Category: Print

Xeikon: Inkjet, EP Both Strong, Get Equal Focus

Bob Leahey
May 24, 2018

Xeikon, a big presence at Labelexpo and many other tradeshows, is also one of the rare vendors that in effect hosts its own tradeshows, namely the Xeikon “Cafés” that occur yearly in Belgium and the U.S. The latest Xeikon Café occurred last week near the company’s North American headquarters in Itasca, IL and hosted over 200 guess and 30 exhibiting partners. Xeikon, the main focus, showed all its printers at the company’s nearby demonstration center and hosted a big conference program, with presentations by Xeikon managers, customers, and industry analysts.

Quick Impressions:

  • Xeikon, an electrophotographic (EP) pioneer, now is equally focused on inkjet
  • Xeikon inkjet at first will be for labels, but soon it will be for finishing and, next, for corrugated
  • Xeikon’s EP core had strong growth in the last twelve months, especially in label and packaging
  • Flint, maker of analog print supplies and Xeikon’s owner, is a helpful and ambitious partner

Xeikon’s recent inkjet history is fairly well known. In early 2017 this EP printer vendor surprised the market by announcing its plan to offer its first production-level UV inkjet label printer, the PX3000 (“Panther”). Then in November 2017, Xeikon announced that it was taking over service and support duties from EFI for the EFI Jetrion installed base, over 200 UV inkjet label webs, mainly in North America and Europe. PX3000 is just now having its first placements, but, all things considered, 2017 and 2018 have been years when Xeikon, an EP stalwart, jump started an industrial inkjet printer business.

Xeikon Panther PX3000

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Making Efficient Workflows: 2018 Solimar User Conference

Pat McGrew
May 13, 2018

San Diego is known for being a hub of invention, from inkjet development to dynamic software solutions. Solimar Systems is embedded in that innovation hub, with 27 years of providing solutions to companies with workflow challenges. Their 2018 User Conference in San Diego (May 8-10) brought together their top users to share their solutions, learn about new features and provide feedback to the Solimar technical team. I am a huge fan of user conferences for the networking opportunities they bring for both the solutions staff and the customers. Face to face is always the best way to gain trust among users and for users to develop all-important relationships.

This year’s event began with a Customer Advisory Council meeting that included a Keypoint Intelligence Keynote: Like Childred, Your Workflow Needs Attention! The council consists of 23 Solimar users who meet on a regular cadence to provide guidance. The goal of the keynote was to talk through the power of workflow automation in driving efficiency and profitability. We are advocates of workflow assessments, as are the team at Solimar Systems, so the presentation walked through a ten step review of workflow processes, with supporting data from the latest Keypoint Intelligence North American Software Investment Survey.

The most interesting takeaways from the Customer Advisory meetings was the diversity of issues faced by Print Service providers of all sizes, and the variety of approaches they take to move toward efficiency. We heard from companies that approach workflow with multiple solutions and some that approach with a single-threaded workflow approach, all using the Solimar products to add efficiency to their production processing.

The Solimar User Group encompasses the Advisory Council and an extended group of Solimar Users. The event included presentations from partners, including Konica Minolta, SCREEN, Ironsides Technology, Reality BLU, BCC Software, and RISO. Customer panels included deep dives into Operational Efficiencies, Differentiated Services, Compliance and Security, and Customer Experience, allowing customers to share their best practices.

Two keynotes touched on tangential workflow issues. The first was the Keypoint Intelligence presentation by Pat McGrew: The Workflow Revolution: Are You On Board? The goal was to provide guidance on how to approach workflow as a moonshot, moving toward the best level of optimization possible. The theme was that operational excellence requires an executive commitment and an open mind to allow change. The goal is Smart Print Manufacturing that embraces automation.

The second keynote came from Tim Cooper, Chief Enterprise Architect at Harland Clarke. If you have not heard a Tim Cooper presentation you have missed something special. Tim has decades of experience in workflows and is a deep thinker when it comes to optimization and breaking down barriers. His presentation was A Discussion on Workflow Facts that Can Lead to Wrong Conclusions. He walked through how looking at data in a vacuum can lead to the wrong architecture and implode operational efficiencies.

Tim shared how he arrived at his philosophy of workflow, and how using the Solimar solutions he was able to wrangle multiple, disparate workflows in to a single workflow, and reduce processing time from more than 3000 hours to under a couple of days. That drew gasps from PSPs in the room struggling with the same challenges.

