Océ Previews Digital Folding Carton Press
While the latest hype from the print industry is making noise in drupa and keeping the nightlife jumping in Dusseldorf’s Altstadt, Océ quietly rolled out the results of its latest R&D investments to a small group of analysts at the company’s factory and development center in Poing, Germany, about 30 minutes east of Munich. There’ll be more details to follow and some analysis in a later blog, but here’s the quick take before I blast back to drupa.
Dubbed InfiniStream, the new technology platform uses electrophotographic liquid toner technology on a B1- to B2-size press that squarely targets the folding carton market. This is terra incognita for Océ, which has long been strong in transactional print and book production.
But in my experience, the folks in Poing are rarely intimidated by the challenges of doing something entirely different, and bringing new implementations of printing technologies to market is something they do well. Also, with packaging arguably being the brightest spot for the future of the printing industry, it’s certainly a fine place to draw a line in the sand and stake out some territory.
That’s exactly what Océ is doing with this yet-to-be-named machine that can crank out 120 meters of paperboard a minute, which equates to some 7,200 B1 or 14,000 B2 sheets per hour. These numbers put it in the same class as a number of sheetfed offset presses used for folding packaging, and the offset-like liquid toner process (yes, it uses a type of a transfer blanket) delivers similar quality to the offset presses presently used tor produce folding cartons.
This machine uses a wet-in-wet, heatless image transfer process the employs what Océ terms “highly mobile, uniform colorants” that are put down in a very thin layer to minimize ink consumption. The CMYK images are built up on the sheets, which are then dried in a prodigiously sized drying system. The unit we saw had four printing towers, but the system can be configured for six or seven colors. And maybe more.
While introduction is 12 to 18 months out, Océ is already working on introducing the digital press to potential customers, all household-name firms that can take advantage of the machine’s ability to support versioning, multiple languages, special runs, test products, last-minute changes in design, and more. It is designed to accommodate production runs of 10,000 to 14,000 sheets per job, which seems short in the context of consumer packaging, but it turns out that this range is pretty much the norm for many folding carton applications.
What struck me most about this device is that unlike some of the digital machines that are being rolled out at drupa, the InfiniStream platform is not a smoke-and-mirrors illusion, but a product that is approaching the point of being an early beta while a number of key details and features are being worked out.
Océ is making a big move with this effort, and entering a totally new market for the company, but if the success of its ColorStream and JetStream inkjet printers are anything to go by, I suspect this new technology could do equally well.
More to follow.