Commentary & Analysis
Drupa 2012, the Inkjet Drupa…again? A closer look at Océ
In this fifth article of the series, David looks at Océ, its production inkjet offering and applications.
By David Zwang
Published: December 14, 2011
Océ N.V. is no stranger to color; in fact it was founded in 1877 as a company manufacturing machines for coloring butter and margarine. However, its entry into graphic arts began in the early 1900’s with new developments in diazo copying products for engineering blueprint use. Océ further perfected the process by introducing a machine that combined both developing and drying of this material. In the mid 1960’s, Océ started manufacturing printing machines, introducing its first plain paper printer. Subsequent acquisitions of Siemens-Nixdorf and Imagistics expanded the company’s product and technology base. In 2010, Océ was acquired by Canon. Combined, this makes them one of the largest production printer manufacturers in the world.
Currently Océ has three business units.
- Digital Document Systems produces and sells B&W and Color cut sheet and continuous feed electro photographic and inkjet printers under the imagePRESS, JetStream, ColorStream and VarioStream brand lines.
- The Wide Format group sells scanners, plotters, and printers including the Océ Arizona large format flatbed printers.
- Océ also has a robust business services group that offers MPS (Managed Print Solutions), software development and integration, and other business training and facilities programs.
In this article we will be focusing on the JetStream and ColorStream inkjet products and technologies.
A primer on Océ Production Inkjet technology
At the center of the Océ inkjet technology is the Kyocera KJ4B Piezo electric printhead. Both the JetStream and ColorStream products use the same heads. Each 4 printhead module is 4-¼ inches long and has 2,656 nozzles. Each printhead is capable of generating 400 million droplets/second. They are able to create droplets of between 5 pl. (picoliters) and 12 pl. to adjust to substrate or application requirements at a native resolution of 600x600dpi. The larger droplets will yield more vibrant colors. Océ also includes a multilevel option in which the printer dynamically chooses the size of each droplet, producing output that simulates 1200 dpi. based on the type of page object. For example, smoother photographic images, fine lines or gradations can be enhanced through this technology. The printheads, per color, are mounted in an array of 5 printheads to cover a 20.3” print area at up to 246 ft./min or with 10 printheads to increase the speed up to 656 ft./min on some models. There are 7 or 14 printheads modules respectively for the 29.5” print width platforms. With the ColorStream platform, Océ automatically cleans the heads and caps heads if not being used for printing in that job. So for example, if you have a 6 color press configuration, but are only running black ink, it will automatically cap the other heads to prevent any nozzle clogging without a need for continuous flushing or charging of unused heads.
While these print heads are not thermal Piezo, they do have a small built-in heater to manage the ink stability and temperature. These specially designed high-speed production heads have a very long life, with claims of over 2 years of use before replacement. Based on individual application requirements, they support both dye and pigment inks that can be alternated with a full system flush and minimal time changeover. The Océ dye inks in combination with inkjet coated paper, offer a large color gamut. The pigment inks have more intense colors and a larger color gamut on inkjet coated papers. Océ was the first company to offer MICR ink in a full process production inkjet printer, and it is available as an option in both the JetStream and ColorStream product lines.
If you recall from the previous articles on HP, Kodak, and Xerox, when using aqueous based ink you need to pre-treat the paper with a hydrophobic coating in order to keep the ink on the surface. However, the Océ dye inks are optimized to minimize penetration and bleed-through by adding quick drying components to the formulation. In this case, the ink dries quickly, forming a film on the surface before the solvent can permeate the substrate. Océ does not offer a substrate pretreating option. Indicating that field experience finds that it isn’t necessary or cost effective, due to the increased availability of inkjet compatible papers from the mills.
A central ink system performs degassing, heating, contaminate particle filtering, and pumping of the ink to intermediate tanks within the print towers to allow continuous ink filling while printing. This also allows ink containers to be replaced without stopping the printer. Like many of the other inkjet printer manufacturers, Océ uses RFID tags on each ink container to ensure that the correct color ink is installed in the correct place.
