For a monochrome printer, the Kodak Digimaster's history has been an extremely colourful one. Launched as the DigiSource in March 1999 - a name soon changed to Digimaster - it then became the Heidelberg Digimaster when the monochrome digital part of Kodak's business was bought by the German giant.
Originally, the press could run at 110 pages per minute (ppm), then when the second generation came to the market in 2002, this increased to 150ppm on the 9150 model. In 2004, the E range was introduced with greater range of paper-size capabilities and then in 2005, Kodak acquired Heidelberg Digital and NexPress and the machine came under the Kodak badge once more.
Latest mod cons
The latest range of Digimasters, the EX range, was launched last year at Digital Print World with additional functionalities such as an improved user interface and different quality settings. Other companies have also sold the Digimaster under their own branding, including Canon, which sells it as the iR range and IBM, which sold the basic machine, but added its own front-end.
Will Mansfield is EAME marketing director for Kodak’s digital printing solutions. He says that from the very beginning, the Digimaster machines were popular: “Printers could achieve a combined speed and quality that they could not get before.” Kodak found it had a wide customer base, ranging from small printers or copyshops, to the large commercial printers, government agencies and universities.
“Many customers are using our monochrome presses as a first step into colour digital printing and variable data work. They are using the Digimaster alongside their colour litho presses and overprinting the variable data element onto the litho shell,” explains Mansfield. “These days, the colour market gets so much attention, but there is still big business in black-and-white printing and commercial printers are smart; using their monochrome kit alongside litho very effectively.”
Digimasters are also used for general reproduction work, transactional jobs and book printing. “Our customer feedback has shown that users are particularly impressed by the quality on small text and image reproduction,” says Mansfield.
“However, an issue some have had is that if they were producing work on their other digital monochrome presses and some on the Digimaster, the quality was so far apart that work could not be spread across machines. For this reason, we introduced quality settings that could in effect decrease the quality of our press to fit in with other presses that customers may have.”
Kodak believes that it has installed around 200 Digimaster presses in the UK since its launch. Infotec, previously Danka Europe, has also sold a significant number of the machines, particularly to the education sector, and it estimates it has sold around the same amount as Kodak. A new Digimaster EX machine is sold, depending on configuration, at between £100,000 and £250,000.
There are many extras available for the machine, including stackers, inserters, folders and an inline bookletmaker to name just a few. It is also possible on new models to have up to 12 paper drawers divided into nine feeder drawers and three inserter drawers.
Since the new range was introduced last year, a number of printers have decided to upgrade, which has brought a flurry of activity to the secondhand market in the older Digimasters. Kodak UK pre-sales manager Andy Campbell says: “There is quite a strong market for these used machines as the engines are very good. I know of one press in Peterborough that has run 120m A4 impressions so far and is still going strong.”
Kodak will clean and refurbish any used machine that comes back to it and give it a full inspection. Campbell advises, as with any used purchase, to check the service history of the press and also to check the impression count. For a used 2000 Digimaster 110, you should expect to pay around £50,000.
• up to 150ppm (on 150 models)
Max imaging area
• New: £100,000 to £250,000
• Used: 2000 Digimaster 110 £50,000
What to look for
• Impression count
• Service history