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GRAPH EXPO 2006: Digital Printing — Short Selling Printing

November 2006 BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor
IT MAY be telling that, with a few exceptions, the presses in operation around the show floor of Graph Expo and Converting Expo 2006 were of the digital variety. Offset units were conspicuous in their absence.

Digital presses largely have become part of the commercial printing mainstream, rather than being a specialty product segment or market niche. The exhibition’s Wide Format Pavilion showed ongoing interest in that segment, but adding a wide, large, superwide or grand format digital system still is seen as a way to diversify rather than being standard equipment.

Hewlett-Packard shared results from an InfoTrends study that surveyed a sampling of digital color printing buyers and producers. Analyzing the market through the end of 2005, the research firm found color printing jobs with a run length of 500 pieces or less—whether produced digitally or via offset—had grown to 50.5 percent of the sampling’s total volume (up from the 29.6 percent finding of a similar study InfoTrends did in 2002). Color jobs with run lengths of more than 5,000 pieces declined to 20.1 percent (from 32.6 percent) of their total work.

Interestingly, Heidelberg cited this same trend as a reason for introducing Anicolor inking unit technology for its Speedmaster SM 52 sheetfed offset press. It says the zoneless, short inking unit provides offset quality at “digital” prices for short runs.

Digital offset or DI (digital imaging) solutions were also in evidence on the show floor.

Sales at the Show

Presstek Inc. reports it received customer commitments for more than a dozen DI presses, with the new Presstek 52DI making its official North American debut at the show. Murray Print Shop, St. Louis, was announced as the first install in the United States prior to the show, and City Colors in Doral, FL, was slated to become the next home for the demo unit in Presstek’s booth.

DI technology was also on display in the xpedx Printing Technologies booth in the form of the Ryobi 3404 DI four-color press. To address variable data applications, the company unveiled a new “pay-per-click” program for commercial and in-plant printers that enables them to add OEM-branded digital equipment (the Xerox color product line to start) to their operations for a flat per-page fee, rather than an upfront capital outlay.

KBA North America reported a Midwest printer had purchased three KBA 74 Karat digital offset presses like the one it had running on the show floor. Screen (USA) also brought its digital offset press, the Truepress 344, to McCormick Place.


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