Looking at Print's Future
Last week, I had the pleasure of spending some time at Strategic Content Imaging in Secaucus, NJ. I was there for other business, but I had a chance to see one of their 30"-wide continuous inkjet presses running along at about 800-feet-per-minute. The back-end of the press (a Magnum Digital Flexbook system) was creating individual book blocks of plow-folded, six-page signatures which were then stacked for the perfect binders.
This got me thinking. The majority of digital postpress and finishing systems on the market today are rated for a "top end" speed of around 400- to 600-feet-per-minute. At the same time, the press vendors will happily tell you that they are working on moving up to 800-, or 1,000-feet-per-minute. The demand for higher print speeds is largely coming from the commercial print side. They want to achieve print speeds similar to their offset gear.
The higher print speeds will force many (but not all) postpress systems to seriously up their game with heavier and faster unwinders, cutters, folders and sheeters. Not to mention stitching and binding. The dynamics of unwinding and cutting a 52" print roll are far different at 1,000-feet-per-minute than what they are today. On top of this, there remains the challenge of processing the 30" and 42" digital press web width's that are already on the market. The bulk of postpress running today is capable of handling a 20" web.
I couldn't help note that as I watched this impressive digital press run at SCI, how close it came to resembling an offset web press in production. Yet it had the ability to run many more (and shorter-run) jobs than any offset press in existence. More importantly, this wasn't the only inkjet press on their floor. I realized I was looking at print's future, only it's here now.