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Inkjet Web Innovations

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.

drupa Showings

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.

Last month at a press event in Tel Aviv, Israel, HP announced that it will introduce no fewer than 10 digital printing systems at drupa, including a trio of higher-speed, wide-web inkjet presses featuring advanced ink and print-head technology as well as the new high-speed imprinting solution. "With the extraordinary scope and scale of [these] announcements, we are fueling an unstoppable industry transformation from analog to digital printing," said Christopher Morgan, senior VP of HP's Graphics Solutions Business. "Our new digital solutions strike at the core of the printing market and are able to meet the toughest requirements of world-class brands, publishers, and print service providers [PSPs]."

The new high-speed HP T410 and T360 Inkjet Web Press systems offer increased print speeds of up to 800 feet per minute (fpm) in monochrome—up to 25 percent faster than previous models—while continuing to offer color print speeds of up to 600 fpm. To achieve this improved performance, the presses feature new advanced print-head technology and nanotechnology pigment inks that can support higher speeds with no compromise in image quality. The T230 model incorporates the new heads and inks to increase print speed up to 400 fpm for both color and monochrome, with full color density for maximum quality. The HP T360 and HP T410 are expected to be available this fall as new systems or as upgrades from the HP T350 and HP T400, respectively. The HP T230, expected to be available by the end of 2012, also will be offered as an upgrade from the HP T200 press.

Such improvements can help PSPs reach new markets and increase profitability for high-volume applications such as mass-market book publishing, direct marketing, and transpromotional mail, where the HP inkjet web presses have produced more than 10 billion pages since the first system was placed in 2009, the firm reported. HP has installed more than 60 inkjet webs worldwide and has invested more than $1 billion in the research and development of new graphics solutions. (See also "Inkjet Rises Higher")

Inkjet "Your Way"

Kodak, too, will introduce exciting new equipment at drupa, under the umbrella of its "Digital Your Way" exhibit theme. Highlights include the aforementioned high-speed Prosper S30 Imprinting System as well as the new Prosper 6000XL model, a four-color press capable of delivering monthly print volumes of up to 160 million A4 pages. Commercial print, direct mail, and publishing customers can benefit from the industry's fastest digital throughput on a proven inkjet printing platform, Kodak said.

The 6000XL, which prints at a maximum screen of 175 lines per inch (lpi) at 650 fpm and 133 lpi at 1,000 fpm, is up to 45 percent more cost-effective than high-volume, thermal drop-on-demand (DOD) presses and up to 31 percent more cost effective than the Prosper 5000XL Press. Its 1,000-fpm speed functionality will be demonstrated along with the Prosper Image Optimizer Station (IOS) paper pretreatment solution and Optimizer Agent. The IOS provides users with a high degree of paper flexibility and paper cost savings by enabling the use of commercially available regular coated, uncoated, and glossy papers between 45 grams per square meter (gsm) and 300 gsm. The flexibility in speed and substrates, as well as the ink saver mode, make the device extremely versatile, added the manufacturer.

"The power and scalability of the Prosper platform make it an ideal solution for all kinds of applications, and this new model brings lower cost, increased flexibility, and improved productivity," said Doug Edwards, Kodak president of Digital and Functional Printing. "With the game-changing capabilities of our Stream Inkjet Technology, we are able to meet the evolving needs of our customers—delivering tools that drive growth and profitability."

In the hybrid print arena, more than 400 Prosper S-Series Imprinting Systems have been installed on six continents over the past three years, according to Kodak. Offering the highest speed in the industry at 3,000 fpm, the new S30 delivers 600x200 dots-per-inch (dpi) output, giving customers a higher-performance choice for hybrid printing applications such as direct mail, inserts, gaming, advertising, and package labeling. The Axel Springer newspaper printing plant in Ahrensburg, near Hamburg, is beta- testing the Prosper S30 Imprinting System in cooperation with offset press manufacturer manroland Web Systems. Axel Springer owns one of Germany's largest newspapers, Bild. The S30 System is mounted on the printer's manroland offset press to imprint variable components such as consecutive lottery numbers, variable QR codes, and changing artwork, across a width up to 4.16 inches at full production speed. These systems create gaming products that are integrated into the newspaper.

