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|eXpert Row Commentary - Tribute Tuesdays|
Commentary by Andrew Tribute
April 18, 2006 -- Inkjet printing was everywhere at IPEX. This technology is usable in a wide variety of applications and today, it is widely accepted. In many markets—for example, sign making—inkjet technology has largely taken over from other printing processes, whereas in others—such as transactional printing—it is just starting to impact and is likely to expand its role in the future. At IPEX, and also at the Océ Open House in Poing, Germany, held the week before IPEX, I saw some interesting developments in inkjet printing and consumables that are likely to have a significant impact on their markets in the future.
At the Océ Open House, South African ink vendor TechINK Manufacturing, a company that has recently come under the ownership of HP through the HP acquisition of Scitex Vision, was showing a new type of ink that could change the market for three-dimensional signs. This ink was being used on an Océ Arizona T220 flatbed solvent ink printer and was being marketed as an element of the Océ T220 Industrial Application Ink family.
An image using this ink was printed directly onto a rigid sheet of acrylic substrate. The printed sheet was then shaped using a vacuum process with a prepared shaped form. The printed sheet became a three-dimensional sign in full color where the printed image stretched to the shape of the form. The process was very quick and the resulting sign was almost ready for mounting. In South Africa where the process was developed, these signs are being used for high-impact storefronts among many other applications.
One Can Get You Five
At IPEX, one of the most interesting new developments came from the French company Inov-Média: the Jet7Pro printing press. This is the first inkjet printing press designed to print a sheet comparable to that of an offset press up to a B1 (eight-page) format. It does this with one to five inkjet print engines, each of which can print in six colors (CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta).
With one engine, the Jet7Pro prints a B1 format sheet in just over one minute. With five linked engines the speed is five times faster. The maximum speed is stated to be 800 sq. meters/hour and the lowest speed is 41 sq. meters/hour. Obviously there is a variation based upon the amount of the sheet to be printed and the required quality. The printer is designed for a wide variety of applications but is seen as a very short run press for standard commercial work. The Inov-Media web site states the following:
When designing the Jet7Pro, Inov-Media strived to provide a comprehensive, no-compromise solution, to accommodate current and future in printing house needs. The Jet7Pro prints all types of work, from A3+ to eight-page books in quarto format (720 x 1020 mm). Benefiting from the piezoelectric inkjet printing quality links with the use of dye inks it produces up to photographic quality color printing (720 x 720 dpi).
The Jet7Pro is very new, and IPEX was its first commercial showing. Following IPEX it will be installed in a demonstration facility in Paris.
One of the other interesting developments at IPEX was seen on both the HP and Xennia Technology stands. This was printing of UV curable inks using HP’s thermal inkjet printheads. Up to now only piezo drop-on-demand printheads have printed UV curable inks. The benefits of UV ink curing include faster drying, elimination of solvent fumes and extraction, higher gloss, and greater security of the image. Two companies had developed inks for this technology: the UK ink solution company Xennia Technology and inc.jet inc. The two companies were showing UV curable inks in a mailing application, whereas most UV curable inks used in inkjet printing are in the large format flatbed printing market and in the high-speed single pass engine market.
Of More Than Passing Interest
Looking at this it made me wonder if I was seeing the start of something new from HP. We are starting to see a number of single pass inkjet based print engines. These include Kodak Versamark, Agfa Dotrix, Screen Truepress Jet520 and Sun Chemical FastJet. Last year HP introduced its new “scalable printing technology” for inkjet printheads. This is used today in a number of HP’s office and photographic printers, but all of these printers use a number of heads that print in passes across the substrate. The new printheads are designed to be stitchable. In other words, they can be linked together to make a print array as is required in a single pass print engine.
Single pass print engines are much faster than moving head engines as the head remains still and substrate passes under it. One problem with single pass engines is deciding what type of ink to use to allow for drying at the speed the press is running. A solution to this, as seen in the Agfa Dotrix and Sun FastJet, both of which use piezo printhead technology, is to run UV curable inks. I am wondering if we will see at some time a new printer from HP targeted at transactional and direct mail markets—areas where HP does not have offerings at present—that uses a single pass print engine with scalable printing technology. The following comment from HP’s Web site how the company foresees using this technology in future:
What does the “scalable” mean in scalable printing technology? It means the technology scales across select HP printers for the home and office today, and commercial settings in the future. The ability to scale the technology across product lines, from low-end to high-end printer products, leads to faster development cycles for new products—allowing us to bring these products to you faster.
I am just surmising on what may be possible. The new Screen Truepress Jet520 uses printheads from another major printer manufacturer, Epson. It is only logical to expect HP to utilize its new heads in a range of new markets.
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Attributes Associates is an internationally oriented consulting company specializing in marketing and technology issues for the printing, publishing and media markets. The Managing Partner of Attributes Associates is Andrew Tribute, who is recognized internationally as one of the world's leading authorities on these industries and subjects.
Attributes' client base comprises a large number of publishers and printers as well as a significant number of industry vendors. In most cases consulting is carried out at high level to assist such organizations in the selection and adoption of technology, or to define ongoing business strategies covering the likely future directions of the markets.
Attributes have been in the forefront of technology changes and market developments from the time it started in 1984. It has been involved in assisting both users and vendors through the changes in these industries since then. This has included desktop publishing; PostScript imaging; changes in working practices in newspaper and magazine publishing; adoption of digital printing and computer to plate imaging in commercial printing; and more recently the impact of the Internet on publishing and printing markets.
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