Look around the industry. What do you see? Offset presses. Digital printers. Wide format inkjet printers. Offset litho was discovered in 1900, but did not gain traction until the 1950s. Digital color printing was introduced in 1993. Wide format inkjet came in 1995. Walk into any plant; they may have all three.
It took a while for all three printing technologies to find their place in print production. All three were challenged by a status quo. Offset was once described as “only for quick and dirty printing.” Ironically, they said the same for digital color. The president of Xerox was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying almost the same about inkjet printing (2004). Now Xerox is becoming a force in inkjet.
Yet, all three processes make money for printers. What will be the next big thing? The technology is already here. We just have to find markets for it.
Flatbed UV inkjet can print on any substrate—plastics, wood, glass, board, metal, ceramics, textiles, carpeting, and more. Commercial printers print on paper. Where is the market for printing on all those other substrates? Read more »
After digesting a week of meetings at drupa 2016 (May 31st to June 10th, Düsseldorf, Germany) along with plenty of good German food and beer, the InfoTrends analyst team believes the show can be characterized by five major themes:
Inkjet 3.0 –After important advances in production inkjet printing at drupa 2008 and 2012, this drupa can be considered “inkjet drupa 3.0” because of new and improved print heads, higher quality levels, wide printhead arrays, improved performance on a range of substrates, and expansion across a range of document, packaging, and decorative applications. These developments have brought digital printing into the mainstream. All of the leading offset press manufacturers are now committed to a digital print strategy, and though for some there is an important component that is based on electrophotography, it is the high productivity levels of inkjet that have convinced them that there is a place for digital print in production environments.
Digital printing of packaging – Though digital printing of packaging is certainly being influenced by inkjet, the major theme in this area is process automation. Digital printing, digital embellishment, and digital die-cutting were seen integrated across many production lines for labels, folding cartons, corrugated packaging, and even some direct-to-shape applications. Despite its commercial print heritage, drupa is morphing into a show with a significant package printing component. Meeting the needs of different segments of the packaging market is a challenge that requires effective software, workflow, and finishing if the true advantages of digital print for the entire supply chain are to be gained. It’s not clear today that digital printing system vendors have fully grasped the magnitude of this.
B1 digital – Many commercial printers have an almost emotional attachment to the B1-format press platform that has served them so well for offset printing. The new generation of B1-format digital printing devices appeals to them because they can see how they would fit easily into their production lines with minimal disruption (despite the fact that smaller digital devices might be just as efficient and/or cost effective). drupa 2016 saw the arrival of larger format digital cut-sheet color printing systems as well as off-line systems for special effects such as spot gloss, dimensional effects, and metallic foils. The progress in B1 sheet-fed design is facilitated by wider inkjet arrays that benefit from the latest advances in inkjet head technology. The challenge for any of these larger format digital printing devices is to meet the production requirements for quality, consistency, substrate support, and color registration while performing at high speed. Also important is integration of finishing technologies that leverage the benefits of digital print. Therefore laser cutting and creasing, particularly for folding carton applications, is also advancing, and for some of these devices the focus is on a B1 sheet size. For the off-line digital devices used for special effects, the B1 sheet size opens up sizeable opportunities because these systems are capable of supporting conventional presses as well as digital printers.
Special effects – Offset print processes have typically excelled at special effects beyond process color such as spot gloss, flood coats, foils, and corporate color matching. This kind of embellishment is now accelerating for digital print. Electrophotographic devices are using effects like printed metallic, dimensional, clear gloss, spot colors, fluorescent, security and other embellishments to differentiate the printed products and provide added value. Inkjet, particularly with ultraviolet (UV) curing inks, is extending this with some eye-popping results that leverage dimensional clear and metallic foil. The use of hybrid configurations, including those that leverage electrophotography and inkjet together, will have compelling applications in commercial and packaging markets. Many of the off-line special effect solutions, as noted above, are able to support larger format conventional sheet sizes, which opens their market impact significantly.
Industry 4.0 – For many years, system providers have talked about how production data can be used to drive operational excellence and even facilitate predictive service calls. Cloud-enabled production data tracking is now making this type of data-driven production a reality, not only for commercial and packaging applications, but for decorative and industrial ones as well. Today these tend to focus on a single vendor platform (rather than a true heterogeneous ecosystem). Despite these limitations there are still many benefits, such as performance benchmarking across peers with similar equipment. This also elevates the importance of automated workflows that make it easy for production managers to assess and react to their production site(s) based on real-time data. Taking this even further, InfoTrends expects to see semi-autonomous print production and robotic automation culminate in what has been described as “Industry 4.0,” in other words the foundation of a fourth industrial revolution that is based upon automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies, similar as what has happened in the car industry.
In the early 2000 years Heidelberg was a force in digital print to be reckoned with. The company led the market in direct imaging offset and was a major player in digital colour and BW production printing. However Heidelberg lost the appetite in digital and sold off the activities in toner printing to Kodak in 2004, while the DI business dwindled away.
From 2011 Heidelberg stepped up again and became active in several fields of digital printing. Not all were a resounding success – for example activities in label printing bought from CSAT in 2011 were sold off again in 2014. The Heidelberg-branded Ricoh reseller business fared better and according to Heidelberg about 1,000 units of the cut-sheet colour toner printers were sold so far. With the Gallus Labelfire 340 (former Gallus DCS 340 covered in an earlier blog) and the Omnifire 250 (former Jetmaster Dimension), both launched last year, the digital portfolio expanded rapidly. The latest addition is a B1 digital colour press for the industrial production of digital applications, the Primefire 106.
