Kodak plans wide-format return through Drupa deal

By Jo Francis, Tuesday 01 March 2016

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Kodak has launched a new inkjet printhead that could see it re-enter the wide-format market via an OEM partner.

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Cullimore: "We can bring the benefits of inkjet to adjacent markets”

It described its new Ultrastream continuous inkjet head as its fourth-generation product. It is aiming to sign up OEM partners at Drupa who could use the head in sheetfed inkjet presses or in a wide-format array.

“We turned the attention of our brightest minds in R&D to how we can bring the benefits of inkjet to adjacent markets,” said Kodak president of inkjet enterprise systems Philip Cullimore.

The Ultrastream is slower than Kodak’s existing Stream high-speed inkjet heads, but produces better quality. It can print 153m/min at 1,800dpi resolution.

The firm showed samples of high-quality output at a pre-Drupa media conference held this week.

“We really think this meets the analogue printing challenge that’s been to difficult to match. It has speed and quality in one package,” Cullimore stated.

He said the Ultrastream was configurable as a linehead set-up from 200mm to 2.5m in width, or in a scanning configuration for wider-format applications.

Kodak used to be in the wide-format business after acquiring Encad in 2002, but didn’t develop the offering, and it was subsequently shelved.

However, Kodak is unlikely to go to market itself, and will instead focus on OEM relationships for the new head.

“Never say never but our model is to work with OEMs in the market. There are lots of people out there where we think Ultrastream will give them next generation productivity for their systems,” Cullimore told PrintWeek.

He also claimed the Ultrastream would be price-competitive with drop-on-demand competing offerings. “Ultrastream printheads are available at par or better than DOD competitors. And productivity with some competitors can only be matched with two printheads compared with our one. Or with UV heads it can take four heads to match our productivity,” he stated.

As an example, he said a B2-format sheetfed press would require 20 Ultrastream printheads costing around $100,000 (£72,000).

Kodak will also show a new NexPress platform at Drupa.

The Kodak NexPress ZX3900 supports thicker paper and thicker synthetic substrates, and is targeted at applications such as labels, tags and small format folding cartons.

It will be able to print onto longer sheets, of up to 1.35m in length, and has switchable colour stations, so colour order and combinations can be switched around depending on job requirements.

John O’Grady, managing director of worldwide sales at Kodak’s Print Systems Division, said: “We also have a new opaque white ink that complements the nine inks that already exist, and new multi-bit LED writing systems for peak quality over longer runs.”

The NexPress ZX3900 will be previewed at Drupa, for delivery in 2017.

In its pre-media business Kodak also announced “ultra-high-speed” Trendsetter and Achieve CTP systems that can produce 68 Sonora processless plates per hour, which Kodak claimed was the fastest processless CTP system on the market. 

Also new is Flexcel NX System ’16, an integrated flexo plate production system including workflow, plates and imager.

Chris Payne, general manager and vice-president for flexographic packaging solutions, claimed customers were experiencing multiple benefits from using Flexcel NX, including 50% longer lasting plates and reduced ink usage: “At Drupa we will be inviting printers not using NX plates today to ‘take up the Kodak challenge’ to see the efficiencies for themselves.”

It plans to show the next generation of its NX plate technology under the banner of the ‘Ultra NX experience’.

In its workflow business Kodak is launching Prinergy as a cloud service.

“Our vision is to unleash Prinergy and deploy it in the customer-preferred model,” said Allan Brown, general manager of unified workflow and vice president of software solutions. “We are giving customers the freedom to control the cost parameters in their environment.”

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