Delphax is taking 4-up inkjet to drupa 2012 with elan

Ralf Schlozer
Apr 9, 2012

Delphax is a long standing provider of high-end digital monochrome printers in markets focused on check, security, and book printing. Until the announcement of elan, these have all been toner-based cut-sheet and continuous feed solutions. With the trend towards color, Delphax began an initiative several years ago to develop its own color solution and is now launching elan, a 500 ipm digital full colour cut-sheet printer. As its imaging partner it chose Memjet, which provides the inkjet print heads for elan.

2012 will probably go down in history as the year of the “digital B2” drupa. This alone is exciting news for any print service provider looking for a new production tool. As an industry supplier however, it makes it more difficult to stand out with a B2-format offering. Still Delphax’s elan has a couple of exciting features that could really differentiate the product from its competition. Based on the details that Delphax has released so far these are:
– Low expected acquisition price and running costs
– High resolution
– Small footprint
– Innovative paper path
– Ability to run a fifth or sixth color or MICR

The printer features a resolution of 1,600 by 1,600 dpi and this is the highest resolution so far achieved for the B2 market. Yet other suppliers (such as Landa Labs) have not shared full details on their announcements, so there may be other B2-format contenders at high resolution.

A small footprint is more difficult to duplicate and with a length of about 24 feet/7 meter and a height 4 feet/1.2 meter the elan would fit in size-constrained digital printing environments, such as copy shops, in house sites or quick printers as well.

Delphax did not share all details on the paper path, as some details are patent pending. Still a very straight paper path for simplex printing does give rise to the hope that even heavier substrates than the 350 gsm quoted for simplex print can be used. For duplex printing the paper travels an S-shaped path without changing the leading edge.

elan paper path

Additionally elan has the option for a fifth and sixth colour which is not available on too many devices yet. Unique for a B2 inkjet printer is the MICR capability and although printing with magnetic ink is declining in importance, it is nevertheless essential for a some transaction and direct mail applications and could become more important again as a security or value add feature in the future.

Finally — and perhaps most interesting for a print service provider — is the price. Delphax plans a price point of under $500k for the base version of the printer. This is noticeable lower than the price points of the B2 digital printers we have seen so far.

Of course there are some compromises a prospective user has to make. elan’s imaging format is strictly speaking not B2, but SRA2, which is slightly smaller. It should offer enough margin for most A-format sized end-products, but in some cases it will not be enough. We also have to see how Memjet’s inkjet heads perform in production environments. Office printers using Memjet heads starting shipping not long ago and label printers started to sell even more recently. Delphax’s elan is the first document-oriented production printer to use Memjet heads. Finally Delphax has served a relatively focused market so far, but the elan was designed for, and clearly has the ability to serve a much broader set of customers. This will likely mean that new marketing and servicing channels are required.

Already as it stands now, a few weeks before the event itself, drupa 2012 will be the drupa with the most focus on and most progress in digital printing technology ever. With elan Delphax certainly has a product that meets the drupa, although for commercial shipments customers will have to wait until early 2013.

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