Digital Printing at drupa 2016

Posted on by Dave Erlandson | No Comments »

I had the opportunity to go to Dusseldorf, Germany and attend drupa 2016. Here is my summary of what I saw with regard to digital press developments and trends.

While all the major digital press vendors had their wares on display, HP was most impressive with an entire hall full of their gear.

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Inkjet for Production Printing and Packaging

Inkjet has mastered the low coverage, low quality continuous feed applications that run on uncoated stock – transactional, direct mail, and books. If someone is preprinting a shell on offset and overprinting with monochrome laser the economics now favor moving to a color CF inkjet system. And short run color books are clearly best produced with web-fed inkjet presses. Inkjet presses from the leading companies: Canon, HP, Kodak, Pitney Bowes, Screen, Ricoh, and Xerox were all on display at drupa.

Next up is the development of cutsheet inkjet presses for the same low coverage, low quality applications noted above and the new product on the floor was the Xerox Brenva, which competes with the Canon VarioPrint i300. Both of these products can handle printing on uncoated stocks. While the Brenva is offered at a more attractive price than the i300 the print samples I saw from the Brenva had that distinct inkjet look you see where the colors and images are washed out. Whereas Canon announced a new ColorGrip technology, essentially a primer, that enhances image quality and offers the ability to run more substrates enabling high quality inkjet print on commodity stock, from light to heavy weight. On the very low end of the duty cycle spectrum, RISO makes the very economical line of ComColor inkjet printers for low coverage, low quality applications.

Inkjet continues to make progress on applications requiring higher quality and that run on coated stocks. The focus has been on continuous feed products, but a few cutsheet products are noted as well.

  • Canon has the ImageStream line and a new extension to the ColorStream line called the ColorStream 6000 Chroma for continuous feed and the ColorGrip priming technology for the VarioPrint i300 cutsheet printer;
  • HP has a priming unit and HDNA technology for its web presses. Their top of the line press, the T490 was on display at drupa.
  • Ricoh has a priming solution for the VC6000,
  • Xerox has new inks coming for the Trivor 2.4.
  • Screen announced a HD version of their web press
  • Konica Minolta launched the Accurio KM-1, B2 cutsheet press that uses UV inks
  • Fujifilm has the Jet Press 720S (B2 cutsheet), which now has 70 installs worldwide, over 40 in Japan
  • Kodak has its new ULTRASTREAM technology
  • Landa uses nano inks plus an intermediate blanket to transfer the images to nearly any stock.

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With all the development work in inks and heads plus the not insignificant efforts of the paper companies the ability to print with high quality on coated stocks should be in the market before the next drupa. Ok, much of the technology noted above is available or will be available this year. The Kodak Ultrastream and Landa technologies probably won’t be available before 2018.

One of the main announcements at the previous 2 drupas was the idea of a high quality B2 cutsheet: inkjet press that could take work from offset in the high end graphics markets. Evidently developing this type of product is more difficult than originally thought.

  • Fujifilm is finally starting to get some traction with the Jet Press 720S,
  • Konica Minolta is now launching the Accurio KM-1,
  • Screen Truepress Jet SX wasn’t at the show and is believed to be discontinued.

The most successful B2 cutsheet press for the graphic arts market is by far the HP Indigo 10000 with about 300 installs worldwide.  And HP just introduced the next generation B2 press the Indigo 12000.  The promise that inkjet will deliver high quality with lower costs hasn’t materialized for high coverage applications. In fact the ink costs for these inkjet presses are equal to or in some cases greater than HP’s liquid toner products.

It’s interesting to see that the inkjet press manufacturers are going with the “pay for the ink you use” model, whereas HP is running the click model.  What this means is that in applications with really high coverage the click model is often a lower price.

Growth Markets

I attended numerous press conferences during the show and the theme was common. Vendors would state that they intended to invest in high growth markets and those markets were most often packaging and industrial printing. One of the surprises of the show for me was all the new inkjet presses aimed at the corrugated market.

  • HP has two products – the HP PageWide Web Press T1100S and the newly announced HP PageWide C500 press. The former is a massive web press designed for preprinting corrugated and the later press will print directly on corrugated – so a post (corrugated production) print option. The T1100S was created via a partnership with KBA and is in the market now. The C500 was not on display at the show.
  • EFI – launched the Nozomi C1800 press designed to print on corrugated for point of display stands and lighter weight corrugated boxes. It will be available in 2017.
  • Durst – new Rho 130 SPC which has a blazing print speed of up to 9350 m2/h. This was one of the most impressive digital presses at the show.
  • Barberan – had the Jetmaster 1260 at the show running corrugated sheets.
  • Bobst – has a press in beta that delivers a four-color digital post-print directly onto a broad range of uncoated and coated corrugated media. This sheet-fed press prints at up to 200 meters per minute – and can handle sheets up to a maximum size of 1.3 x 2.1 meters.
  • Screen – announced an exclusive partnership with BHS Corrugated Maschinen- und Anlagenbau GmbH to develop the BHS Corrugated Inline Digital Printing Solution for corrugated box plants. This is the first implementation of an inline printing system for a corrugated box manufacturer. We won’t see this press until at least 2018.

