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GRAPH EXPO 2006: Digital Printing — Short Selling Printing

November 2006 BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

Compared to PRINT 05, things were much quieter on the merger and acquisition front. Just prior to the event, though, Xerox Corp. announced a deal to acquire XMPie, a leading provider of variable information software. XMPie will continue to be used as a brand name and the operation is to function as a standalone software unit serving the entire graphic arts market.

Kodak revealed it is teaming up with Four51 in a less formal business arrangement to roll out the Kodak MarketMover Network, which it describes as a “commerce networking service.” Four51 is providing the underlying server infrastructure.

There are layers to how the system could be used but, at its heart, the service is intended to provide an online connection between print service providers (with Kodak Nexpress, Prinergy or Versamark equipment) and customers. Print providers will be able to use the service as a private network with Web-to-print functions to link just their customers.

Kodak has a grander vision, though, of companies building relationships on a national and worldwide basis to share jobs and information in a distributed print production model, or simply for load balancing. The service is not intended to be a print bid site, however, stresses Kevin Joyce, managing director, United States and Canada Region, and vice president, Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group (Kodak GCG). Joyce concedes there may be some risk of one shop trying to poach another’s customer in that production model, but the hope is that print providers will be able to develop trusted partnerships through the network.

The service is to be rolled out in phases, starting sometime this fall with shops that have Kodak Nexpress digital presses. It will have a “pay-as-you-go” business model based on receiving jobs.

Merging of offset and digital production—via unified, integrated or hybrid workflows—continues to be an industry trend in big and smaller ways. It can be an all-encompassing vision for the operation of an entire plant, or an interface between just two pieces of equipment.

Heidelberg announced a “technical collaboration” with Canon to extend the connectivity of its Prinect Digital Print Manager to include the new Canon imagePRESS C7000V color digital printing system. This interface is to be based on JDF and PDF.

Dual Demonstrations

The integration of Agfa Graphics’ ApogeeX workflow with the HP Indigo digital press line was demonstrated by both companies. Adding the ApogeeX Integration Pack enables users to drive hybrid digital/offset and digital-only workflows, the companies say.

Prior to the show, Kodak unveiled its Unified Workflow strategy and underlying ColorFlow color control technology for production efficiency in offset and digital environments. It offered a technology demonstration at Graph Expo of the Kodak Web-to-Unified Print software for ordering, creation and on-demand printing of static, personalized or customized communications.

On the digital side, the Print On-Demand Solutions group of Kodak GCG said it will now only use “Creo” as a product name, as in the “Powered by Creo” designation that will appear on some OEM color servers.

The company introduced a new architecture based on the Intel Core2 Duo chip, which it claims boosts performance by more than 50 percent. Initially offered in servers from Konica Minolta and IKON, the faster CPU is to be integrated into other OEM offerings going forward.

Developments in the digital color printing device arena largely amounted to updates on previous announcements.

Canon’s aforementioned imagePRESS C7000V (70 ppm) color press was introduced earlier this year and is on track to begin shipping in limited quantities March of 2007. The engine uses a new toner that reportedly doesn’t build up on the sheet and uses no fuser oil, thereby producing offset quality printing without the usual toner sheen. Workflow was the focus in Chicago, including Canon solutions and integration of third-party components such as EFI Fiery-driven print servers and variable data solutions from Meadows Publishing Solutions, Bitstream and Printable Technologies.

On the Horizon

IBM generated some excitement with talk of a new digital color printing system, but the actual announcement was less than what met the eye. It issued a “statement of direction” that requires the company to bring a product to market within 24 months.

The solution IBM showed in Chicago as a technology demonstration was based on the same webfed ink-jet print engine as the Screen (USA) Truepress Jet520 digital color press. Screen’s version has a maximum print speed of 210 fpm on paper rolls up to 20.4˝ wide. That engine is said to be on a “short list of options” for the final product IBM plans to introduce.

HP launched a new color engine the prior month at Labelexpo. The HP Indigo press ws4500 is a narrow-web (13˝) system with up to seven color stations and offers a new fast ink replacement feature for near zero downtime in switching spot colors. At Graph Expo, it too highlighted workflow solutions, including the new HP Indigo Production Manager and HP Scalable RIP Solutions (SRS) for the 3050, 5000 and w3250 press models, which can drive single- or multi-press configurations at rated press speed.

The company also reported that Tukaiz in Franklin Park, IL, was completing its three-month installation of four new HP Indigo presses, including a s2000 and three 5000s, driven by HP Indigo Production Manager.

Running the three-over-three color version of its VarioStream 9000 continuous-feed digital press in its booth, Océ reported it’s on track to roll out the four-over-four spot color configuration early next year at On Demand 2007 in Boston. Marking a shift in strategy, the company now says the full process-color model will be the next introduction after that (later in 2007 or early 2008), rather than a five-over-five spot color version as previously announced.

