2015 Digital Color Press Review

Posted on by Dave Erlandson | No Comments »

Looking back on 2015 there were a number of high profile advances in inkjet technology, but a number of new toner-based products offered expanded capabilities that were well received by print service providers.

Inkjet Products for Transactional/Books/Direct Mail (letters)

The adoption of high speed continuous feed inkjet for transactional and book printing was well underway prior to 2015 and continued.  Along with letter-based direct mail, these are the major applications for inkjet presses, because these applications run high volumes of uncoated stocks and the image quality requirements are less demanding than many commercial printing applications.

The ColorStream and JetStream products from Canon (Océ) and the InfoPrint 5000 from Ricoh are the leaders in North America in the transactional market.  And HP leads in the book printing markets.

Several new products were introduced that aim for a piece of these markets:

Xerox Rialto 900™

  • At Hunkeler Innovation Days Xerox introduced the Rialto 900™ Inkjet Press, a new 4 color, piezoelectric drop on demand color inkjet press. What makes this press unique is that is a narrow web press (9.84 inches/ print width of 8.66”) and the press has an integrated sheeter so that it operates as a roll to cutsheet press. With a list price of $600K to $700K this press is targeting users with volumes of 1.5 million to 5 million pages per month.
  • The Rialto 900 is a single pass duplex, tight web press which runs at up to 157 feet per minute (48 m/m), which translates into 171 one up letter size sheets (160 A4) duplex per minute.  It supports paper weights from 60 to 160 gsm, on a web roll of up to 3.28 ft. (100cm) in diameter
  • Xerox indicated the targeted applications are transactional, direct mail, and books. One application scenario that comes right to mind is for companies who print short runs of transactional documents or direct mail letters. These companies tend to use DocuTech printers to laser over preprinted shells. The Rialto could easily replace two DocuTechs (and maybe three) and eliminate the need for preprinted shells. Printers could gang jobs and run them non-stop on the Rialto.


Pitney Bowes Accelejet

  • Pitney Bowes has been selling high-end HP web inkjet presses under the IntelliJet brand to their transactional and direct mail customers for several years now.  Sensing an opportunity with companies that have volumes of 2 to 10 million pages per month PB has partnered with Domino Printing Sciences and EMT (finishing) to create the AcceleJet web-fed color inkjet press.   These companies typically have several monochrome toner cutsheet printers and are printing on preprinted shells.  By offering a cost affordable white paper solution PB believes that they can get these companies to migrate from mono toner cutsheet operations to continuous form color inkjet.
  • Like the Rialto the product is a narrow web, roll to sheet product.  The press runs at 536 letter size pages per minute. In addition the Accelejet offers inline perfing. The list price for the Accelejet is $850,000


Canon VarioPrint i300

  • One of the most interesting product releases of 2015 was the VarioPrint i300 formerly known as Niagara. What makes this inkjet press special is a high speed (294 ppm) inkjet press in a cutsheet configuration.   The press is designed to run between 2 and 10 million pages per month.
  • New owners of this press plan to run direct mail, books and transactional statements.


Next Generation Inkjet Products for Higher Quality Applications

2015 marked the entrance into the market of several new products from industry leading vendors aimed at higher end applications. The key feature of these presses is that they print on standard coated offset stocks.  This opens up a wide variety of applications that were out of reach for the previous generation.  Three significant products hit the market.

Ricoh VC60000

  • Ricoh announced the first installations of a new high speed continuous feed inkjet press named the VC60000. The VC6000 is a new press and is designed for the graphic arts market. It is complimentary to the InfoPrint 5000.
  • Being able to run standard offset papers is a key to this market and the VC60000 is engineered to run both uncoated and glossy, standard offset papers. It has a priming unit that pretreats the paper prior to the ink being jetted, which enables the printing on coated offset stocks. An optional inline protector coating unit provides scratch and scuff resistance to protect critical documents.
  • Running at 50 m/min (164 ft/min) the press can achieve 1200×1200 dpi resolution and the print samples look fantastic. The image quality is high enough for nearly any commercial print application from direct mail to magazines to catalogs.

Canon ImageStream 3500

  • In 2015, Canon installed the first three ImageStream presses; one at direct mail powerhouse IWCO in the US, one at Boschdruck near Munich, Germany, and one in Asia.  The ImageStream series follows the successful JetStream and ColorStream continuous feed, inkjet presses introduced by Océ (now Canon) several years ago.
  • The new ImageStream line is aimed squarely at graphic applications. To print on coated offset stocks, Canon worked with inkjet head manufacturer Kyocera and Japanese partner, Miyakoshi to develop a new printhead that can fire 2 – 3 picoliter droplets and a new proprietary water-based pigment ink formulation. The press runs at 160 meters/min or 525 fpm and prints with 1200 dpi resolution.

HP HDNA Pagewide Inkjet Presses

  • In February, HP announced new High Definition Nozzle Architecture technology for HP Inkjet Web Presses. The new High Definition Nozzle Architecture printhead doubles the native print resolution of current HP inkjet print heads from 10,560 to 21,120 nozzles, delivering 2400 nozzles per inch (Per color on a single color printhead in quality mode), and supports dual drop weights per color.  HP sent image samples in conjunction with the announcement and they, of course, look terrific.
  • HP also announced the availability of a new priming unit that can run in-line or offline and enables the press to run virtually any standard offset stock.


