Inkjet Shifts Beyond 'Traditional' Applications at drupa 2016
When it comes to drupa, pundits typically want to paint with a broad brush to create a tagline that best describes the prevalent theme defining our industry’s most important, trend-setting event. The most recent drupas were lauded for their focus on JDF workflows, process automation and high-speed inkjet digital printing.
The maturation of inkjet 2.0 was certainly a prevalent theme at drupa 2016, but the emphasis shifted beyond more “traditional” inkjet applications such as books, direct mail, transactional and commercial printing. Instead, production inkjet and toner equipment manufacturers unveiled numerous offerings within the digital package printing space — especially for folding cartons, corrugated and labels — earning drupa 2016 “The Digital Packaging drupa” moniker.
This was best illustrated by the introduction of several B1- format (40˝+) cut-sheet production inkjet presses well-suited for folding cartons, including the Heidelberg Primefire 106 developed in conjunction with Fujifilm; the Landa S10 (that will also be available in an S10P perfecting model for commercial printing); the KBA VariJET 106 Powered by Xerox; the Xanté Excelagraphix 4200, which uses Memjet page-wide inkjet printheads; and the Komori Impremia NS40, which incorporates Landa nanotechnology.
Direct-to-board corrugated printing was emphasized, especially with the launch of the 1.8m-wide EFI Nozomi C18000 LED inkjet press that can ouput up to 9,000 boards/hr. and a preview of the Konica Minolta KM-C inkjet press that outputs up to 2,200 cardboard and micro-flute boards/hr. HP also debuted its PageWide C500 thermal inkjet press for corrugated, which comes on the heels of its joint venture with KBA announced last December to offer the HP PageWide Web Press T1100S for preprinted liners.
In another partnership, Screen and BHS Corrugated announced an agreement during drupa for Screen’s Inca Digital subsidiary to develop a reel-to-printed sheet aqueous inkjet printing option for use in-line with BHS corrugators as an integral part of the corrugated box manufacturing process.
Flexible packaging received attention, as well. Kodak featured an Extended Gamut + Varnish (XGV) technology demonstration showing flexible film being produced on a narrow web by configuring seven Kodak S-Series inkjet printing systems with an additional station applying a water-based digital varnish. Likewise, Fujifilm previewed a new UV LED inkjet press suited for printing on the underside of flexible packaging.
Production inkjet printing advancements shown at drupa 2016 weren’t solely limited to packaging and B1-format sheetfed presses, though. Komori and Konica Minolta used the show to officially launch the 23x29˝ Impremia IS 29 and AccurioJet KM-1 cut-sheet UV inkjet presses, respectively. Fujifilm highlighted its upgraded 20.9x29.5˝ J Press 720S, which employs newer Samba printheads, 20% more uptime via software upgrades, and can print on heavier stocks and canvas media.
Canon showcased enhancements to its Océ VarioPrint i300 13.9x19.7˝ sheetfed inkjet printer, including a new ColorGrip in-line paper conditioning process that enables the use of commodity offset stocks; an improved inkset; and new in-line finishing options for booklet-making and dynamic perforation. Xerox debuted its very first cut-sheet inkjet offering, the 14.33x20.5˝ Brenva HD press that incorporates the same feeder, frame and paper path used in the Xerox iGen platform.
Embellishing the Power of Print
Digital embellishments, in several cases for packaging applications, could also be found at several drupa stands. Leading the pack were MGI and Konica Minolta (Konica Minolta raised its ownership stake in MGI to 40.5% in April) with the showing of MGI Meteor Unlimited Colors, JETvarnish and AlphaJet devices; Scodix with its Ultra Pro and the new E106 for folding cartons; and Landa’s nanographic metallization technology that is said to reduce costs and create zero waste. HP Indigo also demonstrated its Digital Combination Press that provides HP Indigo printing output and digital embellishments on labels — all in a single pass.
Some other general observations about drupa 2016:
- When it comes to traditional offset press technology, UV LED curing technology adoption is rising to the forefront.
- Signs of collaboration and partnerships for the development of new inkjet press offerings could be found everywhere. This was especially evident in the couplings between traditional offset press and digital press/inkjet printhead manufacturers such as Heidelberg/Fujifilm, KBA/Xerox, KBA/HP and Komori/Landa, among others.
- New inksets for inkjet printing were shown that eliminate the need for specially treated papers and precoats when using standard offset stocks.
- Most of the digital press manufacturer exhibits gave heavy emphasis to application zones as a way to illustrate the growing and imaginative range of products that can be produced on their devices.
- Cloud-based computing, storage, and equipment monitoring and service are becoming increasingly important technologies for hardware, as well as software, providers.
- Embellishments that provide more added-value to digital and conventional printing output, such as foils, glitter, textures, varnishes, special coatings, embossing and laser diecuts, were rampant through the halls.
- Wide- and grand-format inkjet printing remains a growth market for commercial printers looking to expand into new, higher-margin products and services. Exhibitors at drupa showcased flatbed, roll-fed and hybrid models reflecting multiple price points and feature ranges.
- HP Indigo and Landa announced the biggest deals during the show. HP Indigo reported the upcoming placement of 25 HP Indigo 12000 digital presses by photo products specialist Shutterfly and about 20 larger-format HP Indigo presses to Cimpress (formerly known as Vistaprint). Landa will also place up to 20 Landa nanographic presses at Cimpress, based upon the completion of successful testing requirements. And Quad/Graphics will partner with Landa for the rollout of continuous-feed Landa nanographic presses designed for short-run magazines and journals.
- And last, but not least, drupa 2016 served as a catalyst that seemed to energerize the printing industry. The added-value promise of inkjet and embellished output capabilities, coupled with all of the new product applications that can be achieved, has breathed new life and created a renewed sense of enthusiasm. As one pundit put it, “drupa 2016 helped the printing industry regain its mojo.” PI