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Dainippon Screen Joins the Push for What It Sees as the Irresistible Rise of Inkjet

Dainippon Screen wants to be a major part of the conversation about the rise of inkjet and the fall of old assumptions about print production. But, as inkjet comes to the fore, the conversation could get uncomfortably blunt for some.

By Patrick Henry
Published: October 28, 2013

Dainippon Screen Manufacturing Co. wants to be a major part of the conversation about the rise of inkjet and the fall of old assumptions about print production.

But Michael E. Fox, president of Screen (USA), cautioned that as inkjet comes to the fore, the conversation could get uncomfortably blunt for some.

Inkjet presses, he said, “will challenge the offset print market” by rivaling litho equipment in quality, productivity, and operating economy. Inkjet also is poised to dethrone other kinds of digital output, Fox said.

What it means to printers trying to make up their minds about inkjet’s place in their future is that “whatever I used to know, it doesn’t apply today,” said Fox. He added that Screen intends to be a driver of the disruption that the industry’s adoption of inkjet will bring.

Comments along these frank lines from Fox and other inkjet advocates marked a media/analyst briefing that Screen (USA) held recently at its demonstration center and headquarters in Rolling Meadows, Ill. On display to the writers were the company’s flagship inkjet systems for B2 sheetfed printing, UV label printing, and flatbed UV wide-format output.

If Screen (USA) lacks the footprint of its larger competitors in production inkjet, it isn’t outdone by any of them when it comes to marketing ambition and aggressiveness.

“High-speed inkjet is the future” of print production, according to Fox, who directs a staff of 67 people in Rolling Meadows, at a satellite facility in Irvine, Calif., and in other locations around the country. Inkjet’s future, he asserted, will herald the passage of some other digital printing technologies into the past—particularly toner-based web printing systems, which Fox said would be outclassed on all fronts by faster, more flexible inkjet devices.

“Every time we put an inkjet machine in, four or five web toner machines are out,” said Fox, predicting the eventual displacement of the EP web process by high-speed inkjet.

In their presentations, other Screen personnel said that conventional offset and flexo also could face displacement by inkjet in certain run lengths and applications. Fox said that printers weighing the merits of inkjet should avoid basing judgment on their experience with the older methods, which have markedly different printing characteristics.

Screen (USA)’s own experience with conventional and digital production has a long timeline. The company is the U.S. arm of Dainippon Screen, an enterprise incorporated in Japan 70 years ago. In its home country, Screen traces its origins to a 19th-century copper plate and litho printing business. The name derives from the ancestral firm’s production of glass halftone screens for photographic reproduction.

Screen established the U.S. branch in 1967 and set up the Rolling Meadows center in 1981. Initially, Screen USA was a distributor of scanners and CEPS—color electronic prepress systems—and later entered the market for CtP systems and digital plates. Today, Fuji, Agfa, and Southern Lithoplate are its OEM resellers for CtP in the U.S. and Canada.

Screen also produced what Fox said was the first browser-based production workflow (Trueflow, the precursor of Equios, its current workflow solution). The first digital printing venture for Screen was the Truepress 544, a four-color DI offset press it brought to market in 2000.

Screen established itself as an inkjet vendor in 2005 with the introduction of the Truepress Jet520, a continuous-feed inkjet press. The following year saw the debut of its first wide-format UV system, the Truepress Jet2500UV.

With the exception of plates, Screen sells most of its printing systems, workflow, and other products direct. During the media briefing, Fox and his team focused attention on three inkjet systems spanning commercial production, label/package printing, and wide-format graphics:  respectively, the Truepress JetSX, the Truepress Jet L350UV, and the Truepress Jet W3200UV.

Aron Allenson, an inkjet sales support specialist for Screen (USA), said that  printers would find the half-size Truepress JetSX a “utility infielder” device capable of many of the same things their toner and litho presses can do. He described it as a workhorse machine built to run static or variable jobs in full color “all day long” in formats up to 20.8 x 29.1 inches. Processing heavy variable input will not “starve” the press of data or slow it down, Allenson said.

