Oce, which offers both toner and inkjet devices, says its customers digitally print more than 10 million on-demand books monthly—no wonder manroland wants to partner with them! Set down your Kindle e-reader because Amazon.com alone runs some 90 million pages monthly on 17 VarioPrint 6250 units for its BookSurge operation. The toner-based, cut-sheet devices feature the firm’s Gemini “instant duplexing” dual print engine. Oce’s toner is manufactured in Europe, including at sites in Germany and the company’s headquarters in Venlo, The Netherlands, where a non-toxic, iron-based (not carbon) toner is produced. Even the toner containers are greener—recyclable and made from polyethylene.
Now part of Canon, Océ plays in the inkjet arena, too. As running speeds and image quality have enhanced, “inkjet is finally taking off,” asserted Francis McMahon, the Production Printing Systems’ new marketing VP who migrated from HP about 11 months ago. Top speeds on some inkjet printing machines can rival traditional offset: 216,000 CMYK letter-size impressions per hour (iph) and monthly duty cycles of 120 million, for example, with zero changeover time and virtually no makeready. Plus, these digital devices have fewer than half the moving parts of conventional presses, notes consultant Atkinson. Reproduction quality also is very high—up to a 200-lpi equivalent and six colors plus coating. Oil-based CMYK pigment inks are common in inkjet devices but some offer more color heads for a wider gamut, including Pantone matching. Océ uses Kyocera heads that spray water-based dye ink manufactured by Japanese partner Miyakoshi. A pigment option, with improved light- and water-fastness, is expected by mid-2011, the firm said.
Xeikon, meanwhile, is more focused on the digital label market these days, exhibiting at Labelexpo Americas last fall but not at Graph Expo. Its high-end digital color printing systems are composed of advanced web-fed engines using LED-array-based, dry toner electrophotography and open workflow software. QA-I toner, introduced nearly a year ago (at Ipex 2010), is produced at the Punch Graphix dedicated toner production plant in Belgium. This toner was developed specifically for Xeikon’s family of digital label presses, which include the 3500, 3300 and 3000 models. Last summer, the QA-I toner achieved exceptional light-fastness ratings and met FDA guidelines for indirect and direct food packaging, Xeikon reported.
Cons and Pros
Toner is a more mature process that can print on a higher range of substrates. “Digital toner-based systems are best in the 100 to 1,000 [quantity] range and have quick makeready times,” said Atkinson, “but they’re not litho quality, have limited productivity and a high page cost.” From a physical properties standpoint, toner is denser than inks used for jetting. Entering its third full year production, Xerox’s Ultra Low-Melt EA Toner cuts the overall power consumption of digital printing devices by as much as 30 percent. Emulsion aggregation (EA) is a nanotechnology-based process that yields sharper image quality, higher reliability and reduced toner usage. Pages printed with EA toner use 40 to 50 percent less material than those printed with older style toner, says Xerox. (Until about eight years ago, all Xerox toner was made by grinding plastic pellets into very fine particles—an energy-intensive mechanical process.)
In the wide-format space, Océ’s four-color Var oDot technology reduces ink consumption by 35 percent compared to six-color systems, resulting in less ink sales for the manufacturer. Most inkjet systems now use a clear pre-coat or “bonding agent,” Atkinson noted, which means “the ink does not sink into the paper fibers, so it’s easier for paper companies to de-ink using standard methods.” However, as part of a recycling controversy that has raged for the past four years or so, late last year the international Ingede association said that the mills of its member companies will no longer accept HP Indigo liquid-toner prints for de-inking after more than 100 tons of paper were dumped (www.ingede.com). During the repulping process, the water-based inks often bleed through porous stocks, forming a color that darkens the pulp, the association says. Its latest Round Table on the Deinking of Digital Prints met in mid-February in Switzerland