High-Speed Inkjet Presses : Real-World Experiences

Mercury President and CEO John Place (in suit at podium) and his staff serve the educational market with a Kodak Prosper 5000XL press.

Mail Print acquired an HP T200 color inkjet web press in January.

SourceLink’s Océ ColorStream 3500 is being used to output fast-turnaround jobs requiring multiple press makereadies.

Gilson Graphics is running the first installation of the Fuji J Press 720 in the United States. Operator Garret Vanderhooning looks on as Mike Simmons pulls a sheet from the sheetfed inkjet press.

Place describes an education market driven by the desire to move to zero inventory, and textbooks customized down to the district and classroom level. Currently, its average run length on the Prosper is 50 to 100 copies (although it regularly goes up to 1,500). Its facility is also producing one-offs for the photo book market.

Initially, Mercury Print Productions is using the press to focus on higher education because of the market’s lower ink coverage requirements, “but, as inkjet develops, we believe that inkjet will be going into the [more graphics-heavy] K-12 marketplace, as well,” Place says.

Mercury chose Kodak’s solution equally for its imaging technology and its proximity. In particular, its team liked the Stream continuous inkjet technology over the spray technology used by other systems. “The result is more of a natural image—closer to the look of an offset press,” he contends. “Kodak is also right here in town, which really helps when new technology is being rolled out.”

Place remains very upbeat and optimistic about Kodak in spite of its recent Chapter 11 filings. “We are very confident about Kodak’s future and are excited about its recent announcement that it considers high-speed commercial inkjet presses to be the core of its future business. Our relationship and partnership with Kodak continues to evolve and will continue to benefit both parties as we move forward.”

Currently, the Kodak Prosper is fed with Mercury’s eMerx XML/JDF-driven front-end workflow for work orders, job prep and imposition. During the peak season, Mercury handles hundreds of jobs simultaneously. It is not unusual to have 30 to 50 jobs on the same roll.

Although Mercury’s volume dictates that it focus the digital press on the educational marketplace, going forward that may change. “We are only just beginning to look into the other markets that we could enter,” says Place. “There are a lot of avenues, such as financial, which we’re not touching right now. Eventually, we will begin tapping into the full-variable 
capability of the press, but we have to be careful because we’ve already been maxing out its production capacity.”

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