Assessing digital presses in the post-Drupa landscape

Simon Eccles
Monday, July 18, 2016

With the dust now settled after a flurry of new digital press announcements at Drupa, it’s a good time to go though, compare and contrast and put them into some sort of context.

Here we’re only looking at presses intended for general commercial use: Drupa also saw a lot of announcements of big industrial presses, especially for corrugated work in both signage and cartons, plus more digital label presses. We’ve left those out for space reasons but will doubtless return to them. 

Bobst

Bobst said it has developed a 200m/min roll-to-roll press for folding carton work. This apparently uses similar technology to its sheetfed corrugated press, which uses Kodak Prosper heads. Two beta models are in test sites, but it wasn’t at Drupa. Final models are “12 to 18 months from fruition”.

Canon

Drupa saw the announcement of the imagePress C8000VP, an entry-level follow-up to the 100ppm C1000VP that has now seen more than 80 sales in Europe. The C8000VP runs at 80ppm, which is much the same as last year’s C800. The difference is that the C8000VP is built for four times higher monthly volumes: up to 1.2 million A4 pages. 

On the Océ inkjet web press side, the new 540mm ColorStream 6000 Chroma uses new Chromera inks for wider gamuts and greater colour densities. Maximum speed is 127m/min in colour, or optionally 150m/min in black only. Deliveries start in the autumn. 

On the far end of the Canon stand was Voyager, a prototype new technology B2 sheetfed inkjet press that uses an offset transfer cylinder. Sounds similar to Landa (which uses an offset belt)? Yes, but Canon is very tight-lipped about exactly how it works. There were print samples behind glass, and a looped video that said it’s a duplex machine capable of running seven colours at 3,000 duplex sph on sheets up to 788x580mm. It prints on standard offset papers without treatment. It’s intended for magazine, catalogue and other high-quality work, but there was no indication of when or if it will reach production. 

Domino

The Cambridge based inkjet pioneer demonstrated a B2 sheetfed inkjet with UV cured inks. This was mainly intended as a proof-of-concept for potential integrators. 

However it also showed its own commercial press, the web-fed K630i that has a choice of web widths. This was originally called MonoCube by its developor Graph-Tech, which Domino acquired in 2012. At Drupa it was running inline with a Kern 130 rotary sheeter plus an Ibis Smart-binder saddle binding system (see this week’s Star Product, page 33). 

Fujifilm

Fujifilm had a “technology announcement” of the new MJP20W 540mm wide, five-colour inkjet web press for flexible packaging. This uses Fuji Samba printheads plus its Eucon technology combination of UV-LED inks, undercoating and nitrogen-purge enhanced curing. This has already seen two installations at Kinyosha Printing in Japan.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg’s digital star turn was the big B1-format Primefire 106 inkjet carton press. Developed with Fujifilm, it uses a seven-colour print engine based on Fujifilm Samba heads on an adapted XL chassis. Speed depends on how you phrase the question, but for decent quality you’re looking at about 2,500sph at full 1,200dpi. High uptimes and no plate changes will attract buyers, Heidelberg reckons. 

Although the Ricoh-based Versafire toner presses haven’t changed, Heidelberg notes that it’s shipped 1,000 of them, making it a major force in digital toner presses. 

HP

Bigger, faster HP Indigos were among the huge variety of digital printers that filled the largest floor area at Drupa. The HP Indigo 12000 is an improved version of the 10000 B2 liquid toner press that has already hit well over 250 sales since its 2012 introduction. HP said it received orders for 50 12000s at Drupa. A B1 prototype, the 50000, uses two 20000 engines (originally web-fed) inline to print portrait-format sheets. Beta sites will receive it next year. Two new SRA3 machines, the 7900 and 5900, will have most of the throughput improvements of the 12000. 

On the PageWide wide side, there are three new models: the 1.06m wide full-colour T490 HD, the mono T490 M HD, and 559mm-wide colour T240 HD. These use HP’s new twin-drop size greyscale high-resolution heads announced last year. 

KBA Digital & Web

KBA teamed up with Xerox to announce an interesting offset-inkjet hybrid at Drupa, the sheetfed B1 ‘VariJet 106 powered by Xerox’, for carton work. It’s not finished yet so wasn’t shown, but it will be a modular system that can have a choice of offset, white undercoat and foiling units as ‘pre-treatment’, then the inkjet module, followed by a drying unit then a choice of more offset units, coaters, screen print units, more driers, and rotary diecutting.  Speed will be up to 4,500sph B1 at 1,440dpi.

