Digital Print and Newspapers
High-speed continuous inkjet printers have made a huge impact across a variety of printing markets. From transactional to direct mail, to book production and commercial printing. Hundreds of inkjet units have been installed, along with accompanying finishing systems. But one market has seen little adoption of high-speed inkjet. Newspapers.
Many reasons. It's not for lack of attention from the continuous web inkjet printer manufacturers. Both Oce' and Kodak appointed special sales representatives for the newspaper industry some years ago. No one expects newspapers to replace their offset presses with inkjet for their daily production. The print volumes and production time window exceed inkjet's capabilities. The current New York Times weekday daily circulation exceeds 1,110,000 copies. Much of it printed within an eight-hour window. So, there is no threat of offset displacement by digital anytime soon.
The few inkjet installs in the newspaper environment have been successfully used to print products that (by nature of their short runs) are not well-suited for an offset web press. There are units printing very short runs of foreign news dailies (or weeklies) in the New York metro area, and systems printing both short-run commercial work and tabloids in the Chicago metro area. Most of these runs are under 2,000 copies.
The finishing solutions for inkjet production are there. TKS, a major Japanese manufacturer of offset presses for the newspaper industry introduced its Jetleader 1500 21.5" continuous web inkjet press a few years ago. The press incorporates web folding and cutting technology to enable the press to deliver a multi-page, completed newspaper product. Hunkeler of Switzerland has had an automated star-wheel collating system for automated newspaper production off the back of an inkjet, or toner continuous press. IBIS Bindery Systems recently announced that its "X" model Smart-binder can stitch (or glue) and three-side trim a tabloid-size product inline with a continuous inkjet press.
If the digital print and finishing solutions are there, where are the customers? The main reason is a lack of capital (on the part of newspapers) to invest. The industry is still facing uncertainty and financial pressures from declining circulations. Some papers have been successful in erecting digital pay walls, others have not. As a result, money for new print and finishing technology is generally scarce.
Years ago, I had listened to presentations on the personalization possibilities that digital print would bring to the newspaper industry. So far, those predictions have not come to pass. As inkjet continues to evolve (and gets faster), this market may finally evolve.