On-Demand Turns Full-Production Color
With NexPress 2100 unveiled, Heidelberg ready for the Xerox challenge, Indigo and Xeikon bolstered, Screen showing intent, Presstek enabling on-press imaging for Adast, Ryobi, Sakurai and soon Didde—and more manufacturers, not the least of which is MAN Roland, targeting full-production digital—there is a new zest to digital printing. It ain't just about on-demand any more . . .
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
Say goodbye to on-demand digital printing—at least the on-demand part. It is now June 2000, the much hyped DRUPA 2000 is over and the digital production color press is an emerging force to be taken very seriously by even the most radically traditional commercial printing operation.
Somehow, between DRUPA 1995 and DRUPA 2000, the on-demand digital printing market matured, in the face of skepticism. The result: Where DRUPA 1995 was perhaps the technology's baptism by fire, DRUPA 2000 proved to be its first significant birthday party.
What exactly did DRUPA 2000 do for the growing digital press?
For starters, digital presses are now on-press imaging machines targeting the traditional commercial printer—if the digital imaging powers of Presstek and its new alliances with Adast, Ryobi, Sakurai and, hot off the negotiation tables, Didde Web Press, have anything to say about it.
During DRUPA 2000, Didde announced that the objective of its new alliance with Presstek is to create the first UV direct imaging (DI) web press for direct mail. Didde and Presstek anticipate that it will utilize one or more of Presstek's plate technologies. Didde's alliance with Presstek comes as press manufacturers Ryobi, Sakurai and Adast announce new presses featuring Presstek under the hood.
First, Ryobi. A major announcement for both Ryobi and Presstek during DRUPA 2000 is the Ryobi 3403DI, an A3-size, portrait format, four-color offset press with built-in direct imaging. Jointly developed by the two technology companies, the Ryobi 3403DI incorporates Presstek's on-press imaging technologies, which employ an infrared laser to burn images directly onto mounted plates, enabling CTP handling of digital prepress data, and eliminating film output and image exposure onto the plate.
Sakurai Graphic Systems has incorporated Presstek's newest version of its exclusive DI technologies into the new A2 Sakurai Oliver 474EPII DI press, launched at DRUPA 2000. The four-page press will initially be available in a four-color version with perfector and can be run either in DI or conventional mode. Five- and six-color versions will be introduced in the near future. Presstek's ProFire integrated imaging technology, also launched in Dusseldorf, and Presstek's PEARLgold thermal plates allowed Sakurai to create the new Oliver.
Presstek also bolstered the digital capabilities of Czech Republic press manufacturer Adast, as seen in the DRUPA 2000 announcement of the PAX DI, a highly automated, two-page direct imaging, waterless printing press using Presstek's internal, automated plate cylinder design. The PAX DI is compatible with a wide range of industry standard workflows and can be used in conjunction with Xerox DigiPath, which acts as a conduit for supplying jobs for hybrid document requirements.
Beyond the Presstek alliances—growing, it seems, with each conversation a Presstek product manager has with any intrigued press manufacturer—a host of new digital presses captured attention at DRUPA 2000.
Important to note, these new digital presses are not simply next-generation on-demand machines. They are new digital printing beasts entirely, signalling the end of on-demand digital printing, as the industry knew it, and the beginning of a new level of high-productivity, professional digital printing.
Thanks to technologies targeting DRUPA 2000, the digital press market, today, is now comprised of full-tilt digital color production presses, capable of instantaneous imaging on a variety of papers, textures and foils. These presses are targeting the commercial printing market—promising the performance of offset and the automation of on-demand.
Take NexPress. Now, at least in tangible concept, the industry has NexPress 2100—a high-production, digital color press from the company born of Kodak and Heidelberg. But even, perhaps, greater than the variable data NexPress is the concept that NexPress is carrying to the commercial printing industry: Full production, variable-data, color digital printing, for the true commercial printer, is the next great workflow to be conquered.
NexPress, for example, has PDF built-in, as well as the Adobe Extreme architecture. Announced by NexPress Solutions, the NexPress 2100 digital production color press houses its brains in NexStation, a digital front end that combines workflow management, press operations control and on-board diagnostics in a single station.
NexStation is intuitive, with an open architecture based on PDF that allows the NexPress 2100 to be a truly open platform that can accept virtually any digital file. The NexPress 2100 will be sold and supported though the Heidelberg sales and service organization. NexPress Solutions' cycle time for delivering NexPress 2100, from concept, development, design and manufacturing, will be less than four years. The NexPress 2100, when it comes to market, will be priced less than $350,000.
