Digital Presses--Making the Grade
Today, the print-on-demand world is a bit smaller, more crowded, with solutions breaking the digital press market in three distinct categories.
H Devices by innovators such as Canon, Minolta, Ricoh, T/R Systems and Xerox that are toner-based digital color copiers bolstered with advanced software set on flashy digital front-ends. Canon's Color Laser Copier series and the Canon CLC 1000 join T/R Systems' MicroPress cluster printing solution in this category.
H Variable printing solutions, packed with the power of personalization, capture the second segment of digital presses, namely offerings such as the Indigo E-Print 1000; Xeikon's DCP family, chiefly the DCP/32D; Agfa's Chromapress 32i and 50i, both of which employ the Xeikon engine but are delivered with Agfa's IntelliStream digital front-end and the potential of Personalizer X, a QuarkXTension that enables variable-data fields; IBM's InfoColor 70; and Xerox's Docu-Color 70, tanked with the Scitex Darwin XTension for handling variable data.
H The third class of digital presses is perhaps the more "hard iron" of the grouping, with traditional offset press technology sporting on-press imaging functionality. Heidelberg, Omnitrade and KBA-Planeta are the pressmakers bullish in this segment, with offerings such as Heidelberg's Quickmaster DI,
Omnitrade's Omni-Adast 705C DI and the Karat from Scitex/KBA-Planeta generating digital output, in most cases, at numerous offset operations.
For this category, though, Heidelberg gets a gold star. The German press manufacturer blazed trails with help from Presstek with the launch of the GTO-DI and, later, the Quickmaster DI. With sales of its two-up Quickmaster DI digital offset press exceeding 700 units, Heidelberg is about to double the pleasure of facilities that are set to capitalize on the digital printing market, announcing the development of a four-up Direct Imaging (DI) printer.
The New Kid in Class
Designated as the Speedmaster 74 DI, the newest Heidelberg digital press is built around Heidelberg's half-size Speedmaster, which was introduced in 1994. The new DI model will run sheets as large as 271⁄2x191⁄2˝ and will be available in four-, five-, and six-color configurations. It is designed to complement the capabilities of the four-color Quickmaster DI, which is an 18x13˝ machine.