Four-inch print swaths “leave ample ‘real-estate’ space for multiple products, part numbers, and regionally based offers,” Beddor says. Two dozen S10 print heads were installed in mid-2010, when Japs-Olson added its second 24-page, eight-unit Goss Sunday 2000 press. The inkjet heads print on both sides of the web. “Our full web presses are decked out, top and bottom, with these heads—24 on a side,” he noted. His firm also employs S heads on its Harris M110 mini webs, he adds, “and everything in between.” (Japs-Olson runs a total of 16 web presses.)
While Beddor freely discusses offset press iron, inkjet heads, and other hardware used for this type of customized print production, the CEO was more hesitant to reveal any “secret sauce” when it comes to how Japs-Olson manages the data side of the process. “Let’s just say it’s a combination of vendors’ and homegrown solutions,” he offers, adding that program success is dependent on high-quality, end-user data.
The hybrid, variable print technology is ideally suited for retail chains and franchise organizations, says Beddor, whose automotive parts customer has some 3,000 stores. Japs-Olson also prints six-page, folded mailers for the same client, which targets car dealers to subcontract various services, such as tune ups.
“The volume on those is somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000 [weekly] with anywhere from 300 to 3,000 different versions,” he explains. Data is broken out by Chevy dealers, for example, and the variable printing, again, can include information such as maps, store hours, and even special incentives for tires or brakes, including corresponding photos, of course. Japs-Olson’s CMYK S20 heads from Kodak are twice as fast (2,000 fpm) with 600x300 dpi resolution, vastly increasing the possibilities for variable imaging, he adds.
In more sophisticated applications, “Database marketing can be used to reveal what has not been done,” Beddor says. “Perhaps the recipient’s car is due for transmission service, for instance. There also may be a personalized redemption card, with a barcode, that they can peel off.”
There now is an even faster Kodak cousin: the 3,000 fpm Prosper S30 Imprinting System boasts one of the highest speeds in the industry for “hybrid” offset/digital printing applications. Competitor HP also offers Print Module Solutions that provide an economical, module-based system for web offset printers to add color images, graphics, and variable data to pre-printed pages. These can print up to 800 fpm and include complete workflow solutions for integration with existing equipment. A stitching feature extends the printing area for additional flexibility and scalability. Kyocera is the other leading manufacturer of inkjet imprinting heads, according to I.T. Strategies.
The so-called turnkey inkjet production systems market is some three times larger than imprinting’s $200 million, and it is expected to nearly double to $1.2 billion within three more years. According to Maruggi, HP’s T series of presses now “has an installed base of more than 80 units and more than 24 billion pages printed to date. Every month, this number is growing in excess of 1.3 billion pages,” he says.
Meanwhile, customers used Kodak’s latest Stream inkjet technology to print some 10 billion pages in 2012, an uptick of nearly 50 percent over 2011, reports Mansfield, who is based in the firm’s Dayton, OH, location—the former home of Scitex Digital, which Kodak sold in mid-1993 and reacquired in 2004.
“Four years ago, uncoated media and ‘pleasing color’ were the norm” in the production inkjet space, Mansfield recalls. (See separate article, “Coated Paper Chase,” on page 19.) Notably, a fourth color Kodak Prosper 5000XL press was installed last year at Toppan Forms, after a trio was added the year prior, as part of the firm’s personalized solution for the educational publishing market in Japan.
Kodak’s 5000XL inkjet web press brings offset-class output approaching 175 lines per inch with roll-fed speeds of up to 650 fpm. It features a monthly duty cycle of up to 90 million A4 pages and is able to handle both uncoated and coated papers, including glossy, with basis weights ranging from 45 gsm to 300 gsm (30-pound to 200-pound). This combination of speed and quality makes the Prosper one of the most productive inkjet web presses on the market for eight-, 12- and 16-page signatures, Kodak says.
Yet when comparing the Kodak press to that of HP, its primary competitor, the two OEM technologies could not be more different. (See box.)