Graph Expo Puts Focus on Digital Printing with Marketing Provider Spin

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11/14/2012

George Mikolay

 

At the 2012 Graph Expo held recently, the majority of vendors sharpened their focus on solutions and services, as well as new finishing options and other accessories to existing engines. Indeed, a common theme was that while hardware will always be extremely important, commercial printers  must continue to migrate not only to digital printing versus offset, but also focus on becoming a true partner  and full-fledged marketing providers to their customers. There were some major engine announcements, though, including Konica Minolta’s sneak-peek at an upcoming color inkjet cut-sheet press. Developed in conjunction with Komori, the KM-1 Inkjet Press offers speeds up to 3,300 sheets per hour in simplex and 1,650 sheets per hour in duplex. Xerox also unveiled the latest additions to its Nuvera product line, with the launch of the Nuvera 157 EA and Nuvera 314 EA Production Systems, the latter of which features Xerox’s dual-engine architecture to output at speeds up to 314 duplexed images per minute.

 

Canon

 

The Canon imagePRESS C7010VPS and C7010VP Series was exhibited with the OLEC Swift UV Roller Coater, which extends the life of prints and helps prevent wear and tear. According to Sandra Pereira, product marketing specialist for Canon, UV coating can enhance a variety of materials, including direct mail, tags and labels, posters and book covers and jackets. In addition to preventing scratching and fading, UV coating protects against humidity and water damage. Designed for exclusive compatibility with the imagePRESS digital press, the UV coating is applied inline and includes a bridge unit that transports the printed image after being output. The output then enters the coater, where the solution is applied and instantly dried via ultraviolet light. The system also includes an interface with the ability to program preset functions.

 

On display with the Océ VarioPrint 135 and the imagePRESS C7010VP Series was a new inline high-capacity stacker that allows for limitless runs, as well as the SDD Square-Fold Booklet Maker, which lets users build finished booklets at full production speed with text printed on the spine. The high-capacity stacker provides an interface that allows for attachment of third-party finishing solutions. The SDD Square-Fold Booklet-Maker can output approximately 800 booklets per hour, and includes top and bottom trim and a square-edge spine creator. Jobs can also be saved in memory for quick programming for future use.

 

Canon also showcased the new Tec Lighting Long Sheet Feeder and Stacker, which offers an expanded sheet size of up to 26 inches. This enables Canon’s imagePRESS engines to support more applications, including point of purchase and book covers. It is an inline application, with manual duplexing required. The long sheet feeder and stacker can also be combined inline with the UV coater.

 

The Canon imgePRESS C1+ was exhibited with a new spectrophotometer, along with a new Fiery controller from EFI that is targeted at graphic artists, design firms and packaging proofers.

 

Océ showcased the new capability to print applications on lightweight paper, most of which is printed offset today, as demonstrated on the VarioPrint 6000 Ultra Line digital perfecting system.

 

“We’ve never shown any media this light on the VarioPrint 6000 Line before,” said Alex Gergely, product marketing manager at Océ North America, a Canon Group company. “We looked at the market and determined there was a huge opportunity to print applications on 30- and 35-lb. media. Printers are asking for lightweight specialty stocks, and now we can offer them a cost-effective vehicle for short runs that will help them free up their offset presses for longer running projects.”

 

The new lightweight media capability was demonstrated on a pharmaceutical package insert printed on 30-lb. (44 gsm) media. The same Océ approved media, (Ariva/Oce Digital Opaque Smooth, with 87 brightness), will also be available in a 35-lb. weight.

 

Kodak

 

Chief among the highlights for Kodak was the announcement of PRINERGY version 6, the company’s workflow system, which will represent the most significant upgrade Kodak has ever made to the system, according to Aaron Tavakoli, who is responsible for production workflow for Kodak in North America. In addition to a new user interface, PRINERGY has added what Tavakoli referred to as “next-generation cruise control,” in which the system is not only aware of the specifications of a job, but also aware of the customer the job is for, when the job is due out, and which finishing equipment, folding and stitching are  required. This allows the system to further automate jobs ahead of production. For example, jobs with similar production profiles can be run together, and jobs due sooner can be prioritized as need be. PRINERGY has also added the ability to make late-stage changes in the scheduling process that would ordinarily require an operator to go back to pre-press and re-impose a job. An operator can simply now point a job to another press, and the additional decisions are made automatically. 

