Digital Color Printing: Delaware Dives into Digital Color
TUCKED INSIDE a nondescript brick building at the edge of campus, the University of Delaware’s Graphic Communications Center has brought a lot of favorable attention to the university in recent years. The quality of its offset printing has earned the in-plant numerous awards, including two Best of Show honors in the In-Print contest.
Now the 19-employee in-plant is bringing the Fighting Blue Hens into the spotlight once again by becoming one of the first in-plants to install a new Xerox iGen4 digital color press.
Unveiled at Drupa, the iGen4 brought several improvements over the iGen3, including auto density control, auto carrier dispense and an inline spectrophotometer. The results have been noticeable to Manager Rodney Brown.
“The quality is far superior to what we were getting before,” he remarks. In particular, colors are more consistent now than what the in-plant was achieving on the Xerox 7000 it previously used, he says. Solids come out much nicer too.
“We run a lot of solids,” affirms Jo Ellen Rathbun, Copy Center supervisor.
“Quality-wise, you’re sneaking up really close to a press,” adds Brown.
He’s comfortable enough with the quality that he plans to move at least half of the shop’s two-color offset work to the iGen4, along with about 25 percent of the four-color work.
The iGen4’s quality was put to the test right away with its very first job, a postcard that had already been run on an offset press but needed to be rerun due to a change. The customer, Brown says, couldn’t tell the difference.
The in-plant plans to continue pitting its iGen4 against offset presses by bidding on some State of Delaware jobs that have traditionally been printed offset. This is not to say that the in-plant is abandoning its sheetfed presses. Its five-color 20x28˝ Komori Lithrone 28 is as busy as ever, Brown says, and will be needed for years to come.
An Easy Choice
With more than $3 million in annual sales, Graphic Communications is a full chargeback operation. It’s located in an 8,900-square-foot facility, in a quiet, residential part of Newark, Del. Brown also oversees a satellite copy shop in the student center.
The decision to get an iGen4, Brown says, was not hard to make. The cost to lease it was the same as what the in-plant was paying to lease its 7000 and a Nuvera 100. Digital presses from other companies weren’t really an option, he says, due to the buyout cost of the Xerox leases.
Another reason he decided to move up to an iGen4 was variable data. Though the shop could produce some VDP jobs on its 7000, that device didn’t have the memory to handle large amounts of data. Brown knew that with the increasing popularity of VDP and personalized URLs, the in-plant needed to prepare for more of this type of work.
The iGen4 has sparked customer interest. Some are talking about redesigning projects to fit on the machine.
Brown is pleased with the specialty materials the iGen4 is able to run—items like luggage tags and door hangers. The shop no longer has to send these out for diecutting. He also looks forward to printing on magnetic materials.
Though he’s pleased with the digital press so far, Brown advises other in-plant managers who are looking at digital presses to have detailed discussions with their vendors ahead of time to make sure their machines can really do all they say they can do. He says he was told that pages printed by the iGen4 could be perfect bound, but he’s found that the fuser oil in the sheets makes this a problem.
“The glue industry has not caught up with the technology of the digital industry,” Brown says.
Next Up: FSC Certification
Even as Graphic Communications adjusts to life with the latest digital press, it is busy with several other major projects. It recently received its FSC chain-of-custody certification.
“The university’s thinking green,” Brown explains. He decided to obtain certification to show the in-plant’s support of the university’s goals. Also, he learned that several departments would not send the in-plant their business because it couldn’t put the FSC logo on the printed pieces. Most local printers are FSC certified, he says.
“If we don’t do it, we lose that business,” Brown admits.
The shop is also testing processless plates on its Fuji platesetter so it can eliminate chemicals.
As if the iGen4 and FSC certification weren’t enough, the in-plant has also upgraded its bindery and mail areas. It recently installed a Standard Horizon 5500 StitchLiner (see sidebar) and replaced its Bryce 30K addressing system with a new Videojet 4320 ink-jet addressing and imaging system.
“It’s just built better,” says Brown of the new Videojet addresser. “It’s a more robust system.” That’s important, since the in-plant handles 85 percent of the university’s mailings. Because the new system can produce bar codes, the university can now take advantage of more postal discounts.
On top of all this—or perhaps because of it—the in-plant is planning to make one of the biggest changes of all this fall. Brown plans to change the shop’s name from Graphic Communications to University Printing Services, which he feels will highlight the in-plant’s true strength: printing. This should take effect just prior to the in-plant’s annual October open house, during which Xerox representatives will be on hand to show applications for the iGen4.
Keeping up with the latest technology through equipment upgrades like these is part of the in-plant’s survival strategy, Brown says.
“It’s going to allow the in-plant to be here for years to come,” he says.
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Graphics since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 130 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Graphics.