Mark Michelson Provides Commentary on KBA/Xerox Digital Press Announcement
Leading up to drupa 2016 — which will open its turnstiles for visitors in a little more than a week — I would have once argued that this year’s exhibition should be dubbed the “Cut-Sheet Inkjet Press drupa,” given the improved and brand-new inkjet output devices that will be shown there by Canon, Fujifilm, Delphax, Komori, Konica Minolta and Xerox, among several others. But, today’s announcement of a new KBA/Xerox 40˝ digital folding carton press partnership — following on the heels of the new B1-format Heidelberg Primefire 106 and Landa S10 folding carton presses — perhaps a better moniker for drupa 2016 might be the “Cut-Sheet Digital Packaging Press drupa.”
In separate phone conversations last Thursday with KBA’s Ralf Sammeck, followed by a conference call with Xerox’s Robert Stabler and John DiVincenzo, I got a better understanding of how the new “KBA VariJET 106 Powered by Xerox” cut-sheet inkjet press is being positioned to serve the digital folding carton market.
The key distinction from the other digital press offerings targeting that space will be the modularity design options available based on specific needs of customers. The VariJET 106 can be configured as a seven-color, inkjet-only press incorporating Xerox Impika inkjet modules, or as a hybrid press incorporating both inkjet and traditional offset printing units. A wide range of in-line coating, cold foil, rotary diecutting, perfing and other finishing options will also be available.
Total cost of ownership (TOC) is a very important consideration, stressed Sammeck. A VariJET 106 user “could combine offset units for four-color process [output] with digital inkjet to reduce the TOC by combining both technologies in one machine.”
According to Xerox’s Stabler, the VariJET 106 incorporates a special inkset that’s optimized to eliminate the requirement for a precoat. Both he and DiVincenzo feel that the partnership provides a perfect marriage of KBA’s market leadership in the sheetfed offset folding carton printing market and Xerox’s strength in digital printing. “The value proposition, together, is very strong,” said Stabler. “
From my perspective, this joint KBA/Xerox hybrid press development is a great example of how the traditional analog and digital printing press worlds are converging. KBA, which has long been the market leader in offset package printing production, will be able to build on existing customer relationships in the consolidating package printing industry to provide a solution for the burgeoning digital folding carton market.
Xerox has to get a lot of credit, too, for not standing still as inkjet technology begins to steal market — and customer mind — share from its existing electrophotographic digital press and toner particle manufacturing businesses. Xerox has responded aggressively to the changing market dynamics with its Rialto 900 roll-to-sheet inkjet press, and the brand-new Brenva HD cut-sheet and Trivor 2400 continuous-feed inkjet models.
The KBA VariJet 106 Powered by Xerox will be sold and serviced by KBA. It will be manufactured at KBA’s Radebeul, Germany, sheetfed press manufacturing facility, with the Xerox Impika inkjet modules coming from France. The VariJET 106 press won’t physically be on display at drupa; a special open house, instead, is planned for later in the year in Germany.
It joins the existing KBA RotaJET continuous-feed inkjet press, which is more geared toward the décor and publishing markets, and the KBA/HP co-developed 110˝-wide HP PageWide T1100S that’s suited for corrugated digital packaging using pre-printed liners.