 

Additional highlights included the upcoming availability of 36-inch long cut-sheet capability for the Kodak NexPress Digital Production Color Press, whose standard paper size support is 20.5 inches. Currently in beta testing, it will enable the engines to offer a greater number of applications, including point of purchase and book covers. According to Kodak Category Business Manager Kathleen Cervi, delivery for this capability is scheduled for the end of the year. An inline application, with manual duplexing required, the pile feeder feeds directly into the press and stacks the output for delivery to the proof tray. The application can also be combined inline with a UV coater, for example.

 

Kodak also showcased the latest dry inks soon to be available with its Fifth Imaging Unit Solution: Gold, Pearlescent and Neon Pink. According to Cervi, the inks can be used as spot color or integrated into an image. Gold makes backgrounds more vibrant, and can give output a more metallic look. Neon Pink can be used to highlight key areas in transactional documents. Very similar to Gold, but without the pigment, Pearlescent can create silver by combining with different shades of gray and black. 

 

Planned for availability late next year, Turbo mode will enable Kodak’s 83-, 100- and 120-ppmNexPress devices to be sped up to as much as 166 ppm for mid-quality work, such as direct mail, transactional documents and publications, Cervi said. Density is reduced when the engine is sped up to 166 ppm, saving costs.  The capability can be engaged as needed, with operators able to speed the engine up and back down when higher level of image quality is needed.

 

Konica Minolta

 

Previewed at Konica Minolta’s booth was the KM-1 Inkjet Press, a color inkjet press developed by Konica Minolta and Komori. Expected to launch in 2014, the KM-1 will run at output speeds of 3,300 sheets per hour in simplex and 1,650 sheets per hour in duplex, and process cut-sheet pages up to B2 size.  According to Konica Minolta Director of Product Marketing Dino Pagliarello, the product will feature newly developed Konica Minolta inkjet print heads for true 1200-x-1200-dpi output. It will initially be launched as a four-color machine, with five-color and six-color versions planned for future iterations. The KM-1 will support coated and uncoated paper, as well as art paper and other specialty media types. In addition, UV coating on the inks will help eliminate long-term fading of prints and colors.

 

Also highlighted was the G7 certification achieved by the bizhub PRESS C8000, which verifies the ability of a digital production press to meet print specifications based on ISO standards. “We wanted to bring this to our commercial printers so that they can offer the same color quality that’s achieved on an offset press. This is critical when users don’t want to give up color quality, or have color mismatches, when using a short-run press in combination with an offset press,” Pagliarello said.

 

In addition, Konica Minolta announced the launch of EnvisionIT Production, and end-to-end service, for a fee, designed to help commercial printers move beyond hardware and into becoming a marketing provider. Initially for Konica Minolta’s direct channel, the program will eventually be available to Konica Minolta’s dealer base as well.

 

As part of this offering, two software platforms were also unveiled. EngageIT Automation integrates a web storefront and workflow automation into one solution, placing and managing orders, printing and finishing, and shipping and billing. Server-based software, EngageIT Automation will allow users to automate job types, dramatically cutting back on the number of clicks required. For example, each client order can be automatically reviewed, imposed, batched and placed in queue. And job list, bin assignment and client billing information can be integrated into the production process.

 

EngageIT XMedia uses pull-down menus so that a user can define what will or will not be included in a marketing campaign. Nightly, hourly or real-time feeds can also allow automated triggers to deploy to any marketing channel, so that customers are contacted based on a defined event. The software also features plug-and -play templates for direct mail pieces, web pages and emails. Real-time monitoring can, for example, track email open rates to the number of Facebook “likes” and text message deliveries. 

