Digital Output Devices: A Digital Printing Redux

With offset presses becoming scarce on the show floor and digital vendors pushing for higher volume and larger B2-format machines, digital presses are becoming the "big iron" components of the GRAPH EXPO show. Almost without exception, digital press vendors highlighted their workflow and digital front end (DFE) capabilities.

GRAPH EXPO suffers from a perennial problem and a quadrennial one. The latter, of course, is that it comes only months after the international drupa printing trade show, where vendors have all but exhausted their new technology announcements. Every drupa year, vendors must come up with something new to show in Chicago, or simply offer a repeat performance and hope there will be enough booth traffic from North American customers who didn’t go to Düsseldorf in May or get a personal demo.

The perennial problem with the show was voiced by a fair number of equipment manufacturers—the cost of exhibiting at Chicago’s McCormick Place, compared to other venues, is unsustainable in a sluggish print economy. Such costs were cited as a reason why so few offset presses were on the floor. The other reason of course is that digital printing is the new norm for shows like Graph Expo and for the printing industry in general.

Almost without exception, digital press vendors highlighted their workflow and digital front end (DFE) capabilities, enabling everything from transpromotional and variable data printing to ganging of smaller jobs (e.g., short-run books) into longer production runs. The emphasis was on automation, personalization and run-length optimization.

Océ/Canon was one of the two largest exhibitors, combining the electrophotographic (EP) and high-speed inkjet heritage of both sides of the company in its booth. The Océ ColorStream 3900 inkjet press announced at drupa made its U.S. debut at the show. The 21.25˝-print-width color press boasts a speed of more than 400 fpm, and was shown running with an in-line booklet finishing system from Standard Horizon.

The other of the two largest exhibitors, Xerox, featured the latest incarnation of its popular iGen digital press platform. Making its North American debut, the iGen 150 features a 150 ppm print speed, new matte dry ink and a host of finishing options for booklet production. Also on display were the CiPress 500 waterless inkjet system, for color printing on a wide range of uncoated stocks, and the new Nuvera 157EA (157 ppm) and 314EA (314 ppm) monochrome systems, the latter being a perfecting system.

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