In addition to establishing paper rating systems, production inkjet press OEMs such as HP and Kodak are reaching out to myriad mills and paper distributors to give their customers more media choices to help them expand and succeed.
“The more flexible the inkjet platform, the quicker its adoption [rate] will be into the market,” says Steve Welkey, business manager for HP’s inkjet web presses in the Americas. “And flexibility is directly tied to paper range,” he adds.
To that end, further penetration of inkjet into truly commercial printing was expedited last year, as 2012 saw more coated, treated papers that are suitable for inkjet printing come into the market. Commercial printers use more than eight different substrates on a regular basis, points out industry consultant David Zwang.
Higher print quality levels and a broader range of less-translucent media have enabled new inkjet applications, such as personalized advertising for magazines, customized catalogs, and fully personalized coupon booklets, including those that Symeta produces on an HP T400 Color Inkjet Web Press for the Colruyt grocery store chain in Europe. (Samples were distributed at last year’s Graph Expo.) Rather than send out 64-page catalogs that included a dizzying number of some 1,000 products, four-page mailers now are distributed every two weeks in Belgium.
Hewlett-Packard has been investing in media technologies, “with solutions both on press, such as the bonding agent, and off press, like ColorPRO [treatment licensing],” says Aurelio Maruggi, VP and general manager of HP’s Inkjet High-speed Production Solutions (IHPS) division. The OEM works with leading paper suppliers to expand the range of inkjet web press compatible coated and glossy stocks. These now include the first glossy papers with ColorPRO treating technology—Utopia Inkjet media from Appleton Coated—as well as additional papers from Arjowiggins Graphic, Metsa Board, and Sappi.
Customized Popular Mechanics inkjet-web publications (see “magalog” article that begins on page 8) were printed on Appleton Coated’s Utopia Inkjet paper. The digitally printed output matched the quality of offset printed pages produced at Brown Printing, according to HP. “Some of the stocks they’re coming out with for inkjet now are really, really impressive,” notes Jeff Lovelace, business development director at O’Neil Data Systems in Los Angeles, which was one of two print service providers for the Hearst custom project.
Welkey says HP has been working with Appleton Coated for two years. On the coated side, “water-based ink has adherence issues,” he explains, “so a degree of porousness is needed on the surface so that colorants can grab hold.” This is a growth opportunity for mills and paper merchants. As their engineers and chemists work to meet this challenge, “more paper companies are entering the coated inkjet space. Competition and choices are good for the industry,” in terms of paper pricing and technology, he adds.
Although HP is qualifying third-party media for its products, there is “no formal paper testing and certification program [yet],” Welkey says. Competitor Kodak, however, has taken a more formal approach.
“Kodak has developed a well thought out paper-rating method,” notes industry consultant Henry Freedman, who edits the quarterly Technology Watch newsletter. “Over the years, the company’s Dayton, OH, operation has tested over 4,000 different papers for suitability with Kodak’s wide range of inkjet systems. In fact,” Freedman continues, “Kodak conducted 1,500 tests in the year 2011 alone.”
One paper it tested was SWORD iJET 4.3 Gloss from Mitsubishi Paper Mills (MPM) Limited. It is a premium, FSC-certified, glossy media designed to run on high-speed, continuous-feed inkjet presses. In many applications, SWORD iJET Media does not require postpress lamination or liquid UV.