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drupa 2012 : Inkjet and B2 Digital Trend

June 2012 By Mark Smith, Technology Editor
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In the months leading up to the international printing trade fair, much had been said and written about drupa 2012 being another inkjet show. Those predictions proved accurate as far as they went, but that characterization is too limiting to capture the broader digital printing focus of the developments announced.

Any highlights report has to include Landa Corp.’s introduction of Nanographic Printing, for example, even though what the actual impact of the technology will end up being is an open question. The printing process employs piezoelectric heads, but the company doesn’t refer to it as inkjet printing in part because an intermediate blanket transfers the NanoInk to the substrate. 

There also was a mini resurgence of “liquid toner” printing technology in Düsseldorf, Germany, with several manufacturers promising to bring solutions to market. That qualifying statement actually was another recurring theme of the show, as the majority of solutions announced are not slated for commercial release until sometime in 2013.

drupa 2012 Digital Press chart
[+] click to enlarge
Among the other trends in evidence were a focus on B2 format digital printing solutions and manufacturers configuring offset presses—including sheetfed models—with inkjet imaging units for hybrid printing or using them as building blocks for dedicated digital printing solutions. Although technically part of the above themes, it was also striking to see how much emphasis was put on digital solutions by the “traditional” offset press manufacturers.

Nanographic Printing

What helped make “Nanography” the talk of the show were the announcements that Heidelberg, Komori and manroland sheetfed had formed strategic partnerships with Landa to bring Nanographic Printing solutions to market. This is in addition to Landa’s plans to introduce three sheetfed and three web presses of its own. The agreements with Heidelberg and Komori cover the development of new printing press lines, whereas manroland reportedly is looking to retrofit existing presses.

Water-based NanoInk is the foundation of the printing process. It is formulated with small polymer pigment particles in the 50- to 70-nanometer size range and is “ejected” onto a heated transfer blanket that evaporates the water and creates a thin ink film (500nm thick)—thinner than offset lithography. The nano-size pigments are said to be powerful absorbers of light and produce sharp dots, high image density and uniformity, abrasion resistance and a broad CMYK color gamut.

The process can print at maximum 1,200x600 dpi and in up to eight colors on any “off-the-shelf” substrate, from coated or uncoated paper stocks to plastic films, without the need for any pre-treatment or special coating. It is a digital process, so variable data printing is possible, but Landa initially is focusing on the low cost per page for digital printing of work currently done via offset.

The company said it expects to start delivering its own branded presses to customers by the end of 2013 and reported strong order taking from printers in Düsseldorf to “secure a place in line.”

Inkjet Presses

While Fujifilm and Screen did offer sheetfed inkjet technology demos at the previous drupa—the J Press 720 and Truepress JetSX, respectively—a case can be made for designating 2012 as the coming out party for sheetfed inkjet vs. 2008 being the predominately inkjet web drupa. This time around, Screen showed the now commercially available JetSX with duplex capability and launched the 13.7˝-wide Truepress Jet L350UV inkjet label printing system.

Fujifilm featured a folding carton version of its sheetfed press as a technology demonstration, but also unveiled its entry into the inkjet web arena with the J Press W (provisional name). Featuring a 21.4˝ web width and maximum print speed of 127 meters per minute, the press uses Vividia pigment or dye-based inks and is expected to be commercially available in late 2012.

In the spring of 2011, Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) and mega-printer RR Donnelley announced an agreement to develop new digital presses based on Donnelley’s Apollo piezoelectric inkjet technology. The KBA RotaJET 76, which is being manufactured at the press manufacturer’s plant in Würzburg, Germany, is the fruit of that partnership. It features a maximum 30.7˝ web width and prints at up to 500 fpm using water-based pigment inks. The press is scheduled for release before the end of 2012.

Komori Corp. showcased two four-color inkjet presses, one sheetfed and one web, based on different technologies. The 29˝ Impremia IS29 sheetfed model—being developed jointly with Konica Minolta (the KM-1 press, in its case)—uses UV ink and a large central drum to print 3,300 single-sided sph at 1,200 dpi. It is expected to be available in about a year. Within the 18-month timeframe, Komori plans to bring to market the 20˝-wide Impremia IW20 webfed system that prints aqueous pigment inks at 75 meters/min. and a maximum 1,200 dpi resolution.

