RIP, DocuColor; Hello, Versant 2100!

Fare thee well, DocuColor: the digital color press that could -- and did -- help to change the printing industry, producing literally billions of pages globally. Demonstrating its latest support of the graphic communications segment, Xerox Corp. has announced this morning that the DocuColor (DC) line is being put out to pasture, retired in about 90 days, and replaced this July with the brand new Versant 2100. Visitors to GRAPH EXPO 2014 in Chicago (Sept. 28 - Oct. 1) can see the shiny, new 100-page-per-minute (ppm), CMYK device running live on the show floor. In the meantime, beta-test sites have been identified but not revealed.

Yes, it’s true, “we are retiring the DocuColor,” Versant product marketing manager Chris Irick told a gathering of some 75 analysts, journalists, and customers gathered this Tuesday at Xerox’s buzzing Gil Hatch Center at its HQ in Webster, NY. The excitement is justified. New equipment launches are good for the industry—especially these days.

And Versant is indeed new, according to Irick. The design is highly automated, featuring proprietary, full-width-array technology. “This is not a 'dust-off' of the DocuColor,” he stressed. “This is new technology, featuring auto sheet clearing, a new compact belt fuser, and a broad media latitude supporting from 52 to 350 gsm [paper]. All stocks up to 300 gsm run at rated speed.” Plus, all weights can be auto-duplexed.

Happy Retirement

The mid-range, short-run production segment is where devices priced at $100,000 and up continue “to do battle against small-format litho presses,” MyPRINTResource contributor and consultant Hal Hinderliter wrote in a mid-2011 article. “Xerox is the old hand in this arena, having launched the first successful ‘digital press’ more than two decades ago with its DocuTech [monochrome] series." The 50-ppm DocuColor 5000 was rolled out in mid-2006, at which time Xerox had installed more than 16,000 DocuColor production systems worldwide, according to InfoTrends. The 240, 260, and previous models had roots as a multifunction copiers/printers, while these new players were termed light-production machines.

Next in the line's evolution came the DC 7002, which provided "excellent image quality at 70 pages per minute (increasing to 80 ppm for its higher-speed sibling, the 8002) and is compatible with a variety of inline finishing equipment, …," Hinderliter added. "As with Xerox’s flagship iGen digital press, the DocuColor 7002/8002 includes an internal spectrophotometer that assures color consistency and aids in spot color matching—all at about one-third the iGen 4’s cost.” (The iGen originally was part of the DocuColor product family, dating back to 2001.)

A few months later, Fuji Xerox introduced the latest DocuColor (DC) installment, the 8080 model with advanced automated color quality suite. With a price tag of around $260,000, the DC 8080 replaced the 7002 and 8002 models; now the Versant replaces the DC 8080, which Xerox will continue to support for seven more years. With a footprint of only 80 cubic feet, the Versant 2100 is “pretty small,” Irick noted, adding that Xerox is targeting commercial print firms, in-plant shops, and large enterprise prospects for its new model.

“It fills a weak spot in our portfolio,” he acknowledged, between the Color 800/1000 and the Color J75 Press. Falling below the iGen production press, the Versant can produce monthly volumes from 75,000 to 250,000 single-sided letter (A4) pages. During peak production times, its duty cycle will gear up to 660,000 pages per month, Irick pointed out.

So Long, 8-bit Gradients

Even though the new Versant is faster than its DocuColor 8080 predecessor, the image quality will not suffer. In fact, it should be better than ever thanks to Ultra HD Resolution rendering applications at 1200x1200 dots per inch (dpi) at up to 10 bits. This technology represents 300 percent more pixels and color precision rendered than the 600x600 dpi standard, Xerox reported. “Brilliant and vibrant images” are provided via a new, low-gloss formula of patented low-melt, Emulsion Aggregation (EA) chemical dry toner, which the OEM now calls “ink,” making the Versant 2100 ideally suited for print applications with effects such as graphic fills, sweeps, line art, and text. “It lends itself to [producing] extremely fine highlights – without blowouts,” Irick noted.

Image-to-media alignment has been expedited, “registered in five minutes or less,” according to Irick. This could take an inexperienced operator 30 minutes to 60 minutes per stock, he explained. Media profiles are reusable, saving even more time. The Versant’s Production Accurate Registration (PAR) holds registration from the tray until the time the paper exits the fuser. In addition, web-based “IoT [Internet of Things] color control can be achieved in under five minutes,” Irick continued, whereas “manual TRCs [tone reproduction curves] or density uniformity adjustments could take up to an hour.”

The Fiery EXP raster image processor (RIP) is one of three digital front end (DFE) choices for the Versant 2100. This hyper RIP from EFI features 40 percent more horsepower, making it even more robust for high production volumes and variable-data print jobs. More information is available on DFEs and additional press specifications.

Even more info.