The true value of user group meetings comes from the networking and sharing, as well as guidance that analysts can supply to provide guidance for decisions about the next investments and architecture changes need to be made. The Solimar team did an excellent job of tuning the mix of technical sessions focused on products and solutions with partner presentations and announcements, and customer panels.

HP Latex R Series: First to Print Rigid Media for HP Latex, and First White Ink

India Tatro
Mar 27, 2018

Ten years since the introduction of HP Latex Printing Technologies in 2008, HP unveiled the latest addition to that series of wide format printers recently at ISA Sign Expo in Orlando. The new “HP Latex R Series” builds on existing HP Latex technology but is the first HP Latex printer to print on rigid media. HP Latex R, which also prints flexible media, is designed to print a wide variety of rigid substrates including foamboards, PVC cardboard, fluted polypropylene, solid plastics, aluminum, wood, and glass.  The Latex R Series is also notable because it marks the introduction of HP Latex White Ink. Like its other water-based Latex inks, HP says the Latex R’s  white ink will maintain the appearance and texture of the substrate, a desirable quality when printing on materials like aluminum or wood. HP also claims that their new white ink—the first for the HP Latex line– will not yellow over time, which can be a problem with some white UV inks.

HP has also included fluid management technology in the R series  to combat  problems typically associated with white ink. Pigments in white inks are prone to settling due to the larger particle sizes of white pigments; their larger particle sizes can make such inks a problem for print heads, causing clogs or blockages during printing or while the printer is idle. To counteract possible problems with settling and clogging,  HP has added an ink recirculation system to keep ink moving both within the ink delivery system and at the printhead. The ink storage system will also feature an automatic ink agitator to prevent settling over time.

 

HP has not yet released photos of the new R Series, though a teaser video can be found on their website

 

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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 »

GOA NEXT. The Future of Print

Sheryne Glicksman
Mar 5, 2018

Print’s role is evolving. At the February 2018 Graphics of America show  in Ft Lauderdale, I attended a seminar that Kate Dunn (Director, Business Development Strategy Services @Keypoint Intelligence) hosted titled “How to Grow your Business in 2018”. Kate stated that we recently surveyed 749 respondents and found that Mobile and Online/Web communications will experience the highest annual growth rate in the next two years. This doesn’t surprise me at all when you consider that our smart phones are always at our fingertips. Mobile bar codes, personalized URL’s, texting codes, image recognition, near field communications and augmented reality all provide ways to link print to digital. This, in turn, improves customer experience.

Figure 1. Methods of Linking Print to Digital

Mobile Bar codes brought my rebate to life. The other day I was shopping and purchased an item that had a $20 rebate. The company gave me a form to mail in. I was thinking to myself that I’m probably not going to take the time to use regular mail for this process however guess what? When I looked at the form, I noticed there was a QR code that I could scan with my smart phone. Within minutes, the rebate was completed! Now, I’m just waiting on my check. I’m happy to say it was a cool customer experience.

Figure 2. Interactivity is key to bringing documents to life!

Blending print and digital. Kate went on to state that books, catalogs, brochures and direct mail are the fastest growing digitally printed applications, producing billions of prints each year. These would be the types of documents to start looking at ways to enhance as the print role evolves. It was interesting to hear that the top business driver for personalizing communications was a direct correlation between personalization and response rates. Those surveyed also noted that their service providers have become more skilled at cost effectively delivering more complex personalization, data is more available and that their customers are demanding personalized interactions.
Printed media is being blended with digital media. Sales and marketing collateral, direct mail, newsletter, presentations and signage were the most common media used in the past 12 months. This chart tells me that there is huge potential since less than 30% of the respondents have linked the two types of media in the last 12 months. The opportunity to create fresh new content that easily allows the end user to use their smart phone is a growth initiative for this space.

Figure 3. Types of printed applications combined with digital

“Value can be created for clients in helping them streamline the process of linking print to digital assets that already exist” according to Kate. She recommended that print service providers research their prospect’s website and look for video and other interactive assets like quizzes, calculators and Infographcis that can be easily linked to print to create more powerful customer experiences. “Printers can take a leadership role in helping their clients use print in innovative ways to draw audiences into digital interactions that are trackable and provide critical data to marketers” Kate noted.

