Graph Expo: Digital Printing and Workflow -- Digital Shows Its DominanceNovember 2008 By Mark Smith
• Repercussions of the subprime mortgage crisis were an undercurrent at the show, which put the spotlight on investing in digital printing equipment as a sales opportunity, and workflow as the path to becoming more efficient and therefore more competitive.
• The floor plan of the exhibition was a striking contrast to past years, with large booths for digital printing vendors dominating the portion of the show floor previously dedicated to heavy iron.
• Digital press manufacturers crammed as many machines as they could into their booths, whereas wide-open floor space and as few as a single press were found in several offset vendor booths. Also, wide format and even superwide/grand format ink-jet printing systems were given significant square footage.
Drupa, of course, was another theme, as “new” in Chicago generally amounted to the first U.S. showing.
Noticeably absent were the new color ink-jet presses for page production that grabbed so much attention at Drupa. Video displays were the most that could be seen of any of the concept presses and technologies announced in Germany by HP, Kodak, Fujifilm, Screen and Xerox. PRINT 09 is expected to be a coming-out party for new ink-jet color production presses here.
The focus at Graph Expo was on what’s available to buy today, especially with the deadline looming for the investment tax credit.
Digital press vendors asserted that the current economic conditions play to the technology’s strengths. Shorter runs produced on demand combined with more targeted, personalized printing enable the industry’s end customers to make the most of their printing spend, the argument goes. And, it’s more sustainable to boot.
HP reported having installed some 130 units worldwide of the HP Indigo 7000 digital press since its introduction at Drupa. Yet, it still expects to sell more 5500 models because the new machine is targeted to higher end users with its faster (120 ppm) print speed, larger image size and more robust duty cycle. The company also again showed the HP Designjet L6500 (104? wide) ink-jet printer that uses low solvent HP Latex inks.
Kodak felt the introduction of the Versamark VL2000 drop-on-demand color ink-jet printing system was overshadowed by the Stream Concept Press in Germany. It is capable of printing 1,072 ppm in duplex mode. New in Chicago was a Dimensional Printing feature for the Nexpress S2500 color press that applies a special Dimensional Clear Dry Ink to give the print surface a raised effect. The manufacturer also contributed to the mini resurgence of black-and-white systems with its introduction of the 300 ppm Digimaster EX300 printer.
Another example was Konica Minolta Business Solutions releasing the bizhub PRO 2500P series, with three models ranging from 160 ppm up to 250 ppm, duplex. On the color side, it unveiled the bizhub PRO C6501/C6501P/C5501 series as replacement models, offering tighter tolerances and individual RIPing and screening of pages for consistent output at up to 65 ppm.
Presstek also displayed a bizhub PRO C6501 in keeping with the agreement the companies signed that enables it to bundle the color printer with 34DI and 52DI digital offset presses. The new UV printing option for DIs was shown for the first time in North America. In a related development, Lacrosse Litho Supply unveiled a “Click Charge” Print Management Solution that enables printers to acquire DI presses through a “pay-by-the-click” program.
Previewed at On Demand, Canon formally introduced the imagePRESS 1135/1125/1110 series monochrome printers with top speeds of 135, 125 and 110 ppm, respectively. It also rolled out the imagePRESS C1+ enhanced version of its color printer that adds application of a clear toner to the capabilities of this 14 ppm machine.
Xerox showed the now shipping iGen4 color press (120 ppm) in a technology demonstration of in-line aqueous coating using the Epic CTi-635 system. The company’s monochrome news focused on enhancements to the Nuvera EA line, including integration of the more powerful FreeFlow Print Server version 7 and new finishing options such as a Tape Binder.
Responding to customer feedback it has received since previewing a spot UV ink-jet coater in Germany, MGI USA is now working on a 29? model. It expects to take orders for the JETvarnish digital ink-jet coater starting in February 2009. The company also reported that it had commitments to install 19 of the new Meteor DP60 Pro paper/plastic color presses (13x19?) before the tax credit deadline.
Grand-format ink-jet printing in the form of its Truepress Jet2500UV machine (1,500 dpi and 98.4? wide), fresh from Drupa, was the big new thing in the Screen (USA) booth. It also demonstrated digital book production by teaming up with Standard Finishing to print inside pages on the Truepress Jet520 ink-jet press and covers on the Truepress 344 digital offset press that were finished on Standard Hunkeler equipment.
Océ showed upgrades to its already-shipping JetStream ink-jet color system, including a MICR ink option and multi-level printing capability for improved quality. The company also introduced the Océ CS665 Pro cut-sheet color printer (65 ppm) as a replacement model with image quality enhancements. For monochrome applications, the 120 ppm VarioPrint 4120 cut-sheet system made its U.S. debut.
Ricoh Americas and InfoPrint Solutions continued their recent pattern of having booths across the aisle from each other and both featured versions of the now officially launched Pro C900 color printer, which outputs 90 ppm at 1,200 dpi and features customer replaceable units to maximize up time.
Xeikon, a division of Punch Graphix, showed the Xeikon 8000 in the U.S. for the first time. It offers a top printing speed of 244 ppm and 1,200x3,600 dpi resolution.
Page printers from Xeros were on display in the Fujifilm Graphic Systems U.S.A. booth, but wide format ink-jet solutions commanded greater floor space. It also showcased the Screen Truepress Jet2500UV, along with its Acuity Advance flatbed (49x98?) printer that is said to be 40 percent faster (236 square feet per hour) and the eight-color, 64? wide Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 “eco-solvent” printer.
