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Taste For Success

A Digital Horizon

With the digital print market undergoing a significant evolution over the years, Jo Golding finds out what has changed and how technology is developing to keep up with demand

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The digital print market is thriving with many more digital only print houses running now

An accelerating market

The digital print market has undergone significant change. Whereas it was thought some time ago that there would be one dominant sector or piece of digital technology, what has happened is much the opposite. There has been big fragmentation in the digital print market, with areas growing such as wide-format, inkjet, digital toner, specialty toner, and high productivity machines. Even then, these fragments break down further—for example, with different types of inkjet printing.

While I will look into digital print technology and its multifaceted functions in this feature, it is also important to think about how these functions will improve the business, and the life, of the printer. What new products will they be able to create and how will this affect them? I will also ask the experts for their own insight into how they have seen the digital print market evolve.

Bryan Godwyn, managing director of Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), comments: “Today production runs are so diverse that having a highly automated, intuitive and fast system allows short runs and runs of one, to be smoothly and cost-effectively produced.”

The company has brought the Horizon StitchLiner Mark III and Horizon BQ-480 perfect binder to the market, which has a maximum production speed of 800bph for book of one production. Godwyn says: “As well as an increased production speed, the BQ-480 is faster to set up, supporting increased production capacity.”

The Horizon StitchLiner Mark III from IFS runs at a maximum speed of 6,000bph

The StitchLiner Mark III runs at a maximum speed of 6,000bph and up to 12,000bph with two-up production. It can also produce A4 landscape booklets at up to 5,300bph.

Godwyn explains how the StitchLiner Mark III will improve many factors of the print process: “The new StitchLiner Mark III delivers improved accuracy, quality, efficiency and productivity. The fact it takes a flat sheet and transforms it into a booklet in one pass eliminates separate production stages for faster turnaround. It is also suitable for litho and digital printed sheets and hybrid booklet production, making it an ideal system for operations looking to streamline their binderies and improve production efficiency.”

New revenue streams

Lee Webster, general manager, product marketing at OKI Europe, spoke of how next generation digital printers are opening up new revenue streams for print professionals.

Webster begins: “According to Smithers Pira, digital printing’s share of the whole printing market will have doubled from 9.5 percent in 2008 to 19.7 percent by 2018. When packaging is excluded from the figures, this share could rise to as much as 38 percent by 2018. So why is digital printing moving in a counter-direction to an overall diminishing market?

“First, digital provides the flexibility and speed needed to meet today’s accelerated and more exacting market demands. At the same time, vendors such as OKI are continuously developing robust devices with rich new functionality. These can have a surprisingly small footprint, perfect for environments where space is at a premium, for example within a small high street print shop.

Digital provides the flexibility and speed needed to meet today’s accelerated and more exacting market demands

“They can be used with minimal training and are available at a price that promises an early return on investment. In an environment where everyone is seeking to replace dwindling core business they can help a business introduce more crafted, customised products and a fast injection of new revenue.”

Webster goes on to highlight OKI’s Pro 8432 WT, which was launched at this year’s FESPA, as one product that does exactly this. The A3 white toner printer has a compact design and can print on a range of transfer media, and as a short-run alternative to silk screen. He explains how the machine can produce full colour transfer, which are already weeded and ready to decorate substrates of any colour, saving valuable time.

OKI’s Pro 8432 WT is a white toner printer, which was launched at this year’s FESPA

Webster says: “As a result, small businesses can now be as innovative as they wish. They are free to fully explore their customers’ growing demands for customisation on a range of merchandise, t-shirts, mugs, caps, footballs, wallets and accessories even the packaging. Five colour, white toner and neon toner technology are being used with digital transfer media to decorate full colour designs on virtually any substrate including leather, ceramic, metal, plastics and even wood. Producing bespoke, complex designs on demand with a minimum quantity of one while you wait, the potential for incremental revenue streams is virtually limitless.”

Webster offers his own insight into the digital print market and how it has changed: “Digital printers were once seen as a complementary add-on to a high volume litho press. They were only used for short-runs, for proofing perhaps or other uses where speed rather than quality was top of the agenda. Print professionals today don’t have to choose between speed or quality and increasingly many print and design houses are becoming digital only, providing a fast and agile service.

“Market trends indicate a move towards fewer high volume runs and much more customisation and personalisation. And these next-generation digital printers produce tailored results at the right time and price. Now they can also provide the professional quality too.”

Dynamic applications

Xerox’s Alan Clarke, product and solutions marketing manager UK and Ireland, describes the company’s digital print technology as “systems that can grow based on the customers’ requirements”, picking out the iGen 5 press on the high-end production side as one of its latest innovations. Although the iGen range has been established for around 14 years, the latest was shown at Drupa just last year, introducing modular offerings such as clear ink.

Clear ink can be added to create decorative spot varnish effects, allowing users to enhance and embellish different areas of the page. Clarke says the addition of clear ink makes print applications more “dynamic”.

The iGen 5 can be purchased to run at speeds of 120ppm, but an 150ppm upgrade is available as well as additional colours—orange, green, and blue—as a supplement to CMYK to increase gamut.