Here are some pointers to consider. Personalization of documents delivers results. Special effects drive engagements. Dimensional print drives responses. What are you doing to help your production print customers bring documents to life?#icanhelpbringyourdatatolife

Highcon Releases the Euclid IIIC

India Tatro

Highcon, developer of the revolutionary “Euclid” digital cutting and creasing technology for paperboard, recently announced the commercial release of a new machine, Euclid IIIC, which can cut and crease thicker media, in particular several grades of corrugated. The new machine features can work with single ply paperboard, laminated stocks, and N, F, G, E, and B-flute corrugated from 1mm to 3mm in thickness (40-120 points). The Euclid IIIC thus allows the Euclid series to expand further, thanks to the new printer’s ability to finish thin to medium grade corrugated media. That media category has grown quickly in the past few years because of is use in packaging, in particular for primary packaging such as small but sturdy boxes for cosmetics, consumer electronics, and home furnishings.  Read more »

Xeikon Update: Notes From Q1 Analyst Call

India Tatro

Xeikon, much in the news in 2017 for its “Xeikon Café” events and its debut as an inkjet technology vendor, held a first-ever quarterly briefing for press and analysts in all regions. On hand were top managers: Filip Weymans and Jeroen Van Bauwel, both from Xeikon’s headquarters in Belgium, and Dave Wilkins and Donna Cavannon, marketing and sales leaders for Xeikon North America, based in Illinois.

 

The Xeikon “Blueprint”

Filip Weymans, Xeikon’s VP of Global Marketing kicked off the presentation with an overview of the strategy or “blueprint” for the company. The key point was that Xeikon will now continue product development based on both dry toner electrophotographic and inkjet printing technologies, also that Xeikon will continue to expand finishing and workflow offerings for Xeikon’s commercial print and industrial printers. Xeikon will have a particular emphasis on folding carton printing on the industrial side and on high-value graphic arts applications like direct mail and educational books on the commercial print side. At the same time, Weymans noted that Xeikon has a long-term goal of moving into the corrugated market. In the meantime, though, Xeikon will focus on the label printing applications that today are the core of its industrial printer business. Read more »

SGIA SPIRE Group Presentation 2018

Steve Urmano
Feb 22, 2018

This year’s SPIRE event has been ramped up to include great new content to help you manage your graphics business – all delivered at warp speed. 33 top tier graphic imaging professionals and 10 presenters participated in this eclectic conference to provide new ideas to build a framework to future growth requirements.

Steve Urmano, Director of Wide Format had a half hour presentation and Q&A on the topic: Convergence, How The Wide Format Industry Is Changing. It focused on all the different ink & media technologies and how the market opportunities are changing along with them. Attendees should come away with a view of new opportunities & adjacencies.

The schedule is so full, the 10 presenters are sure accomplish this lofty goal. With a limited number of spots available, attendees needed to register quickly to ensure they didn’t miss out on the event of the year. The SPIRE strong sharing environment allows for critical insight and game-changing industry networking.

A sampling of the presentations are as follows:

  • Richard Romano, What They Think, Developments in Production Automation
  • Patrick Morrissey, EFI, Review of New Products & Scope
  • Kerry King, Spoonflower, Décor & Shift Towards Online Portals
  • John Hagan, Hagen Graphic Assets, Exploring Employee Recruitment
  • Alexander Hussain, 3D Chimera, 3D Printing: Production & Partnership

 

About SPIRE

SPIRE is a unique network of CEOs and top executives from industry leading producers of retail, point-of-purchase, OEM, transit, outdoor, and similar graphic solutions. The interests, concerns, and challenges of SPIRE members are often different than those of individuals managing smaller companies within the SGIA membership. SPIRE has been in existence for more than 20 years, providing both educational and networking opportunities that are unparalleled in our industry. The members of SPIRE have carefully created an environment where printers from related markets, even direct competitors, can comfortably address common issues. In fact, just about every SPIRE member will tell you that their SPIRE network is their most valued SGIA resource.

 

Feedback from the Organizers

“I’m very proud of how we have advanced the quality and pacing of the SPIRE program. It’s dynamic, relevant content that speaks to today’s industry challenges.”

– Scott Crosby, SPIRE Program Co-Chair, Holland and Crosby

Scott Crosby of Holland & Crosby

“SPIRE has become the don’t-miss meeting in the print industry. At SPIRE, we provide high-level topics for top-level executives you can’t get anywhere else.”

– Terry Corman, SPIRE Program Co-Chair, Firehouse Image Center

Terry Corman of Firehouse Graphics

 

Meetings and Social Events
Ongoing changes to the graphic arts industry are profound, with new areas of convergence and unprecedented opportunities for those companies that can navigate change successfully. Attendees gained insight from Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends industry consultant Steve Urmano as he presented his views on how today’s changes will affect tomorrow’s realities.

 

 

Moms Provide Insight Into Print’s Advantages

Christine Dunne

My local online moms group recently got into a discussion about whether paper or digital invitations are preferable for kids’ party invites. While they were discussing consumer printing (and in many instances production printing for consumers), it got me thinking about how many of their comments are also relevant to the world of business printing.