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We are right at the very beginning of the adoption of digital printing for the corrugated market. It will be interesting to see how the technology can transform the industry.

Folding cartons is another hot area of development for digital printing. And there were a number of solutions on display.  The HP and Fujifilm products are available today; the other solutions are coming within the next year or two.

  • HP Indigo 30000 is a B2 liquid toner press built expressly for folding cartons has been on the market for quite some time and leads the market in placements. HP was also demonstrating their inline coating options as well.
  • Heidelberg has the Primefire 106, a B1 cutsheet inkjet press developed in partnership with Fujifilm, with availability set for the end of 2017.
  • Konica Minolta –has the B2 Accurio KM 1 and they showed a B1 prototype with the code name KM C. Both presses have the ability to produce folding cartons
  • KBA/Xerox – Although not on display, KBA announced a partnership with Xerox to develop a B1 press called the VariJET 106. The new 7-color VariJET Folding Carton press is built on the KBA Rapida® 106 platform, and can be configured to include modules for digital, offset, and various finishing enhancements. Expected to be available in 2017.
  • Fujifilm Jet Press 720S – is capable of handling a number of folding carton applications
  • MGI was showing their Alpha Press concept
  • Landa S10 – a B1 inkjet press designed for folding cartons, beta in 2017.

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Label printing with digital technology continues to be a focus as it was at the last drupa and at every Label Expo in between.  The last time I counted all the digital label presses in the market there were over 30 of them. Most were at drupa. The ones I saw included three companies that use electrophotography and five that employ inkjet technology.

EP Label Products:

  • HP Indigo presses, including the new Indigo 8000.
  • Xeikon 3500
  • Konica Minolta C71cf

Numerous inkjet presses for label production were on display at drupa including the following that I saw

  • Epson had two models on the floor the L-4033 and L-6034V
  • Domino – N610i
  • Durst – Tau 330
  • Gallus – Heidelberg – Labelfire 340
  • Screen – Truepress Jet L350 UV

Despite all the competition from inkjet, HP continues to lead this market. And their display of presses and applications was amazing.

For Flexible Packaging

  • HP has the HP Indigo 20000, which has been in the market for several years now. HP was showing inline laminating that allows a complete print to pack line.
  • Landa announced the new Landa W10 Nanographic Printing® Press for flexible. The meter-wide (41 in.), high-speed web press prints up to 8 colors at 200 meters per minute (656 ft/min) on plastic packaging films, paper, carton board and aluminum foil.  This press won’t be in the market until at least 2018.
  • Fujifilm announced the availability of inkjet inks for use in their Samba heads that are designed for flexible packaging applications.

 

EP Technology. 

With all the buzz around inkjet there wasn’t much attention given to new products using EP technology, but there were a few.

Trillium from Xeikon was being demonstrated. First announced at drupa 2012 this continuous feed press is aimed at the high quality direct mail market.

The HP Indigo 50000 is a new continuous feed press that uses HP liquid ink technology for high quality, high volume applications.

HP’s newest label press is the HP Indigo 8000, which is essentially two HP Indigo 6800’s connected together.

HP Indigo refreshed their entire line, including the HP Indigo 12000 second generation version of the HP Indigo 10000 B2 press.

And while there were no new traditional cutsheet toner-based machines launched, all the latest and greatest products from Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Xerox were on display and running applications.  The number of applications running was in the hundreds.

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Offset press progress

The offset press manufacturers are continuing to add technology to their presses to reduce make-ready times and costs. Heidelberg, Komori, and KBA all had demonstrations highlighting how quickly they can change jobs and how they can do it “on the fly”. Heidelberg’s demonstration included running 3 jobs in under 8 minutes.  The way offset press manufacturers are thinking now is that print shops used to do 10 jobs per day, then that changed to 10 jobs per shift, and now they are designing presses to handle 10 jobs per hour. This drives the breakeven point for short run digital down.

Using the Cloud to improve efficiency

Heidelberg talked at length about their strategy to help customers increase uptime. They do this by collecting data on the performance of their presses from over 10,000 press installations and 15,000 press and software sites. This data is then analyzed and compared to performance data from a specific customer. Then Heidelberg offers services to help customers attain best practice performance.

The concept of using data from an entire installed base of presses to help customers enhance performance is one that is moving ahead quickly with all the vendors.

Summary

In summary the digital press vendors are investing heavily in packaging with new products for corrugated, folding cartons, labels, and flexible films.  Vendors see this market as a growth market.

For production printing inkjet has mastered the low coverage applications that run on uncoated stock. And there is a great deal of effort being put forth to be able to deliver offset quality output on standard offset coated stocks with low running costs. Continued advances in inks, heads, and substrates will lead to improved solutions, many of them just entering the market now.

Digital press vendors are also turning their attention to industrial printing applications such as ceramics, textiles, decorations, coding and marketing, and direct printing on products.  Digital printing has good growth opportunities in many of these markets as well.

 

 

 

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