Digital Color Printing — Ink-jet in Line for Takeoff

Continuous Ink-jet Option

Credit for pioneering the use of ink-jet technology for high-volume page production goes to the Kodak (then Scitex Digital) Versamark product line, currently featuring the VX5000 and VX5000e models. It’s important to note that these machines are based on continuous ink-jet print head technology. The VX5000 is rated to print at 500 fpm (>2,000 ppm) with a maximum 300×600 dpi resolution, and the VX5000e (enhanced resolution) runs at 328 fpm (>1,400 ppm) with a 300×1,200 dpi resolution.

These types of high-volume systems can top the $1 million price range. RISO Inc., meanwhile, has shown what is possible at the other end of the ink-jet page production spectrum (sub $50,000).

It recently announced a relationship with Kodak to offer the RISO HC5500 color ink-jet printer as a complement to Kodak’s Versamark V-series systems, providing a solution for short-run applications such as reprints. The cut sheet device can be tied into the same workflow to take advantage of Kodak’s color control and image processing technology in replicating the look and feel of the high volume output.

The HC5500 uses piezo-electric ink-jet heads to output 120 ppm (A4 size) with a top resolution of 300×600 dpi and 123⁄8×185⁄16? maximum print area. RISO has positioned the device as enabling everyday documents to be output with a “communications color” level of print quality.

This range of currently available printing systems reflects one of the main points raised during the On Demand panel discussion—ink-jet production printing systems will not be a homogeneous category of products. That’s because vendors can trade off speed for quality or quality for speed to keep the capital cost down, or they can develop a solution that offers high speed and quality at a greater cost.

One company, Memjet Services, asserts that its ink-jet print head technology has the potential to change that equation. CEO Bill McGlynn (formerly with HP Indigo) says the company is looking to be a component supplier to other companies that manufacture output devices, rather than making any end products itself.

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