Papers supported include newsprint, uncoated offset, laser and premium inkjet compatible papers from 64gsm to 157gsm. Optionally, you can configure the machines to handle 46gsm to 200gsm or higher.
The Press Transport
While both the JetStream and ColorStream lines use the same heads, the engines are different. The JetStream uses an engine produced by Miyakoshi.
The JetStream line comes in four distinct categories: compact, dual, wide, and wide mono that range in speed from 250 ft./min to 660 ft./min. depending on the specific model. The compact line is designed to print 2 up duplex in a single cabinet with a 20.5” web width, resulting in a small footprint. The compact supports up to 6 colors plus MICR. The dual is designed for more flexibility in use and upgrades. Each engine has its own print tower and supports up to 5 colors with MICR. The wide brings a 30” web width along with the same flexibility offered by the dual. The mono is a single color device that offers a 30” web width.
The transport is a fairly straightforward process. The paper enters the first print engine to print the front side of the web. After the print process, the paper is dried and cooling rollers reduce the paper temperature before it enters the second print engine where the back side is printed. JetStream uses an interesting and patented contact drying process combining two dryer functions: a heated drum and an air supply system. The paper is guided around the heated dryer drums to dry the rear side of the paper. The heating elements, which are installed in 18 chambers mounted around a drum, apply hot air to the printed surface of the paper. The temperature can be set in the Operator Panel. Along with a tight web, and the paper shrinking compensation built into the SRA MP controller, this enables control of paper registration and stability factors, which can be an issue in aqueous inkjet printing.
Many of the models are field upgradable to increase the speed. Depending on the model and configuration, the duty cycles run from 10 – 80 million letter size pgs./month.
Unlike the JetStream, Océ produces the ColorStream engine internally. It is based on many of the lessons learned in the production of the VarioStream electro photographic printers, which are among the fastest in the market. Currently the ColorStream 3500 operates at 250 ft./min. with a 21 ¼ in print width, and is available in a single or twin engine configuration. This allows you to start with simplex production and move to duplex as your requirements dictate. It also allows the flexibility to select your choice of straight inline, L-shaped, or H-shaped installation configurations to tailor to your individual production applications. The duty cycle is 33 million letter size pgs./month.
Océ also has a variety of optional web inspection systems that can be used to control, view, ensure, log and archive historic run data and performance at full production speed. The inkjet press interfaces allow them to be compatible with most standard pre and post finishing equipment in the market including, but not limited to Lasermax, Hunkeler, Tecnau and EMT.
Océ Front End
As the printheads are common across their product lines, so is the front end. This was intentionally designed to allow for flexibility in moving work from one machine to another while keeping the same appearance. The heart of the Océ front end is the Océ SRA® MP controller. It uses up to a 25 blade, HP multiprocessor system to ensure the input processing can keep up with the press at full speed. The SRA (Scalable Raster Architecture) can be configured to meet your specific process requirements by adding additional memory and RIP modules. The engine natively supports AFP/IPDS and PDF. PCL, Line Data, LCDS, Metacode, Postscript, PPML, TIFF, and VIPP are supported through the Océ PRISMAproduction print manager, which also incorporates APPE 2.5 (Adobe PDF Print Engine).
Putting it to use
The only consumables in the Océ production inkjet machine are inks. Océ offers a variety of equipment maintenance and support programs that cover a wide range of other needs.
As is the case with most production inkjet systems, the users are finding many different applications for this equipment. I had an opportunity to speak with David Smith of DST Output. DST Output is one of the world’s largest inkjet systems printers with 8 locations around the globe. With over 40 years of operation and over 350 inkjet heads, they have some experience in production inkjet. David is the Operations Director in the El Dorado Hills Ca. operation. They currently have 5 Océ JetStream 2200’s in that facility. Four of them have been in operation for over 2 year doing transactional, billing, and checks on an assortment of treated coated and bond papers. They recently purchased the fifth 2200 to do direct mail work.
In the next article, I will continue the pre-drupa education by looking at the Ricoh production inkjet offerings and applications. In each subsequent article we will look at a different vendor’s offerings.