Fujifilm also sells the Inca Digital Printers line and, at the show, HGI Co. of Burlington, WI, signed a letter of intent to acquire an Inca Onset flatbed (120x60?) UV ink-jet printer. Inca announced a lower volume (2,690 square feet per hour) Onset S20 model at the show.
Agfa, likewise, emphasized wide- format ink-jet systems, including the Anapurna XLS 100? roll or rigid media printer that outputs 473 square feet per hour. It also featured to 63? units, the Anapurna Mv printer that can apply a spot or overall UV varnish and the Anapurna M4F entry-level flatbed.
Another Drupa ink-jet that didn’t make it to Chicago was EFI’s VUTEk DS digital screen printer that’s scheduled for release in 2009. On display were the VUTEk QS3200 UV family, VUTEk 3360 machine and two printers from recently acquired Raster Printers—the Rastek H-700 UV hybrid and T600 UV flatbed.
Roland DGA was given space in the booth of one of its dealers, Nazdar SourceOne, for the introduction of the 30? VersaUV LEC-300 ink-jet printer/cutter that can print CMYK plus white and clear ink on a wide range of substrates. The device offers variable dot, grayscale printing at 1,440 dpi.
Solutions for more specialized digital printing applications could be found in the Xanté booth, including the Ilumina Digital Envelope Press+ and Ilumina 3D for direct printing of lenticular lens media. It also officially launched the PlateMaker 5 XL system for producing polyester plates up to 36x48?.
Mitsibushi Imaging introduced a processless, chemistry-free CTP system for two-up applications that includes the Thermal DigiPlater TDP-459 and TDP-R175 Thermal DigiPlate paper-based materials. It uses thermal fusing technology that doesn’t require chemical development or a wash-off step. The company also rolled out a new eco-processing system in the DPX 4 Eco polyester platesetter.
There were a smattering of other CTP product introductions, such as Kodak’s Electra XD and Thermal Platinum plates, Presstek’s Dimension Pro 800 (eight-page) platesetter and Aurora Pro chemistry-free plate, the more robust Azura TS chemistry-free plate from Agfa, and Ecomaxx-T processless thermal plates from Fujifilm.
Getting into the Workflow
Workflow solutions—including Web-to-print, MIS and color management—were touted as a smart investment in the current business climate because of the lower cost compared to hardware and the resulting greater production efficiency enabling a printer to make the most of the available work today and be a stronger competitor when the economy improves.
There were too many workflow announcements to list them all, so here’s just a sampling:
Heidelberg introduced Prinect Scheduler, a JDF-compliant production planning system, and Prinect Color Toolbox, a suite of color management and quality control programs that features the Near Neutral Optimizer tool for calibrating different output devices to a common visual appearance.
Fujifilm announced it is going to begin offering the previously introduced XMF workflow, which is based on Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE) technology, in the U.S.
Agfa has relaunched its workflow solution as Apogee Suite and introduced Apogee Media as an automated workflow solution for content creators.
Trueflow SE Version 6.0 from Screen (USA) is built on JDF and APPE and adds new functions such as OutlinePDF-Advanced for improved support of imposed PDF output and digital page inspection.
EFI offered a technology demonstration of the Command WorkStation (which unlocks the features of Fiery servers), launched PrintSmith version 8.1 with Web-to-print integration and previewed Digital StoreFront 4.0 with variable data and superwide printing options.
EskoArtwork released the Neo 2.0 PDF editor and reiterated its intention to further develop its workflow solutions to address commercial printing applications. Enfocus introduced the PitStop Extreme standalone PDF editor, debuted its version 08 line upgrade in the U.S. and joined with Alwan Color Expertise to bring to market the PDF Standardizer tool for compliance with ISO 12647 and 15930.
Global Graphics launched a new resource Website for Harlequin users (www.harlequin.com), demonstrated the Harlequin PLUS Server RIP (v.8.0) that natively processes PDF, PostScript and XPS files and introduced HXM screening to improve print quality at lower resolutions.
Hiflex said it recorded a first with its MIS and Web-to-print systems having won a 2008 InterTech Technology Award and touted the JDF functionality and “Super CSR” concept enabled by its products.
With the acquisition now complete, X-Rite and Pantone shared a booth that highlighted a coated version the Pantone Goe color system and the IntelliTrax version 1.5 upgrade with support for G7.
PersonalEffect 4.5 variable data software from Xmpie features U2 for faster processing of certain work, capabilities for e-communications and integration with ExactTarget e-mail marketing software.
PrinterPresence introduced a new Springboard drag-and-drop administration tool, e-mail marketing solution and enhanced analytics for its printer Website solution.
Press-sense iWay 5.0 features a new user interface and adds functionality for producing customized catalogs, while Manager 2.0 offers streamlined automation to facilitate handling of large volume jobs.
Version 8.5 of interlinkONE’s personalized marketing and fulfillment solution features a graphical control panel, campaign wizard and enhanced reporting.
Some other related quick hits from the show worth noting include:
• LithoTechnics’ Metrix 3.5 workflow with auto bleed, jog to foot and right-hand spines functions.
• Apollo Systems’ new Marksman press-side sheet inspection system.
• SpotOn! process control tool for compliance with print standards.
• Integrated Color Solutions’ Remote Director 3.6.1 soft proofer upgrade and integration with Just Normlicht light booths.
• CGS Publishing Technologies’ Web-enabled ORIS Hybrid Proofing//Web remote proofing system.
• Techkon USA premiered the SpectroDrive automatic color control system.
• New drivers for the HP Z3200 and Epson Stylus Pro 7900/9900 color printers were released by GMG for its ColorProof line.
• Dalim Software’s Virtual Library for virtual representations of a printed piece. PI