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Market Trends

Digital Print: On the Outer Edge

With advancements in technology, digital printing machines are now delivering top output. Jo Golding talks to the manufacturers committed to digital innovation

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Komori is a strong contender for being a market leader in the future of the inkjet printing sector. Pictured: The Impremia IS29 is an impressive package in terms of flexibility, cost per page, and quality

Devoted to digital

We discuss many different topics over the pages of Print Monthly, often the very latest printers to be launched, but in this feature, we will investigate something a little different. We will get to grips with the presses that, while not currently the bedrock of our sector, still seem set to take us into the future.

For instance, Xerox’s Rialto 900 inkjet press, showcased initially at Hunkeler Innovationdays back in 2015, is still going strong. With a speed of up to 48m/min, Xerox explained at the time that the device was created to fill a gap in the market—where cut-sheet toner and continuous-feed inkjet were not serving the entire marketplace.

Its Brenva HD production press, then combined the versatility of a cut-sheet platform with the economics of an inkjet press, followed by its Trivor 2400 HD inkjet press which the company says offers “flexibility for today and scalability for tomorrow”.

Similarly, Konica Minolta’s highly-anticipated Accurio Jet KM1 was announced in 2012 with a prototype demonstrated at Drupa, IPEX 2014, and Graph Expo, while it was officially launched at Drupa 2016. Its newly developed UV inks cut down on degradation of gloss or texture caused by ink depth variation.

Komori is another important mover and shaker that has entered the fray in this sector with its Impremia range of digital presses, and is confident of long-term success. Currently its IS29, available with inline coating and varnishing, is commercially available and is being installed around the world.

John Harrison, its first-ever head of digital and finishing sales, explains Komori’s vision for its technology: “The driving force for printing press technology today, as quality is a given, is cost per page for a given application. For inkjet it can be roughly half that of competing technology on a B2 sheet. Colour matching, quality, and brightness is something that inkjet also has a distinct advantage on, you do not need the additional colours. With a CMYK set you for inkjet can cover 85 percent of the colour gamut. And of course, there is no need for pre-priming the sheet, you can take existing stock and print directly to it with inkjet, then transfer straight to finishing as its ink dries instantly.
“Brand owners and marketeers have for a long time sought to reduce their stock levels of print and moved to a model of far more frequent short runs of targeted campaigns. This trend plays to inkjet’s strengths, and it is making digital as a whole very attractive. The current base of digital technology also opens new doors, its not just work from existing customers done in a different way, you are broadening the opportunities with added value such as personalisation.”

Driving force

So, what do companies at the forefront of digital print make of the current market and what is driving its development?

Wayne Barlow of Canon UK says: “Wide-format print is such a vibrant and dynamic market”

Wayne Barlow, head of graphics and communications business groups at Canon UK, highlights a number of factors: “Today’s key digital print drivers remain personalised, or short runs, with faster turnaround times at a quality that matches litho. But increasingly others, such as, substrate flexibility and creative finishes are becoming ever more important.

Today’s key digital print drivers remain personalised, or short runs, with faster turnaround times at a quality that matches litho

“At the same time, industry research into wide-format trends found that 75 percent of respondents expected their wide-format print volumes to increase in the year ahead with banners, signs, and posters the top three preforming sectors. Productivity was cited as one of the most important technology factors limiting business growth for small- to medium-sized print-service-providers (PSPs).

“By concentrating on addressing these factors, Canon helps customers work smarter, access new revenue streams, devise new print applications and business models, and differentiate themselves by adding value for their customers in unexpected ways.”

An example of how Canon has achieved this is by developing its UV Gel technology. Barlow adds: “The UV curable ink instantly gels on contact with media, requiring no heat to cure, and is therefore instantly cured and suitable for a wide range of media, including ultra-thin and heat-sensitive substrates.

“Print speed and print quality is further aided by the low temperature LED-UV curing system. It moves independently from the printing carriage, enabling uniform, post-print UV curing that further contributes to print speed and print quality.

“This breakthrough UV Gel technology allows users to print faster than any other printer in this segment. It therefore breaks through the speed barrier, helping sidestep production bottlenecks. It delivers consistent vibrant colour, banding-free output and sensational finishing.”

The Océ Colorado 1640 is the first 64” roll-to-roll wide-format printer built on its UV Gel technology

The UV Gel technology can be delivered by the Océ Colorado 1640, the first 64" roll-to-roll wide-format printer built on the ink technology.

New advancements

Eef de Ridder, director of commercial printing at Ricoh UK commercial and industrial printing group, explains how digital printing has changed drastically: “Technological advancements over the past ten years have fundamentally changed how the printing industry operates.

“There was a time when digital printing meant compromising on quality. That’s simply not the case today. With traditional plates and film redundant, digital printing offers a high-quality finished product in an efficient process.
“The natural response over many years has been to make print more cost-effective, buying a new press to make the process quicker and cheaper, while constantly improving the quality of output. Instead, the development of digital printing now allows businesses to save money by only printing the exact quantity required in a quicker time frame with enhanced quality, thus reducing the scope for waste.”

Ridder says how data and new technologies for multi-channel production has allowed PSPs to expand their businesses. He explains: “Modern print businesses are having to think in added dimensions in order to meet the changing demands of customers. The nature of print production is that documents—be they direct mail, books, or brochures—are moving from static to dynamic. In doing so, greater and more intelligent use of technology has become paramount. As a result, the printing industry has become efficient, more creative, more impactful, more targeted, and more valuable by developing digital print solutions.”

