Glossy Paper Makes All the Difference: The Kodak Prosper 5000XL at Fenske Media

Jim Hamilton
Aug 3, 2011

Last week I traveled to Rapid City, South Dakota to visit Fenske Media, a data-driven solutions provider that installed a Kodak Prosper 5000XL last December. Fenske Media is using the Prosper 5000XL for a range of full color mail applications on glossy paper. Glossy paper is the key to expanding high-speed inkjet printing into new applications at offset quality levels. As Dave Fenske, Partner at Fenske Media, concisely puts it “Printing is entertainment, and entertainment equals shine.”

Fenske Media, Rapid City, South Dakota

Fenske Media, Rapid City, South Dakota

Fenske Media began operation in 1957 as a commercial printer. Today about 60% of its print volume is digital, with a focus on direct mail and marketing services. In addition to the Prosper 5000XL, Fenske Media also operates an 8-color Heidelberg Speedmaster press with a coater, a Xeikon 5000, a Kodak NexPress SX3600, and a Kodak Versamark VL2200. Dave Fenske describes the path to the Prosper 5000XL as a seven-year inkjet learning curve that started with a Versamark VX5000 and has extended through a Versamark VX5000e, a Versamark VL2200, and now the Prosper 5000XL. That path allowed Fenske to build on experience with the front end and transport systems (including intense operator training) and the unique challenges of high speed finishing associated with variable data. During that time Fenske also saw ongoing quality improvements through increased resolution and now it has the ability to print on glossy paper with the Prosper 5000XL. Fenske Media’s experience with its NexPress and Xeikon has also provided them with a high level of expertise in cut-sheet and roll-fed electrophotographic digital. The separator between electrophotography and inkjet is throughput. This, along with inkjet’s versatility, stands out starkly for Fenske even though they have some of the fastest cut-sheet and roll-fed electrophotographic digital color products on the market. With a maximum web speed of 658 feet per minute and a maximum print width of 24.5 inches, the Prosper 5000XL is capable of the equivalent of 3,600 A4/letter pages per minute at a 175 line halftone screen. The 5000XL can handle rolls up to 25.5 inches yet, depending on the job requirements, Fenske often runs rolls as narrow as 18 inches.

To reach the required quality levels Fenske is using pre-treated glossy coated substrates on the 5000XL. Fenske will also be adding an in-line image optimizer unit that applies an optimizer agent prior to printing to allow conventional untreated offset stocks to be used. Kodak calls this unit IOS (or Image Optimization Station). Fenske is looking forward to this addition since it will allow them to react more quickly to customer schedules and give them much more flexibility in their substrate choices. The use of treated and untreated stocks at Fenske reflects Kodak’s two-part paper strategy. The first part involves working with the paper mills to develop affordable treated stocks. The second part is the IOS in-line unit. One factor that drives the decision is the cost of the pre-treated inkjet stock versus the cost of untreated stocks with comparable weight and finish. InfoTrends believes that no more than a 15% differential is needed to make treated stocks truly affordable. Fenske reports that vendors are getting closer, but the differential today is closer to a 25% premium for treated stocks.

Kodak Prosper 5000XL at Fenske Media

Kodak Prosper 5000XL at Fenske Media

Fenske runs its VL2200 and 5000XL units in roll-to-roll configurations and handles capabilities such as slitting, cutting, perforating, accumulating, three-hole punching, folding, stitching, and sealing off-line. With the addition of the wider format on the Prosper 5000XL Fenske added a slitter/sheeter that can handle up to 30-inch rolls. In all, specialized finishing and mailing equipment take up more of Fenske’s production space than conventional and digital printing combined. Their plant also includes an in-house post office.

The front end is a Kodak 700 Print Manager that Fenske uses to drive an exclusively variable data diet to the Prosper 5000XL. In fact, Fenske only runs variable print on its VL2200 and 5000XL. Most of this is PPML. Fenske uses Kodak Prinergy for its computer-to-plate workflow. Fenske has developed its own workflow system for its conventional and digital press capabilities.

The Kodak 700 Print Manager at Fenske Media

The Kodak 700 Print Manager at Fenske Media

At the time of my visit Fenske was running an 80 lb. gloss book stock on a retail store coupon job. This personalized self-mailer had about a dozen perforated coupons. Dave Fenske noted that in their business “relevance equals revenue” and that the ability to personalize these self-mailers based on the consumers past purchasing behavior is vital. He also noted that there was a green/environmental aspect to these shorter and more relevant documents because you are only delivering pages that have a deeper connection with the recipient. With postage and paper costs now accounting for more than the cost of print, Fenske realizes that in the future customers will need to deliver fewer pages, but ones that are highly targeted and which result in much higher response rates.

Catalogs are another application area that could clearly benefit from the combination of interesting content and special offers or coupons. Fenske used the term “magalog” to describe a fusion of magazine-like content with a catalog-like sales pitch. Such intriguing new application directions make this an exciting time for digital print.

Fenske Media’s use of Kodak’s Prosper 5000XL is a fascinating example of how glossy coated stocks, in combination with a high-speed color inkjet system, are setting the stage for a new era in digital print.

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