Commentary & Analysis
FREE: Oce and Xerox Push Workflow and New Machines
By Noel Ward,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 22, 2004
By Noel Ward, Executive Editor of OnDemandJournal.com and Managing Editor of WTT's Trade Show Coverage October 22, 2004 -- Product launches and workflow were the lead items on the agendas at both Océ and Xerox. Both had new machines to show off along with freshly refined versions of their workflow tools. It would far space than I'm allotted to cover everything these companies are doing at the show, so I'll just hit the high points. Xerox One of the busier booths was Xerox. The company announced the new DocuColor 8000, the latest in a line that began in 2000 with the DocuColor 2045 and 2060 and evolved to the DC6060 in 2002. I saw the 8000 in a preview session at drupa and while it seemed promising, I was somewhat underwhelmed. But the machine they are taking to market is an impressive device capable of producing what in my opinion is some of the best digital color available at it's price point (about $300,000 list). The 8000 is not only faster than the 6060 but can handle a wider range of substrates at full rated speed. In fact, notes Fred DeBolt, vice president of color product systems, Xerox is already seeing customers with DC 2060s placing orders for the 8000, claiming the speed and substrate flexibility are the attributes they need. It should be a fine choice for customers who need more than a 2060 or 6060 but can't quite justify the investment in an iGen. Xerox also rolled out the long-anticipated highlight color version of its venerable DocuTech. The existing highlight color machine--the DocuPrint 92C was getting a bit long in the tooth, so it's hardly surprising that color was added to the DocuTech. Like the standard black-and-white model, the HCL line comes in three speeds; 128, 155 and 180-ppm, and the 128 and 155-ppm models able to be field-upgraded to 180-ppm. The HCL models incorporate some iGen3 technologies such as trickle development that delivers toner and developer in one user-replaceable container. Only two colors --red and blue-- are currently available and these are laid down conventionally rather than via the tri-level xerographic process used on earlier machines. Market research may dictate this will be sufficient, but I can remember conversations with service bureau owners who insisted they needed the tri-level process to replicate certain customer colors accurately, so the market will tell us how this plays out. Print resolution is 2,400 x 600 for black and 600 x 600 for color. Perhaps more important are the new workflow offerings added to the FreeFlow collection. Print Manager, Process Manager, Makeready and Web Services are the result of a mix of Xerox- and partner-developed tools focused on digital and commercial print operations. Some of these were covered in my recent interview with Mike Harvey, vice president of Workflow Marketing. Having seen these products in action, and thinking about how they can fit into the real-world needs of print providers, I can say that FreeFlow is an excellent choice for print providers who need to balance offset and digital jobs. This stuff really works. By working with partners like Adobe, Creo and others, Xerox is delivering on the promise it made when it introduced the FreeFlow brand at the On Demand Show in 2003. There's far too much to detail here, so go to the FreeFlow section of Xerox's web site to a look under the hood of these products. Also from Xerox are two new wide format printers, the 8142 and 8160 which target the growing market for signage, banners, posters and the like. There is a lot of competition in this space, and Xerox is not usually thought of as a player, but the range of substrates, print speed (about 150 square feet/hour), and image quality may give it an edge as quick printers and reprographics centers look for the latest solutions. Océ Meanwhile, over at Océ, the first big U.S. showing of the VarioPrint 2110 was going on. I saw this box at drupa and have been thinking about what a fine fit it is for so many different points in the market. For CRDs, for large workgroups, for quick printers and more, the widely functional 2110 has the potential to make a lot of friends. Targeting the mid-production market, it offers many features usually found on bigger, faster machines, such as tab printing and interposing, oversize printing, and the ability to combine analog and digital documents. It uses a short paper path and advanced air flow and vacuum-feed systems to ensure reliable handling of all substrates--which run at the machine's 105 ppm rated speed. It uses Océ's CopyPress technology to deliver offset-like image quality and has a variety of inline finishing capabilities for stapling, folding and booklet making. Also impressive is the VP2110's ability to deliver front-to-back registration of under .5mm. This is merely attractive for short-run booklets, but it's essential for multi-layer forms and other jobs requiring accurate page alignment. Add to this the value of Océ PRISMA workflow software (more on PRISMA in a moment) which enables the 2110 to fit into multiple print environments, be compatible with systems and processes already in place, and provide ways to streamline processes and procedures. When you put all this together on the VarioPrint 2110, you get an impressive machine--especially for the money. Listed at about $90,000 or so, it offers more bang for the buck than the slightly faster Xerox Nuvera 120 copier/printer. Other big news at Océ was the first U.S. showing of a big printer, the VarioStream 9220, the company's color-capable continuous form printer. Rolled out earlier this year with one color, the first two-color version was shown at GraphExpo. More colors are in the works and Océ expects to have four or five colors available within three years. This would seem a slow rollout, given the machines already available from HP, NexPress and Xerox, but the VarioStream 9000 is really not going after the same space in the market. Instead, Océ is targeting the need to do high quality production and transactional printing in black-and-white and color on the same machine, while providing a low cost of ownership. Then there is speed. The VS9000 line is fast, running black-only at 852-ppm and two colors at 353-ppm. When available, the five color model will run in the neighborhood of 170-ppm. More importantly, says Mike Lefkowitz, continuous form program manager, is the cost per page. "In two-color mode, a 12-inch black-and-white page is one click. But when color is added, the charge will be for exactly what is printed. If a page is 25 percent color and 75 percent monochrome, that ratio is the charge. This means one click is 75 percent of the foot count and one third of the click is the color count. So the charge is 1.3 clicks." In businesses wherfe tenths of a cent add up to real dollars and profits, this can add up to substantial cost advantages on the types of jobs the VS9000 line is likely to produce. And then there's PRISMA. The company's modular workflow architecture is an integrated family of products intended to work together across the entire lifecycle of a document. It has been aligned to meet the market requirements of on-demand, transactional, networked office and CRD environments, so it has something for just about every type of user and application. "The adaptable nature of PRISMA lets you streamline workflows within and across departments and business environments," said Bob Raus, director of software and professional services marketing. " Such adaptability is crucial as companies look for a single workflow architecture that can encompass many different areas of a company. Companies can't afford to continue with incompatible processes that require work-arounds and extra steps: it just costs too much in time, labor and inefficiency. The various PRISMA modules for data centers, CRDs, and office and workgroup printing are designed to change all this. They key is that they can all work together as needed for a complete solution. PRISMA has evolved over the past few years to become one of the most powerful workflow solutions available. To get a better look at PRISMA and how it could fit your operations, go to the PRISMA section of Océ's website. There was more in each booth, of course, but there was also more show. And that's a story for another column.