Every drupa gets a nickname and drupa 2008 was dubbed “the inkjet drupa”. That title seems to have been prescient because ever since the show inkjet has been gobbling up black-and-white pages that used to run on offset or toner devices. And lately it is taking a bigger bite out of the digital color pie, too. Infotrends predicts that color inkjet will account for one-third of all digital color pages by 2015.
Where will that growth take place? In general, in the transactional, book production, direct mail, short-run catalog, marketing material, signage, and light packaging areas. This predicted growth has attracted the attention of a lot of major players, many of which are already in the game and are looking to raise the stakes.
Xerox has two CiPress models and recently purchased Impika, a French inkjet printer manufacturer, to increase its reach into the market. Ricoh Production Print Solutions now has full possession of the InfoPrint line. Screen (USA) has seen its TruPress Jet series take flight. Canon Solutions America offers the Océ JetStream and ColorStream series. Kodak has the Versamark and Prosper lines. HP has the T series of inkjet web presses. Fujifilm’s J Press 720 won an Intertech Technology award at Graph Expo 2012, and Riso is in the game with its sheet-fed ComColor line.
Where to from here? We asked three major players in the inkjet arena for their thoughts on the development of inkjet:
Michael E. Fox, president, Screen (USA) which sells the TruPress Jet series;
Erik Holdo, senior vice president, Production Print Solutions, Konica Minolta Business Solutions, which has entered into a joint venture with offset press manufacturer Komori to produce the KM-1 inkjet press due out next year;
E. Scott Wagner, manager, Worldwide Marketing, Xerox Corporation which has the waterless CiPress 325 and 500 lines and just bought Impika, a European maker of water-based inkjet presses.
QP: What are the major advantages of inkjet compared with toner and offset?
HOLDO: Up until now the advantage of inkjet over toner-based products has principally been speed, configurability (as it relates to hybrid installations), and to a lesser extent, substrate flexibility. As to speed, quality has typically suffered, but with linear speeds approaching 1,000 feet per minute, the payoff may override the quality differential. A challenge to this has been in the drying/fixing of aqueous inks. However, at its best speeds, toner devices are challenged with competing, due to the inherent restriction of dwell time, heat, and pressure required. Some would say that we are at the physics-limited edges of the toner market as far as speed, due to these restrictions.
As for offset, while it certainly has the edge on quality and speed, makeready and waste are dramatically reduced with inkjet. While press manufacturers continue to refine their press environments to reduce up-to-color waste to as little as 20 sheets, inkjet is ready at sheet one. The main advantage however comes, of course, in the form of micro-versioning, or variable data. Therefore, the approach of adding inkjet heads to a press has continued to gain popularity.
FOX: Compared to toner, the uptime for inkjet is much greater and maintenance is much cheaper. Compared to offset, the uptime is much greater, there is little to no makeready time; no plates, blankets, rollers, fountain solution, etc.; and labor costs are much lower. Uptime is higher and maintenance costs overall are much lower. Turnaround time is faster.
WAGNER: Digital inkjet is closer to digital toner devices since both can eliminate platemaking and automate for quick set up compared to offset. WIP (Work in Process) is reduced and full versioning can be achieved with the added value of full variable and personalization.