"Kodak is committed to Stream Inkjet Technology and is investing in new presses and imprinting systems while expanding key partnerships to continue the transformation of the print industry," added Edwards. "This is differentiating technology for Kodak and for our customers, and the opportunities are exciting. drupa will serve as a showplace for all the latest Prosper System Technologies, and customers will be on hand to share their stories of success."

New Digital Book Press

The Timson T-Press, a fully digital duplex, monochrome book printing system, will make its global debut at drupa 2012. The T-Press is a combination of Kodak Stream Inkjet Technology and material-handling capabilities from UK manufacturer Timsons Printing Machinery. It is the fastest, widest inkjet press available for the production of black-and-white trade and textbooks, the partners said. The press delivers productivity, functionality, and cost-effectiveness for fully digital book printing, improving business models for book printers and publishers. The Clays book division of St. Ives Group from the UK will be the first company to adopt the T-Press.

"The new capabilities of the Timson T-Press will enable Clays to continue to be a leader in book production efficiency and to expand the solutions we provide to our publishers," said Clays managing director Kate McFarlan. "We are confident that with these investments we will provide the broadest, state-of-the-art set of services that will support our business objectives and our customers' current and evolving needs."

Designed at the outset as a monochrome solution, the T-Press is targeted for digital production of between five and 14 million books annually. It accommodates paper up to 53 inches wide and runs at a maximum production speed of 650 fpm. To maximize flexibility, the T-Press can run multiple book formats on a single press through a variety of Timson-manufactured finishing solutions, such as T-Book and T-Fold. At the mega show next month, Timson will demonstrate the short-run capabilities of its T-Fold finishing system by producing printed and folded signatures running inline with a Kolbus Binding System.

The alliance with Timsons marks the first agreement from Kodak's recently formed Inkjet Technology Partnerships (ITP) program. ITP enables partners to leverage Kodak's Stream Inkjet Technology imaging subsystem and Kodak expertise in inkjet technologies and materials science to respond quickly to market opportunities with proven technology. Technology packages include the writing head, inks, data controller, implementation expertise, integration, and workflow.

"While digital book manufacturing continues to grow, the majority of books are printed using traditional processes," said Timsons managing director Jeff Ward. "This collaboration allows Timsons to offer customers their preferred choice of technology—digital or offset—from a single supplier, knowing that they are working with a specialist in book production. It's the first agreement of its kind between an offset press manufacturer and inkjet technology supplier, and we look forward to working with Kodak and bringing the benefits of inkjet printing to offset book printers through solutions such as the T-Press."

Narrower Web Applications

In the narrow web space, ink producer INX International (Sakata INX) unveiled the NW140 digital press at GRAPH EXPO 2011, where a tech demo printed labels and film stocks. Featuring UV LED-cure single pass output at print/converting speeds up to 80 fpm and Spartanics laser die-cutting capabilities, the NW140 is presently in beta-test mode at a US customer, with results expected by the end of this month. In addition to a Phoseon FireLine 225 high-efficiency, water-cooled UV LED curing system, it employs an air-cooled UV LED pinning system from Integration Technology along with Xaar 1001 industrial print heads, providing 1018-dpi apparent grayscale print resolution with seven selectable drop sizes ranging from 6 pl to 42 pl (picoliters). The 14 heads on the NW140 press have seven ink channels, including a base coat, white, yellow, cyan, magenta, black, and clear for varnish.