Fresh from its unveiling at a private event in suburban Chicago, the Xeikon 6000 webfed digital press had its first national showing in McCormick Place. Key advances include a 160 ppm maximum rated print speed and new form adapted (FA) toner that is said to provide a smoother finish. (More on the event and product can be found in the Digital Digest section on page 52.)

MGI USA had its current Meteor digital press line on display in Chicago, but was set to make a new product introduction in the first week of November and more in 2007. It continues to focus on systems capable of printing on paper and plastics, with enhancements such as support for larger output and off-line UV coating capabilities pending.

Shown as a product preview earlier this year, RISO’s HC5500 ComColor full-color printer was shown in its booth as a commercially available device. The ink-jet machine has a rated print speed of 120 ppm and is suited to bringing “communications color” capabilities to everyday documents, according to the manufacturer.

Black-and-white systems were not forgotten, with books continuing to be seen as a hot market for the technology.

Xerox unveiled a new twin-engine design for its Nuvera cut-sheet digital printing system line that has a maximum 228 ipm rated speed. In this configuration, two print engines are physically connected together in one machine skin, rather than some kind of bridge being used to daisy chain existing versions of the press. Should one engine go down, “Pass Through Programming” technology means the other unit can still be used to print at 144 ipm.

The company says this parallel printer architecture, including software and hardware, “will pave the way for future printer designs at Xerox.”

The next generation Kodak Digimaster EX digital production system comes in four speeds—110, 125, 135 and 150 ppm. Enhancements include improved job management and front-end capabilities, larger paper capacity in drawers and integrated finishing, now supporting long edge folding for production of small books.

All earlier versions of the product line will be discontinued, but Kodak will continue to service and support existing installations. Also introduced was new Kodak Smartboard PDF-based document mastering software.

With commercial deliveries set to begin in the fourth quarter, Océ highlighted finishing capabilities in-line with its VarioPrint 6250 cut-sheet duplex printer. Included were a SDD perfect binder and GBC punch for the 250 ppm device equipped with single-pass Gemini instant duplex technology.

The company also introduced its new VarioPrint Titanium printers (2100 and 3000 series) that meet the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) directive enacted for the EU market. The design uses 25 percent less wiring to help meet this restriction on the use of six hazardous materials found in electrical and electronic products, and is said to be more energy efficient.

Canon introduced four black-and-white imageRUNNER digital presses—7150VP (150 ppm), 7138VP (138 ppm) 7125VP (125 ppm) and 7110VP (110 ppm). They feature a modular design, substrate flexibility and enhanced image quality at a 600 dpi resolution.

With regard to its monochrome offerings, IBM demonstrated new Infoprint Image Enhancement technology for the Infoprint 4100 HD 3/4 printer that provides smoother halftones and sharper contrast.

In another “statement of direction,” the company said it intends to deliver image and grayscale print quality enhancements on the Infoprint 4100 HS2 and HD 3/4 with hardware changes, new halftones and expanded emulations.

IBM also announced that IWCO Direct had installed an Infoprint 4100 5/6 in its New York operation.

As for what’s being fed into presses, Mohawk introduced Via Digital texture papers with its i-Tone surface treatment to enhance performance in digital printing devices.

The line includes Satin, Linen and Felt finishes. Another i-Tone treated line, Mohawk 50/10, has been expanded with the addition of more basis weights and a cast coated sheet in two shades of white.

Ink-Jet Advances

All of the developments covered so far pertain to standard page formats. However, advances continue to be made in ink-jet technology for imaging smaller areas, from simple addressing to personalized blocks of text.

Last year, EFI expanded into superwide digital printing with its acquisition of VUTEk. This year, it announced signing an agreement to acquire Jetrion LLC, a subsidiary of Flint Group. Jetrion is a maker of ink-jet printers and inks primarily for labeling, packaging and direct mail applications.

In a separate deal, Crown Holdings and Jetrion are teaming up to develop a full-scale production system prototype for UV ink-jet printing of metal cans.

Kodak launched a new “pay for usage” program to lower the barrier for smaller printers and mailers to get into continuous ink-jet printing. Qualifying shops can choose to add either a Kodak Versamark DS5222 or DS5340 printing system with a reduced capital investment and usage charge based on the amount of ink consumed.

Targeting the OEM market, HP Specialty Printing Systems introduced the HP Versatile Black 4250 printhead and inks for printing on uncoated and some coated media. The combination is said to provide improved drying times and increased optical density. PI

For more information on Graph Expo products, go to www.piworld.com and click on the Graph Expo roundup link.
 

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