The iGen 5 digital press from Xerox has a resolution of 2400 x 2400dpi

Clarke also notes that inkjet technologies are evolving with new platforms and new inks, highlighting Xerox’s Brenva HD production inkjet press as one of the latest examples.

Clarke explains: “Xerox introduced the Brenva cut sheet inkjet platform at Drupa, which combines the flexibilities of a cut sheet platform with the economics of an inkjet press. Capable of feeding a B3 sheet with productivity up to 197 A4 ppm, and with technologies such as missing jet detection and correction, it is ideal for business applications like statements, invoices, insertion-based direct mail and general marketing correspondence.”

The Xerox Brenva HD also recently won an award by the European Digital Press (EDP) Association’s EDP Awards at FESPA 2017 in the category ‘Best cut sheet printer colour up to B3 over 600.000 A4/month’.

Clarke pinpoints an increased pressure to print higher value applications as the direction the digital print market has moved towards: “With the iGen, we are seeing a new shift into the packaging sector with more interest in packaging printed in a digital manner, for example, on cartons. There is now more prototype packaging being made because it is so quick and easy to do.

“We now offer increased gamut, which helps more businesses hit brand colours. Brands are particularly proud of their branding and want it to be consistent, so now we can offer exactly that. The clear option gives customers more dynamic branding also, allowing them to highlight areas to make their packaging more eye-catching for the customer.

O Factoid: Xerox launched the iGen5 in July 2015 which featured an extensively expanded colour gamut with the option of a fifth colour. O

“On the iGen we’ve enabled it with heavy weight stock from 350gsm stock to approximately 500gsm. The overall automation improves uptime and their ability to take on more work to become more competitive in the market.”

Clarke also notes a consolidation at the service end with high-volume devices integrating with management information systems and finishing equipment to provide the user with an all-round solution: “We’re seeing more direct mail companies looking for more high-volume devices that integrate various workflows, they’re not relying heavily on efficiencies to deliver a product. We’re seeing more people picking up on workflow and they’re looking out for products to improve this.”

Game changer

Canon UK’s director of industrial and production solutions, Duncan Smith, calls upon its UVgel technology as its latest digital solution, calling it “game-changing”.

Smith says: “We used FESPA 2017 as the launch pad to introduce the Océ Colorado 1640, the first 64” roll-to-roll wide-format printer built on UVgel technology. It delivers unprecedented productivity and output quality on a broad range of media.”

Smith explains how the machine drew in large crowds at the event because of its hourly demonstrations, with orders made from signage and graphics producers across Europe and the UK.

He goes on to explain how the technology works: “Canon UVgel ink is instantly ‘pinned’ on contact with the substrate, resulting in a highly controlled and precisely positioned dot with minimal gain. By minimising ink spread and coalescence on the media, the required ink volume is used in each pass, delivering rich, intense images.

“A low temperature LED-UV curing system moves independently from the printing carriage, enabling uniform, post-print UV curing that further contributes to print speed and print quality. The cured UVgel prints are instantly dry and ready for finishing or laminating, ideal for businesses handling jobs demanding fast turnaround and installation.”

Smith explains how Canon is committed to delivering solutions to help customers build better businesses, adding: “Canon’s philosophy is to work in close partnership to openly explore the challenges and opportunities faced by customers, to inspire them with ideas to help them evolve and unlock their commercial potential, and to offer meaningful solutions to improve their profitability.

“UVgel technology and the Océ Colorado 1640 are the latest examples of this philosophy. This new printer is faster than any other printer in this segment, with a top speed of 159sq m/h for applications such as billboards or outdoor banners. Even at the highest level of quality for close-up indoor applications, the printer operates at 40sq m/h. The Océ Colorado 1640 is suitable for businesses producing both indoor and outdoor applications, including posters, banners, signage, POS, billboards, window graphics, decals and bespoke wall coverings.”

Improved productivity can be gained through the dual-roll configuration on the Océ Colorado 1640, meaning print-service-providers can switch between two types and sizes of media. Also, being a low-heat process that uses LED curing, there is minimal media distortion and a large range of printable substrates available. Smith adds that UVgel ink contains no water, which reduces media swelling and improves dimensional consistency.

Smith offers his own insight into the evolution of digital printing: “Canon has been challenging perceptions of digital printing for over a decade, pursuing a programme of continuous innovation across all its technologies, of which UVgel is the latest.

“In the wide-format sector specifically, we have been driving growth for PSPs for decades. A recent example would be the Arizona series of flatbed printers, launched in 2007, which has expanded the capabilities of thousands of sign-makers and graphics producers. Canon’s ongoing dialogue with PSPs worldwide shapes research and development around their three key priorities: boosting their productivity, enhancing the quality of their output, and increasing the range of media they can work with.

“By concentrating on these factors, Canon helps customers to work smarter, to access new revenue streams, to devise new print applications and business models, and to differentiate themselves by adding value for their customers in unexpected ways. Canon’s UVgel technology gives wide-format PSPs the technical capability to evolve in profitable new directions by unleashing the potential of print.”

It seems with short runs now easier to produce, the digital print market is thriving and resulting in the rise of many digital only print houses. The manufacturers in this sector are clearly listening to their customers’ needs and continuing to deliver solutions that will take their businesses to the next stage.

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