Jul 21, 2009
Kodak invited about twenty analysts and press from around the world to Dayton, Ohio to brief them on a range of production digital print news, but specifically to focus on new inkjet developments including its Stream technology, now branded as Prosper. The two-day event included technology demonstrations and customer testimonials.
Kodak kicked off the first day with a review of the NexPress SE platform toner developments and a customer presentation by Eric Webber of Cohber Press, a NexPress customer who has used the new Intelligent Calibration System (ICS). The day continued with additional information on existing inkjet solutions and highlighted the launch of the Versamark VL6000. Customer testimonials from Tom Fenske of Fenske Media and Giorgio Albertini of Rotomail were also part of the day. Darrin Wilen of Wilen Media spoke on day two about Wilen’s use of the Prosper S10 Imprinting System.
While all of this was interesting and educational, the big news came on the second day with the introduction of the Prosper Color XL Press. With a duty cycle of 120 million A4/letter impressions per month, the Prosper Color XL Press is capable of speeds of 650 feet per minute (fpm) at a print width of 24.5 inches. (The web will be 25.5 inches.) Kodak says that the product will be available in the first half of 2010. Kodak would not identify sales targets for the Prosper system but it is counting on significant growth. It said that it expected the technology to be printing a trillion pages by 2015.
The ability to print on glossy stocks is a key differentiator of the Prosper color system but it will not print at high quality levels on existing coated stocks. Therefore the company is working with paper vendors to develop cost-competitive coated (and other) stocks engineered for printing with the color Prosper system. Whether these stocks will benefit other vendors’ inkjet solutions is yet to be seen.
Kodak handed out print samples on a coated and an uncoated stock. These confirm the progress that has been made since InfoTrends first was shown developmental Stream samples in December of 2007. The quality level was very high, but please don’t ask to see them. All of the analysts signed non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from showing the samples to others. You will have to wait until Print 09 when Kodak will be handing out samples publicly. The samples will be a major highlight of the application-focused Kodak exhibit, which will not feature any print hardware.
Kodak invited its visitors to the Dayton facility’s demo area to see a Prosper Color XL Press system. The version shown had a 20-inch wide web and was set up in a roll-to-roll, simplex configuration. The device was comparable in length to the Stream Concept Press configuration shown at drupa 2008. A duplex configuration would be twice as long. The device was shown printing a two-up newsletter and insert application. Kodak says that this is the first device to print at 650 fpm on glossy coated paper.
Some basic details about Kodak’s Prosper Press Platforms are summarized below:
|Specification||Prosper Color XL Press|
|Speed||Up to 3,600 A4 four-color images per minute
650 feet per minute
|Duty cycle||120 million (based on 24 x 7 operations at 80% uptime)|
|Supported halftones||133-175 line per inch screen rulings|
|Running cost||Less than $0.008 per A4 page at 35% coverage (CMYK, includes ink, parts, and service);|
|Target applications||Books, direct mail, catalogs, and inserts|
|Supported stocks||Glossy, coated, and uncoated|
|Supported weights||45-300 gsm|
|Price||$1-4 million depending on configuration|
|Availability||First half of 2010|
The Prosper Color XL Press system uses “nano-particulate,” aqueous pigmented inks manufactured using a patented Kodak milling process that produces very fine particles. It has an infrared drying system that is modular and scalable. The product’s 24.5″ print width is based on six jetting modules (each module is 4.16″). Kodak says that they heads are compact and scalable, easy to replace (they can be changed in one minute), and are operator replaceable.
One fundamental difference between Stream and earlier Kodak continuous inkjet technologies is that Stream deflects the droplets with air rather than an electrostatic charge. Once deflected the droplets are then recycled and reused. A differentiator between Stream and drop-on-demand technology is that the inks for the Prosper system do not rely heavily on humectants (i.e., wetting agents) as drop-on-demand technologies do (to prevent clogging of the inkjet heads). Kodak notes that the lack of humectants simplifies the drying process. Kodak also noted that the “throw” distance (i.e. the distance between the printhead and the substrate) is much greater than the throw distance for drop on demand. This has advantages for printing on thicker substrates as well as ones that have something attached to them (i.e., a label, business reply card, envelope, or identify card).
Kodak is tightening the focus on target applications for the Prosper Color XL Press system. Books, direct mail, catalogs, and inserts have been identified as the initial target. Note that newspapers and transaction documents are not part of this strategy. Kodak will address those with its Versamark VL Series products. For the Prosper Color XL Kodak expects to roll out sites with an application focus on books and direct mail first, followed by catalogs and inserts. Kodak said that it would look at applications like packaging and high-end forms replacement in the future.
Kodak wowed a generally ornery crowd of industry analysts with the print samples from the Prosper Color XL. The quality is certainly impressive, but that’s just one important aspect. Of course speed, reliability, and running cost are equally, if not more important. Kodak’s customers will ultimately judge whether the company has come up with the right mix, but from this early view of the Prosper Color XL Press it is clear that Kodak has put together a compelling and very possibly market-changing system.
 The printhead used in the S10 Imprinting System is 600 by 600 dpi and can run at speeds of up to 1,000 feet per minute. The same underlying printhead technology is used in the Prosper Color XL Press but Kodak has not commented on the resolution used in this implementation.
More blogs from Jim Hamilton