What’s Next for Production Print DFEs?

Marc Mascara
 Feb 6, 2019

A Trip Way Back in Time

On demand production print digital front ends (DFEs) began their competitive march in the late 1990s when Scitex Corporation announced its entry into the print on demand (POD) space by launching the Spontane printing system. The solution was an OEM version of the Fuji Xerox Docucolor 40. During that same timeframe, Scitex also developed a DFE version of its Brisque Prepress system and adapted it for the on-demand market. This announcement started a high-end competitive DFE battle between EFI, Scitex, and to some extent ColorBus.

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Digital CMYK+ Ushers in a New Crop of Design Enthusiasts

Marc Mascara
 Jan 29, 2019

Designing for offset print is nothing new; the PDF revolution is a distant memory at this point and the “how to design for print” guides are long gone. For quite some time, designers have understood how to extend gamut and design for that hit of varnish. With that said, designing for these offset jobs was always difficult and somewhat restrictive to the creative process. Any creative liberties typically added a significant amount of time to the process because prepress often needed to make corrections to the designers file for reliable printing. As a result, commercial printers have always had a love/hate relationship with the creative members of the design community. This all began to change when the HP Indigo Digital Presses began to roll out 7-color liquid toner capabilities. It was still important to educate the design community, but not in terms of capability—the focus shifted to learning how best to design a clean file for prepress.

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Fuji Xerox: Carving a Path for Production Inkjet

Marc Mascara
 Jan 23, 2019

On January 22, Fuji Xerox announced its entry into the Digital High-Speed Roll-Fed Inkjet arena with the 11000 Inkjet Press. This device, which is targeted toward commercial printers, will be released to the Japanese market in February. The Fuji Xerox 11000 Inkjet Press will address the ongoing challenges that print provides face with inkjet production devices, namely the ability to run at high speeds on media that is typically used for applications like direct mail, marketing collateral, and catalogs. The new device is reportedly capable of producing up to 1,448 A4 pages per minute at near-offset quality.

FUJI XEROX 11000 Inkjet Press

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When Should PSPs Outsource Print Products?

Marc Mascara
 Jan 16, 2019

Print service providers (PSPs) exist in a competitive landscape. Despite being a mainstay technology used to address a diverse range of applications  print faces challenges in the 21st century. The digital revolution is in full swing with new innovations making headlines daily. On top of this, the print world itself is seeing a smaller upheaval in the form of digital printing as a replacement/supplement of traditional offset.

For those seeking to turn a profit, this pace of change means frequent challenges. The new landscape has altered customer demand, placing more emphasis on shorter runs and high value product applications. Businesses, especially those small to medium-sized, are constantly trying to eliminate the advantages of larger competition. One such benefit that large PSPs enjoy is a wide product portfolio – one that can meet most any customer demand.

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Xerox Iridesse – After the glitter settles! Well what if? or Sure why not?!

Marc Mascara
 Jul 2, 2018

Xerox unveiled their latest production printing press during two jam-packed events in the US and Europe. The first event took place May 9th outside Rochester, NY at the Xerox Gil Hatch Center for Customer Innovation — the largest digital print showcase in the world.

Images courtesy of Xerox – Iridesse launch Webster, NY

 

Customers, prospects and the media were invited to the unveiling of the Iridesse press and given the opportunity to kick the tires. The second reveal took place on May 23 in Warsaw, Poland during the 2018 Xerox Forum, where Xerox Premier Partners (customers) and Graphic Communication Resellers attended.

Image courtesy of Xerox – Iridesse launch Warsaw, Poland

 

Both events could be worthy of an Oscar with the pomp and circumstance of a professional product reveal that introduced the global availability of the press.

My colleague Ralf Schlozer’s first impressions of the Iridesse, launched by Fuji Xerox last December, can be found in the post Fuji Xerox Iridesse – Two specialty colours is better than one. I invite you to re-visit Ralf’s blog for all the launch and specific details of the press while I answer the philosophical question of “do printer’s need a press like the Iridesse now that the glitter and dust have settled?”

So, if you ever worked production you know that manufacturer suggested limits are always ignored, especially if you need to get a job out or when client work is accepted in lieu of going to the competition. You see this in the offset world all the time and that is why successful print companies know that being able to configure equipment for different needs trumps equipment with a “wow” factor. Print customers first question is always can you do this, and the printer wants to respond sure, why not?! Digital equipment sometimes puts the printer into the “what if” situation. Basically, well what if we do this instead?

