KIP Color 80 High Speed

Barney Cox
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Though rooted in the CAD market, this toner wide-format press has the speed and flexibility for graphics, discovers Barney Cox


Drupa 2008 was hailed as ‘the inkjet show' and, judging by the machines on display, the process has undoubtedly started to make inroads into new markets. For example, the burgeoning continuous feed colour market is dominated by inkjet technology and digital presses offering the commercial printer's long-awaited dream of a B2 sheet size looks likely to be delivered using it too.

However, one Drupa launch, the KIP Color 80, was a toner-based option that struck at inkjet's strongest market to date: wide-format. It offered a compelling combination of speed and price per copy.

As a wide-format colour printer, the Color 80 is unusual in its use of toner technology. While in the CAD market, where KIP has its heritage, there are no shortage of monochrome plotters that use toner technology, the Color 80 is unique in taking the toner route to colour, rather than the inkjet route. At 914mm wide, it's almost twice the width of Xeikon's long-established toner-based digital colour webs and the more recently introduced Xerox 490/980.

The challenge of making wider-format toner-based machines comes down to two aspects of the technology. One is the width of the imaging head and of the photoconductive drum on which the image is formed. KIP uses a diode array to form the image, which means the quality is consistent right across the width and not subject to degradation at the extreme edges, as would be the case using a laser system. As for the photoconductive drum, KIP UK sales and marketing manager Dick Casey says that 914mm is the widest to have been produced to date. He adds that he's not aware of any plans to go wider.

Flexibility bonus
One of the advantages of toner over inkjet is substrate flexibility. The machine can print onto a range of coated and uncoated paper, synthetics and plastics, including very lightweight stocks. Among those are blue-back and white-back poster stocks, both clear and backlit. The firm is working with media vendors to accredit stocks, including a window cling film.

Being toner-based, the images are water and UV resistant, so for many applications there is no need for subsequent laminating for protection. However, Casey adds that the output can be hot or cold laminated if needed.

Resolution is 600dpi at a single bit-depth per spot. "We're not competing with photo-quality Epsons, as you won't be printing the highest quality photos, but it can reproduce photos that will be viewed from a metre away," explains Casey.
While photos may not be its market, KIP claims that the toner technology excels at strong solids. That coupled with features in the RIP to match LAB and spot colours, including a gamut warning for any specials that lie outside its capabilities, make for good poster printing.

Crisp line work
The Color 80 produces very crisp linework, which means one of its target markets is map printing. "It's ideal for maps - the output is waterproof," says Casey. There's a further benefit of its CAD heritage: the machine can be hooked up to a folder/stacker, making it possible to produce maps on demand. Other applications that it is being targeted at are in-store point-of-sale and banner printing.

Speed is the big strength of the KIP Color 80. It can produce 200m2 per hour, regardless of image content, quality or density. "What could take an inkjet printer 10 minutes, we can produce four in one minute," says Casey. "For printers who need speed, we're finding it's ideal. One test job we had was for a run of 5,000. It would have taken the customer four days running double shifts on his inkjet printer: it took six hours on the Color 80."

Another sector that is looking closely at the machine is the billboard market, due to the speed, cost and ability to tile the output in the RIP.

KIP uses a click charge model, with standard prices based on application. Graphics and poster output costs 58.5p per A0 print or m2, and for CAD output it's lower still at 24p.

"You could be talking £3-£4 for the ink for a comparable output on aqueous inkjet," says Casey. "It makes it very transparent and easy to cost. We're very comfortable giving out the figures."

KIP is selling the machine direct, but for the graphics market it is also using GBT as a reseller. While KIP offers the machine with its own RIP, the GBT version is differentiated through the use of the well-known Shiraz RIP.

While the running costs are claimed to be considerably lower than inkjet and other novel technology machines, such as Océ's ColorWave 600, the Color 80 has got a considerably higher upfront cost of £99,950. That price means it is three times the cost of the Océ and 10 times that of some solvent and aqueous machines. However, Casey is confident that, despite the high price, it offers a rapid return on investment. "If you're doing 2,000 A0 posters per month, you can pay for the system in seven months," he explains.

Printing 2,000 A0 posters off a 200m2 per hour machine means only 10 production hours, leaving plenty of additional capacity to profitably exploit.

Slow start
It's still early days for the Color 80 in the UK, especially in the graphics market. While there are three installs for CAD applications, the firm hasn't been targeting graphics for that long. The machine attracted a lot of interest when shown at Sign & Digital UK in April and several UK firms have taken a look, but there has yet to be a sale.

It's a different picture in Italy where KIP has been targeting graphics for longer. Over there, it has already notched up 20 sales and among the users is internet print specialist Pixart, which has been producing 25,000m2 per month on its machine.

While the Color 80 sounds too contrary to be true the first time you hear about it, a closer look reveals that while inkjet may be touted as the dominant digital imaging technology, toner has still got attributes that make it compelling, even in what has until now become inkjet's stronghold.

Specifications
Width 914mm
Speed 200m2 per hour
Imaging technology  toner
Price £99,950
Cost per m2 CAD print 24p,  Poster print 58.5p
Contact  KIP UK 01327 304601  www.kipuk.com

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