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Upgrading Digital Color

March 2005
Digital color printing is on the rise at in-plants. To help, equipment vendors are making their devices more user-friendly than ever.

By Vince De Franco

When it comes to digital color printing, in-plants are among the leaders. Some 30 percent of color devices in the 24- to 59-ppm category reside at in-plants, according to an InfoTrends/CAP Ventures research study. Not only that, 20 percent of all production color devices in excess of 60 ppm are at in-plants.

This has made suppliers of digital color printing equipment take note. They have responded by making this equipment more user-friendly than ever. Vendors have broadened the choice of runnable substrates, added inline finishing options, expanded the color gamut and much more.

Still, some users hesitate to invest in high-end digital color equipment due to concerns over obsolescence. Recognizing this, Xerox has implemented a quarterly upgrade mandate on its iGen3 digital press to ensure no iGen3 customer gets left with an outdated machine.

The iGen3 is Xerox's answer to demand for a high-end digital color press with variable data and economic short-run color capabilities. Every quarter, the company offers hardware and software releases to customers, thus upgrading the entire population of iGen3 machines.

"The older installations are equivalent in functionality to those sold last week," notes Fred Debolt, vice president of color product systems at the Xerox Production Systems Group. Although Debolt admits that the early rounds of upgrades had more to do with problem fixes and debugging, recent releases focus more on new content, features and functionality, some of which represent drastic changes to the equipment.

For example, responding to concern in the field over the number of reds the iGen3 could reach with the original color gamut, the company actually changed the pigment of the red toner to reach further into the red area. Debolt notes that because the engineering of all Xerox products starts with the toner, such a change was a major decision, but one that was derived from customer feedback, and thus revamped in a quarterly update.

Xerox also added in-line finishing (perfect binders, signature booklet makers and a fusion punch) to its entire DocuColor product line from the 2045 up through iGen3, and an additional feeder module addresses the need for in-plants and other users to run a wider range of stock and in larger quantities. The introduction of an inline UV coating system is planned for later this year.

"Initially, the in-line UV Coater will be for iGen3 only but since it will be DFA [Document Finishing Architecture] compliant, we will certainly evaluate enabling it on other products, including DC8000 and perhaps Nuvera," explains Debolt.


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