Sheetfed inkjet scales up for drupa with Komori and Konica Minolta

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Mar 1, 2012

Komori and Konica Minolta revealed a digital printing alliance this week. At the beginning of the week Konica Minolta released details of the firms’ collaboration in toner-based technology with Komori selling an OEM’d version of the bizhub Pro C8000 cut sheet colour machine to the commercial print market. It also revealed that the two firms would show a prototype inkjet printing system at drupa, but revealed little detail.

Later in the week, at the pre-drupa media conference held at Messe Dusseldorf, Komori revealed more details of what would be shown. First off there will be systems, not a single system, with one 29” (74cm) wide sheetfed machine and another 20” (52cm-wide) webfed machine. Both are four-colour and both use 1,200dpi Konica Minolta print heads and offer a choice of three quality/speed settings.

Komori expects the development into commercially available products to be rapid, with availability within a year of drupa. However, given the long gestation of sheetfed inkjet machines from Fujifilm and Screen, which have taken an entire four-year cycle from the last drupa to reach commercial availability, that is ambitious.

The sheetfed press is the biggest sheetfed inkjet device from a commercial print vendor to date. Komori confirmed that the sheetfed machine’s 29” (74cm) imaging width is across the short edge of the sheet, making the machine portrait format and therefore capable of handling an oversize B1 sheet. That approach follows Screen’s use of a portrait orientation on the TruePress SX, rather than Fujifilm’s adaptation of an existing B2/half size/28” offset press chassis to image across the long side of a sheet. The advantage of this orientation is the ability to cover a larger format for a given width (and therefore expense) of print heads. It suggests that Komori has developed a new paper transport optimised for its inkjet machine. Speed is quoted at 3,300 sheets per hour, which if one assumes a B1 format with eight pages to view, equates to a throughput of 440 A4 pages per minute.

Komori refers to the other technology demonstration as a webfed press rather than a continuous feed or reel-fed printer, which is interesting. The firm has a heritage in web-offset presses, claiming market leadership in the 16pp heatset commercial web offset sector, the biggest in terms of unit sales. It claims that its expertise in paper handling offers an advantage in terms of integration with post-press. At drupa, it will be shown running into a variable cut-off sheeter to show flexibility but it will be capable of running into a folder or other inline finishing devices. The Komori and Konica Minolta alliance appears to have leapfrogged rivals from the off regarding integrating the strengths of digital imaging and conventional web-based paper processing efficiency. Manroland’s web-offset expertise was cited as an advantage when its alliance with Océ was announced at the end of 2010.  However, there has been little evidence on a product level so far.

The speed of the webfed machine is 150m/min. There is no information at this stage as to whether machine shown will be a simplex or duplex engine but at that linear speed, assuming two-up A4 page production on the 520mm wide web, the throughput will be in the region of 1,010 A4 pages simplex. If it images both sides, or two engines are combined to print duplex, the throughput would be 2,020 A4 pages per minute.

While the two inkjet technology exhibits may be exciting, the decision to sell a variant of the bizhub Pro C8000 is more important in the short-term. Komori will sell the machine under its brand, although hasn’t disclosed a product name. It promises the machine will integrate its offset experience, especially in colour, to differentiate it from Konica Minolta’s own offerings. It will initially be sold in four regions, US, Europe, Japan and China. Komori already has a machine in its European technology centre, but has yet to show it to customers.

At drupa, this toner-based machine will feature in the offset on demand area of Komori’s booth. Samples will include a brochure produced using both toner and offset technology and shown side-by-side to show the ability to match appearance across the technologies.

More detail on the other announcements from the pre-drupa media conferences and the developments in the digital strategy of the offset press vendors InfoTrends will be publishing full analysis pieces for service subscribers or for purchase in our report store before the show.

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