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Hal Hinderliter, the new program coordinator for the "Must See 'Ems" product recognition awards, is among those who are bullish on inkjet and can't wait to see what new technologies are in store for GRAPH EXPO come October. In the near term, Hinderliter anticipates a sneak-peek in Dusseldorf next month. "I expect to see more low-end inkjet at drupa 2012, as the market is spreading downstream," predicted the industry consultant and newest independent contractor for the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC). Lower-cost options include imprinting (over-printing) inkjet web systems, such as those from Kodak and now Hewlett-Packard (HP), as well as Xante's new larger-format sheetfed inkjet printer featuring Memjet technology from Australia.
"Imprinting modules allow for variable-data printing, on the fly, on top of litho," Hinderliter said. For example, Kodak's new 3,000-feet-per-minute (fpm) Prosper S30 Imprinting System, which boasts the highest speed in the industry for "hybrid" offset-digital printing applications, will be shown at drupa. As described by Kodak, each of its five imprinting solutions produces laser-like quality, bringing high-quality personalization to offset print jobs and enabling print providers to leverage their capital investments in offset presses and bridge the gap to digital in a one-step, inline process.
Likewise, HP's newest Print Module Solutions, coming May 1, provide an economical, module-based system for web-offset printers to add color images, graphics, and variable data to preprinted pages. Available in color and monochrome, they can print up to 800 fpm and include complete workflow solutions for easy integration with existing equipment. A stitching feature now extends the printing area for additional flexibility and scalability.
These types of units also are a viable option for offset printers with full- and half-size webs standing idle, Hinderliter noted. In this scenario, "the press can be used as a roll stand for paper transport—and not do any lithography," he explained.
Show-goers to Germany are waiting with bated breath to see the high-speed, piezoelectric inkjet web press that partners KBA and RR Donnelley finally will unveil next month. Donnelley, North America's largest printing firm, has been characteristically mum on the subject. Despite the secrecy, what is known is that the new machine will incorporate RRD's Apollo inkjet technology, which KBA has licensed to use in its presses. KBA has said that there will be "a special focus on integrated workflow." Targets in the dynamic duo's print sights include the commercial, newspaper, packaging, and security sectors.
Competitors HP, Kodak, and Océ (Canon) have been more forthcoming with their pre-show details. In February, Océ revealed that it will exhibit two new web-fed inkjet devices at drupa. With a paper width of 21.25 inches, its ColorStream 3700 system is even more productive than the 3500 model. The 3700 is the high-speed model in the ColorStream Twin series, offering a process speed of 328 fpm, which translates to 716 letter images per minute for a single unit or, in a twin configuration, 1,432 letter images per minute for monthly volumes of up to 43 million pages. The new ColorStream 3700 extends the reach of the Océ inkjet systems as a solution for monochrome and full-color, high-volume print service provider environments, print centers with datacenter backgrounds, and offset print providers seeking a flexible and efficient digital printing solution. The availability of a higher speed version permits customers to complete more jobs within tighter production windows, providing additional capacities to grow their print volumes, said the manufacturer.
In the monochrome space, the Océ 30-inch-wide, 656-fpm JetStream 4300 can print up to 4,295 letter-size, book images per minute. This mono model is green-friendly, too, exhibiting the lowest energy consumption per million pages printed in its class and generating a relatively small amount of blank paper at stop/starts even at high speeds. The new JetStream series can be ordered immediately (delivery time is typically four to six months), with first installations expected in the second quarter of 2012.