 

Ricoh

 

On the hardware front Ricoh announced that the new Kodak Digimaster HD Series of production devices are now fully available through the Ricoh channel, and the company continues to strengthen its position with Heidelberg. According to Tim Vellek, vice president of Ricoh’s production printing business group, Heidelberg is now actively selling the Ricoh Pro C901 Series with their own branding and proprietary aspects added in. “Our relationship with Heidelberg gives us credibility,” said Vellek, adding that Heidelberg had its choice of partners and chose Ricoh. Calling the relationship “complementary in most instances,” Vellek added that Ricoh is providing sales support to Heidelberg reps, and Ricoh is in turn now invited to meet with customers that they wouldn’t normally see.

 

Ricoh also touted the availability of a new alternating current (AC) transfer unit for the Pro C751, which will enable the device to print on linens and other challenging textures. According to Ricoh Product Manager Fred Morrone, the AC unit is actually changing the current on the system, versus just raising the fuser temperature or increasing the density in hopes of achieving good coverage on these textures, which for one, uses more energy. In addition, simply laying more toner down on a page to increase the density can negatively impact the quality and longevity of the output. A new Plockmatic finisher with three-side full trim and creasing capabilities was also on display. In addition, Ricoh announced it had recently achieved G7 certification on the Pro C901C901s Graphic Arts Edition, and the ProC651EX/C751EX/C751.

 

Shown in conjunction with the hardware was InfoPrint Process Director, Ricoh’s flagship workflow product. Featuring a web-based interface, the software is device-agnostic, and offers a range of optional add-on features in addition to its core capabilities. Similar to competitors’ offerings, InfoPrint Process Director features a dashboard detailing all the happenings in a shop. From here, operators can assign workflow, manage the print queue, control the printers, track the production process from receipt of the print file to final delivery, streamline the process with unlimited job tickets and preview print jobs.

 

The key add-on for Process Director being shown was TotalFlow Cadence for Publishing, a customizable workflow system to help medium- to large-size printers produce short-run books, manuals and other applications more efficiently. According to Sandra Zoratti, vice president of marketing for Executive Briefings and Education, there is a significant market for managing short-term books, and the Cadence module enables automation by bringing together all necessary book components to a common job ticket format.  It can then organize books into batches with common requirements, such as paper stocks and binding. Barcodes are used to track each copy of a book from the receipt of the order until all copies are complete and ready to be sent. The system, based on the initial job ticket for each job, also knows when books and jobs are at risk for missing deadlines and can generate detailed production reports.

 

Also notable on the software side was Clickable Paper, an app that will be made available soon for download. Making print, “dynamic, interactive and actionable,” according to Zoratti, the software comprises of three parts: an authoring tool; a cloud-based database; and a mobile device. Ricoh has partnered with PTI Marketing Technologies on the authoring tool side.  A user simply clicks and drags and drops text or graphics of a PDF he or she wants to connect to a piece of media. Anything in the frame of a camera can be made “clickable-paper-enabled.” The selected area is then sent to a cloud-based database and, depending on whatever the originator of the image has decided should be returned from the image to the mobile device from Apple or Droid, will be made available. For example, users may have a menu with choices being: send me to home page of product; send me to ecommerce site to buy this product; or post a tweet about the product. While not yet commercialized, the expectation is that the app would be available for free, and image originators will pay Ricoh a fee to store the data they have selected to be available with each image in the cloud database so that users can access it.

 

Ricoh also announced that its Business Booster program will initially be used as the vehicle to promote and drive its new Continuous Improvement Program. According to Jason Dizzine, director of marketing for Ricoh’s Production Printing Business Group, the Continuous Improvement Program is a web-based, online assessment twice a year, designed to help ensure customers are maximizing the performance of purchased Ricoh products. As Dizzine explained, this service is free of charge, and will be sent to key individuals at customers’ locations, the results of which will allow Ricoh to come up with recommendations to improve customer business processes.