In terms of cost efficiency, he said, crossover with offset occurs at about 9,800 letter-sized impressions. Above that quantity, offset prints more economically than inkjet from the Truepress JetSX. Below it, the Truepress JetSX delivers a lower cost per print. According to Allenson, since most offset volume is produced in quantities smaller than the cutoff point, the Truepress JetSX has an edge over offset in short to medium run length applications.

Other features of the Truepress Jet SX that Allenson said printers would find appealing are its ability to handle digital and offset stocks in thicknesses up to 24-pt.; its 1,440 x 1,440-dpi, grayscale resolution; and its fast-drying aqueous inks, sealed with a post-coat for instant handling and processing. The Truepress JetSX prints 1,620 simplex sheets or 810 duplex sheets per hour—equivalent, says Screen, to 108 letter-size pages or 13 eight-page sections per minute.

The press, launched commercially at Drupa 2012, lists for about $1.5 million, Allenson said.

The label-printing advantages of the Truepress Jet L350UV were outlined by Jeff Corley, a digital label and flexible packaging specialist for Screen (USA). He said that UV inkjet is gaining ground in label production because it is faster and more reliable than EP label printing, less complicated than flexography, and better suited than both processes to short-run, versioned, and on-demand label output.

The Truepress Jet L350UV is aimed at what Corley said is a label market that will be worth $40 billion globally in 2016. Technically, it is a 600 x 600-dpi, four-color, UV-curing press built to print at up to 164 feet per minute on a 13.7-inch web. Repeat lengths can be from 2 to 94.4 inches. According to Corley, the proprietary CMYK inks it uses can reproduce 80% of the Pantone color gamut. Opaque white ink is available as an option.

Corley’s crossover example showed the Truepress Jet L350UV breaking even with a flexo label press at about 80,000 feet of output, with each press printing 1,000 labels for $18 at that stage. Within the job parameters Corley described, the Truepress Jet L350UV’s biggest cost advantage came at 25,000 feet, where production CPM was said to be $20 for UV inkjet versus $50 for flexo.

The Truepress Jet L350UV also beats flexo in quickness of press setup and job changeover, Corley said. He mentioned that the device will be available with an inline finishing option next year.

Screen stepped up its pursuit of the wide-format inkjet market with the acquisition of Inca Digital Printers, a U.K.-based manufacturer of industrial inkjet systems, in 2005. Heather Kendle, Inca’s director sales and marketing, spoke about trends in the wide-format equipment market and about Screen’s plan to gain share with the Truepress Jet W3200UV.

Kendle said that since UV-curable inkjet first came into use around 2000, its quality has improved considerably from the “horrifyingly crude” results the process was known for in its early days. Now, she said, tiny droplet sizes, precision droplet placement, and grayscale imaging are among the features attracting “serious attention” from commercial printers and other providers looking for opportunities in wide-format inkjet UV.

Inca Digital’s strategy in developing the Truepress Jet W3200UV for Screen was to fill a gap between low-end flatbed UV inkjet devices and the kinds of high-end machines that Inca Digital supplies. It was thought that a mid-range machine would appeal both to low-end users with its greater speed and quality and to high-end customers with its comparative economy.

The result, launched commercially at the FESPA expo earlier this year, is the Truepress Jet W3200UV, a 62.9 x 125.9-inch flatbed device that can up to print six colors of UV ink plus white at 600 dpi (yielding an apparent resolution of 1,000 dpi, according to Screen). Production speed is 904 square feet (84 meters) per hour, which Screen calls best in the system’s class.

Customers whom Inca Digital spoke with during the development of the Truepress Jet W3200UV rated output quality more important than printing speed as a performance requirement, Kendle said, noting that need for speed can vary widely from shop to shop. She also pointed out that in assessing inkjet quality, dpi isn’t the principal benchmark—drop size and precision of drop placement are what determine how good the print will look.

The program also made note of Screen’s commitment to PDF/VT, a version of PDF for variable and transactional printing released by Adobe Systems in 2010. Allenson called PDF/VT a “best of all worlds” solution that combines core PDF functionality with the ability to handle large numbers of records efficiently both in full-color variable production and in variable black imprinting over preprinted shells.

Screen’s Equios workflow is built around an Adobe print engine that supports PDF/VT. The PDF/VT-ready Equios workflow has been used to optimize the performance of the Truepress Jet520ZZ, a variable, full-color web inkjet press, as well as that of the Truepress JetSX.