Ridder says the key to success is giving equal weight to hardware and the infrastructure that enables the process. He advises: “High-speed digital inkjet presses, such as Ricoh’s Pro VC60000, are being adopted over offset presses. In a single hour, over 120,000 high quality, unique A4 images can be produced, making the Pro VC60000 a viable production press across direct mail, books, and commercial printing markets.”

Ricoh will soon bring a new ink technology to market for its Pro VC60000, which can print on traditional offset coated substrates, without primers

Ricoh recently announced a new ink technology that will be brought to market as an additional option to current and future customers of the Pro VC60000, which will be able to print directly to traditional offset coated substrates, without primers.

Ridder says: “Equally, an online storefront or web-to-print system is vital for achieving clarity and efficiency as it is easy to integrate with existing business software. Job composition software is also important, as it enables production environments to operate quickly to create eye-catching documents that can be integrated seamlessly into the production process. Once a job has been created, integrated digital front-end software and standalone technology can be used to automate manual tasks, schedule, and track projects from production through to completion, making the entire print process more efficient.

“Both hardware and software need to work in tandem and we’re developing both to operate seamlessly together. This creates capacity and inventory for more jobs, and subsequently improves profit margins. All these benefits have driven the print industry to integrate modern and responsive technology that enables a wide-ranging portfolio of digital capabilities.”

Laser benefits

Datalase is an inline digital printing company and its chief sales and marketing officer, Mark Naples, explains how its technology works: “Datalase, the global leader in unique photonic printing solutions for products and packaging, uses patented laser reactive pigments to generate a colour change reaction resulting in a high definition, premium quality digital print. It can be applied on a variety of primary and secondary packaging materials, with unrivalled reaction times for printing on demand with individualised packaging for the mass market.

Datalase exhibited at Drupa 2016, where it said it had more than 2,000 visitors to its stand

“Fundamentally, the innovative inline solution simplifies and speeds up the supply chain—two much needed requirements for the print industry as it develops and evolves to meet and forecast the needs of brands and retailers in the future.”

Naples has seen customisation dominate the market, explaining: “Evolving and challenging consumer demands are driving change within the digital print industry as brands and retailers compete for shelf space and sales in an aggressive marketplace. The future of the print industry is being shaped by a combination of factors including disruptive technologies, workflow advancements in machinery and processes, and high value applications, such as special effects and tactile coatings and finishes.

“Pack personalisation and customisation is already dominating the marketing strategies of leading brands and retailers; communicating and engaging with customers beyond the point of purchase so that brand messaging and influence continues within the consumer’s home, will continue to be a key driver of digital print technology. The challenge for the industry today and moving forward is to take personalisation to another level and to stand out from what others are doing.”

The challenge for the industry today and moving forward is to take personalisation to another level and to stand out from what others are doing

Being able to personalise packaging has huge benefits, as Naples explains: “Personalised information and seasonal
messages, for example names, references to sporting events, languages, and countries, create emotional connections between brand and consumer. This is all familiar territory; what the factors mentioned previously, advances in machinery, processes, and substrates, will enable is ‘smarter’, even more tailored personalisation to the individual.”

It also has benefits in reducing waste, as Naples says: “Datalase digital print technology also gives brands an opportunity to individualise each product at the point of packing, without the common supply chain complexity, cost and waste, that personalisation often generates.

“It removes the need for pre-printed secondary packaging requirements for every SKU, eliminates consumables from production environments and offers unrivalled speed to market turnaround times. In addition, the upfront investment costs for the printer and brand are minimal compared with the large digital press investments seen in the market today.”

Transforming industry

Similarly, trade supplier Swanline Print says the industry is undergoing a “transformation” where digital machinery is developing to better serve customisation and faster trend responsivity.

Nick Kirby, chief executive of Swanline Print Group, comments: “From the dominance of social media to the rise in online shopping, society is evolving more swiftly than ever, with a growing on-demand culture meaning the public expects immediate service at the click of a button while racing to participate in shifting fashions. The growth of internet retailing is also placing higher pressures on brand identity and product differentiation through increased market competition and the requirement for equal visual impact on the webpage and store shelf.”

Nick Kirby of Swanline Print advises printers to incorporate digital machinery into your portfolio of equipment as a complementary technique

Kirby says this is why it is crucial that packaging stands out and encourages purchasing, adding: “For the industry, all of this means that customers must be equipped to offer revolutionary design, greater receptiveness, and consumer engagement through shorter-run promotions and quick turnarounds.”

However, Kirby says instead of replacing your existing machinery, companies should incorporate digital into their arsenal as a complementary technique. He says: “Each project has its own set of challenges and demands, whether timing, budget, volume, finishes, materials or quality, which are best served by employing a holistic approach to printing technologies. No one method can serve absolutely every requirement, so Swanline frequently uses two or three different techniques to produce any one product.”

O Factoid: In 1993 the world’s first digital colour printing press was launched called Indigo, from a company formed by Benny Landa in 1977 to develop the world’s fastest photocopier. O

Swanline has installed two HP Scitex FB11000 industrial presses and committed to future investment in single-pass technology. Kirby adds: “As a trade house, the company believes in investing in state-of-the-art equipment so that its clients don’t have to—offering its capabilities for companies which can’t justify purchasing the machinery themselves. Swanline thereby provides wider access to digital processes, helping drive innovation, quality, and performance in the packaging sector.”

So, it seems it does not matter if certain printers were launched a year or even five years ago, the effort that has gone into ensuring they will see print companies through for many years certainly makes them worth considering for your business.

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