Xeikon Stays Connected with Printers via 'Xeikon Café TV'
Xeikon has been running its “Xeikon Café” educational events for Europe and North America since 2014, but the COVID-19 pandemic of the present year has brought that program to a temporary halt along with many of the industry’s other in-person gatherings.
Xeikon’s socially distanced alternative was “Xeikon Café TV,” a pair of live-streamed presentations on the state of the industry and on advancements in Xeikon’s digital printing technologies. It broadcast an edition for the label and packaging segment on April 22, and another for the graphic arts and commercial print markets on April 23.
The latter program offered insights from Marco Boer (I.T. Strategies) and Pat McGrew (McGrew Group Inc.), two well-known print industry analysts. The centerpiece, however, was the virtual debut of a new, dry-toner press platform from Xeikon: the SX30000, a B2-format, continuous-feed device built for a broad range of graphic arts and commercial applications.
Xeikon developed the press to take advantage of what Boer called “the zone of value and flexibility”: a production space of 500,000 to 3 million impressions per month, consisting mostly of low- to medium volume jobs across a variety of applications.
Traditional offset “will be hit extremely hard” as more and more demand shifts into this zone and commensurately reduces print spends, according to Boer. But he contended that “tight budgets are good news for digital printing,” which, although it accounts for just 5% of all print volume, captures 20% of the expenditures.
“That number is going to change dramatically,” Boer continued, as “low-relevancy offset pages” increasingly are displaced by digital pages produced more economically and more in keeping with the way print buyers now want to source their printing. He predicted an “infrastructure reset” as digital printing comes further into its own and digital print service providers get better at promoting it.
The new press from Xeikon is a good fit for the zone of value and flexibility because of its format size, the range of substrates it can handle, and the diversity of the things it can produce, said Boer. Dimitri Van Gaever, Xeikon’s market segment manager for graphic arts, detailed the engineering concept on which the platform is based.
The underlying technology is called SIRIUS, an array of improvements spanning toner development, imaging and fusing technologies, and media conditioning. The result, said Van Gaever, is a next-generation, single-pass duplexing press that runs 50% faster than the platform it succeeds on an exceptionally wide range of substrates.
Specifically, the SX30000 can print a 20.4˝ web 5/5 at close to 100 fpm, equivalent to 426 letter-sized pages per minute or 2,545 B2 sph. Coated and uncoated offset papers and digital stocks from 27-lb. text to 130-lb. cover can be imaged at up to 1,200 x 3,600 dpi, along with paperboard and synthetic media.
All of this endows the press with “extreme application flexibility,” according to Van Gaever, who mentioned books, high-quality direct mail, retail signage and display materials, security printing, and general commercial print as among the things the SX30000 can produce with offset quality. He added that operators running the jobs will be assisted by Cruise Control, a front-end feature that minimizes the need for their intervention during printing.
Xeikon product manager Wim Nagels conducted a walk-around of the press in a live feed from the company’s headquarters in Belgium. He highlighted the platform’s new EkoFuse technology, which optimizes the heating and cooling of toner for consistent print quality at high press speeds.
An improved operator interface, closed-loop quality management, and cloud connectivity for engine and job data storage are other features that give the SIRIUS-based press its “guiding star” reliability for graphic arts production, Nagels said.
The SX30000 is scheduled for commercial release in June. Personalized virtual demos can be requested at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McGrew capped the program with observations on what printing businesses must do in order to prepare themselves for the day when the industry finally emerges from the dark shadow of COVID-19. This begins, she said, with understanding that mere “change” is not the same thing as the “transformation” that these businesses will need to undergo.
Transformation, according to McGrew, is an “iterative approach to reinvention” that follows a “lather-rinse-repeat” cycle until the desired results are achieved. She said printers can use the time between now and recovery – an interval that could take up to two years – to build transformational strategies that establish next-term goals and identify hurdles to growth.
Unfortunately, McGrew continued, “the vast majority of transformational change projects fail,” either because “visible, transparent executive support” is lacking or because internal resistance is blocking the way.
Transformation, she said, consists of examining people, processes, technology, and communication and asking how well or poorly each of these areas is functioning. “Take a hard look at your current state,” she urged printers. “This is a great time to walk your workflow” and find ways to improve it.
For example, she queried, “if you own print MIS software, are you actually using it?” Are other opportunities to automate being overlooked?
“Your workflow is your infrastructure,” McGrew declared, adding that even with the disruptions and slowdowns inflicted by COVID-19, now is still a great time to be in the printing industry. She recommended using the downtime to confer with Xeikon and other vendors about planning for a return to prosperity on the other side.