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Industry Insight

Building a Do-It-Yourself Inkjet Press

Last blog we discussed the Cabot event at the Graph Expo show and how printing companies are building their own inkjet presses by adding heads to web presses.

By Howie Fenton
Published: October 20, 2010

Last blog we discussed the Cabot event at the Graph Expo show and how printing companies are building their own inkjet presses by adding heads to web presses. This is no secret.  Donnelley has been talking about their Proteus line since 2009. It was first created for direct mail and label applications and was code named Apollo. Since the event, I have been talking to people and learning more about the objections from the critics. Here is what I have learned.

At first most people dismissed this option as something only the biggest printers could do.

But now we are learning that Donnelley is not the only printer to build their own inkjet press. In 2007 DST Output, one of the largest statement and billing output providers (transactional printing), announced the creation of an inkjet color printing and inserting platform called Digital Press Technology or DPT. The DPT platform enables DST Output to offer a variety of color and graphics printing options, including "highlight color," "select area color" and "full (anywhere) color."

Critics often discuss issues with ink and paper. The reason is because some of the most important recent advances in high-speed inkjet printing have been with new ink formulations and with pretreatments of paper.

But some of these issues have been addressed. For example, initially Donnelley used dye based inks, but when they moved into book printing they found that the dye based inks did not produce good enough quality. They switched to pigment based ink.  At the Cabot event it became clear that Cabot is selling the colored pigments allowing printers to make their own ink and there are rumors of using standard papers.

Critics are now saying that maybe there was an opportunity years ago to build your own press, but today that opportunity is gone as many companies have complete solutions. But recently Donnelley and DST made significant advances with their technologies. Donnelley announced the industry's first 60" wide, high-speed, ink jet digital press, which is expected to be deployed in the first half of 2011. The width and speed make this the fastest and widest inkjet press and lowers the cost for books.

DST recently created a new printing platform called Wrap Envelope technology which placed it 167 on this year's InformationWeek 500, an annual listing of the nation's most innovative users of business technology. The Wrap Envelope technology allows mailers to create variable data messages on the front, back and inside of the envelope. The solution enables the envelopes to be printed duplex on continuous plain roll-stock paper, and then literally wrap around multiple pages of statements, bills, inserts and reply/remit envelopes.

Another concern is the lack of engineering staff. Interesting enough these same press  manufactures as well as System Integrators have the expertise to build and help maintain the equipment. Kodak has offered this for years with the monochrome heads and are offering this with their color heads. And, in one corner of the HP booth, they had a "technology demo" showing two black inkjet head modules adding personalized data to a pre-printed shell, running at 800 fpm. I am wondering if this is the first step in offering color heads to web presses.

And there are System Integrators such as Adphos, who are offering to add color heads to web presses. Adphos is a privately owned company in Southern Germany with subsidiaries and support offices worldwide. They have already done a proof of concept by adding color Kodak Prosper heads to a Goss Sunday Press.

What Does This Mean?

To be honest this is pretty new and uncharted territory. Does it make sense to add inkjet heads to a web press? For monochrome applications, such as addressing, it has already become an industry standard solution.

But what about adding color inkjet heads? What products and markets would be better served by a “do-it-yourself” inkjet press? Traditionally, companies buying inkjet presses target high volume products such as books, direct mail, newspapers and transpromo applications. The reason is because the high costs of the inkjet presses requires a high volume demand to cost justify the purchase.

If, however, the cost of entry and costs of paper and ink were significantly lowered, then a new market and applications could emerge. This may not be true this month or next month, but may be true one day. What products and markets could you serve if you paid $750K for an inkjet press that could print color variable data at two cents a page?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

Howie Fenton is InfoTrends' Associate Director of Operational Consulting. For over 25 years, he has focused on benchmarking operational and financial performance in in-plants and commercial printers. He can be reached via e-mail at Howie.Fenton@infotrends.com.



By Buck Crowley on Mar 17, 2013

Howie is always helping us understand why the leading printing companies stay that way. It is now easy for any size company to add variable information on their bindery/mailing or printing machines. We can add inkjet, of any width/speed/color, to any of your processes, to give you a competitive edge with a fast ROI. Buck@Buckautomation.com


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