Toner-based presses expand capabilities and speed

A number of presses that made it to market this last year offer more than CMYK

  • Prior to this year, PSP’s utilizing digital printing technology and wanting to offer output beyond 4-color were limited to high end digital color presses: Indigo, iGen, Xerox 800/1000, NexPress, and Xeikon. Now PSP’s have the option of a mid-range digital color press from Ricoh called the Pro C7110X.
  •  The Xerox 1000i offers silver and gold metallic dry inks. This announcement is part of an ongoing trend in which digital press manufacturers are expanding digital printing capabilities to offer customers a market advantage to use their press. And the new capabilities being introduced are encompassing more and more of the capabilities of offset printing, thus enabling additional offset transfer.
  • The iGen5 offers a fifth station option of orange, green, or blue whereby users can hit a larger gamut of Pantone colors; which means users can more easily match corporate brand colors or produce more color critical applications than ever.  The press ships with a Gamut Extension Tool that helps users decide whether to use a 5-color workflow or the standard CMYK. The tool makes matching Pantone colors simple and accurate.


Larger sheet sizes

  • Two Ricoh products – the C9100 series and the C7100 series offer printers the option to print on sheet sizes of 13” x 27.5”.  This enables PSP’s to print 3 panel brochures and a number of other value-added applications.

100+ PPM

  • The newest product to join the 100 ppm club is the Canon ImagePRESS C10000VP.  This is the next generation product for Canon’s line up of digital toner cutsheet presses. The press boasts 2400 dpi resolution, media from 60 gsm to 350 gsm, a 13” x 19” sheet size, a duty cycle of 1.5 million pages per month, and either PRISMA or EFI Fiery Controllers.  List price (with a stitcher) is approximately $350K
  • Released at Graph Expo, the  iGen5 has three speed options – 90/120/150 ppm and can produce up to 3.8 million pages per month.  The standard configuration handles media ranging from 16 lb bond to 130 lb cover and they just released a thick stock option which can handle up to 24 pt. stock.  Resolution is 2400 dpi and the press has the large 14.33” x 26” sheet size.  The list price for the 4 color press is $752K and for the 5 color option the price is $849K.
  • The Ricoh C9100 Series began shipping in the spring of this year. This press comes with two speed options: 110 and 130 ppm, has a long sheet option of 13”x27.5”, can run media up to 400 gsm, and can easily run 1 million pages per month with a peak of 1.75 million per month.  The press sells for $250K to $300K depending on configurations.
  • Konica Minolta has the Bizhub Press C1100. This press runs at 100 ppm with 1200×1200 dpi resolution with 8 bit processing. The press has built in technology to ensure color stability over long press runs. The press runs a 13”x19” sheet, handles media ranging from 55 – 350 gsm and offers a duty cycle of 1 million pages per month.  The manufacturer’s list price for the press with a high end Fiery controller is about $215K. A Creo controller option is also available.
  • The HP Indigo 10000 is a B2 size cutsheet press that runs at 3450 full size 29” sheets per hour (or 4600 sheets per hour in Enhanced Productivity Mode). Printers can get 5 letter size pages up on a sheet which translates to 288 ppm in the standard 4 color mode.  The press runs over 2800 certified substrates ranging from 50 lb text to 150 lb cover and 3-18 pt in thickness and can print over 2 million sheets (10 million pages) per month.  The press offers up to 7 ink stations for extended color gamut or white or special colors and 812 dpi at 8 bit, addressability: 2438 x 2438 dpi HDI (High Definition Imaging).  The press retails for approximately $1.3 million.  The HP Indigo 7800 has the same image quality and media parameters as the HP 10000. The main differences are the sheet size of 13”x19”, a 4-color speed of 120 ppm, and the HP Indigo 7800 can produce 5.3 million color pages every month.
  • Also from Xerox, the Versant 2100 and the Color Press 1000i – both boast speeds of 100 ppm.  With a recommended monthly volume of 75K to 250K the Versant 2100 press is positioned between the Xerox Color J75 press and the Xerox Color 800/1000. The Versant 2100 render images at 1200×1200 dpi (4x more pixels than standard 600×600 dpi) and applications are then imaged at 2400×2400 dpi with Xerox VCSEL ROS technology.  The press incorporates Xerox’s Automated Color Quality Suite for improved color management and color consistency. The toner is low gloss EA Dry Ink. The Versant 2100 runs at 100 ppm with stock up to 300 gsm and runs at 80 ppm with 350 gsm stock.   A wide range of substrates including linen, poly, vinyl, and magnets are supported. The Versant 2100 has a list price of $250K for the print engine, controller and a high capacity feeder.
  • The Xerox Color Press 1000i runs at 100 ppm and delivers 2400 x 2400 dpi resolution with built in technology to ensure color consistency throughout long jobs and from job to job. The press handles media from 55 -350 gsm, with a sheet size of 13” x 19.2” and has a recommended average monthly volume of 150K – 400K pages which positions it between the Versant 2100 and the iGen5.
  • Kodak top of the line NexPress SX3900 produces 120 ppm with the standard 14” x 20.47” sheet size and can hit 131 ppm when running 3 up on a 26” sheet. The press can handle a maximum sheet size of 14” x 39.37”.  The press is a 5-color print engine. Options for the 5th station include gamut expanding (red, green, or blue), dimensional coating, glossing, MICR, light black, red fluorescing or gold.  Substrates can range from 60 – 350 gsm and the monthly duty cycle is 4.4 million pages.
  • For those looking for a continuous feed toner press Xeikon introduced their new 9800 press. This press offers 1200 x 3600 dpi with 5 color stations (4 plus a spot color) on a 20.2” web with unlimited length. The press speed varies with media weight. Top speed is 290 ppm with 60 gsm and the speed drops to 100 ppm with 300 gsm.  The monthly duty cycle is 10 million pages. The press sells for $700K to $ 1 million depending on options.

While 2015 was a great year for new digital color presses, either inkjet or toner-based, I can’t help but wonder what new products we’ll see at drupa this year and what products folks can actually purchase in 2016.

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