A Future Beyond Four Colors

In 2008, InfoTrends published a blog entitled, Beyond Process Color Digital Printing: Approaches to Additional Colors, Special Effects, and MICR, discussing vendors that offered one or more imaging units in addition to the four traditional process colors (CMYK). Today, we have seen leaders in the high-end electrophotographic market, such as HP, Kodak, and Xeikon, expanding the capabilities of their devices to provide additional efforts to accommodate five or more print stations also known as, “5+” colors, during production. There has also been some activity in off-line digital devices that provide the ability to add value to a printed page through the application, typically via inkjet heads, of a gloss coating or some other effect. New entrants to the offline market such as, Scodix and MGI, are a few of these offline companies entering this market.

The abilities of the 5+ imaging stations can range from spot colors to dimensional coating printing for braille. Since the capabilities of these 5+ imaging stations can vary, InfoTrends created six categories which a capability could fall under. They are as follows:

Category Example
Spot color Highlight colors, custom mixed colors (Pantone)
Gamut Expansion Red, Green, Blue (RGB), Orange, Green, Violet (OGV), Light Cyan, Light Magenta (Lc, Lm)
Specialty Metallic, white, and fluorescent
Coating Spot or flood coat of a clear matte, gloss, or satin coating
Dimensional Tactile embossed or debossed effect
Security MICR, UV

The table below shows a brief summary of the current state of the art. This table includes only currently available products used for commercial applications. Products from Xerox, Canon, and Océ are also available with a 5+ color capability; however they all contain only one feature. Another table would need to be dedicated to adequately address products in the flexible label and packaging space.

  HP Indigo 7600 Kodak NexPress SX3900 Xeikon 8800
Max Stations 7 5 5
Spot color Standard Spot, Custom Mixed Color Standard Spot  
Gamut expansion Expanded gamut (O,V, or G) Expanded gamut (R, G, or B) Expanded gamut (R, G, B, O, or XM)
Coating Protective Coating (after imaging) Spot or flood gloss finish Spot or flood clear finish
Specialty Light Cyan, Light Magenta, White, Matte Light Black, Gold, Silver, Pearl, Red Fluorescing, Neon Pink White
Dimensional 3D Raised Print, Embossing 3D Raised Print  
Security UV Red MICR MICR

InfoTrends is keeping a close watch on the changes and developments that will occur in the future regarding the 5+ imaging unit. For a more in depth look on our current research we encourage you to read our analysis piece Production Color Digital Print Capabilities Beyond Four Color found in our document store.

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