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German Sacristan, Priya Gohil

Introducing Komori's Latest Breakthrough in Digital Printing

An interview with Komori’s Lance Martin on the J-throne 29

May 8, 2024 8:00:00 PM


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Building on a century of success in the offset print business, Komori’s J-throne 29—a new sheet-fed UV inkjet digital press—is expected to be another great contribution towards the transformative potential of digital printing. Ahead of its unveiling at drupa 2024, Keypoint Intelligence’s Production Group Director German Sacristan sat down with Lance Martin of Komori America to get an insider’s look at the state-of-the-art printer and what it signifies for the future of digital printing.


Lance Martin, Vice President of Product Marketing at Komori America


Digital Printing = Thriving Opportunity

German Sacristan: Obviously, Komori’s foray into the inkjet digital press market isn't new; your partnership with Konica Minolta brought the Impremia IS29s, which had the Komori-engineered chassis, but now the industry will be very keen to understand your philosophy with the new J-throne 29.


Lance Martin: Komori has, and continues to have, an excellent partnership with Konica Minolta and we will always support the brands that are available on the market as well as legacy equipment. Therefore, we are invested in the IS29. We see the inkjet market as a real complementary technology to offset and, at drupa, visitors to our booth will be able to see new offset technology side by side with the new J-throne 29.


We’re not advocating that inkjet is going to supplant offset, but we are acknowledging it is highly complementary and offers significant advantages especially in areas of shorter runs, lower waste, reduced energy costs, and so on. All of which aligns with the growing demand for sustainable printing solutions.


However, the J-throne 29 is a leap forward and a response to evolving market needs. It just hits the productivity side of the equation. We have a B2+ size inkjet press running at 6,000 sheets per hour in single-sided printing and 3,000 perfecting. Now, it presents serious page counts and with the kind of quality that you can get off this press. It’s a very serious complement to your offset business.


Komori’s Standalone Endeavor

GS: Other than speed, what are some of the key differences between the two presses? 


LM: What sets the J-throne 29 apart is its identity as a pure Komori product. Diverging from the partnership model of the IS29, the J-throne 29 is entirely designed and manufactured by Komori, including transport, delivery, feeder, software platform, and inks.


GS: And the heads, are they from a third party?


LM: Yes, we’ve worked directly with the head supplier to engineer our UV inkjet platform. But, overall, this strategic shift to a wholly Komori device caters to a longstanding customer demand for a Komori-centric solution—offering a seamless integration with existing Komori services and platforms.


A Closer Look at the Press

GS: We see in the B2 market that the sheet size can vary by a few inches between vendors, give or take. Does the J-throne handle the same size as the IS29? And, what else can we expect in terms of its features and capabilities?


LM: B2+ is good for the market, handling 23" x 29.5" means you can get the six up layouts. And, yes, the J-throne 29 still has the same paper dimension descriptions as the IS29. When you order the press, you get four segmented choices of paper, which for our customers in the United States is usually 17"x22", 19"x25", 20"x28", and 23"x29.5”.


Leveraging our UV ink technology, the press can handle a wide range of substrates from coated and uncoated paper to paperboards without pre-treating. This versatility is crucial for sectors like commercial printing, packaging, and flexo products with synthetics.


In terms of its design, the transport through the delivery is like an offset press: very robust. We’ve bumped up the engine cabinet, the electronics, the RIP—it’s a larger platform than the IS29, as it’s simply faster.


Quality-wise, Komori’s strong point is dot control and registration accuracy, so I am confident that customers will get as good quality as the IS29 with a step up in speed.


The Komori J-throne 29, a 29" sheet-fed UV inkjet digital printing press, will debut at drupa 2024
(Source: Komori Corporation)


Artificial Intelligence

GS: Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic everywhere and it’s seeping into every industry. With big challenges like an aging workforce and a shortage of skilled operators, do you think AI can help make offset presses more user-friendly and perhaps even similar to digital presses in terms of ease of use?


LM: Absolutely, German. At Komori, we’ve already begun to integrate AI into our offset presses with something we call KHS-AI (Advanced Interface). It’s essentially a system that learns from each job and continuously improves. Normally, the make ready process is quite labor-intensive, but our AI system automates many of the adjustments that would typically require manual input. It learns from every print job, meaning it can reduce waste and improve setup times significantly.


This isn’t just about automating tasks—it’s about creating a press that enhances itself over time through learning.


GS: And how about handling unexpected issues? Does it help with that as well?


LM: Yes, that’s the next big step for us. AI isn’t just learning to repeat tasks more efficiently; it’s learning to anticipate and solve problems, and we call that Smart Feedback. If it detects an issue like scumming or ghosting, it can suggest corrections. Right now, it requires operator approval to implement these corrections, but we’re moving towards a more autonomous setup where the press can take necessary actions on its own.


Keypoint Intelligence Opinion

Our conversation had eventually turned to some of the pressing concerns in today’s marketplace: operational efficiency and cost-effective printing. Martin underscored Komori’s dedication to sustainable solutions, noting the broader environmental and economic benefits of inkjet technology of shorter runs, lower waste, and reduced energy costs. The J-throne 29 press aligns with the growing demand for sustainable printing solutions.


We suggested that market expectation is most likely for the capital investment to be higher for a large and faster production digital press such as the J-throne 29, but we question what the implication will be on the supplies side. Martin acknowledged that while precise cost details are yet to be determined, the move to a completely Komori-centric production suggests potential efficiency gains and cost savings, especially considering the streamlined production process and supply chain. On top of that, a singular sales force and business strategy built around the press will be a step up for Komori.


As the conversation concluded, it was evident that (for Komori) the J-throne 29 is not just another digital press. It represents a significant leap in digital printing technology—combining speed, quality, and sustainability in a package that’s tailored for the current market's needs. With its debut at drupa next month, it will be exciting to see how the J-throne 29 sits alongside new offset technologies.


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