Holiday parties are well under way and, like most people, I look forward to the warmth and good cheer that this time of year can bring. It always is fun trying to explain to family and friends about the printing industry and what it is I actually do for a living as a business writer/editor and trade...
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On the paper side, Hewlett-Packard has been investing in media technologies, “with solutions both on press, such as the bonding agent, and off press, like ColorPRO [licensing],” Maruggi said. “We work closely with major paper suppliers to drive new solutions that are developed to address the needs of papers that are optimized for use on inkjet, while delivering productivity and economics compatible with high-volume production.” HP also has started to qualify third-party media for its products that will be soon formalized as part of the HP media program, he added.
Take, for example, SWORD iJET 4.3 Gloss from Mitsubishi Paper Mills (MPM) Limited. It is a premium, glossy media designed to run on today’s high-speed continuous feed inkjet presses. In many applications, SWORD iJET Media does not require post printing lamination or liquid UV. It also is FSC-certified. In late October, Kodak awarded SWORD iJET Gloss with the highest, 5 Diamond rating on its Paper Rating Program for Prosper presses.
Launched this past March, the Paper Rating Program relies on the collection and analysis of quantifiable data to determine the performance characteristics of any substrate. Kodak said it developed the program to help printers and publishers make more informed decisions about the right combination of quality and price when evaluating substrates for each of their print jobs. Image quality is measured using a variety of factors; the substrate then is identified using a rating system that ranges from one diamond to five diamonds. The 5 Diamond rating is awarded to a media that equates to “offset quality.”
Hundreds of papers are being evaluated, and paper manufacturers continue to improve surface quality and economics through what they learn. The program will be ISO-certified, Kodak said.
Production Can Wait; Education Can’t
“It has been the perfect storm,” noted HP’s Maruggi. “New technology and products becoming available, bringing digital to the level of quality and productivity suitable for mainstream applications, combined with market trends, such as electronic distribution of content, multichannel marketing communication, and individualization driven by social media. All of these factors contributed to a tectonic shift in the printing industry, forcing companies to adopt technologies that allow a faster turnaround, customization, and personalization.”
Producing such highly relevant, customized, “intelligent” publications requires high-quality data. And an additional challenge is the availability of adequate IT (information technology) infrastructure and tools for data management, analysis, and personalization that allow print customers to take full advantage of the robust capabilities of production inkjet technologies, Maruggi added. He cited an example of work that HP did with Hearst publications to pilot a new way to use magazines as vehicles for personalized marketing communication. That pilot, which launched in the November 2011 issue of Popular Mechanics, is opening new ways for Hearst magazines and their advertisers to communicate with end customers in a meaningful way.
Mansfield of Kodak added, “Printers can give time back to clients. Production can wait until the last minute, to keep data fresh” and facilitate greater response rates and return on investment (ROI). “They don’t have to plan multiple weeks out,” he noted. Today’s pieces can be inkjet printed days before the mail drops.
Among other challenges facing printers as they relate to these new business opportunities, customer education may be the biggest, said Maruggi. “The primary challenge for printing service providers, as well as vendors, is educating the market about these new technologies. This applies to publishers, brand owners, and business in general,” the HP exec pointed out. “While the early adopters rapidly embraced these technologies and are capitalizing on the benefits they bring in terms of supply chain efficiency, target market communication, short-run and quick turnaround, there is still a lot to do to create awareness at all levels.”
Mansfield concluded, “We are still taking steps out of the [inkjet] process. Costs will continue to come down. There will be further reductions in waste and cycle time. We need to drive out ‘printing to inventory’ as an industry.”
Hybrid Press Configurations
There also is the hybrid solution of putting inkjet print heads on offset printing presses to consider. This option is proving popular for direct mail applications. “Imprinting modules allow for variable-data printing, on the fly, on top of litho,” Hal Hinderliter, program coordinator for the Graph Expo Must See 'Ems product recognition awards, told MyPrintResource in April.