"Our new UV digital narrow web press is ... unique to the marketplace," said Jim Lambert, VP and GM of INX's Digital Division. "The NW140 jets a pre-treatment that opens the door to many possibilities. This means traditional substrates used conventionally are possible to employ because of the jetting of receptive coatings for inks. Most vendors require specific substrates ...." It will support media up to 2mm in thickness, INX said, and on three-inch cores up to two feet in diameter. The LED curing lamps are used for the pre-coat, white base layer, and varnish to hold inkjet drops in position before a full cure is added by another LED lamp. Phoseon's FireLine 225 includes patented Semiconductor Light Matrix (SLM) technology, which offers high-intensity and pure UV output while promoting a longer life cycle. Environmentally friendly, it is also safer by being both mercury- and ozone-free.

The UV narrow-web press also "combines printing and conversion in one machine when you use the new Spartanics laser diecutter so you don't have to take a printed roll off the machine," Lambert noted. "Besides brilliant full color, one can expect quicker job changeovers as well as automated, accurate cutting paths." The capability provided by the Spartanics X140 laser cutting station enable this system to eliminate rotary die-cutting tools and printing plates for quick turnaround of high-quality labels. Tom O'Hara, president of Spartanics, added: "The ability to go from artwork to finished product on a single machine within minutes should prove very exciting to the short- to medium run market."


Sheetfed Inkjet Innovates, Too

Our focus in the above article has been on continuous-feed inkjet web presses, but sheetfed/cut-sheet inkjet products have seen innovation, too, such as those from Fujifilm (J Press), Océ (JetStream 1900), and Screen (Truepress). Fourteen months ago, Xerox introduced a waterless sheetfed press building on its proprietary, solid-ink technology. Its patented, granulated, resin-based ink formulation serves the high-speed production market. The key benefit is the elimination of water so that vibrant, consistent color can be printed on low-cost, offset paper that comes out flat with no ink soaking through, said Xerox. The Production Inkjet System can produce nearly 2,200 pages or 500 feet per minute—driving personalized direct marketing, transpromo, and publishing applications.

As consultant Hal Hinderliter has suggested, the commercialization of Memjet print-head technology by Delphax, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Lomond, OWN-X, Xante, and others is newsworthy in the wide-format space. Memjet reveived the 2011 InterTech Technology Award from the Printing Industries of America. The OWN-X' WideStar 2000 was announced last fall and will be shown at the biennial Labelexpo Americas show three weeks prior to GRAPH EXPO 2012.

Xante launched a "super-fast" inkjet category (up to 12 inches per second at 1600x800 dpi; 6 inches per second at 1600x1600 dpi) with a 42-inch-wide printing system powered by Memjet at GRAPH EXPO last fall . Also shown earlier this year at the FESPA show (and at drupa next month), its Excelagraphix 4200 sets a new speed and affordability standard for signage and packaging, printing on a range of media up to 3/8 inches thick, including foam board, folding carton, corrugated cardboard, and sheet sizes from 8.27x8.27 inches up to 3.5x100 feet, the firm said. Exclusive substrate support gives customers the ability to print indoor signage and design graphics through a simple print path height adjustment on the Excelagraphix 4200. Memjet's Waterfall print heads delivers more than 3 billion drops of ink per second, yielding print speeds up to eight times faster than traditional inkjet technology.

"In the case of our [OEM] partnership with Memjet," CEO Robert Ross said, "we are utilizing two particular Xante technologies—iQueue Color Smart Workflow and our unique handling of diverse substrates—to create what will likely be the fastest and, in terms of lower capital and operational costs, most efficient ways to print color."

The cool thing about the Excelagraphix, noted Hinderliter, is that "the device looks like a plate processor, but you can feed it paper, cardboard, [or] corrugated, which it inkjets and spits out on the other side." And with a price point of under $20,000, it allows print shops to get into the point-of-purchase (POP) market without breaking the bank, he added.

The Excelagraphix 4200 employs 2L or 10L CMYKK customized, dye-based aqueous inks for cost-effective operation and consumables cost while ensuring strikingly vibrant color reproduction, Xante said. "It also opens up a different way to think about proofing," Hinderliter suggested, asking hypothetically: "What if you shove a press sheet through it?"

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