It was November in Japan the last time I had a close look at the latest in Océ’s inkjet technology, then the new ColorStream 3500. It’s a two-engine system designed to fill the gap in the company’s inkjet lineup by addressing the need for a fast inkjet system that can be placed on the raised floors of data centers and some service bureaus.
The ColorStream filled that role, but it was apparent that Océ has a serious focus on continuous-feed inkjet applications, especially books, direct mail and the transactional/transpromo work that has long been the company’s home ground and where its toner-based VarioStream systems hold a commanding market share.
This time the venue was Poing, a small town a ways east of Munich, Germany, home to Océ’s continuous-feed systems and where, on a clear day, you see the Alps rising from the plains a few dozen kilometers to the south. It was here that Océ rolled out two new systems—the JetStream 1400 and 3000.
The JetStream 1400 is a big, duplex-in-a-box system, essentially a faster version (100 meters/min.) of the JetStream 1000, while the 3000 is a faster edition (200 m/min.) of the duplex-engined JetStream 2200. Thanks to 40 Khz Kyocera heads, a bigger drying system and other new components, both run some 33 percent faster than the models on which they are based. Best of all, the speed uptick is achieved with no reduction in the machines’ 600-dpi image quality.
The existing JetStream 1000 and 2200 models will remain available and the current versions can be field-upgraded to 1400 and 3000 models. While it is possible for earlier versions of the 1000 and 2200 to be upgraded without the use of a forklift and an 18-wheeler, according to Océ it is usually more cost-effective to replace an older system with a new one. There have been enough production changes that upgrading the earliest models is usually not practical.
At the front end, however, is Océ’s same proven SRA controller that drives all the company’s inkjet engines, and scaling it up for more speed and performance up is just business as usual.Serious about inkjet
The new machines give Océ nine high-speed inkjet systems that are divided into four logical breaks, albeit with some overlap, but that’s no biggie in the day-to-day.
- Twin Series, including the ColorStream 3500 in simplex or duplex configurations;
- Compact Series, with the single-engine duplex 1000 and 1400 models;
- Dual Series, including the JetStream 1500, 2200 and 3000; and
- Wide Series, with the big 30” wide, dual-engine JetStream 2800 and 3300 systems at the top.
This broad range makes Océ the purveyor of the greatest range of high-speed production inkjet systems on the market. In fact, Océ offers about as many choices of systems and throughput as HP, Kodak and Ricoh-InfoPrint Solutions combined. There is no doubt that Océ is serious about inkjet
And it’s a good thing, too. The company has been making a slow transition from being renown as a nearly exclusively monochrome solutions vendor to being almost full color all the time. It’s cut-sheet systems, notably the VarioPrint 6000 family, are regarded by many as some of the best monochrome cut-sheet devices available, while the company’s continuous-feed systems churn out over half the digital continuous-feed pages printed in the United States and Western Europe. But black-and-white demand is flat or declining while color is on the rise. And since color toner has less than favorable economics for longer run apps, inkjet is the only viable way to put lots of color on a page at low cost.
Image quality on the ColorStream and JetStream presses looks to be competitive with that of other contenders in the market. I’ve yet to see enough similar jobs from all the players on similar media to say which is the “best” (whatever that means), but to some extent it may not matter.
Océ’s nine systems and HP’s T-series—clearly the leaders—are proving more than adequate to the needs of the market, and both companies are intent on raising the bar on print quality. What’s important to bear in mind is that, in terms of technological development, production-class inkjet printing is about where electrophotographic color printing was around 1998 or so. Back then, it only sort of worked, and not without (often significant) pain. So inkjet is only going to get dramatically better—and probably soon.
With Océ’s range of products, a tight focus on the markets with the most potential (transactional/transpromo, books, direct mail and newspapers), and Canon’s intent to be one of the leading forces in print communications, we can expect to see even more from Océ. The company says it already has some 167 engines installed around the world and more orders are coming in across its inkjet lineup.
That the company is announcing these new machines some 11 months before drupa 2012 probably means more is in the pipeline and that Océ will be enlarging its inkjet offerings next May in Dusseldorf. The other purveyors of inkjet should be paying attention.