 

RISO

 

Leading off the announcements for RISO is the upcoming launch of a native IPDS controller for use with RISO’s family of ComColor cut-sheet devices. Scheduled to launch in early spring 2013, the controller will enable RISO’s ComColor engines to print directly from AFP to bitmap using IPDS protocol, a capability typically reserved for higher-end, and much more expensive, production-level machines, said RISO Marketing Manager Suzanne Farley. “While we have been very successful in high-volume print production environments, one limitation we have faced is the ability to natively integrate with AFP/IPDS workflow,” Farley continued. “This solution will be an ideal fit for small financial facilities without the space or environment for a production device.”

 

In addition to the new RISO Native IPDS Controller, RISO launched a new Thompson Continuous Feeder, the T-100DW. Automatically matching the speed of the engine, this top-load, bottom-feed system supports a wide range of stock sizes, such as 8.5" x 11" paper and 9" x 12" envelopes. The optional T-200 exit conveyor allows users to unload finished product without interrupting production. The feeder is available with RISO’s ComColor engines and duplicators.

 

The company also showcased its flagship duplicator, the MZ1090. At speeds up to 150 ppm, the MZ1090 features true 600-x-600-dpi resolution and USB plug-and-print capability. A two-color single-pass digital duplicator, the MZ1090 automatically converts documents created in full process color to two-color output.  Users can store common settings and job types so that they can be programmed in one touch. In addition, Job Parameters allow each user to customize settings even further when they are authenticated.  More than 70 total ink colors and custom colors are available for use with the system.

 

Xerox

 

Chief among Xerox’s highlights were the launch of the Nuvera 314 EA and Nuvera 157 EA Production Systems. Both offering rated speeds of 157 ppm, the Nuvera 314 EA features Xerox’s dual-engine design, allowing the system to print up to 314 duplexed images per minute. Featuring a RIP of 1200 x 1200 dpi, halftone screens are available up to 156 lpi for both engines, which according to Xerox Product Manager John Santoli, results in output with heightened clarity and detail. Like sister engines, the new engines feature EA (Emulsion Aggregation) toner, and the systems are equipped with a toner reservoir that holds enough toner for another 2,500 prints after the bottle is empty. Consequently, toner can be loaded while the devices continue to run. Also, according to Santoli, the system’s Cyclone Cleaning Technology automatically removes stray toner, paper dust and particles, keeping the inner system clean for consistent output of text, images and photos. Other carryovers from its sister engines include standard Sheet Enhancement Module (SEM) to ensure sheet flatness. The SEM also allows operators to “fine-tune” automated controls or access a manual override function to overcompensate in fighting environmental conditions (such as heat or humidity) that could affect sheet flatness.

 

New finishing options were also on display, including a production stacker that allows for unloading while the system is still running. Waist height and ergonomically friendly, the stacker permits larger capacity jobs to be printed without the need for manual intervention. The stacker features a delivery arm that when full (the arm can hold up to 2,850 sheets), will automatically lift and sit, waiting for the finished output to be removed, which allows the stacker to continue to stack. This increases the stacker capacity to 5,700 sheets. Operators can configure up to three of these stackers in tandem, which allows for unattended print and stack time of 60 to 85 minutes.

 

The Xerox-exclusive C.P. Bourg Dual-Mode Sheet Feeder, when used in conjunction with the IntegratedPLUS Finishing Solution for Booklets, allows selected finishing devices to be set up automatically through job ticketing, regardless of whether they are attached to a specific printer. Operators can elect to feed stacks from other printers into downstream third-party finishers while the Nuvera prints to its stacker or top tray. This allows printed stacks to be easily moved to the finisher without splitting the stack. Operators can create workflows based on the scanning of barcodes on “finisher control sheets.” Because the job requirements were originally programmed and stored on these barcodes, the finisher recognizes the job requirements and will then automatically run the job.