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From the Editor: Is Inkjet in Your Future?

March 2014 By Bob Neubauer
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When will an inkjet production press make its way into your in-plant? The technology is advancing steadily, and a handful of in-plants have already invested in it, but for most managers, inkjet means wide-format, not high volumes and high speeds.

And while new large-format printers like the Canon ColorWave 900 accomplish some pretty fast inkjet printing (1 foot a second), as I saw demonstrated in Canon's Customer Experience Center last month, the inkjet presses the industry is buzzing about are not poster printers. They're production devices, meant to replace toner and offset presses for applications like books, transactional materials, direct mail and more.

Several in-plants have already made the plunge and installed a new inkjet press. Allstate, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Fifth Third Bank, The World Bank—all told, about 2.7 percent of in-plants, according to brand new IPG survey data. Another 7.7 percent of in-plants are seriously investigating inkjet presses or have budgeted money for a purchase within the next two years. The latter group includes the states of Colorado and California.

John Yerger, director of Printing Services at Stephen F. Austin State University, is researching inkjet presses in the sheetfed B2 size. He feels devices like the Fujifilm J Press 720 and the Screen Truepress Jet520 are going to reshape the industry. Fellow Texas manager Chuck Werninger, with the Houston Independent School District, is talking with several vendors about their inkjet presses and has high hopes that Canon's Niagara, once it arrives, will be a boon for in-plants.

Last year, IPG's parent company, North American Publishing Co., was instrumental in organizing and running the first Inkjet Summit, which brought dozens of printers—including seven in-plants—together to discuss the ins and outs of inkjet. Early next month, the second Inkjet Summit will take place. The interest level among commercial and in-plant printers has skyrocketed, and even more vendors have jumped in to support it.

One of the key messages at last year's Summit was that the early investors will have a distinct advantage over those who wait until the technology improves; they will have worked through the learning curve, discovered how to build volumes and have a huge competitive advantage over late comers. (See this story for more details.)

Joe Ferrara III, workflow analyst at Excellus BCBS, attended last year's Summit and said he learned a lot, especially about how important it is to find the right paper for your inkjet press. This knowledge, and the contacts he made at the Summit, were a big help when Excellus installed its Ricoh InfoPrint 5000 and started saving significant costs for the company. You owe it to your parent organization to start investigating whether an inkjet press can bring such savings to your operation as well.



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