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Tech Buzz

Xerox Versant 180 and 3100

Brian Sims takes a closer look at the Xerox Versant 180 and 3100, considering the various qualities that both machines share and finds out how such features can help improve output

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The Versant 180 press has a high resolution toner-based printing head that can produce 2,400 x 2,400dpi

‘Advance, Automate, and Do More’ with Xerox

‘Advance, Automate, and Do More’.These are three key phrases that Xerox has linked directly to its family of Versant digital printing presses. It sounds like a nice strapline to encourage us to look deeper into the products, but what does it mean in reality? I think we would all like our equipment to do more for us while we sit back and do less ourselves as the onward tide of automation takes over.

However, promises that come from marketing departments need to be matched up in reality with technology created by designers and engineers. More importantly, they must be demonstrated in reality by the equipment itself. So why does Xerox have the confidence the 180 and 3100 models can live up to their strapline?

At the heart of any good solution to a problem is core technology that can be duplicated throughout a range of models without compromise of quality. This has multiple benefits, production can be simplified, stock inventory can be reduced, service can be harmonised, and users that can operate one model can easily transfer to others.

At the heart of any good solution to a problem is core technology that can be duplicated throughout a range

 
Shared qualities
 
At the heart of both the Versant 180 and 3100 presses is a high resolution toner-based printing head that can produce 2,400 x 2,400dpi. Xerox has invested heavily in this element of the printer; it has two key elements, the Seamless Intermediate Belt Transfer and Compact Belt Roll Fusing Unit.

The Intermediate Belt has four Bias Charge Rollers applying the photoreceptor of the four process colours and the seamless belt provides versatility across a wide range of substrates and media. The fusing unit itself has a newly designed belt and pad that nips the paper between the unit and the pressure roller. The additional width of the new fusing pad means the nip caused as the paper passes beneath is large and more uniform in nature. The benefits of this are the toner is fused to the paper over a larger area and more difficult media, such as envelopes, are less prone to wrinkling.

Print quality of this type of printer is maintained by this assembly; this means it must be kept in optimum condition. Xerox does its part in having designed a self-cleaning function to the Bias Charge Rollers and the belt fuser a long service life, but even when it needs changing, it can be done by an operator—providing they have received training from Xerox.

The physical printer head technology shared across the 180 and 3100 is coupled on both variants with the high specification toner technology from Xerox known as Emulsion Aggregation (EA) Toner.

Normally, toners are produced by taking the key ingredients such as plastic, pigments, and other chemicals and grinding the mixture into a fine powder. As this is a mechanical process it can lead to irregularities in size, albeit small, but inconsistency none the less.

EA technology is actually a chemical process that starts with three elements of the toner—resin, pigment, and wax particles—of a uniform size of approximately 1 micron; next the combination of these three ingredients are “grown” in size in a controlled manner to a size of 5.8 microns. This chemical process of production has advantages over the mechanical counterpart as the final product is significantly smaller and more uniform in composition that leads to improved colour stability.

The final shared DNA across the 180 and 3100 is paper capacity. Obviously, if you have a standard core element, such as the print head, it goes without saying the paper sizes should be the same. Both machines can produce on paper sizes up to 13 x 19.2? (330 x 488mm). So, what are the differences between each machine?

The best thing to do is to take a step back and look at the outline design specification of each press. Xerox states the 180 has been designed as a mid-production range press best suited for smaller print shops. The 3100 has been targeted at a higher volume print shop, as it comes equipped with far higher levels of automation.
 
In figures, the 3100 has a claimed average of up to 250,000 prints per month and a monthly duty cycle of 1,200,000, and the 180 an average of up to 80,000 prints per month and 750,000 monthly duty cycle.

Clever creations

Xerox has cleverly combined the design specification of both machines so the divergence of them takes place in two stages. Stage one contains a number of elements that are standard on the 3100 and optional on the 180. Secondly, there are elements and options that are only available on the 3100 that takes it into the high production device Xerox use to underpin their production statistics.

So what does stage one include; the shared components. There are a number of elements both machines share and I have chosen to look at a select number of them.

Automated Colour Quality System (ACQS) is an advanced colour management software system that can make complex decisions about the maintenance required for the printer to sustain the high quality output, reducing operator intervention and tasks. The operator only has to initiate the system and ACQS will measure calibration sheets and make the required adjustments.
 
Automated Run-Time Colour Controls is a series of closed loop processes that run during the production. The system measures a number of patches that are inset between each impression and after measurement of both the patch and registration marks, the press automatically makes any changes needed to maintain the correct level of quality.

Automated Sheet Decurling is a necessity when running presses at high levels and also extremely useful when producing high quality work at lower volume. The decurler from Xerox can deliver perfectly flat sheets, which help for error-free finishing and the removal of annoying time wasting stops in production to clear paper jams.


The Versant 3100 can handle a variety of media types such as coated and uncoated papers, labels, glossy brochures, and window decals


 
At stage two, the divergence is clear and the additional elements that are only available with the 3100 are obvious if you consider for which market this printer was designed for.

The 3100 can come with additional elements to support high volume production such as Auto Sheet Cleaning, a device that clears the sheets from a jammed machine only in the areas where the jam occurred. Meanwhile, Stock Library Manager is a powerful software tool that can help manage all media and stock settings.

Production Accurate Registration (PAR) is a system to ensure accurate back to front registration of limits within +/- 0.5mm and +/- 0.8mm between trays. Finally Full Width Array is a system that can search for the required image information from the print server and passes it to the device’s colour management system to ensure the best quality output.

Media handling is the final part of the option specification for both machines. There are a number available such as additional media trays, booklet production, finishing equipment, and inserters to name but a few: all cleverly capable of being integrated into either or both machines.

The marketing department’s clever strapline ‘Advance, Automate, and Do More’ is not only delivered but also can be relied on


Clearly, Xerox has applied a significant amount of energy so the marketing department’s clever strapline ‘Advance, Automate and Do More’ is not only delivered but also can be relied on. See these new Xerox Versant devices on the Xeretec stand at The Print Show this October (stand H03A).


Brian Sims, principal consultant, Metis Print Consultancy, www.metis-uk.eu


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