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High-Speed Inkjet Presses: Next Round of Investments

February 2013 By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
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It's been another year with high-speed, full-color inkjet presses in the field. Bleeding-edge adopters have helped the press vendors work out many of the kinks in a live production environment. Paper vendors have continued to expand their offerings for the inkjet market. Now has come the next wave of investment from print shops with significant business cases for this technology, but that had waited until the path had cleared.

In the high-speed, high-resolution marketplace, the list of players with presses in production environments remains familiar—GSS, HP, Kodak, Océ, Ricoh (InfoPrint), Screen, TKS, Xeikon, Xerox and Fuji-film (sheetfed). And then there's RR Donnelley, which opted to develop its own technology.

What is striking about the round of installations this year over last, we are hearing about far fewer installation problems and challenges with substrates. We are hearing more about the costs and need to expand post-processing capabilities rather than installation or performance of the presses themselves. Business cases are still strong but, unlike the earliest adopters, those needs were not as acute, so they had the luxury of hanging back and biding their time until that time was right.

Sheridan Books: Critical Color Needs and ISO Compliance

One of the verticals in which we are seeing rapid investment in high-speed inkjet production is book publishing. This transition is exemplified by Sheridan Books (Chelsea, MI), which installed an HP T360 color inkjet web press in October 2012.

"We've seen about a 20 percent reduction in our average run length," says Tim Cotter, vice president of operations for the short-run book printer, which serves more than 2,000 publishers in the trade, professional, religious, scientific, medical and technical fields. "While our run lengths vary, the average has dropped from 2,200 to 1,800."

Cotter finds that publishers are aggressively going after inventory costs and have a better understanding that purchase decisions aren't just made on manufacturing unit cost but on the total cost. "We also expect to use the press to cut delivery time by 60 percent to 75 percent in many instances," he adds.

Cotter did his product research in conjunction with Ed Hartman, vice president of operations for Sheridan's sister company The Sheridan Press, which produces short-run books and short-run magazines and journals. Both are units of The Sheridan Group.



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