KBA did demonstrate its latest RotaJet L all-inkjet web press running at Drupa as a 4/0 configuration. Developed from the 2012 prototype, it is intended for commercial and industrial colour work, with web widths up to 1,380mm and speeds up to 300m/min. It’s a modular press and can have up to 42 different configurations from 1/0 to 4/4 and more. 

A larger model, RotaJet VL, will handle web widths up to 2.25m and is intended for industrial work such as decor.

Kodak

Kodak’s Prosper inkjet press operation is up for sale, which may have encouraged it to talk about new products. Ultrastream is its next generation continuous flow inkjet head, which will be wider (203mm/8in), a factor in making it cheaper for OEMs and integrators. Configurations from 203mm to 2,464mm will be possible, Kodak says, with high-accuracy small drop placement allowing resolutions of 600x1,800dpi running at 150m per minute. It showed a 203mm narrow web demo unit at Drupa. 

Once Prosper goes, Kodak’s main digital presses will be the toner based NexPress family. At Drupa it announced the ZX3300 and ZX3900 models with the ability to handle thicker paper up to 610 microns and with an opaque white ink option. 

It was also talking about a next-gen NexPress codenamed Max Platform. It showed some components but not a whole press. This will have a new 12-bit LED based print engine for smooth tones, new multi-screening technology within a page and the ability to swap the colour station order – useful if there’s a white. Top speed will be 152ppm and the largest sheet size will be 1,219x353mm.

Komori 

Komori is backing two horses: it will build the chassis for Landa’s Nanographic presses and also intends to built its own B1 Nanographic press, the 6,500sph Impremia NS40. This has different controls to the Landa models. There was a perfecting prototype running at Drupa and the company signed up nine letters of intent, with initial shipping planned for spring 2018.

The other horse is a collaboration with Konica Minolta, which has already produced the Impremia IS29, Komori’s name for the KM-1 sheetfed B2 inkjet press, with UV inks. This is now shipping and selling well, the company says. 

Konica Minolta

As mentioned above, KM’s joint venture with Komori has so far given us the recently renamed AccurioJet KM-1 B2 sheetfed UV inkjet, which started shipping this year. A prototype B1 carton press, AccurioJet KM-C, was previewed at Drupa, with regular running demos. This will take sheets up to 760x1,060mm, in thicknesses up to 1.2mm. 

This year KM increased its stake in MGI, which has long used KM toner engines in its Meteor digital presses, from 10.5% to 40.5%. It is going to be more actively marketing the MGI Meteors and the JetVarnish ‘embellishment’ inkjets. 

Landa

Failing to deliver anything since his spectacular industry return at Drupa 2012 didn’t dent chairman Benny Landa’s confidence. His company has slimmed-down plans for its Nanographic presses so they all use the widest format engine. There will be the simplex B1 S10 for cartons, the newly announced S10P perfector, and the 1,040mm wide W10 web press. Landa now says the first S10 will be delivered next year. A demo press was run regularly during the show and samples were handed out. Landa announced significant pre-show orders and said it signed up more during the course of the show, to the value of £350m. 

Manroland Web Systems

The German press maker teamed up with Kodak to demonstrate a hybrid web offset and inkjet press. It integrated the Kodak Prosper 6000S inkjet web with a FoldLine inline finishing to produce a hybrid line. This could imprint digital sections into retail flyers with full-page variable colour at full 600dpi while matching the speed of the offset line. 

Matti Technology 

This Swiss press developer integrator has long worked with Kodak printheads to produce inkjet web presses. At Drupa the two companies announced a partnership to integrate Prosper S-series inkjet heads into a black-only roll-to-sheet press called MonoStream. It’s intended as a competitor for toner presses currently being used for books, transactional and government printing. According to chief executive Thomas Amrein it will boast “four times the productivity at nearly half the cost of laser printing”.

MGI

The French digital press maker hadn’t said much about its Alphajet sheetfed UV inkjet since it appeared as a B2 prototype in 2012. In 2016 it was back as the core of a huge B1-plus industrial press with twin print engines for up to eight colours, and a versatile but massive wraparound ingenious sheet feed system that’s supposed to handle virtually anything. Maximum sheet size is 750x1,200mm. Spot UV varnishing digital hot foiling and optional RFID electronics printing are also featured.