In the meantime, the agreement between the companies will enable Komori to offer a variant of the toner-based Konica Minolta bizhub PRESS C8000, which it has branded the Impremia C80.

Characterizing it as a prototype, MGI Digital Graphic Technology entered the B2 fray with its ALPHAJET UV inkjet press that prints a maximum 20x29˝ sheet at 1,200 dpi and 3,000 sph, in up to six colors plus spot or flood UV coating. The press is expected to be commercially available in mid- to late-2013 and boasts features such as pallet-based loading, LED UV dryer, and a patented system that uses clips and tension to keep sheets flat. A raised-effect printing mode is to come.

Memjet-based solutions made a big splash at last year’s Graph Expo, but were overshadowed at drupa. Delphax Technologies did make a bold play with its introduction of the élan 500 color press, powered by Memjet, which prints up to 500 (A4) ppm at 1,600x800 dpi (or 250 ppm at 1,600x1,600 dpi). It uses stationary heads containing more than 70,000 jets to image a maximum 18x25.2˝ sheet with pigmented or dye-based inks. Projected availability is around mid-2013, with the cost of head replacement being a key question for this system.

Kodak and Xerox had similar drupa experiences for two very different reasons. In both cases, questions about the future direction of each company overshadowed their product introductions. Kodak Chairman and CEO Antonio Perez spent much of Kodak’s media briefing discussing the company’s bankruptcy filing, while Ursula Burns, Xerox chairman and CEO, referenced her personal life to refute the notion that Xerox was moving away from technology to focus on services, noting that giving birth to her daughter didn’t change her relationship with her son, the first born.

In terms of their inkjet press offerings, both companies added new models to their existing product lines. The Kodak Prosper 6000XL Press is designed for higher volume production with a top speed of 1,000 fpm at 133 lpi. It can be configured with the Image Optimizer Station for greater substrate flexibility, including regular coated, uncoated and glossy papers. Xerox’s CiPress 325 waterless inkjet press is an entry-level companion to the CiPress 500, offering a maximum 325 fpm print speed at 600x600 dpi—which can be upgraded to the latter’s 500 fpm via a software license. 

HP also introduced incremental product upgrades across its inkjet web press family by implementing advanced ink and printhead technology that is said to produce a rounder dot and more consistent quality. Available this fall, the 42˝ HP T410 and 30˝ T360 print in monochrome at a top speed of 800 fpm, up to 25 percent faster than previous models, and retain the 600 fpm color print speed. Offering an increased print speed of up to 400 fpm, the 22˝ HP T230 is expected to be available by the end of 2012.   

Two new models have been added to the Océ ColorStream 3000 inkjet web series. The “basic” model ColorStream 3200 has a 17˝ width and speed of 688 (letter-sized) ppm or 157 fpm, while the new top-speed ColorStream 3900 model outputs 909 ppm/417 fpm with a 21-1⁄4˝ web width. Océ, a Canon Group company, also introduced the JetStream 4300 as the high-speed model in its “Wide” series, which prints a 30˝ web at 656 fpm.

Making its first show appearance was the TKS Jetleader 1500 inkjet web press that uses water-based pigment ink to print a maximum 21-1⁄2˝ web at 600 dpi and up to 492 fpm, driven by Global Graphics’ Harlequin Host Renderer “digital” RIP. At drupa, the four-color press was being used to print daily production runs of the current day’s U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Liquid Toner

Having previously released the details of the new 29˝ HP 10000 digital press, the big news from HP at drupa was the announcement that Consolidated Graphics placed a pre-order for 10 of these new machines, set for release in 2013. HP’s other major news from the show was the rollout of its three-color Enhanced Productivity Mode (EPM)—offering 33 percent greater throughput—across its product lines.

Ryobi and Miyakoshi Printing Machinery showed a “pre-market” version of a B2-size sheetfed digital press that prints with “ultrafine particle” liquid toner and is notable for its ability to print at rated speed of up to 10,000 sph. Ferrostaal Equipment Solutions North America will bring the product to market in the United States by the end of 2013.

