Graph Expo: A Digital Printing Redux
At Graph Expo, digital press vendors highlighted workflow and digital front end capabilities, emphasizing automation, personalization and run-length optimization.November 2012 By John Parsons
Graph Expo suffers from a perennial problem and a quadrennial one. The latter, of course, is that it comes only months after the international drupa printing trade show, where vendors have all but exhausted their new technology announcements. Every drupa year, vendors must come up with something new to show in Chicago, or simply offer a repeat performance.
The perennial problem with the show is the high cost of exhibiting at Chicago's McCormick Place, compared to other venues. Such costs are cited as one reason so few offset presses were on display. Another reason, of course, is that digital printing is the new norm for shows like Graph Expo and for the printing industry in general.
Almost without exception, digital press vendors highlighted their workflow and digital front end (DFE) capabilities at the show, enabling everything from transpromotional and variable data printing to ganging of smaller jobs into longer production runs. The emphasis was on automation, personalization and run-length optimization.
Océ/Canon was one of the two largest exhibitors, combining the electrophotographic (EP) and high-speed inkjet heritage of both sides of the company in its booth. The Océ ColorStream 3900 inkjet press announced at drupa made its U.S. debut at Graph Expo. The 21.25˝-print-width color press boasts a speed of more than 400 fpm, and was shown running with an in-line booklet finishing system from Standard Horizon.
The other of the two largest exhibitors, Xerox, featured the latest incarnation of its popular iGen digital press platform. Making its North American debut, the iGen 150 features a 150 ppm print speed, new matte dry ink and a host of finishing options for booklet production. Also on display were the CiPress 500 waterless inkjet system, for color printing on a range of uncoated stocks, and the new Nuvera 157EA (157 ppm) and 314EA (314 ppm) monochrome systems, the latter being a perfecting system.
Sharing the booth was XMPie, a Xerox Co., which introduced the uStore 7.0 upgrade to its Web-to-print solution. Enhancements include JDF compliance and the ability to work with Xerox FreeFlow Connect.
The New 'Big Iron'
With offset presses becoming scarce on the show floor and digital vendors pushing for higher volume and larger B2-format machines, digital presses are becoming the "big iron" components of the show. One example was the HP Indigo 10000 digital color press which, advancing from its introduction at drupa, is now officially in beta testing. Two smaller-format HP Indigos—the 7600 and the 5600—also made their U.S. debuts. A major advance offered by these systems is Enhanced Productivity Mode (EPM), which is the company's three-color printing option that boosts productivity by 33 percent.
Although Fujifilm's J Press 720 sheetfed inkjet press was launched at Graph Expo 2010, it still drew considerable interest this year. Using 1,200 dpi Samba print heads developed by Fujifilm Dimatix, it can print up to 2,700 four-up sheets/hour on coated and uncoated stocks.
The InfoPrint line of digital presses, now part of Ricoh, has grown into a multi-platform offering topped by the continuous-feed 5000 family of inkjet devices. Enhancements include a new 315 fpm print speed option to match finishing components and new TotalFlow workflow modules to drive the device, including DocEnhancer for last-minute editing of PDF documents.
The 5000 line is based on print engine technology from Screen (USA), which did not have its own booth this year, but was able to team up with MCS to exhibit a Truepress Jet520 inkjet press.
Heidelberg, which showed one of the few offset presses at the show, prominently featured its digital offerings, such as the Linoprint C901 color digital press, based on the Ricoh engine. The company also had an EFI Rastek H652 UV flatbed inkjet printer in its booth, and all three devices were employed in a demonstration of cross-platform color matching.
Along with displaying its bizhub line of EP presses—from the monochrome PRO 951 to the full-color, 80 ppm C8000—Konica Minolta offered a preview of output from the B2-size KM-1 UV inkjet press, but did not have the machine on the show floor. New at Graph Expo was the launch of EnvisionIT Production workflow solutions, including EngageIT Automation for print and EngageIT XMedia, a cross-media solution. The company's new bizhub PRESS 1250 black-and-white digital press, with Image Density Control and Toner Carrier Ratio sensors to ensure consistent image density and quality, also drew a crowd.