The Meteor DP 1000X toner press was announced, with the latest Konica Minolta toner engines for increased speeds up to 100 sheets per minute. It will feature MGI’s own modifications for longer sheets (up to 330x1,200mm), weights up to 450gsm and an offset pile feeder. It will also run inline with MGI’s DF Pro, which offers 20 different functions.

Also new was Meteor Unlimited Colours, an inline and integrated digital hot foiling unit for Meteor 330mm wide toner presses (see Star Product, 4 July). 

Miyakoshi

This Japanese press manufacturer provides much of the hardware for Canon’s Océ Jetstream inkjet web presses as well as the Xeikon Trillium, and also a liquid toner engine for the RMGT DP7 B2 digital press. It doesn’t have a sales presence in Europe but exhibits at Drupa to win OEM business. This time it showed a new liquid toner web press, 20NX-5000, running at 100m/min with more to come. It uses the same Miyakoshi-developed liquid toner and high viscosity ink technology as in the RMGT DP7 sheetfed press and requires a heated drying unit. This is not the same as Xeikon’s Trillium liquid toner technology (see below).  

Pitney Bowes

New at Drupa was AccelaJet, an entry level black-only inkjet web press to fit below the company’s IntelliJet 20 (a rebadged HP PageWide T200 series). It’s made by Domino/Graph-Tech in Switzerland and is apparently the same as the Domino K630i. 

Ricoh

Having announced new web and sheetfed models in the past couple of years, Ricoh didn’t have much new in the digital press hardware line at Drupa. However it’s joined in the general trend towards long sheets on SRA3 toner presses, and was showing for the fist time an ‘enhanced banner’ capability for its Pro C7100x and Pro C9100 presses. It also signed a deal with EFI to distribute some of the latter’s large-format UV printers. 

RMGT

The merger of Ryobi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ press operations was demonstrating DP7, its B2 format liquid toner press. Based on a Ryobi 750 offset press chassis fitted with Miyakoshi 1,200dpi heads and high viscosity liquid toner, it offers 6,000sph, with up to 8,000sph in potential. The Drupa configuration was four units, but five or more will be possible, including a 4/4 perfector. 

Screen

Ten years after announcing its first Truepress Jet520 inkjet web press, Screen introduced the Truepress Jet520NX. It runs 520mm webs at up to 150m/min in up to five colours and the quality will allow it to “move beyond transactional”, according to Screen. 

Xaar

Xaar showed a concept press with a wooden outer casing at Drupa, to demonstrate a possible configuration for its latest 5601 heads, which use new silicon MEMS technology and are intended to make it easier and cheaper to integrate into presses. 

The company doesn’t intend to make presses, but hopes the demonstrator will attract attention from potential OEMs in commercial graphics. Its current 1001 to 1003 heads have mainly been used in industrial presses. 

Xeikon

Four years after announcing its Trillium liquid toner technology as a way to break the speed barrier of dry toner, Xeikon showed its four-colour roll-fed Trillium One press at Drupa. 

It’s still a work in progress: print quality is acceptable rather than brilliant, and the speed is 60m/min on web widths from 320 to 520mm. The company reckons it will soon be able to double that and more, which is why it commissioned Miyakoshi to make a chassis that can cope. The duty cycle is quoted as 20m impressions per month. A beta press is operating on commercial jobs at Xeikon’s Lier factory. 

Xerox

Xerox is aiming to put “inkjet within reach of more print providers”, with the introduction of the sheetfed B3-plus Brenva HDand the continuous-feed Trivor 2400 presses. Its new High Fusion ink is said to allow inkjet printing onto standard offset papers without primers or the like. 

The Brenva is basically an inkjet engine built onto an iGen chassis and paper handling system. It takes sheets up to 364x520mm and 220gsm and can print 197 A4 images per minute at full 600dpi, or 100 A3s. It’s intended for a duty cycle of up to 6m sheets per month. 

The Trivor 2400 takes web widths up to 511mm and has a print width of 474mm. It runs duplex at up to 168m/min in colour, or 200m/min in mono. With greyscale drops down to 3pl and up to 1,200x600dpi, image quality should be good. Target applications include catalogues, magazines and colour books.

A Xerox Impika engine is also used in the announced joint development with KBA of the VariJet 106, a B1 sheetfed inkjet on an offset press chassis. This is intended for folding carton work.

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