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Taste For Success

Digital Inkjet Printing

With ongoing evolution in the digital inkjet print market showing no signs of slowing down, what are the latest developments in this sector and how can they help print companies improve their services?

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Constant Evolution

Given the impact digital print has had on the industry, it is sometimes hard to believe that, in the grand scheme of things, it is still a relatively “new” technology. Digital print is now very much at the centre of operations for many print service providers (PSPs), allowing them to deliver all manner of work to their customers.

What is perhaps most exciting about the digital inkjet print arena is the constant development. Manufacturers are constantly releasing upgrades and bringing to market new solutions, opening up even more avenues for clients around the world.

Here, Print Monthly casts an eye over just some of the latest advancements in the world of digital inkjet printing, speaking with manufacturers and suppliers about these developments and how they will support PSPs with their long-term growth strategies.

Further Growth

One major manufacturer in this market is Canon. Stuart Rising, head of commercial print and productions at Canon UK & Ireland, says inkjet technology has unlocked an entirely new level of innovation for production and commercial print.

“As more printers start to notice the benefits of inkjet, they will continue to transition from offset and liquid toner and the sector will continue to grow,” Rising says, continuing: “Faced with demanding turnaround times, shorter runs, higher costs, and diversifying needs, printers are under constant pressure to accelerate production capabilities. That’s why automation has been a key trend in the inkjet market recently, as printers look to create seamless end-to-end workflows and minimise manual operator intervention.

As more printers start to notice the benefits of inkjet, they will continue to transition from offset and liquid toner and the sector will continue to grow

“Additionally, there have been increasing expectations around sustainability when it comes to inkjet, as printers look for a future-proof investment. Not only should inkjet devices be delivering robust productivity and low labour costs, but also low energy consumption and minimised waste.”

Rising goes on to say that at the heart of inkjet technology is the ability to print on a variety of substrates, from heavyweight paper to coated gloss, silk, and matt materials. This media versatility, he continues, is crucial for printers that want to keep up with the changing demands of customers across a range of sectors.

“In this way, inkjet technology is unlocking avenues for print providers to reach new markets and drive growth,” Rising explains, adding: “From book publishers to retail businesses looking to upgrade their point-of-sale marketing, inkjet offers a range of print materials that are bespoke and highly personalised.”

With this, Rising draws attention to some of the latest solutions from Canon. In particular, he highlights varioPRINT iX-series, saying this harnesses iQuariusIX ink and printing technology to deliver high output quality. In addition, the recent R4.3 software release is an automatic image quality verification system, which he says scans every sheet to check the quality and dynamically makes system adjustments as needed.

Canon says its varioPRINT iX-series uses iQuariusIX ink and print technology to deliver high output quality

 On top of this, its automatic customer media validation process (MVP) easily sets up new media with the support of a wizard, with improved detection of potential multi-sheet feeds in the paper input module (PIM), which diverts detected sheets to the sentry bin.

 Rising goes on to say that this series also delivers workflow benefits with the PRISMAsync controller, such as SMB hot-folder support, subset support via JDF, media handling for two-sided media with different front/back treatment, and improved encrypted disk support.

Aside from this, Canon also offers continuous-feed inkjet printers, such as the ColorStream 8000 and ProStream 3000. Built on a decade of development, Rising says the ColorStream 8000 Series is the most automated ColorStream ever, minimising the need for hands-on support to exceed customer expectations.

“Thanks to its stunning print quality, high resolutions of up to 1200 x 720dpi and speeds of up to 160m/min, the ColorStream 8000 series brings new revenue streams for printers by diversifying their applications,” Rising says.

Wider Use of Inkjet

Also in this sector is Screen Europe, whose marketing director, Juan Cano, says that more businesses are shifting towards inkjet print for its flexibility, speed, and improved print quality. He goes on to say that inkjet is being increasingly utilised beyond traditional applications such as commercial printing, direct mail, and labels, extending into areas like packaging, textiles, and industrial printing.

“This is being driven by several factors” Cano explains, continuing: “Firstly, with a growing focus on sustainability, energy reduction, and low emissions, inkjet printing offers a lower environmental impact, and uses planet-friendly inks onto substrates that align with their sustainability goals.

“Then there are advancements in AI-driven quality control and setting adjustments mark the next frontier in elevating printing production to new heights. In addition, the print industry is witnessing a notable trend as digital inkjet printing promotes connectivity, increasing productivity, enabling automation, and facilitating remote management for intelligent, collaborative, and data-driven print solutions.

“Finally, from print to finishing, 4.0 trends enable streamlined digitally driven workflows, significantly reducing errors and minimising the need for human intervention. This can help to resolve the shortage of skilful operators in the industry.”

To ensure PSPs benefit from all this Cano says it is important to update their production set-up with new solutions. Cano explains modern technology, such as advanced inkjet printing systems, not only enhances productivity but also allows PSPs to stay competitive in a dynamic market, offering a broader range of services and meeting sustainability goals.