Quality CMYK for the most part is expected in this class of press, but in terms of flexibility, print providers expect numerous options for not only resolution but multiple halftone screens. Having the ability to respond to real time production needs based on image quality and media range gives production the flexibility to confidently accept work. Iridesse meets that challenge with Ultra HD Resolution which delivers 1200 x 1200 x 10 bit RIP resolution and 2400×2400 imaging resolution, enabling screening options from stochastic to fine line screens up to 600 dpi.

Image courtesy of EFI – Xerox EFI Exp6 5/6 color image Viewer

 

Media plays a huge role in just how many jobs and what type of work a print provider can accept. Just as in offset, digital presses must address a wide array of media while running at rated speeds. I would say most equipment manufacturers are fighting it out on this front regarding the range of media weights and types being supported. Iridesse tops out at 400gsm but gives a respectable range from 52 to 400gsm. Production flexibility comes into play when the print providers press supports a wide array of media types and weights, multiple pick points  (i.e., multiple paper trays), that allow for a broad range of supported media and media sizes along with multiple insertion options all running at rated speed. To meet these extreme requirements Xerox equipped Iridesse with technologies integrated throughout the press called “Mixed Media Xceleration”  giving the operator a wide array of run time media options with no slowdown of output.  Its this production flexibility that digital press manufacturers continue to expand upon, driving machine innovations which adds to the acceleration of the offset to digital migration and the continued ability to drive manual labor cost out of the production process. With that said, Iridesse is highly configurable, supporting many finishing scenarios from square fold to booklet making with Plockmatic’s advanced capabilities, again reducing the overall production touch points with greater production flexibility.

One could say that most digital press manufacturers are competitive in all these areas offering their own set of production capabilities, but Xerox upped the ante by making the print order of colors configurable without the need for a service technician!  As in the offset world, you just run a cleanup and change ink, or in this case you swap out the dry toner. As a PSP, you not only have the ability with Iridesse to produce 4, 5 and 6 color work, but you can self-configure which special color will underlay and overlay the CMYK opening a whole host of design capabilities for high value applications.

Xerox calls this snazzy feature “EZ Swap” which allows operators the ability to swap and run two specialty dry inks in a single pass. The key phrase is single-pass. Just imagine what you could do with a press that supports multiple pass capabilities with very accurate registration. I think offset press operators can see where I’m going with this.  Xerox has tapped into one of the last frontiers left for digital press capabilities in opening the ability for the operator to decide the dry ink lay down order with multiple specialty colors and to expand that capability with multiple passes.

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Kodak NEXFINITY – More than just a new paint job?

Marc Mascara
 Mar 12, 2018

On February 28th to March 1st, during Oscar week in Rochester NY, Kodak opened the Kodak Center to 250 printers, distributors, media, designers and publishers. With an unbelievably warm 60-degree winter day in Western NY, Kodak hosted over two days of product session, industry speakers and customer panels.

Flexcel NX Sample

Attendees would hear firsthand about new product innovations from Kodaks Print Systems Division regarding processless plates, digital printing and functional printing categories. While the event would mainly focus on Sonora printing plates and the Nexpress digital press, other Kodak divisions were also represented.

On hand at the technology fair were:

  • William Schweinfurth represented the Flexographic Solutions with Flexcel NX samples.
  • Joan Taylor and Carlos Muniz were on hand for the Unified Workflow Solutions with demonstrations of the latest in Prinergy Workflow offerings.
  • Stream and UltraStream products were represented by Randy Vandergrif from the Enterprise Inkjet Systems with Prosper Press literature and samples. Preliminary samples of Kodaks UltraStream technology was also on hand, that looked very promising.

    Transparent antenna demo

  • Carolyn Ellinger demonstrated Kodaks latest technology play in material science and deposition with a demo of their transparent antenna application.
  • Demian Gawianski rounded out the fair with a Portrait 3D Printer.

The two-day event labeled Taking PRINT Further focused on sustainability, profitability, simplicity, growth, transformation and partnering. Kodak’s main message centered around how they are focusing on removing cost from their customer’s manufacturing process. With processless printing plates like Sonora, the cost savings becomes quickly evident which remove associated costs in chemistry, processors, water, waste disposal, electricity and floor space. With digital presses like the Nexpress the story is a little more nuanced.

Strategy beneath the new paint job!

Kodak NEXFINITY Press

In the week following the official launch of the Kodak NEXFINITY Press platform, opinions on forums and boards have ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other. So just what is underneath that new paint job? Peel back the new press cover and you discover a bold strategy and advanced technology planted as the cornerstone of the NEXFINITY platform. Read more »

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