Commentary & Analysis
FREE: M4D, Xerox Ups the Ante and Océ talks Color
By Noel Ward
Published: September 30, 2005
M4D. At first I thought it was promotion for a new Hummer or some other over-bloated SUV.
Between computer industry acronyms and the ever-morphing "language" of Instant Messaging, we've long since run out of letters and numbers that are at all unique. So the string of pre-show emails about M4D could have been just about anything. But since they emanated from Helene Smith PR, an agency focusing on the print industry, I figured it might be something ought to check out. So I did something unusual at PRINT 05 and went to the news conference. I find these events are often a waste of perfectly good meeting room space, but this one was more than worthwhile.
M4D is a unique and extensive research initiative from PIA/GATF's Digital Print Council intended to give digital and conventional printers the knowledge they need to identify opportunities and successfully market and sell digital print services into 24 specific market segments. It is sponsored by several industry leading firms including Adobe, Canon, HP, Kodak and Xerox, along with a 22-member industry steering committee. In addition, Frank Romano has taken on the role of chief researcher and editor, joined by grad students from Cal Poly, Clemson and RIT.
For each market area, M4D is conducting studies to gather the info printers need to understand the needs of the 24 vertical markets and help their print sales staffs "speak the language" of prospects and customers. The studies will provide a market overview and describe key applications, trends and opportunities. It will list organizations by size and location, describe their printing needs, and provide details on how to successfully market to companies in each segment.
The first set of 8 M4D reports will be released at the PIA/GATF Variable Data Printing conference in Phoenix, November 6-9. Each package of 8 reports will be priced at $199 for PIA/GATF members and $500 for non-members. For more information email M4D@piagatf.org or visit http://www.gain.net/. Digital Print Council members will receive the entire set of 24 reports at no charge as part of their annual membership fee. Well worth the $295 if you ask me.
This is one of the most important investments a print provider can make in the future of their business.
My take is that this is one of the most important investments a print provider can make in the future of their business. Business success hinges on knowing your markets and the companies in them--how they think, how they work, how they buy goods and services. Even the best sales tiger can't possibly go out and find all the necessary information and assemble it in a cohesive and actionable manner. That’s what M4D will be doing, starting in just a few weeks. What a tool to take into a new year!
Upping the Ante
With some 35,000 feet of space--about triple the average suburban house lot in many areas--the Xerox booth seemed to keep going and going. I connected with Mike Harvey, vice president for workflow marketing who showed me a copy of the view book for the Eastman School of Music that started as a file destined for output on an offset press.
The 44-page, 7 x 10-inch book (a subset of the actual 60-page book) was set up to run on offset presses and had been living in a Heidelberg Prinect workflow. Then--just as sometimes in the real world--it was shifted to a digital press. The process used Xerox FreeFlow Print Manager and leveraged the JDF connector in Heidelberg PrintReady to convert the job on the fly and run on it the DocuColor 8000 digital press. Once printed, it was bound using a Standard Horizon Offline Perfect Binder and trimmed on three sides.
Being able to leverage both offset and digital technology in the same workflow is becoming increasingly important to print providers.
Harvey noted that being able to leverage both offset and digital technology in the same workflow is becoming increasingly important to print providers. Just as many digital print shops have a mix of equipment from different vendors, a growing number of commercial printers have their "big iron" offset machines and a selection of digital devices. As digital print quality has improved, it's an increasingly attractive option to be able to run a job on either type of press. But the conversion has not always been easy, requiring multiple manual steps. This is where Print Manager and other FreeFlow tools show their value, notes Harvey, making the conversion process one that is highly automated and which delivers reliable results.