“In an industry where innovation is key, staying current with equipment upgrades is essential for maintaining a competitive edge and meeting the diverse needs of clients,” Cano says.

On this, Cano highlights the latest solution from Screen in the form of the new Truepress JET 560HDX, a high-speed, roll-fed digital inkjet press that he says stands as a “revolutionary platform”, pushing the boundaries of innovation in the printing landscape. The new press leverages the power of its newly developed Truepress ink SC2, a high-density inkset that enables direct printing on offset-coated papers without the need for surface pre-treatment.

Screen will show its new Truepress JET 560HDx at Drupa 2024

The Truepress JET 560HDX features a high-efficiency drying unit with support for 560mm paper widths. Cano says the drying system makes use of smart zones to optimise energy consumption based on ink coverage, saving energy and mitigating downstream effects on paper drying. It also features new inkjet head technology, working seamlessly in conjunction with the high-pigment load SC2 ink, which the manufacturer says results in less downtime and waste ink, as well as a wide gamut of printing capabilities.

Take Advantage

Offering further insight into this sector, Trevor Maloney, product marketing manager at Kyocera Document Solutions UK, says while most companies are trying to make the high-volume printing of the past work, they are losing out on lucrative, low-volume work. He adds that the key to taking advantage of this fact is to invest in fewer systems and focus on higher stability.

“End-users are moving lower volume bespoke printing jobs to digital printing presses which offer low volume printing that is reliable and adaptable,” Maloney says, adding: “Through the ability to print high or low volumes of content, both static and variable, inkjet digital presses can turn around work faster than ever without the need for hybrid solutions or templates.

“More end-users are looking to manufacturers to offer technology that aligns with their own environmental aspirations and those of their customers. As such, end-users are moving towards devices that offer a reduction in power usage, and a low carbon footprint.”

With this, he highlights Kyocera’s own commitment to sustainability. It was the first UK print vendor to make every printing product in its range carbon-neutral, and also the first to offer a fully carbon-neutral managed print service. In terms of tech, Maloney says the TASKalfa Pro 15000c uses up to 70% less power than an equivalent toner-based press, adding that Kyocera’s water-based inks are far less harmful on the environment.

Kyocera says its TASKalfa Pro 15000c uses up to 70% less power than an equivalent toner-based press

“Digital presses like the TASKalfa Pro 15000c are specifically designed to handle higher volumes while retaining the advantages of digital printing, such as faster turnaround speeds and personalisation using variable data,” Maloney says, continuing: “Although the initial cost of investment might seem high compared to outsourcing, end-users need to consider the return on investment and long-term benefits that a digital press offers.”

Going into further detail on the TASKalfa Pro 15000c, the device is capable of printing at 150 pages per minute and as many as one million impressions a month. Users can also utilise a Fiery Controller to configure the machine to their exact requirements.

 In May, Kyocera will extend its range of inkjet digital presses with the TASKalfa Pro 55000c, which will feature on its stand at drupa. Maloney bills the machine as a “game changer”, with the ability to print onto uncoated and coated stock.

“The output quality is exceptional whilst the running costs and environmental impact are minimised thanks to inkjet technology,” he explains.

Packaging a Punch

As for wider developments in this market, right at the end of January, Fujifilm released details of the 46kUV Inkjet Printbar System, a new, integrated solution for industrial production operations for printing on a wide range of labels and packaging material. The system has a drop-on-demand design to help streamline workflow with what the manufacturer describes as “fast, industry-leading” printing speeds of up to 500ft/min. 

The new system uses Fujifilm’s proprietary SAMBA printhead technology, which leverages the precision of silicon MEMS processing and sputtered PZT in a parallelogram shape. In addition, the system has a native resolution of 1200dpi to cover a range of label needs, with the ability to also print individually unique QR codes and produce high-quality small fonts.

Fujifilm’s 46kUV Inkjet Printbar System is available in four print widths: 10”, 13”, 17”, and 20”. The manufacturer’s 3IC document creation software can also be used with the system to create variable data content. In addition, it uses Fujifilm’s proprietary REDIJET patented ink recirculation to help optimise image quality across the print width to minimise the need for printhead refurbishment.

“We’ve seen the use of inkjet continue to grow in the label and packaging markets given its ability to produce high-quality output with variable data,” says Greg Balch, vice president and general manager of the Fujifilm Integrated Inkjet Solutions group.

“Our vision behind the 46kUV Inkjet Printbar System is to help fill an important gap in the market for imprinting at high DPI and with high reliability.” 

This round-up represents just a small section of the digital inkjet printer market, with the reality being that this sector is much wider and features plenty more exciting developments. One of the best places to learn more about these advancements, as mentioned by several of our featured manufacturers here, is drupa 2024, which runs from May 28th to June 7th at Messe Düsseldorf in Germany. For those planning on heading over, Print Monthly has a special article previewing the event and picking out some of the many highlights for visitors on P56.

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