Next Level Printing
DRUPA 2000 was also the platform for the next-generation Indigo and Xeikon digital presses, as well as new devices from Xerox—and an interesting development from Barco Graphics. From the world of Benny Landa, Indigo founder, Indigo announced the new generation of ultra-high-speed digital offset color presses, both sheetfed and web varieties.
The Series 2 generation of Indigo presses, making their debut in Dusseldorf, included two sheetfed models for commercial printing, two web presses for commercial printing, publishing and direct mail applications, and three web presses designed specifically for label printing. "Indigo is bringing digital offset color printing to the heart of the commercial printing market," Landa, chairman and CEO at Indigo, stated during DRUPA 2000.
Indigo's Series 2 product family includes the sheetfed presses for commercial printing, UltraStream 2000 and UltraStream 4000; the two new web presses for commercial printing, publishing and direct mail, Publisher 4000 and Publisher 8000; and three new web presses designed specifically for label production, WebStream 100, WebStream 200 and WebStream 400.
The UltraStream 2000 sheetfed press is a single-engine press operating at a process speed of 240 fpm, producing 2,000 four-color, A3 pages per hour. The twin-engine UltraStream 4000 is twice as fast, producing four-color, A3 images at 136 letter-size pages per minute. Also for the commercial printing and publishing segments, the twin-engine Indigo Publisher 4000 web press prints at a rate of 4,000 four-color A-3 images per hour, with the four-engine Indigo Publisher 8000 web producing double that figure at 272 letter-size color pages per minute.
Xeikon addressed new digital printing directions of its own, adding to the production direction of the digital press, with the announcements of the new CSP DFE driving Xeikon's new CSP 320 D sheetfed digital color press. Xeikon's CSP 320 D features include job ticket support and job management through Xeikon's X-flow job submission tool, the generation of preview windows and automatic post-RIP impositioning.
Xeikon also used DRUPA 2000 as a launchpad and demonstration platform for the new DCP 320 D web digital color press, the DCP 500 web digital color press and the Xeikon 7000 black-and-white web digital printer for book-on-demand applications.
The DCP 320 D and DCP 500 D third-generation, digital color web presses incorporate Xeikon's One-Pass Duplex electrophotographic technology and feature web widths of 12.6˝ and 20˝, respectively. Two speed modes are offered on both systems, a standard speed mode of 10/100 ppm, respectively, and a high-speed mode of 130 ppm. These faster engines incorporate a number of developments to further increase quality, productivity, flexibility and ease of operation.
Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!
Although rumors had been circulating in the weeks leading to DRUPA 2000, it was still a bit of a shocker to see Barco Graphics launch a digital color press, with an interesting name to boot—the.factory (pronounced "the-dot-factory".)
Barco's target audience with the.factory may very well be the package printing and label manufacturing market, but any printing operation interested in high-speed, variable digital color printing on everything from uncoated papers to aluminum foils to vinyl might be interested in this new development from the makers of the FastRIP and VIPLine variable data technology.
Taking their own turn at digital printing, Barco opted for drop-on-demand piezo ink-jet technology for the.factory, which sports ink-jet heads developed and supplied by British manufacturer Xaar. The press runs single pass, full process color and additional spot color printing on a single-side, continuous-feed, roll-to-roll configuration. The Barco digital press is capable of printing fully variable images at 360 dpi, using Barco's VIPLine editor to enable jobs to contain variable objects.
Barco has identified a number of potential applications for its first digital press, including wallcoverings, laminates, decorative panels, labels and security printing using industrial substrates, such as coated and uncoated paper, plastic and aluminum foils and vinyl.
Barco's the.factory (don't forget to say dot) is readying for beta tests to a select pilot group of printers. When ready to go to market, the press will cost in the range of $1 million. First shipments are scheduled to start the first quarter of 2001.
Also a bit of a surprise, from Xerox came the Xerox Futurecolor, a series of modular components that together work like a single, highly sophisticated print shop. At the click of a mouse, Futurecolor automatically mixes multiple paper stocks, tabs, inserts and bindings to easily produce fully assembled, full-process color books, catalogs, magazines, brochures, manuals and newsletters.
Futurecolor uses Xerox patented imaging technology to produce dramatic, photographic-quality prints. The new digital press is being engineered to produce up to one million, full-color or black-and-white pages per month at an operating cost far below any other digital printing system on the market—or so the press releases report. Get ready for the Futurecolor in about 24 to 36 months, when it reaches availability.
What is Xerox's intention with the Futurecolor? The answer may lie in the Xerox DocuColor 2000 Series, announced in February. The DocuColor 2000 produces up to 350,000 pages per month and has been developed to meet the rapidly increasing market demand for digital printing, personalized printing, and printing and publishing for e-commerce and Internet delivery.
