IT MAY be telling that the majority of presses in operation around the show floor of Graph Expo and Converting Expo 2006 last month were of the digital variety. Offset units were conspicuous in their absence.
Digital presses have become part of the commercial printing mainstream, rather than being a specialty product segment or market niche.
To emphasize this, Hewlett-Packard shared results from an InfoTrends study that surveyed a sampling of digital color printing buyers and producers. The research firm found that the percentage of color printing jobs with a run length of 500 pieces or less in 2005—whether produced digitally or via offset—had grown to 50.5 percent (up from the 29.6 percent finding of a similar study InfoTrends did in 2002). Color Jobs with run lengths of more than 5,000 pieces declined to 20.1 percent (down from 32.6 percent).
Interestingly, Heidelberg cited this same trend as a reason for introducing Anicolor inking unit technology for its Speedmaster SM 52 sheetfed offset press. It says the zoneless, short inking unit provides offset quality at “digital” prices for short runs.
Heidelberg showed the Anicolor unit for the first time in the United States. Designed for four-color models of the Speedmaster SM 52, it will become commercially available next fall. With Anicolor, the ink is stored in the ink chamber rather than on the surface of the rollers. The operator does not need to adjust ink keys during makeready, thus cutting makeready time by 40 percent.
Though Heidelberg has stopped producing them, digital offset or DI (digital imaging) solutions were also in evidence on the show floor.
Presstek receiving customer commitments for more than one dozen DI presses, with the new Presstek 52DI making its official North American debut at the show.