Komori has been working with Konica Minolta to become a player in the digital sector, including collaborating on the development of sheetfed inkjet technology. Its Impremia IS29 29˝ press implementation was shown in a "live" virtual demonstration at Graph Expo via an interactive hook-up with the company's production plant in Japan. The bizhub PRESS C8000 EP color press was also demonstrated.
KBA talked about, but did not show, its new RotaJet 76 inkjet press unveiled at drupa and scheduled to ship early next year. The press accommodates a 30.7˝ web width, print speeds of up to 500 fpm and the use of aqueous pigment inks.
Kodak featured the imprinting part of the Prosper inkjet platform—the S-series. The new S30 model ups the speed range to 3,000 fpm to enable augmenting conventional offset presses with variable text and graphics. Kodak also announced its new Prosper Image Optimizer Station for the Prosper Press, which will pre-coat a wider array of stocks. On the EP side, the NexPress SX will get a speed upgrade, new 36˝ sheet capability, and fluorescent and metallic colors for the 5th imaging unit. Kodak's new Gold Dry Ink for the NexPress, for which it won a Must See 'Ems award, also attracted a lot of attention.
Presstek has been contributing to the "big iron" at Graph Expo in recent years by having its 75DI on the show floor, but this year it opted to display just a single tower of that press in its booth along with a four-color 52DI digital offset press. Another carryover demonstrated in the U.S. for the first time was Virtuoso, an in-line color management and sheet inspection system for the Presstek 75DI that inspects each sheet as it passes through the press at full speed.
MGI brought its multi-substrate Meteor DP8700 S to Chicago for its U.S. debut. It can accommodate formats up to 13x19˝ at speeds approaching 4,260 full-color A4/letter pages per hour, and offers quality up to 3,600 dpi. Prints can be re-run through a desktop laser printer with no smudging or ghosting.
EFI launched its high-speed Jetrion 4900 inkjet label printer at Labelexpo, weeks before Graph Expo, but also brought it to Chicago. It combines UV inkjet printing and laser finishing in a modular, upgradable system. At Graph Expo, the company showed the Fiery FS100 Pro DFE for the first time in the U.S. New features include HyperRIP, a performance-enhancing technology, and Fiery JobMaster, an advanced makeready solution for producing complex jobs.
Epson did not bring its new SurePress L-4033A label press to McCormick Place, but the SureColor S50670 wide-format model earned a Must See 'Ems award. Introduced just prior to the show, the solvent inkjet S50670 and companion S70670 model are 64˝ printers incorporating the manufacturer's MicroPiezo TFP printhead technology for increased print quality and performance.
Wide-format printing also took center stage in Agfa's booth, which showcased the new :Anapurna M2540 FB entry-level, flatbed UV inkjet printer (six colors plus white) and :Jeti 3020 Titan hybrid model for high-volume and high-resolution applications. The M2540 FB, a flatbed machine, is designed to print on rigid substrates, while the 3020 Titan is field upgradable from a base configuration with 16 heads to a maximum 48 heads for outputting at up to 2,432 square feet per hour.
Having previously been shown as a technology demonstration, the Excelagraphix 4200 high-speed, wide-format inkjet printer was featured in the Xanté booth. It uses Memjet Waterfall print head technology to deliver print speeds up to 12˝ per second across a 42˝-wide format at up to 1,600 dpi. Making its worldwide debut was the new Impressia "multi media" digital printing system. The 50 ppm EP device supports a range of stocks in sizes up to 12x18˝ or 12x49.6˝ with manual feeding and offers a 2,400 dpi print resolution.
Back on the label side, OKI Data featured its ProColor series, including the 511DW web press for production of both static and variable print labels. The high-speed device is capable of printing on a variety of materials, including non-converted or pre-converted label stock, vinyl, PET and other substrates up to 330 gsm.
The Riso booth featured two of the company's ComColor 9050 color inkjet presses—one with a native IPDS controller for high-speed variable transactional printing and the other with a multi-function finisher for tasks such as in-line booklet making. The new IPDS controller allows AFP print data to be sent directly to ComColor printers.
Scodix drew considerable interest with its S-series digital presses, capable of adding "digital glittering" and other effects via inkjet.