A step or two further away from commercialization is the Trillium series presses that Xeikon is developing based on the “high-viscosity” liquid toner (HVT) technology it acquired roughly 18 months ago. The company displayed a single-color print engine in a restricted viewing area at drupa and is projecting to have full-color machines at customer sites within two years. The technology uses the same imaging head as the Xeikon 8000 series.

While not part of its drupa offering, Océ took a small group of industry analysts and media representatives on a side trip during the show to see a prototype of the currently dubbed InfiniStream liquid toner press. The webfed engine shown can output a B2 or B1 format at speeds up to 120 meters/min., is designed for heavy stocks, and is said to be 12 to 18 months out from a product launch.

Inkjet Modules

Presstek announced the option to equip its 29˝ Presstek 75DI model with inkjet heads for variable data printing at up to 600 dpi and 10,000 sph (down from the press’ 16,000 sph maximum print speed). Configurations of the 4.17˝ heads can be customized to meet specific client needs for monochrome printing. The company also introduced the Virtuoso print quality system, automatic perfecting and UV printing options for the press.

Ryobi and Kodak signed a “worldwide statement of cooperation” that enables Ryobi 750 series (31x23.6˝ and 10,000 sph) sheetfed offset presses to be equipped with Kodak Prosper S5 imprinting systems (up to 600 dpi and 500 fpm). Configurations include two heads with one dryer, four heads and dryers, or four heads with dryers plus an in-line UV varnish station.

Also teaming up with Kodak was Timsons, which showed the Timson T-Press monochrome inkjet book printing system in the Kolbus stand. The press uses Kodak Stream inkjet technology to print a 53˝-wide web at up to 650 fpm and feeds into a Kolbus binding system. (Kodak introduced the 3,000 fpm print speed, Prosper S30 imprinting system at drupa, which should open up additional in-line inkjet printing opportunities.)

Atlantic Zeiser announced a collaboration with KBA to equip the new Rapida 105 sheetfed press with Delta 105i inkjet printing modules to enable barcoding and serializing of press sheets at up to 600 dpi and  787 fpm. Heidelberg is also offering Atlantic Zeiser inkjet heads, along with Domino and Inkdustry products, as options for imprinting customized alphanumeric codes on its new Speedmaster XL 106 sheetfed platform. And, the company’s head are the first ones to be tested by manroland sheetfed for use in a fixed print bar on its press for 600 dpi imprinting at 7,000 sph, or 14,000 sph at 300 dpi.

Digital Finishing Presses

Even though they may operate in a manner akin to other imaging devices, referring to machines dedicated to applying a coating or other treatment as digital presses still seems like a stretch. They’re in a class unto themselves.

The B2 trend was evident even in this product segment with Scodix adding the S74 (29˝/74cm) and S52 (20˝/52cm) models to its Digital Press S series. These devices use inkjet nozzles to deliver drops of PolySENSE clear polymer that can be built up to a 250-micron thickness on substrates from 135 to 675 gsm. Scodix was also highlighting its Rainbow glittering station, a dedicated UV unit that applies a special type of PolySENSE followed by standard glittering powder.

MGI introduced the JETvarnish 3D digital spot UV coater that can also create textured and raised, 3D embossing effects on sheets up to 20x42˝. This model can spot coat up to three times faster than the original and employs a new camera system to ensure registration with the printed page. Presented as a technology preview was the NOVA UV in-line coater that will be available as an option for the Meteor DP60 Pro and the above models starting in late 2012.

With its announcement of the entry-level Meteor DP8700 S model with a maximum 13x19˝ format, MGI was part of the final digital trend at drupa—incremental advances in the “traditional” digital color press sector. Xerox, for example, introduced the 155 ppm iGen 150 model, while Canon launched a high-capacity stacker for the imagePRESS C7010 series, and Kodak highlighted the new 36˝-long sheet option and 166 ppm “turbo mode” on its Nexpress SX3900 platform. Konica Minolta did preview the all-new bizhub PRESS C1100, but is holding details for its product launch in 2013. 

Thirteen normally is thought to be unlucky, but as a target date for commercial release of new digital presses, 2013 quickly took on a near magical aura in Düsseldorf. Perhaps “drupa 2012+1” would be the most accurate label for the show. PI



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