Monday, March 29, 2010

Ready, Set, INKJET! A look at this new innovative technology as it comes after traditional printing!

In the previous article, “Inkjet; the next generation of digital?” I introduced the idea that inkjet is being developed to be represented as a “Big Iron” player. As advertising agencies and marketing service providers prove to their customers that relevancy gets results and affects their bottom line that the amount of companies using these techniques will grow.

Even entire organizations like Alphagraphics are required to do cross media campaigns as part of their local efforts. From many of the shops that I have talked to these shops experience an average of 12% as compared to traditional direct mail of 1%-3% on a good day. As these technologies drive printers to have the capability to produce fully variable pieces in large quantities they will quickly outgrow typical electrophotography devices as we currently know them.

As copier manufacturers drive their toner based systems faster we see a convergence of technologies and at the lower end of the spectrum they are there with products like the HP Indigo 7000, the Xerox iGen4 and the Kodak NexPRESS 3600. But in the service bureau arena when looking at fully variable transactional or trans-promotional printing the volumes still push the limits of toner or toner suspended devices. When printers look to manufacturers to make this transition there are only a few choices as of today, but the competition is widening.

In a current article, “The jet set” Mar 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Denise Kapel of American Printer she touts the advances of digital inkjet web printing. This newly emerging technology is generating a lot of attention. Denise mentions, “Almost half of the respondents to our December 2009 “Web Offset Survey” believe high-speed inkjet presses are a threat to web offset volume.” The need for a technology to be able to produce large runs of variable pieces in an affordable and reliable manner is already here. Traditional methods do not afford a printer the ability to be competitive once the volumes get to certain levels.

We see every area of printing and publishing impacted by the advances of inkjet! In a recent article, Bill Esler, Editor in Chief -- Graphic Arts Online, March 23, 2010 "CPI Launches Inkjet Book Line." It goes on to say, "CPI, Europe's largest book printing firm, has formally commissioned a digital inkjet book printing system, which its has branded the Quantum, built around a 400-fpm HP T300 monochrome inkjet web press." CPI chairman Pierre-François Catté was quoted in saying, "Book printers have 30 to 40% overcapacity. If you are going to buy something, you better make sure you made the right choice." Catté also notes that compressed delivery schedules are changing customer expectations. "One and a half years ago, customers wanted five-day turnaround; now they want two days." Inkjet is here to stay and its making rogue waves!

February 4th, 2008 the Direct Group became the first in the US to install the Océ JetStream™ 2200 system, a very high-speed, fully variable, color inkjet, continuous press. Direct Group President and CEO Don McKenzie said, “The Océ JetStream 2200 system will enable our clients to leverage three significant and converging industry trends – the rapidly increasing adoption of trigger-based mailings, the availability of revolutionary digital printing technology, and the demand for more effective postal strategies to combat recent and future rate increases. The capabilities provided by the Océ JetStream 2200 system will allow us to deliver sustainably improved response rates for our clients, while significantly lowering total campaign costs for customer acquisition programs, including postal and logistics expenses.”

The world’s largest English language print show IPEX is held every four years in Birmingham, England, IPWX ( is being held this year May 18 to 25. Ipex 2010 is looking like a repeat of Drupa 2008, as it is already being labeled “Inkjet Ipex.” This is where digital printing meets offset head to head. With the all of the new demand being variable print whether it is transactional printing, trans-promotional or one to one advertising companies want to do it and in color, and printers are looking for new ways to get it done! The Fujifilm Inkjet Digital Press is one of the newest innovations to be shown at the show. This new press will utilize single-pass piezo drop-on-demand inkjet head technology and will produce at approximately 180 A4 sheets per minute. From digital sheetfed to continuous web we will see inkjet technology as we have never seen it before!

There are draw backs to Inkjet; the systems are new, expensive and the quality is not where many printing professionals would like them but this technology is still building. The continuous inkjet process has been used for decades in monochrome addressing and imprinting. The first continuous inkjet (CIJ) presses were seen in the 1970s, and today, the process is universally used for wide-format graphics and offset proofing. At Dupa 2008 many of the industries brightest manufacturers came forward with the “next generation” of inkjet presses. “All areas of inkjet have changed,” says RIT's Frank Romano. “The fundamental principles [haven't], but there have been significant developments that make it a more viable process.” Now with On Demand less than a month away we will see what the America’s have to say in our largest exhibition of printing technologies.

I am not predicting the DEATH OF THE COPIER! (Shameless plug for fellow blogger Greg Walters) Toner based systems have rallied as well trying to keep up with the trends for larger runs of variable printing. Xerox uses non-contact flash fusing on continuous-feed, color Electrophotography devices such as its 650/1300 and 490/980. A high-intensity xenon light flashing more than 2,000 times per second gets the job done. Because no heat or pressure makes contact with the paper, the devices can print on a wider array of substrates. Xerox is not the only company to use xenon lights. Founded in 1992 Nipson a French based company located in Belfort also uses this technology. They state on their website, “Thanks to our proprietary dry toner magnetography technology and cool xenon fusing, our presses offer you a unique combination of flexibility, productivity and consistently outstanding quality.”

As inkjet gains popularity and attention we will see electrophotography manufactures turn up the heat as well fighting over their turf as we have already seen great examples of; or invest into this technology as product offering as Kodak and others have done already.

As a consultant to the printing and publishing industry I love to see new tools to bring to my clients to help them achieve their business objectives. There are a lot of good manufacturers out there that are bringing technology to bare at an intense pace. What we don’t realize is that the industry has never seen such a pace of innovation. The last 200 years of printing has not seen the changes that we have over the last 10-15 years. And what is a known is that it is not slowing down at all. As we sit at the edge of a global community we will see communication being more important than ever!

This “new world” helps to anchor the printing and publishing industry for another 200 years as we watch the chameleon change colors yet one more time. One thing about the printing and publishing industry is that it is full of innovators, and tough businessman that will not be left behind. In an industry that has been clouded with companies coming in and going out quickly we will see the “new age” printer become even more agile in a time where it is not just the printed piece that is under inspection but the ability to come up with a good message as well.

Happy Sale’ing…

Pirate Mike


  1. Mike - TY for the plug, and as you know, all us ex-Patriot, IKON types have no shame it works.

    Out of the many, excellent tidbits from Lyra this year, one stat/prediction/trend amused me: there will be a growth in business class, AIO, inkjet device sales.

    HUH. Makes sense, I guess, until you mention "Edgeline"...

    Great Post, good job, keep the wind at your back...

  2. HP”s smartstream server has lots of press sense/iway integration. LOTS of problems due to the big financial probs at press sense. Nightmare for inidgo users cause hp doesn't support 3rd parties very well. Culd be hitting the T300 users too.