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Digital Printing & Workflow : Exhibitors Cop an App-itude

October 2009 By Mark Smith
Technology Editor
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IN THE digital arena, putting greater emphasis on applica- tions and business development tools has been a growing trend among trade show exhibitors for some time. PRINT 09 kicked it up more than a notch, as the current business climate had exhibitors reducing their outlay by displaying less equipment and responding to the greater focus at printing operations on cutting costs and building sales.

One thing that was noticeably different this year was the broad based and unapologetic talk of digital printing capabilities now being a replacement for offset. Vendors previously had been careful to position digital and offset printing as complementary.

Along with product introductions, the news from the show included a number of high-profile business deals and installation announcements. HP alone was part of three headlines.

• Pitney Bowes launched a new production color printing system for high-volume transactional mailers, the IntelliJet printing system, that incorporates the HP T300 thermal ink-jet press driven by Pitney Bowes' Production Intelligence software and feeding its mail finishing system. T300 is the formal name that has been given to HP's Inkjet Web Press now that it is commercially available.

• RR Donnelley is also teaming up with HP on the ink-jet front, forming a technology alliance to develop digital printing solutions. They initially will focus on an ink-jet MICR printing solution to be offered as an option for the HP T300 press.

• Bradford & Bigelow, a book manufacturer based in Newburyport, MA, signed a deal to purchase an HP Indigo W7200 webfed digital press and SmartStream Product Pro print server for its Digital Book Factory operation. The press, which went into commercial release at the show, features an in-line priming station to enable printing on standard offset stocks at speeds to 240 letter-sized pages per minute (ppm) in color and 960 ppm, monochrome.

While he was not yet free to share many of the details, Screen (USA) President Mike Fox offered a teaser about a deal to install $25 million worth of Screen ink-jet (document and wide-format) and digital offset presses during the next six months in multiple locations of a new company being launched to provide short-run, distributed digital printing services in the United States. He also said that Trueflow SE version 7.0, which features a new imposition solution and improved integration with third-party systems, would probably be the last major upgrade of the system until the Equios/Equiosnet workflow concept is released.

Equios was introduced last year as the RIP for the Truepress Jet SX sheetfed ink-jet press. That machine, which can print on standard coated paper in up to a 20.8x29.1˝ format, was set to be launched at the JGAS show this month with orders taken just in Japan, and the U.S. introduction and order taking to follow at Graph Expo 2010.

Screen (USA) also announced a joint marketing program with Xeikon's North American operations. The agreement enables Screen to offer some Xeikon press models in the U.S. and Xeikon to sell the Truepress Jet520 ink-jet press. At the show, Xeikon showed its 8000 model color press running with an in-line finishing setup for UV coating, lamination, super glossing, diecutting and stacking.

Presstek was able to punctuate the debut of the Presstek 52DI-AC (aqueous coater) digital offset press with a sale to Quad/Graphics. The press supports flood and spot aqueous coating on a maximum sheet size of 20.47x14.17˝ at 8,000 sph. For the first time, the company also released some details of its plans for a large-format model—the Presstek 75DI (75cm or roughly 23x29˝) with a modular tower design (up to 10 colors), set to be introduced at IPEX 2010.

Emphasizing the business side of printing doesn't have to equate to less equipment on the show floor, but that tended to be the case in Chicago. Xerox melded the two by holding a Best-of-the-Best Contest for members of its Premier Partners Global Network and producing nine winning entries at the show.

One Plus One Makes One

The company formally announced it will be adding the Xerox iGen4 220 perfecting press to its product portfolio in the second quarter of 2010. The system integrates two Xerox iGen4 110 presses in a straight line configuration to produce 220 ppm with a single operator, controller and finishing setup.

It's also now offering a monochrome line, the Xerox Nuvera 200/288 MX perfecting production systems that print at 200 and 288 ppm, respectively. The new Xerox Continuous Feed 4-over-1 Solution has a similar design, marrying the Xerox 490 color and monochrome Xerox 650 continuous-feed printers for transpromotional applications.

Technology made Kodak's booth the talk of the show, even though it didn't have any equipment for the production of printing physically in its booth. Various interactive displays, including ones activated by putting a printed sample on the screen, presented information on digital and offset printing applications, and the Kodak solutions best suited to produce them.

