Beyond Process Color Digital Printing: Approaches to Additional Colors, Special Effects, and MICR

Jim Hamilton
Nov 24, 2008

I’ve been giving some thought to devices that offer one or more imaging stations above the typical four (for the four process colors). HP Indigo, Kodak NexPress, and Xeikon have had this capability for many years but recent announcements are expanding this capability, and, in addition, others are entering this space. The possibilities range from simple spot color use to custom colors, coatings, and magnetic image character recognition (MICR). The table below shows a brief summary of the current state of the art. This table includes only currently available products used for document applications. Another table would need to be dedicated to adequately address products in the flexible label and packaging space.

Table: Currently available process color devices with more than 4-color capability for document applications

Canon image-PRESS C1+

HP Indigo 3500, 5500, 7000, w3250

Kodak NexPress S2100, S2500, S3000

Océ Jet-Stream

Xeikon 5000plus, 6000, 8000

Max. number
of stations

5

7

5

5

5

Standard spot
color

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Custom mixed
color

No

Yes

No

No

Yes

Expanded gamut
(5-color + R, G, or B)

No

No

Yes

No

No

Expanded gamut
(6-color – CMYKOV)

No

Yes

No

No

No

Expanded gamut
(7-color – CMYKOVG)

No

Yes

No

No

No

Light cyan /
light magenta

No

Yes

No

No

No

White

No

No

No

No

Yes

Spot or flood
clear finish

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

Spot or flood
matte finish

No

Yes

No

No

No

Protective coating
(5th station)

No

No

Yes

No

No

Protective coating
(after imaging)

No

Yes

No

No

Yes

Dimensional
(3D raised print)

No

No

Yes

No

No

Security (UV)

No

No

No

No

Yes

MICR

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Notes:

Kodak has recently moved to a portfolio strategy in which fifth-color capability is standard on purchases of the Kodak NexPress S2100, S2500, or S3000. Buyers choose which option they want to come with their new NexPress. They may select from fifth imaging unit solutions that include clear, RGB, MICR, or dimensional. Kodak announced that its recently introduced dimensional capability will be available in January, 2009 first on the S2500 and S3000. NexPress uses the term “satin” to describe the finish of its clear toner. This same toner produces a high gloss finish when run through the NexGlosser to finish the coating applied in the fifth station. The satin finish is possible with spot and full coat. The gloss finish is only possible with full coat.

Kodak Versamark products can print a custom color, but there is no standard five-color configuration offering process color and a custom color. MICR is also possible as a toner-based add-on to a process color Versamark configuration.

HP Indigo offers white ElectroInk, but only on its industrial products, it also offers fluorescent ElectroInks, but not with the current product generation.

HP Indigo and Xeikon have in-line capabilities for adding a protective flood coating after imaging

The ability to print CustomTone custom mixed colors is available on the Océ VarioPrint 5000, VarioStream 7000, 8000, 9000 and ColorStream 10000 product lines. The VarioStream 9000 and ColorStream 10000 product lines are currently configurable with up to 4 colors, and can use either a combination of CustomTone colors or process color. Five color capability is built into both product lines and will be enabled in 2009. At that point, process color jobs could be printed with a CustomTone color in the fifth station or the user could switch between process color jobs and jobs using monochrome plus a CustomTone color. Users could even print both within the same job.

Xeikon’s security toner produces a clear image that is visible under an ultraviolet light.

The fact that a company doesn’t have any of these capabilities today does not mean that they won’t ever have it. Some obvious future possibilities could include fluorescent and metallic effects, although metallic toners present a particular technological challenge to electrophotographic processes.

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