First, let me show you the main points addressed by these moms. In summary, they cited the following advantages of printed versus digital invitations.

Advantages of printed vs. digital invitations cited by local moms

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HP Indigo Lands Big Deal for HP Indigo 20000

India Tatro and Bob Leahey
Feb 21, 2018

HP Indigo announced this month that a current user of HP Indigo 20000, ePac Flexible Packaging, has agreed to purchase 10 additional HP Indigo 20000s. ePac, based in Madison, Wisconsin, is a young, all-digital converter of flexible packaging and is already operating three HP Indigo 20000s sited in Madison and in Boulder, Colorado. The company, which started operations only in 2016, working with just one HP Indigo 20000, will add the new units to its existing sites this year and next at new facilities in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and Miami.

HP Indigo 20000 30″ digital web press

Among color digital printers for packaging and labels, HP Indigo 20000 is rare indeed. As of today, it is the only fully commercialized production level digital printer designed to print flexible packaging. Meanwhile, it was only in 2014 that HP Indigo launched the printer, so this seven color, 30” (760 mm) EP web is off to a fast start. At the time of the recent ePac announcement, HP Indigo also revealed that the current global installed base of this printer is 115 units. Given this model’s high purchase price, HP Indigo has likely achieved nearly $200 million in sales of HP Indigo 20000, not including the recent ePac deal.

A Brief History of the HP Indigo 20000

HP Indigo 20000 has predecessors, but they are all HP Indigo printers, namely the HP Indigo ‘Series 3’ label webs, especially HP Indigo WS6000 and WS6800. Starting around 2009, HP Indigo began developing flexible packaging as an extra application of WS6000, enlisting partners such as Karlville and Avery Dennison for finishing and media. As HP Indigo expanded further into flexible packaging, the company began to work with narrow-web label converters to help them start printing this application. In addition, HP Indigo even equipped rare flexible packaging converters with the Series 3 printers. Today, the HP Indigo 20000, an HP Indigo ‘Series 4’ printer, is the pinnacle of the HP Indigo’s efforts to develop digital printing for flexible packaging. With a web width equal to that of many flexo presses, and a powerful print engine based on the HP Indigo 10000, the Indigo 20000 is a practical digital option for flexible packaging.

Labels, Other Applications Also

Since HP Indigo 20000 is a roll-fed printer with a substantial web width, it is well suited for the production of both flexible packaging and labels. About 75% of the printing done on the Indigo 20000 is flexible packaging, with the remaining 25% being labels, or a mix of label and flexible packaging, or other applications. Keypoint Intelligence estimates that gross billings from the current base of HP Indigo 20000s for all uses is over $300 million annually. Those billings will grow as the base does, and as converters gain skill both in using the printer and in selling its services.

HP Pack Ready

While there are no new HP Indigo flexible packaging printers in sight at this point, a key finishing addition to the Indigo 20000 will be commercialized this year. This is HP’s new Pack Ready Lamination system which will dramatically decrease the time spent waiting for printed and laminated rolls to cure. While flexo converters must wait up to a week for their laminated rolls to cure, users of Pack Ready can expect curing to be almost immediate.

HP Pack Ready system with specially designed hardware form Karlville

The first component of Pack Ready is proprietary chemistry: HP Indigo licenses film manufacturers to use its patented coating technology to coat film for use in HP Indigo 20000 (several film companies in different regions have been licensed). After printing in HP Indigo 20000, that pre-coated film goes into a specially designed laminator by Karlville, HP’s partner for FP finishing. The laminator uses thermal energy to join the printed film with another film layers, and the lamination is fully cured in only a few minutes.

Pack Ready coating structure with HP’s proprietary heat-activated coating (in yellow)

Not Alone Forever

While the Indigo 20000 continues to be the industry leader for digital printing of flexible packaging, there are at least a few new digital entrants. These new machines are from Japanese companies Think Lab and Fujifilm, as well as Uteco Converting from Italy; Think Lab and Uteco are experienced suppliers for gravure and flexo in the flexible packaging industry, and Fujifilm is a giant in industrial inkjet. The new machines from these companies have only a handful of beta installations, mostly in Japan, but more will come, possibly also from competitors that are not evident today. As in all industrial printing, inkjet has high potential to contribute to flexible packaging printing. That said, EP printing from HP Indigo 20000 has a big lead, as exemplified by the recent deal with ePac.

2016 InfoTrends, Inc.

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