Star product: KBA RotaJet 76

By Simon Eccles, Friday 25 October 2013

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An all-digital press designed for standard uncoated papers.


What does it do?

Announced and demonstrated at Drupa 2012, the KBA RotaJet 76 is a high-volume web-fed inkjet colour press with variable cut-off.

This is KBA’s first all-digital press, although the firm previously made the Karat 74 B2 DI offset press. Some of the inkjet technology is licensed from RR Donnelley, which developed it for its own ProteusJet project. However, KBA stresses that RotaJet 76 is entirely constructed to its own design at its factory in Wurzburg.

What market is it aimed at?

Direct mail printers, plus those producing "short-run medium-quality books – scientific journals, school books, science and law books. It’s not for coffee table books or transactional print," according to Oliver Baar, KBA’s project manager for digital web presses. "Newspapers are also definitely interested in digital. We have the only digital press that can support Nordic sizes in portrait format."

How does it work?

It’s a twin-unit duplex press with large central "impression" cylinders under the printheads. These ensure correct tension, registration and 1mm print gap. KBA’s web path maintains constant tension and means that no turner bars are needed, and that only one central drier unit is needed for both sides. A low-energy drier uses infrared plus hot air air blades, similar to Dyson’s hand driers. "The drier is now two-and-a-half times as efficient as it was at Drupa, with a longer paper path and twice as many air blades," says Baar. "It runs at just 55°C. Competitor machines need a re-humidifier after their driers, but we don’t."

Also new since Drupa is RotaColor, a "polymer pigment" ink. It’s the key to KBA’s claim to print on standard uncoated offset papers without a primer. "The polymerisation blocks the absorption of the ink into the paper, so you get sharp results without primer or bonding agents," says Baar.

What are the choices of formats and inline finishing?

All presses will be 4/4 configurations. A rewinder can be fitted, or a range of third-party inline finishing systems. "We can fully vary the press speed to match to inline finishers," says Baar.

What’s the print quality like?

The print units use Kyocera KJ4B greyscale piezo printheads with a native resolution of 600dpi and three drop sizes: 3, 5 and 12 picolitres. There are 56 heads per print unit in staggered full-width arrays. A wide-gamut ink and the multiple grey levels give high image quality despite the fairly modest resolution, Baar says.

What is the front-end?

The XLO front-end has been developed by KBA and will handle fully variable imaging at top speed. It uses Adobe APPE technology with JDF interfaces to third-party pre-press and finishing systems. The workflow was developed by RR Donnelley.

What is the USP?

KBA claims a range of benefits, including the 800mm web width (only the huge HP T410 is wider), the wide range of paper weights without special primers, speed matching with inline finishers, belt-driven auto-threading, and a compact footprint.

How easy is it to run and maintain?

RotaJet will need "significantly less maintenance" than previous inkjet presses, KBA predicts. Automatic printhead cleaning routines run while other tasks are performed, such as reel changes.

What service support is on offer?

There will be 24/7 online help and maintenance support. The press includes remote diagnostics.

How many are installed?

One sale’s been made to an unnamed direct mail printer in Germany, for installation early in 2014. In June, KBA chief executive Claus Bolza-Schünemann said that another 10 sales were in the pipeline.


Web width 300-800mm

Print width 300-776mm

Speed Up to 150m/min

Stock weight range 36-350gsm

Monthly duty cycle 85m A4 pages

Native resolution 600dpi with two-bit greyscale

Price About €3.7m (£3.1m)

Contact KBA 01923 819922



Canon Océ JetStream 3300 Wide

The JetStream Wide models are intended mainly for book and newspaper jobs, with click rates that support black-only printing on CMYK devices. There’s a choice of configurations: 1/1 black only and 5/5 with CMYK, plus a UV security or MICR ink. They are fairly compact, though longer than the RotaJet.

Web width 762mm

Print width 750mm

Speed 150m/min

Stock weight range 64-157gsm

Monthly duty cycle 90m A4 pages

Native resolution "Perceived 1,200 dpi"   with greyscale

Price About £3m

Contact Canon Océ 0870 600 5544


HP T350/410

The HP T-series inkjets are either narrower or wider than the RotaJet 76. The T350 costs about the same as the KBA and is faster, but it’s narrower, which may affect comparative throughput for some page sizes. The T410 has a 1,066mm-wide web and speeds of up to 244m/min for throughputs up to 175m pages per month, at higher cost. Both are about twice as long as the KBA and need a primer for uncoated offset papers.

Web width 762mm/1,066mm

Print width  739mm/1,060mm

Speed 183m/min/244m/min

Stock weight range 60-350gsm/40-350gsm

Monthly duty cycle 105m/175m A4 pages

Native resolution 1,200dpi (non greyscale)

Price T350: around £3m/T410: around £5m

Contact HP 01344 360000


Kodak Prosper 5000XL

Once seen as Kodak’s saviour, the big colour inkjet hasn’t sold well in Europe so far, with just two in DM houses, both in the UK. Kodak says it has largely solved its technical issues and says that in other markets it sells well into educational and technical colour book markets. The black-only Prosper 1000 costs half the price and appeals more to European book houses. The Prosper heads are also selling quite well to integrators.

Web width 648mm

Print width 622mm

Speed 200m/min

Stock weight range 45-300gsm

Monthly duty cycle 90m A4 pages

Native resolution Believed to be 600dpi

Price About £3m

Contact Kodak Graphic Communications Group 0845 602 5991


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