With so many digital activities under one roof Heidelberg decided to rebrand the portfolio of digital printing solutions under the “fire” moniker – which is a catchy name and surely going to be the source of many puns. The products in detail are:
Heidelberg Versafire CV/CP – The Ricoh reseller products, formerly sold as Linoprint CV/CP
Gallus Labelfire – Launched as Gallus DCS 340, as a sole product in that application area so far
Heidelberg Omnifire – Originally Jetmaster Dimension, now to become part of a range of solutions
Heidelberg Primefire 106 – Latest introduction, tops the portfolio as the first industrial cut-sheet inkjet product develop in cooperation with Fujifilm
Frank Romano is at it again. His latest, History of the Phototypesetting Era, follows the publication last summer of his History of the Linotype Company. Both books have been aptly described as time capsules. Particularly notable throughout all his writings are Romano’s attention to detail, his desire to document events, and, in the case of this latest book, an “I was there” perspective.
Romano’s History of the Phototypesetting Era is remarkable as much for its Read more »
At the Canon for Business 2014 event in Poing, Germany and at the FESPA trade show in Munich last week, Canon Océ showed strong signs of progress in a variety of areas related to digital color printing through a series of announcements:
High-speed color inkjet printing on standard coated offset papers’ Announced but not shown in Poing was a new inkjet system that Canon Océ representatives say can print on a range of offset paper stocks, including coated ones, without the use of bonding agents or primers. The solution, according to Canon, can accomplish this due to its high resolution, small ink droplets, dryers, and a special aqueous pigment ink formulation. The Canon Océ ImageStream 3500 runs at up to 160 meters per minute (525 feet per minute) at 1,200 x 600 dot per inch resolution on a 750-millimeter (30-inch) web. (The device can also run at 1,200 x 1,200 dpi, though at half the speed of 1,200 x 600.) Canon expects the product to be available at the beginning of 2015. InfoTrends will learn more about this product soon (Canon hosted analysts, including InfoTrends’ Ralf SchlÅ‘zer, in Tokyo last week), but for now, it’s intriguing to consider that a vendor has come up with a solution to address standard coated offset papers without inkjet treatments of any kind. (See Ralf Schlozer’s blog on the ImageStream 3500.)
Though inkjet has been a hot topic since 2008 (remember the ‘inkjet’ drupa?), it is hard to underestimate the continuing impact inkjet is having across all areas of the graphic arts. I think 2013 marks an interesting turning point. Inkjet is everywhere from document printing to labels & packaging to decorative to functional and 3D printing.
Gartner Hype Cycle
3D printing had to be one of the most talked about topics of 2013 and jetting technologies are the key behind many 3D printing implementations (though in this case they are jetting materials rather than inks). That being said, in my opinion 3D printing has reached what Gartner likes to call the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’ and others have described as ‘Irrational Exuberance.’ The way some people talk about 3D printing you’d think that before long you’ll be 3D printing your beer complete with the bottle (with a label on the outside and a cap on top).
A recurring theme at drupa 2012 is that many of the planned digital devices are intended as B2-format offset press replacements. This is puzzling positioning. Is there really a need for digital stand-ins for very efficient offset presses? The digital market, need I remind you, is built on values well beyond mere quick turnaround and cost-effective short runs. Production digital print is best leveraged when it facilitates full process automation, electronic collation, variable data, and the use of the digital printer as a virtual document archive. Designs that lack duplexing or use traditional offset feed and delivery systems miss out on some of the most basic digital print advantages.
I could be wrong. After all, the show doesn’t start forÂ two weeks, but I think these will be the top stories at drupa:
Benny Landa — Whether Landa Labs shows market-ready products or early tech demos doesn’t really matter. This will be a drupa remembered for the show that Benny Landa put on. Is it ready for prime time? We won’t know until May. One mystery that should be solved by then is why their press releases refer to “ink ejectors” rather than inkjet heads (like every other inkjet system vendor does). Could it be that they are doing something different than using inkjet heads to apply ink to paper? Wait and see. Read more »
Analysts predicting the developments at drupa 2012 have fixated on Landa Corporation of Israel, the technology developer headed by Benny Landa, the founder of Indigo. Landa publicized its planned drupa booth back in January, but did not reveal much, except to say the company would have a really new technology on display, ostensibly a jetting method that would rely on specialized inks and be a highly economic and productive method for use in commercial, packaging, and publishing markets. On April 2 the company revealed a bit more, by making the following points: Read more »
In this video blog I discuss a marvelous print sample that was produced by SPC, Specialty Print Communications. What I find particularly interesting about it is how it combines two technologies: high-speed process color inkjet and web offset lithography. With leading edge technologies such as this, you often need a well-designed print sample to show off your new capabilities. SPC does that very well. So first, here are the specifics. On the web offset side, this was done on a Goss Sunday 2000 press using process colors and a 175 line-per-inch halftone screen. The press is also capable of laying down spot gloss, either UV coating or varnish. On the inkjet side, the images were produced by a Kodak Prosper S10 imprinting system set up to produce process color at 600 dots per inch in two 4.16” bands across the page. SPC notes that you need to leave a 4” space between the inkjet bands, which they refer to as channels. The piece was printed on a 7-pt.NewPage TrueJet gloss cover stock.