Xerox also took advantage of the show to roll out two new print engines, the Nuvera 144 and the DocuColor 250. One always has to look at trade show print samples with a certain skepticism, but the Nuvera 144, at least to my eyes, raises the bar on black-and-white print quality. The idea with this box, says Xerox, is to take jobs away from monochrome offset presses. And if the samples I saw in Chicago are anything to judge by, there is little doubt that will happen. The machine features 4800 x 600 print resolution with five halftone screens and can print on a wide range of media including coated stocks. The old DocuTechs were good enough to change an industry. This machine is a light year better, and could well do the same.
|The old DocuTechs were good enough to change an industry. This machine is a light year better, and could well do the same.|
There was also the DocuColor 240 and 250. They're small, affordable and deliver excellent print quality at a more than respectable speed (40 and 50-ppm, respectively) and at a very affordable price. The two models are available with a choice of RIPs from EFI, Creo and Xerox. The latter is the choice where color counts, as it's a DocuSP RIP driving these small boxes and it's PANTONE-certified, just like the ones running the iGen or other high end Xerox color devices. The machines use a new gloss version of Xerox's EA toner and deliver 2400 x 2400 dpi print resolution.
Any small to medium size print shop that is considering the latest 50-ppm color printer from Ricoh, KonicaMinolta or Canon should run a few test jobs on this box before they pull the trigger. And be sure to try it in black-and-white, too, where the DC 250 runs at 65-ppm. And compare the price: The 240 model starts at $53,500 and the 250 at $59,500.
Us journalist and analyst types are always asking each other what we saw that we liked at the show. It's our version of "How about them (fill in the sports team)." These two boxes from Xerox were at the top of a lot of lists.
Color at Océ is Job-Appropriate
Another company that was touting its color prowess was Océ. But as noted in the interview with Guy Broadhurst, Océ takes a different approach than other firms that are pushing all-color-all-the-time. Instead, they are promoting "job-appropriate color," and encouraging customers and prospects to consider the kind of color they use and how, when and where they apply it.
That's the idea behind the new VarioStream 9230 digital press on display in Chicago. Rolled out about a year and a half ago as a black-only, "color-capable" machine, it was running black plus magenta and blue at the show. A fourth color will arrive in the first half of 2006, followed by full-process color in 2007. That may seem to be late when compared with some competitors, but the 9000 family is also a different kind of press. It is designed to provide the option of running any combination of colors, and even mix full color, spot color and black-only pages in a single document without the penalty of lots of full-color click charges. The print quality seems more than adequate for they types of jobs currently running on the big box and a couple of printers I know who actually have a 9000 in their shops tell me it has exceeded their expectations. Both bought it with its flexibility in mind and are building customer apps that fit the growing capabilities of the machine.
The VarioStream 9000 line is designed to provide the option of running any combination of colors, and even mix full color, spot color and black-only pages in a single document without the penalty of full-color click charges.
Océ also rolled out a tandem and triple version of its 31-ppm CPS 800 and 900 color presses. The new CPT 60 and CPT 90 deliver 64-ppm and 96-ppm, respectively, and are priced to compete with some faster one box presses in the market, delivering equivalent or higher speeds by using multiple print engines. The challenge in doing this, of course, is making sure the colors are the same on both engines. Océ's relies on its CopyPress technology and seven-color mono-component toner to ensure the colors match throughout a print run on all presses used. They demonstrated this by running the same job on both machines and letting attendees compare the output. I didn't have a colorimeter on me, but it appeared more than acceptable to my eye.
The CPT line is driven by an EFI controller based on the EFI Velocity Engine and designed to Océ's specifications. List pricing on the new system is $208,000 for the CPT 60 and $304,000 for the CPT 90. These numbers are competitive with other devices that run at similar speeds, but Océ's technology offers two added advantages that can translate into productivity. First, the presses run at rated speed regardless of the substrates used, and second, multiple machines offer redundancy when one machine is down.
Océ may be telling a story printers want to hear. There was a steady crowd around all the company's color devices and some printers I talked to are taking a new look at Océ.
And yes, there is still more. It's coming at you next week where we'll talk about digital book printing and how its time has come.