Paper Options for Continuous-feed Inkjet

Jack Miller

Paper is a pivotal piece of the production inkjet puzzle.

Continuous-feed inkjet offers advantages over both offset and electrophotography. As the technology evolves, it is gaining share from both. The presses are good. The substrates are good. The software is good. And, as Cathy Cartolano, vice president of sales and technical services at Mitsubishi Imaging (MPM), points out, image quality is “scary close” to offset.

So why doesn’t continuous-feed inkjet dominate the market? Challenges include education, workflow, sales and finishing, as well as the limitations of the technology. The technology continues to evolve, though, with improvements to paper, ink, workflow software and to the presses themselves.

While much of the discussion focuses on image quality and technology, it is important to note that digital print is a very different sale than conventional print. The value proposition of digital involves a total system solution around better targeting, better logistics and less waste, which results in a better return on the customers’ investment rather than a lower per unit cost. Also, the decision on inkjet versus toner depends on the image quality required, substrate, ink coverage and run length. The right solution depends on the specific application, and inkjet is gaining ground.

Image quality may not be the issue as much as economics.

“The highest form of printing in the world for museums and photography is inkjet,” notes Dave Bell, Mitsubishi’s director of digital sales. “The question is not when will inkjet quality be equal to offset, but when will production inkjet quality be equal to offset.”

For transactional print and certain book applications, numerous success stories demonstrate that production inkjet quality may have met this goal.

Demand for Coated Papers

Some applications are suitable for uncoated papers, either with or without inkjet treatment, but for applications with more color and high-quality graphics, print customers often want coated papers. NewPage Corp., Appleton Coated LLC, Mitsubishi Imaging (MPM), FutureMark Paper and Resolute Forest Products have developed coated inkjet papers in conjunction with press manufacturers (OEMs) and continue to refine and improve their inkjet coated paper offerings.

Related story: Inkjet: 'The Next Big Game Changer'

Jack Miller is founder and Principal Consultant at Market-Intell LLC, offering Need to Know™ market intelligence in paper, print and packaging. Previously, he was senior consultant, North America, with Pira International.

Known as the Paper Guru, Jack is the former director of Market Intelligence with Domtar, where he also held positions as regional sales manager, territory sales manager and product manager. He has presented at On Demand, RISI’s Global Outlook, PRIMIR, SustainCom World and at various IntertechPira conferences. Jack has written for Printing Impressions, Canadian Printer, Paper 360, PaperTree Letter and Package Printing, along with publishing a monthly e-newsletter, MarketIntellibits.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from The College of the Holy Cross and has done graduate studies in Statistics and Finance.

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