DIGITAL digestSeptember 2011
New J Press 720 Appears to Be Worth the Wait
CHICAGO—To paraphrase Charles Dickens, is this the press whose coming was foretold?
Yes, the Fujifilm J Press 720 sheetfed inkjet is no ghost, but it has been conspicuously invisible since its initial unveiling at Drupa 08. It also poked its head out during the last two Graph Expos, but save these cameos, the J Press 720 has been the printing press' answer to Sasquatch: rumored, but seen by just a few.
Ah, but that is all about to change. Fujifilm recently invited about a dozen editors and analysts to its Hanover Park, IL, headquarters for a briefing and a please-touch experience with the very press that has been dubbed both "disruptive" and a "game changer" by company executives, the first sheetfed inkjet press in the history of ink on paper.
This time around, Fujifilm invited along some witnesses to the 720's greatness—Dave Gilson, president of Gilson Graphics in Grand Rapids, MI, and Dave Lambertsen, owner of Windy City firm BHI Design. Lambertsen has bought into the concept and technology, while Gilson has bought the press itself, confident in his $1.8 million investment and the possibilities it offers.
"A lot of applications fit well with the J Press," said Gilson, who is envisioning getting into short-run packaging at some point after the machine touches down in his shop later this year, augmenting its commercial offerings. "It solved (our needs for) speed, size and the thickness of the substrates, all of which are very important for us."
With printing spends dropping as much as 95 percent with some of his clients in recent years, Lambertsen feels it is important to partner with printers who can offer technologies that can keep them competitive. And, for those clients who still utilize the printing aspect in a campaign, quantities have seen a similar downturn.
Toss in the usual demands of price, quick turnaround and quality, and the J Press 720 envisions itself as providing the best of all worlds. Fujifilm's executives noted that while the company took its time in coming to market, it will have been worth the wait.
The 720 marries the front end of an offset press to an inkjet engine. Operating at a static 2,700 sheets/hr. at 1,200 dpi resolution, it can print substrates ranging from 70-lb. text to 14-pt. coated and uncoated stocks, with a maximum paper size of 29.5x20.8˝. Its Samba print bar technology incorporates 17 bars, each with 2,048 nozzles per head. The single-pass system also features six halogen drying lamps that permit immediate reverse-side printing and finishing.
It's a sheetfed press without the time (and money) consuming platemaking/makeready processes, while reaping the benefits (read: profits) of a digital press on run lengths of less than 3,000. The J Press 720 is reportedly 25 to 30 percent more cost-effective in the sweet spot run length of 500.
"On a square inch basis, the J Press is two to three times faster than the other fastest digital machines currently available," Gilson notes. "The J Press is the closest to offset quality in the marketplace."
The 720 boasts variable data capability, meshes well with Web-to-print applications, eliminates the traditional offset chemicals (plate production, alcohol, etc.), and reduces raw material and paper waste, with a 25 percent lower carbon footprint.
According to Steve Sanker, director of inkjet presses for Fujifilm's Graphic Systems division, a number of orders have been placed for the 720 (he wouldn't divulge exact figures) led by the inaugural order placed by Gilson. PI