Kodak revealed more concrete details of how it will bring the Stream ink-jet production press technology to market, starting with the single-unit Kodak Prosper 1000 monochrome press in the first quarter of 2010, followed by the Prosper 5000XL color model in the first half of the year. Both print a 241⁄2˝ width at speeds up to 650 fpm, and support coated and uncoated stocks made for ink-jet printing.

The company also released several workflow software upgrades, including Prinergy 5.1, which integrates ColorFlow software and APPE 2.0; PREPS 6.1 imposition software, featuring an improved user interface; and Insite Storefront 6.0 with extended Web-to-print capabilities.

Books, transpromo, sustainable graphics and package prototypes were among the applications Océ North America showcased at PRINT 09, along with educating showgoers on the use of Quick Response (QR) code technology.

The company earned Must See 'ems honors for its new 306 ppm Océ VarioPrint 6320 Ultra cutsheet monochrome printer and the Océ JetStream 1000 four-color plus MICR ink-jet printer that does full-width (20.4˝) perfecting/duplex printing in a single unit at up to 1,074 ppm (letter-sized) and is scheduled for general availability in the first quarter of 2010.

Also previewed was the JetStream 3300, a faster, 30˝-wide, color ink-jet model that prints at speeds up to 492 fpm or 3,221 ppm. First shipments are set for the second quarter of 2010.

Ink-jet printing had a starring role at the Fujifilm Graphic Systems U.S.A booth, as well. Getting its first U.S. showing, the Fuji- film Inkjet Digital Press externally looked unchanged from its unveiling at Drupa 2008. It prints up to 2,700 sph in a maximum 28.3x20.5˝ format, at 1,200 dpi using using piezo DOD heads, regular coated offset stocks and water-based, eco-friendly inks. The company reported having several customer commitments ahead of the second quarter 2010 projected release date.

Designed to drive offset and digital printing (including wide-format), commercial availability of the Fujifilm Workflow XMF was announced at the show. It is billed as a JDF engine that incorporates APPE technology and preserves the original PDF content throughout the workflow with instructions for processes such as impositions stored as JDF data.

InfoPrint Solutions introduced MICR capabilities for the InfoPrint 5000 color ink-jet system and an Advanced Function Presentation (AFP) version of the Pro C900 color electrophotographic printer to support transactional, transpromo and other business applications. Ricoh highlighted the new Pro C900S version that adds an integrated scanner to the 90 ppm device, and both companies featured the Pro 907/1107/1357 EX series of monochrome printers that output up to 90, 110 or 135 ppm at 1,200 dpi.

To drive its hardware, InfoPrint Solutions launched the new InfoPrint TransPromo Whitespace Manager and TransPromo Designer composition software for transpromo applications; Postal Optimization ADF to enable use of Intelligent Mail technology; and the Print On-Demand suite offering variable data, Web-to-print and automation solutions.

Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A. continued to talk publicly in only very general terms about a new color print engine that it says will be a "game changer" because of its cost, quality and wide range of media supported. The 80 ppm device, shown under NDA in an enclosed area of the booth, is expected to be announced as a product in early summer 2010.

Konica's other news at the show was commercial availability of the bizhub PRO 1200 series of monochrome production printing systems. The bizhub PRO 1200 and 1200P (printer only) are rated for 120 ppm at 1,200 dpi, while the PRO 1051 outputs 105 ppm.

Two Must See 'ems designations, plus an encore for the Metro DP60 Pro, topped the news from MGI USA. Newly honored were its JETvarnish digital ink-jet spot UV coater, which handles digitally or offset printed substrates up to 20x29˝, and the Meteor DP20, which is suited for photo book production in one pass.

After the show, the company announced it had closed orders for 15 Meteor DP60 Pro digital color presses in Chicago. That model is now available in a Super Format configuration for printing on paper or plastic materials up to 13x47˝.

RISO announced it has entered into a partnership with Kirk-Rudy to market the KR324-R in-line envelope feeder with a top load/bottom feed architecture for continuous operation and the MICR-Mate color MICR check printing solution. Both can run in-line with RISO's cutsheet ink-jet printers, including the recently introduced ComColor series with five models offering maximum rated speeds of 90 ppm to 150 ppm.

Envelopes were also a key application in the Xanté booth, with its Ilumina Digital Envelope Press+ printing envelopes up to 13x15˝ at up to 60 full-color envelopes/minute, including window envelopes.

