Commentary: EFI Lands Another Customer for 'Nozomi' Printer
Companies watching for installations of high-speed, single-pass printers for corrugated, learned of another customer for the EFI Nozomi this month. EFI announced on Feb. 12 that Corrugated Synergies International (CSI), based in Renton, Wash., has purchased not only a Nozomi, EFI’s 246 fpm color inkjet printer for corrugated board, but also EFI’s Corrugated Packaging Suite, a comprehensive management execution system (MES) software tool set. The news marks the fourth deal to place Nozomi, which already has two installations in Europe and one in the U.S., and the first to include the EFI Corrugated Packaging Suite. Given that EFI Nozomi is driven by the EFI Fiery digital front end, CSI in effect is purchasing EFI’s full digital ecosystem for corrugated.
CSI, which established “TenCorr” in 1982, was the first North American sheet feeder to manufacture corrugated sheets for sale to box manufacturers. Since then CSI has developed and now operates 12 sheet feeder operations and three full-line box plants, employing a total of 15 corrugators. It uses all the main pre-print and post-print analog technologies to print board stock, with a strong emphasis on high color graphics printing. CSI managers visited the first Nozomi installation (2017) at Hinojosa in Spain and say they were “blown away” by the quality of the printing they observed, and by Nozomi’s productivity.
For readers who are not familiar with the printer, “Nozomi” is named for a Japanese bullet train and, like its namesake, it’s built for speed. Based on Seiko piezo inkjet heads, Nozomi prints a bed of media up to 71”/1.8 meters wide at up to 246 pfm/ 75 m/min; measured in sheets (1.8 m x 3 m), that top speed is equal to 7,224 square meters/hr. Other specs:
Media ranges from 14-pt. folding carton board (about 0.4mm) to all corrugated grades, including triple wall.
- Nozomi’s inks, which are manufactured by EFI, are LED curing formulations, with CMYK as standard and orange, violet, and white as options.
- An in-line priming station improves control of ink droplets and allows printing of both coated and uncoated top sheet media.
- The printhead has ink recirculation and prints four-levels of greyscale, in maximum resolution of 360x720dpi.
- 100% inspection is also in-line, to manage jetting alignment uniformity of print.
Of all the EFI industrial printers, Nozomi appears to be the one that has benefited most from a team effort by the different EFI businesses. That development is proprietary, but it’s easy to imagine the contributions of individual EFI companies, from media handling and transport (VUTEk wide format, Cretaprint ceramic printing), to ink manufacturing (EFI Jetrion), to software (Fiery DFE, Radius workflow tools). There was likely help from outside EFI, with primer fluids and in-line inspection probably being the work of partners. Whatever the sequence, the resulting printer is highly automated in terms of feeding, monitoring, and off-loading, and the biggest and fastest ever from an EFI company.
CSI will use the Nozomi to help it shift towards digital printing as an important complement to its analog print operations. The Corrugated Packaging Suite “MES” workflow will enable integration of digital production plant-wide, for a full business and production framework to handle all CSI’s digital, flexo, litho-lamination, and litho label operations. In its statements about Nozomi, CSI managers say they expect the Nozomi to expand the geographic range of customers that the company can serve, because the higher value of digital print jobs will make longer transport economic. They point also to the fit with “big box” retailing by major brands. Outlets such as Costco, Best Buy, and Walmark now often require tests of new products and new packaging in small amounts before committing shelf space. For consumer electronics, household goods, and many other products, that trend and many others spur the short-run graphics printing jobs for corrugated that inkjet handles well.
Single Pass Just Starting
This story matters because the corrugated industry is just starting to have an influx of costly but highly productive color digital printers from several vendors, inkjet printers like Nozomi that print a wide bed of corrugated in a single pass and are a research focus for Keypoint Intelligence. EFI, which is dedicated to industrial uses of digital printing, is a top competitor; other participants and aspirants include Barberán, CorrStream, Durst, Handway, and HP, and there are at least one or two more in China.
Total placements for all these vendors are now likely no more than 20 units worldwide, but that total could double within a year or two. All the printers, like Nozomi, are ones that will be used for two or three shifts, and each will likely print many millions of square meters of corrugated per year, dwarfing the output of even the most automated multi-pass inkjet flatbed printers. For corrugated converters, and for the brands they serve, the collective effect will be huge - the arrival of new, timely, and profitable means to print short runs of corrugated digitally, and rapidly, with fine color graphics.
Robert Leahey has many years of experience in consulting to the peripherals and supplies industries. At InfoTrends, where he has worked since 1996, Leahey has conducted custom research projects, most often on inkjet, thermal, and color laser technologies used for commercial and industrial applications. Leahey is also the main analyst for InfoTrends' Color Digital Label and Packaging's (CDLP) continuous information service. His clients have included a wide range of printer and supplies manufacturers, and other companies, in all regions. Leahey has also been author or co-author of many syndicated research reports, on topics such as color digital label presses, inkjet coders, and brand owners' sentiments about package printing.