Voice of the Industry
Hot From Graph Expo—Should You Build Your Own Press?
By Howie Fenton
Published: October 13, 2010
I had the privilege of sitting on a panel at Graph Expo with my old friend Andy Tribute. Andy is known as the inkjet expert today, but over the years he has been known as the computer-to-plate pro, and before that the digital press guy. I first got to know Andy when we both wrote and spoke for the Seybold organization and I always tried to learn as much as I could from him because he was always more up-to-date than I was. Therefore, after one of our panels, I told him I wanted to catch up with him and he handed me a card that said, “You are invited to an exclusive invitation-only panel discussion courtesy of Cabot Inkjet Colorants.” So I told him I would see him there.
Unfortunately, I forgot that my presentation on “Transitioning from a PSP-MSP” ended at 5 PM and the Cabot event started at the same time. But I said I would go so I walked down to the cab line at McCormick and found a huge line. I met up with a bunch of my NAPL colleagues and at Bill Woods’ insistence we all jumped on a bus which got us downtown and I walked the rest of the way.
I was about an hour late but I was not disappointed. Andy was moderating a panel with Mary Lee Schneider, President, Digital Solutions and Chief Technology Officer for R.R. Donnelley; Frank Delfer, Executive Vice President of Technology and CTO, DST Output; Chris Carosella, Vice President of Product Development & Regulatory Affairs, IWCO Direct; and Marco Boer, Vice President, IT Strategies.
I remember vividly some of the shocking things I heard. At one point Andy asked why Donnelley and DST Output decided to build inkjet presses. Mary Lee Schneider talked about how the technology had been around for quite a while and they felt they could build a press for a lot less money than those that were sold. Frank Delfer agreed and said that it was not that difficult because there were great web press platforms that could move the paper—all that was required was the addition of inkjet heads which could be bought and installed by Kodak and a front end.
During the question and answer period I asked what kind of resources were required to build an inkjet press. Mary Lee said that Donnelly had about 150 engineers and was about to increase staffing and Frank Delfer said that DST staffed about 50 engineers.
Over the years I have worked with many companies that have taken press and post-press equipment and refined or enhanced it for their own purposes. But the idea that a printer would build a press was a shock. I am not sure how many other printers could afford to build their own press.
How big does a printer need to be to build their own press?