Together, Xerox anticipates, the DocuColor 2000 and Futurecolor will accelerate the migration from traditional offset printing to digital printing by not only the most traditional of commercial printing operations, but also by in-plant printers, by providing more productive, less costly output on short- to medium-run jobs.
Editor's Note: Where is the future of digital printing? It may be a safer bet to project where the future of digital printing is not. It certainly isn't purely in the on-demand market. Presstek was the first to proclaim the advantages of exposing plates on-press. Presstek initially cooperated with Heidelberg, creating exposure systems for the Heidelberg GTO and Quickmaster presses. Now, Presstek is providing on-press imaging to Ryobi, Sakurai, soon to Didde, and other press manufacturers.
Now that DRUPA 2000 has set the pace for digital printing's next millennium moves, it seems the digital press is ready to take on the traditional commercial printer—touting pressroom-ready productivity, workhorse reliability, variable data for a variety of applications, ease of use, expanded substrate support and high flexibility as its leading-edge characteristics. DRUPA 1995 set the stage. DRUPA 2000 positioned the most capable technology players—Heidelberg, Xerox and others—firmly at center.
It will be DRUPA 2004's duty to cast the spotlight on the press manufacturers and imaging technology enablers to lead digital printing into its next direction—perhaps onto the Internet.
Who will be standing in the spotlight in 2004—or, more likely, who won't be. To be continued . . .
Top Digital Demos
Demonstrated at DRUPA 2000 were a variety of high-profile digital presses, not the least of which included the following innovations.
IBM Printing Systems showed its complete range of products and solutions for digital printing, including InfoPrint Manager for Windows and InfoPrint 21, the company's new Web-ready workgroup laser printer. The InfoPrint 21 allows users to print documents stored on the Internet or a local hard disk, without having to open a file.
Karat Digital Press, the Scitex and KBA joint venture, demonstrated the digitally integrated offset press, 74 Karat, sporting an EFI Fiery-powered DFE. EFI's technology allows users of Karat's press to submit jobs digitally by disk or directly over the Internet. Streamlined file sharing between the 74 Karat, and devices already supported by EFI technology, is one of the keys to the future Internet-enabled service the two technology companies are developing. Through its connection to the EFI front end, the 74 Karat can offer a complete suite of applications, including document archiving, document management, document distribution and printing on a single printer or multiple printers.
Komori launched the world's first eight-page, 40˝ digital sheetfed offset press developed jointly with CreoScitex. A key feature of the Komori concept machine—Project D—is SQUARESpot from CreoScitex, used to image processless thermal plates at a resolution of 2,400 dpi in under four minutes. Komori is testing processless plates from Agfa, Kodak Polychrome Graphics and Asahi Chemical.
MAN Roland showcased DICOweb, based on MAN Roland's DICO process. The DICO process automates the changeover sequence of the press, eliminating the need for plates and making short color runs more efficient. The DICO process also employs CreoScitex SQUARESpot thermal exposure technology, which uses a proprietary light-valve technology to individually modulate more than 200 precise beams of laser light. DICOweb sports a modular platform design for short-run color digital printing.
Scitex Digital Printing demonstrated the recently launched VersaMark business color press, aimed at a broad range of applications, including direct mail, coupon and catalog printing, book publishing and statement printing. VersaMark can print 100 percent variable data in CMYK process color, while its throughput can exceed 2,000 pages per minute. Scitex wide-format printing was apparent in the Idanit Novo wide-format digital printing system, as well as the Scitex GrandJet.
Screen showed the TruePress 544, a B3-size, four-color digital press that uses on-press imaging technology to expose and develop the printing plate. Screen also introduced the TruePress 744, a four-color, B2 press—fully automated and capable of 8,000 impressions per hour, with on-press imaging. Shown for the first time in Europe was Screen's TruePress V-200, a sheetfed, toner-based, monochrome printer for A3-plus sheets, which is capable of RIPing data and printing at 400 pages per minute for A4 and 200 pages per minute at A3. Its 12,000 pages per hour (pph) single-sided printing is on par with conventional sheetfed offset. For two-sided printing, it exceeds offset at 24,000 pph.
T/R Systems introduced enhancements to the MicroPress Cluster Printing System. The upgrades include an extension to the company's Internet initiative, a seamless interface between the MicroPress and 600 dpi black-and-white networked printers, and the addition of the Ricoh Aficio 850 black-and-white printer to the family of supported print devices. The extension of the company's Internet initiative includes the introduction of a browser-based job-submission ticket. This addition to the MicroPress e-Ticket utility allows MicroPress users to publish job tickets on an Internet site for use by customers who then submit documents directly to the MicroPress for production using only a client browser.