Kodak introduces the next generation of the Prosper inkjet press.

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With 40 billion pages already produced on the Prosper platform (presses and inkjet heads), Will Mansfield, Director Worldwide Marketing for Inkjet Printing Solutions for Kodak announced the Prosper 6000 as the next generation in the Prosper line.  The Prosper 6000 is a “clean sheet” design and offers a number of improvements including faster speeds, new aqueous-based nano pigment inks and a robust DFE to drive the press.

Will noted that there are actually two models being released – the Prosper 6000C and the Prosper 6000P.  Both presses are 4 color perfecting presses, with web widths ranging from 8” to 25.5” and resolution ranging from 133 to 200 lpi.

Prosper 6000Available in the summer of 2014 the Prosper 6000C is designed for customers who need to run higher coverage on either uncoated or coated stocks. The press handles media that ranges from 42 – 270 gsm, including up to 12 pt. stock.  When running low coverage applications the press runs at 1000 fpm (300 mpm) and for higher coverage applications on glossy stocks the press runs at 650 fpm (200 mpm).

The Prosper 6000U is designed to handle lighter weight media, paper ranging from 42-125 gsm.  Like the 6000C this press runs low coverage applications at a blazing 1000 fpm.  However for glossy coated stock the press speed drops down to 325 fpm.

One of the key accomplishments in the design of the 6000 series is the ability to dry and evacuate the water that carries the pigment inks. A high coverage application, such as a catalog running at high speed requires the removal of 3 liters of water per minute.

Kodak has built a number of advanced features into the press to improve quality:

  • Intelligent Print System monitors production and ensures better registration by measuring paper para

    meters and minimize stretching and shrinkage.

  • Video cameras continually check the output detecting streaks or missing jets
  • Extended path – for heavy coverage jobs the paper path can be expanded from 102 to 150 ft. to allow the paper more time to dry.
  • Tight web design throughout for better control
  • The Kodak 700 DFE has the latest Adobe RIP, is optimized with Prinergy, and has a job estimation tool for calculating ink and paper costs.

Will noted that they have customers running the press with standard coated offset paper, but the best results

are obtained with pre-treated papers or inkjet papers.  The IOS module which can be used to pre-treat media on the Prosper 5000 is not expected to be used inline on the Prosper 6000, primarily because the speed of the IOS can’t keep up with the higher speed of the Prosper 6000.

Kodak expects customer will use these new presses to print books, newspapers, catalogs, magazines and newspapers.

List price for the Prosper 6000C is $3.6 million and for the Prosper 6000P the list price is $3.2 million. Running costs can be as low as $0.005 per color page at 25% coverage.

Analysis & Opinion

These two new Kodak presses are clearly designed for the higher quality, high volume portion of the market: books, magazines, catalogs, and to a lesser extent newspapers.  Two other press manufacturers’ (HP and Canon/Océ) just announced innovations that will help them compete in this market as well. So the competition will remain intense.   And don’t forget about Ricoh (InfoPrint) and Xerox as they are serious players as well.  And for volumes in the 3-5 million page per month range Xeikon’s toner-based products are a great option.

A critical requirement for the higher quality, high volume market is the ability to run on coated glossy paper.  Even better is the ability to run on standard offset coated glossy papers with the reason being customer acceptance and cost.

Canon / Océ just recently published information showing the potential savings of standard coated offset papers vs. inkjet papers for high volume applications (see blog article). Had Océ published this chart even a year ago I’m sure the savings would have been even larger, because the paper companies are working on this problem too, and as volumes go up the price of inkjet treated papers has been coming down.  Thus the paper price differential is decreasing, but it’s still a substantial figure.

So who can print on standard coated offset stock?  The new Océ ImageStream 3500 can run on standard coated offset papers and so can the HP web presses, although the HP press needs a priming agent.  Kodak claims to have a customer running standard coated offset stock, but they are not touting this as a key feature of the new Prosper 6000, at least not yet.

Of course image quality is the top criteria for prospects and naturally all the samples I see look great. Prospects need to test their own jobs and do their own image quality analysis.

The cost of ink is a key factor. Both Kodak and Océ run aqueous-based pigmented inks, which are almost certainly more costly to make than dye-based inks, but Océ claims the yield is better so less ink is needed.  HP runs dye based inks, but a priming agent is required.  So what’s the cost of the priming agent and their dye-based inks?   It’s not clear to me who has the lower running cost.  All three vendors offer a program to calculate ink coverage and costs for various print files.  And I’ve seen a presentation that shows how seemingly minor design changes can have a big impact on costs. Prospects need to go through TCO calculations to get a handle on the costs for their business.

Another really important element in the mix is web width.  HP has options up to 40”.  Océ has options up to 30” and Kodak up to 25.5”. These presses have to feed finishing lines and being compatible with existing equipment is a huge factor in the decision making process.

While the competition is going to be intense, the last round of innovations that combine speed with good image quality on coated stocks will certainly enable more offset transfer, driving further growth in the digital color printing market.

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