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PRINT 05 DIGITAL PRINTING -- Volumes Turning Up

October 2005
BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

One of the most striking trends to take shape at PRINT 05 & CONVERTING 05 is the degree to which one can now play a "zero degrees of separation" game between vendors of digital printers and prepress workflow systems. Some level of cross-linking seemed to be announced for almost every possible pairing. (More details are included in the "Prepress Workflow and CTP" show recap on page 28.)

In terms of the print engines themselves, developments appear to have at least temporarily hit a plateau. The pieces required to build a viable business are already in place, so the focus has shifted to promoting market success. System vendors are highlighting growth in monthly volumes among their installed bases, rather than looking ahead to the next big thing, be that larger formats or leaps in speed.

There do continue to be incremental gains in performance introduced, but the closest thing to a hot area of technology has been the various approaches to applying protective and/or glossy coatings.

Examples include new offerings from Kodak Nexpress, Xerox and Xeikon. Earlier this year, PIA/GATF released the results of a study that documented the greater risk of damage that postal handling poses for digitally printed pieces and the benefits of applying a protective coating. (For more information, see article on page 76.)

HP Indigo has introduced a coating technology/treatment of a different sort, called in-line priming, that enables its machines to run standard offset media.

While Canon U.S.A. did have a booth on the PRINT 05 show floor, its new product announcements were saved for Canon EXPO 2005 in New York City. The company also celebrated 50 years of doing business in the U.S. at the private trade show. (See "Digital Digest" news story on page 80.)

Next: Full-Color Version

In Chicago, the only talk of anything approaching a new platform for digital color printing came from Océ. It reports still being on track to introduce a full-color version of the VarioStream 9000 continuous-feed printing system sometime in 2007. For now the focus remains on what the company terms "job appropriate" color, which it extended to three-over-three color by unveiling the VarioStream 9230 model.

The concept of hybrid offset/digital printing got a boost from Kodak Versamark and Muller Martini, which teamed up to demonstrate the former's continuous ink-jet heads doing variable imaging in-line with the latter's Concepta narrow web press. The two companies have signed a reseller agreement to market the combination.
 

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