Digital Production Color Shows Off at PRINT 13

PRINT 13 was not your father’s print expo by any stretch of the imagination. There was a plethora of digital color production presses, a variety of wide-format inkjet offerings, and only two significant offset installations—and one of them was a hybrid. In the annual Must See ’Ems competition, the only winning “press” in the “Pressroom: Analog Presses” category was a flexo label/ticket/tag press. Meanwhile in the “Pressroom: Digital Presses” category there were five digital output winners, including that fascinating hybrid I just mentioned.

The Must See ’Ems judges chose Allen Datagraph Systems’ AXXIS Digital Label System, a digital tabletop unit to print and finish labels as one category winner. Another winner chosen was Xanté’s Impressia Digital Multi-Media Press, which the company says can produce full color envelopes at up to 80 color envelopes per minute plus business cards, letterhead, brochures, mailers, labels, and banners (up to 12x49 inches).

The other three category winners included one toner-based digital production color press, one inkjet digital production color press, and one inkjet/offset hybrid digital production color press.

The inkjet/offset hybrid Must See ’Ems winner was the KM-1/IS92 and it was on the PRINT 13 show floor as a technology preview. First unveiled at drupa last year, the KM-1/IS92 is a digital inkjet sheetfed UV printing system co-developed by Komori and Konica Minolta. It will be the first of its kind in the marketplace when it becomes commercially available in 2014. It handles a 23x29-inch sheet size and, according to the companies, combines “the speed and flexibility of offset presses with the digital benefits of variable data printing and zero makeready.”

The inkjet Must See ’Ems winner was the Xerox Impika iPrint Compact 24-24 designed for transactional, transpromo, direct mail, and book applications. Impika was acquired earlier this year by Xerox to add to its own CiPress inkjet offerings. The iPrint prints two-up duplex from a single print engine and, according to the company, can “deliver full variable data in color or monochrome.”

Finally, the toner winner in the Must See ’Ems digital presses category was the Xerox iGen4 Diamond Edition, which the company says offers increased automation and improved image quality while handling sheet sizes from 7x7 inches to 14.33x26 inches. According to Xerox, the Diamond Edition “is a tightly integrated digital solution; not merely a press.”

 

But Wait, There’s More

PRINT 13 was the venue for many other digital color press vendors to exhibit their wares. Among a few of the highlights:

Xeikon cranked out “high impact direct marketing applications in unique format sizes” on a Xeikon 8000 Series digital color press. The Xeikon 8000 Series presses feature high precision LED-array imaging technology with a media width of 20.2 inches and unlimited print length, as well as monthly duty cycle of as many as 10 million pages.

Ricoh showed off enhancements to its InfoPrint 5000, the company’s flagship inkjet continuous form solution, that it says were developed to help increase customer efficiency, productivity, and color quality. It also showcased its Pro C5100s/C5110s series of production color printers that run at 65 ppm and 80 ppm, respectively. Also on display was the Ricoh Pro C901/C901s Graphic Arts+ production printer with speeds up to 90 ppm and features aimed specifically at the graphic arts market.

Kodak did not display its NexPress SX platform—or any other equipment—on the show floor, but did promote an enhancement that it announced at drupa. The addition of gold, pearlescent, and neon pink to the NexPress color gamut will be commercially available sometime in the first half of 2014.

Visitors to the Komori America booth at PRINT 13 had the opportunity to see how offset, digital print, and social media marketing “can work together seamlessly to drive new opportunities in print.” Komori demonstrated a hybrid workflow, using the six-color Lithrone SX29 (LSX629) and the Konica Minolta bizhub C8000 for the production of an eight-page brochure that is printed on the LSX629, then personalized and finished on the C8000.

Konica Minolta’s booth also had its bizhub line on display, with the bizhub PRESS C8000 and the bizhub PRESS C1070/C1070P/C1060. The 80 ppm C8000 has a monthly duty cycle of 500,000 pages. The C1070 and C1060 operate at print speeds of 70 ppm and 60 ppm, respectively, and have a full array of available finishing solutions.

Canon displayed its imagePRESS color production printer line with the C6010, aimed at small to medium-sized printers, and the C6010 VP, both with 1200x1200 dpi running at 60 ppm. It also showcased its C7010 VP for mid-sized to large printing operations.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of HP Indigo’s first press launch at IPEX 93. At PRINT 13, HP demonstrated the fourth generation of HP Indigo digital presses with the HP Indigo 10000 Digital Press. As of August 2013, the HP Indigo had more than 50 installations in more than 20 countries. It is a 29-inch sheet-fed press that prints at speeds up to 3,450 sheets per hour (sph) in full color, and up to 4,600 sph in Enhanced Productivity Mode.

KBA also focused on its entry into high-volume digital print with the KBA RotaJET 76, an inkjet web press. Also (because I don’t want to short change traditional offset), KBA rolled out the new KBA Rapida 164 press, which was introduced earlier this year. Dubbed “big sister” to the Rapida 145, which launched last year at drupa, the new Rapida 164 has a top speed of 16,000 sph and a slightly larger sheet size than its predecessor the Rapida 162/162a.

 

What Will We See in the Future?

PRINT 13 was indeed a digital color show, but there were many not so subtle indications that the industry is rapidly moving away from its ink on paper roots. Mailing and fulfillment was a major theme, as was wide-format—including such exotic applications (at least to commercial printers) as fabric printing and vehicle wraps.

In the co-located CPP Expo, package printers and converters displayed equipment and solutions that are driving the growth and increasing interest in package printing among commercial printers. Indeed, some experts see packaging as one of the few growth opportunities for the commercial print market.

And then there are the “e” alternatives to print that continue to make inroads. We have watched the decline in traditional offset over the past decade or so. What will rise and what will fall in the coming years is yet to be seen, but PRINT 13 certainly gave us a hint.

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