hosted version of the PersonalEffect e-Media e-communication solution that is delivered as a software as a service.
• Enfocus rolled out PitStop Pro 10, which adds improved color management and expanded collaborative tools to the PDF preflighting/editing software; PitStop Workgroup Manager for centralized control of settings in a workgroup environment; and PitStop Server 10, featuring new transparency flattening, color management and PDF optimization functions.
• ES (Enterprise Solution) from Dalim Software is the latest evolution of its customer-facing online job delivery and approval system that combines color-accurate soft proofing with project planning capabilities. It also demonstrated the Dialogue Touch iPad app for remote approval.
• X-Rite's new PrintCheck and PressOptimizer applications help printers automate print quality control and run to industry standards and specifications, such as G7. The company also showcased its XRGA measurment standard for improved inter-model agreement between readings taken with X-Rite and GretagMacbeth print measuring devices. PI