Ink's Jet Age

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 anticipated a sneak-peek in Dusseldorf last 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 Company (GASC). Lower cost options include Xanté’s new large-format sheetfed inkjet printer, featuring Memjet technology from Australia, as well as roll-fed inkjet imprinting (over-printing) systems, such as those from Kodak, and now Hewlett-Packard.

Sheetfed/cut-sheet inkjet products have seen innovation, such as those from Fujifilm (the J Press 720) and Screen (the Truepress JetSX). The cornerstone of Fujifilm’s inkjet technology, for example, is the Dimatix SAMBApiezoelectric drop-on-demand (DoD) print head. Micro-electromechanical systems manufacturing allows the head to achieve resolution of 1200x1200 dpi with four levels of gray scale.

Screen introduced new solutions offered by the Truepress Jet520 Series at drupa. EQUIOS is the driver for its Truepress line of presses. In addition to managing the press operation itself, it is a front-end, universal workflow application with the Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE) at its core. It supports CTP devices and presses with applications that include variable data, color management, and imposition, and it connects with many third party, JDF-based devices for both input and finishing.

Fifteen months ago, Xerox introduced a waterless sheetfed press, building on 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, according to Xerox. The Production Inkjet System can produce nearly 2,200 pages or 500 feet per minute—driving personalized direct marketing, transpromo, and publishing applications.

 

Hybrid Package

KBA put on display an array of new press technology. The firm’s drupa slogan, “sprinting ahead,” spotlighted the encouraging opportunities for print in the multimedia age. Under the banner “Designed for Performance,” KBA presented its Rapida 105 41-inch model in a hybrid offset/inkjet version. Five offset printing units and coater tower are joined by an inkjet unit with two Delta 105iUV printing systems from Atlantic Zeiser for personalized imprinting and coding applications.

Due to an innovative vacuum cylinder (AirTronic Drum) to fix the sheets under the inkjet heads, the Rapida 105 and 106 are currently the only presses on the market to incorporate this option without the need for mechanical sheet guides and print-free corridors, according to KBA North America. The unique solution prevents lifting of the tail edges and enables the inkjet systems to be installed at a clearance of only 0.04 inches from the sheet. UV-LED dryers provide for fast drying of the ink.

There are many potential applications for inkjet systems in a sheetfed printing press. They range from sheet marking in connection with quality inspection using the alphaJET-tempo printer from KBA-Metronic to codings for purposes of brand protection (barcodes, QR codes, numerical IDs, or combinations thereof). Relevant fields are security printing, packaging, labels, lottery tickets, and industrial product marking. Up to eight inkjet heads from Atlantic Zeiser can be accommodated in a printing unit of the Rapida 105 or 106 press. The high-speed grayscale printer is equally suitable for coated, laminated, glossy, and non-absorbent materials. A mini-controller takes care of system handling in marking, inspection, and quality assurance processes. Quality control, including verification of the variable data, is similarly the purpose of a high-speed camera system.

Another valuable option for packaging printers is the marking of individual blanks in connection with the inline sheet inspection system KBA QualiTronic MarkPlus. Flawed blanks can then be ejected automatically during downstream processing, e.g.: in the folder gluer. With the KBA AirTronic Drum, further inline finishing processes are likely to be integrated in the future.

As Hinderliter has suggested, the commercialization of Memjet print head technology by Delphax, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Lomond, OWN-X, Xanté, and others is newsworthy in the wide-format space. Memjet received 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.

With the trend toward color, Delphax made its inkjet foray at drupa with elan, a four-up, 50-ipm digital, full-color cut-sheet printer with Memjet heads. This B2 size (27.8x19.7 inches) device features 1600x1600 dpi resolution and has the option for a fifth and sixth color as well as MICR capability. Its small, 24x4-foot footprint make elan ideally suited for size-constrained digital printing environments such as copy shops, in-plants, and quick/small commercial printers. And, with a base price point of less than $500,000, it is quite affordable. Commercial shipments to customers will begin in early 2013.

“Of course, there are some compromises a prospective user has to make,” wrote Ralf Schlozer of InfoTrends in a recent blog. “elan’s imaging format is, strictly speaking, not B2 but SRA2, which is slightly smaller. It should offer enough margin for most A-format-sized end products, but in some cases it will not be enough… [Also,] Delphax has served a relatively focused market so far, but the elan was designed for, and clearly has the ability to serve a much broader set of customers. This will likely mean that new marketing and servicing channels are required.”

 

Wide-Format Apps

Xanté launched a “super-fast” inkjet category (up to 12 inches per second at 1600x800 dpi; six 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 FESPA (and now at drupa), its Excelagraphix 4200 sets a new speed and affordability standard for signage and packaging; printing on a range of media up to 3/8 inch 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 deliver more than three 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 says, “we are utilizing two particular Xanté 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, notes 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 about $100,000, it allows print shops to get into the point-of-purchase (POP) market without breaking the bank, he adds.

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, Xanté says. “It also opens up a different way to think about proofing,” Hinderliter suggests, asking hypothetically: “What if you shove a press sheet through it?”

 

Looking Ahead to Graph Expo

GASC and Hal Hinderliter are now accepting 2012 Must See ’Em nominations: www.mustseeems.com.

Loading