Agfa rolled out enhancements to its Dotrix Modular digital UV ink-jet press, including Express Print Mode for a 35 percent faster top speed, and six-color extended gamut capabilities with the addition of orange and violet inks.

It also showed upgrades to its workflow product family, including Apogee Suite 6.0 featuring dynamic preflighting based on a new Agfa-developed preflight engine.

Increasing integration at the product and business levels continues to be the big trend in the workflow, MIS and Web-to-print arena.

EFI's PrintSmith MIS solution and Digital StoreFront Web-to-print platform will now be offered by xpedx and xpedx's paper catalog will be integrated with EFI's MIS products under a national reseller agreement signed by the companies. EFI also previewed the next release of the Pace MIS, which will include a software-as-a-service option, along with launching Web Control Center, a Web-based system for controlling proofing at remote sites, and a new browser-based version of the PrintFlow scheduler.

Prism's WIN 2009 MIS and Responsive Solutions' Customer+ Web-to-print solution will be integrated under a joint business alliance announced by the two companies. The WIN 2009 upgrade already added LithoTechnics' Metrix automated job planning and imposition system functionality, along with enhancements to its dashboard and shop floor data collection capabilities.

Version 3.7 of Metrix—featuring user-defined text mark variables, barcode marks and collation marks—was previewed in the LithoTechnics booth, and it introduced Metrix Server for automated job planning, imposition and finishing machine setup based on stored layouts.

XMPie is now leveraging the ExactTarget e-mail solution to offer the XMPie E-Mail Service, which includes setup and ongoing servicing of this e-mailing capability. The company also introduced uStore 3.6 featuring the uStore Connect set of APIs for integrating third-party solutions, and uStore Automatic Failover and Scalability for a fault-tolerant Web-to-print service.

DiMS! organizing print officially launched its DiMS.NET! product in the North American market. Based on Microsoft's .NET technology, the Web-enabled MIS is designed for medium- and large-size printers with multiple facilities, features an enhanced scheduling board, and has the look and feel of Microsoft software products.

Other workflow news in brief included:

• Set for release in the second quarter of 2010, the Franklin Anywhere modular, browser-based MIS solution previewed by Franklin Estimating is designed to help small- to mid-size shops keep their departments and people connected.

• ORIS Press Matcher/Web from CGS Publishing Technologies is geared to drive office and medium production digital printers over an intranet or the Internet for consistent color across devices.

• GMC Software Technology released Portal Builder, a dedicated solution for building active microsites using a desktop design tool and "one-click" publishing.

• ES (enterprise solution) is a new product platform from Dalim Software, starting with Dialogue ES online proofing, that is Web based and uses a JDF interface.

• Aleyant Systems enhanced its Pressero Web-to-print solution with a utility to customize the design of customer stores and expanded the template creation capabilities of the eDocBuilder variable data application.

• Workflow based on the Enfocus Switch technology was demonstrated in the Crossroads booth, including Digital Media Partners' Flo Suite Web-to-print and database publishing system and Elipical's Claro Layout plug-in for Adobe InDesign for automated image correction/enhancement.

• SpotOn! Press previewed version 2.0 of it process control tool, which features new trending capabilities to track production metrics and support for TVI-based methods.

Setting Another Plate

Computer-to-plate solutions could be found around the show floor, but it was common for vendors to display just one machine from their existing product line.

Mitsubishi Imaging did introduce its six-up DPX 6 Eco polyester CTP platesetter, which features a patented processor that uses less chemistry, handles plate formats from 12x12˝ to 30.51x26.77˝ and has a compact footprint. Version 4.0 of its Smart Tools workflow adds ink remapping, imposition integrator and output device feedback.

Several announcements were made on the plate side:

• Presstek debuted the Aeon thermal plate for imaging in any 830nm platesetter. It is rated at 200,000 impressions unbaked with a resolution of 1-99 percent dots at 200 lpi.

•Xingraphics' Fit eco processless thermal (830nm) plate, which doesn't require a washout or gumming unit and isn't developed on-press, supports up to 50,000 impressions.

• The JT Direct plate from VIM Technologies is an aluminum plate that is imaged on a standard Epson ink-jet printer. It can produce up to 20,000 impressions at 150 lpi. PI


 

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