Thanks to its consistent ability to rise to production challenges, inkjet is making strides “in every possible market,” according to guest speaker Ron Gilboa, director of functional and industrial printing for InfoTrends. That research organization predicts that by 2016, inkjet will account for better than half of all digital color production worldwide.

“Color inkjet is what’s driving most of the volume” in digital production now, Gilboa declared. “The change is not going to stop.”

Dainippon Screen would not want it to. Fox said that the company intends to bring “very disruptive technologies” to the inkjet market next year, the better to drive the “drastic” transformations that the industry should be bracing itself to experience.

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.



By Mark Hogan on Oct 28, 2013

I would be interested to know how the figure of 9600 “letter-sized” impressions as the breakeven with offset is derived. This would equate 2400 B2 sheets. At the margin the breakeven between digital and offset comes down the variable cost of printing ie digital’s click charge vs offset’s cost of plates + cost of offset makeready waste. So if we take a conservative figure of $35 as the cost for a set of plates, 120 sheets of waste and a bit of ink, then at the breakeven point the click charge would have to be $35/2400 =$0.015 per B2 sheet or $0.0036 per “letter-sized” impression. This seems quite low.


By Christopher DuBach on Oct 28, 2013

Comparing the cost of just materials in an "offset vs digital" print comparison is only part of the picture. A real print jobs total cost has to include pre-press time and labor, time to make plates and handling, time on press with make-ready and labor, drying time and finishing time and labor. These numbers will vary between every print facility, and will give a much better total cost comparison for digital B2 printing vs. traditional lithography. The crossover typically falls between 1500 to 3000 B2 sheets.


By Chris Lynn on Oct 28, 2013

Mark - I'd say that you are being optimistic on the cost of offset plates and MR waste, but the key point with most inkjet printers is that there is no click charge. The variable cost item is ink. UV inkjet ink costs a lot more than conventional ink but even at $150/litre (and I've seen much lower prices), the breakeven point versus offset ought to be in the thousands. (I have no association with Screen.)


By Aron Allenson on Oct 28, 2013

Hi Mark,

Thanks for asking.
I'll just add that if you're comparing the cost of merely the materials you are correct, the break even point is lower.

However, as we all know, the cost of the materials is only a single piece of the greater litho puzzle. Combine those material costs with the other costs we know are universal about offset printing and the break even point is right around 9,800 letter sized sides or a little over 600 two sided 40" press sheets.

Let me know if this makes more sense.
Thanks again.


By Mark Hogan on Oct 29, 2013

You are quite right material costs are only part of the picture in the real world you need to factor in the much higher running speeds and up time of offset presses and based on this I still struggle to understand a figure of 1500 to 3000 29”sheets - I could to take you to a printer who claims a crossover of 150 40” sheets against his B3 (20”) digital device, ie 1200 “letter-sized” impressions. I would be interested to know what the "the other costs we know are universal about offset" are actually based on. Andy Tribute did an interesting piece not too long ago on the performance of “new offset” and I would be curious if you are basing your opinion on the actual performance of the latest generation of offset presses with closed loop colour control, automatic presetting and enhanced operator set-up ? In this world sub ten-minute makeready, low waste, consistent colour and running speeds >15 000 sheets/ hour are the norm. If you consider anicolor technology then waste isn't even an issue as you can sell the 20th sheet. Inkjet clearly has a very considerable part to play in the print manufacturing environment going forward which is all the more reason for trying establish the factual basis for the productivity claims of a supplier.

PS re cost of plates, if you are paying more than $30 for a set of four 29" plates you should consider changing supplier!


By William Brunone on Oct 29, 2013

These comments are interesting and in a sense, are all right. I have been working with printers for many years specifically to help them understand whether they should consider color inkjet or not, and if so, what to implement.

I have not been able to come up with a rule of thumb that describes a particular job volume as a breakeven point to compel a printer to go to inkjet. All of the factors mentioned above come into play, as well as many others, like customer requirements for turnaround time, types of jobs typically run, whether there are overprinting operations after the job comes off the press, whether there are other legacy digital printing in the shop, the types of finishing required, etc.

Inkjet has certainly been finding more and more ways of providing a good ROI, and any shop that suspects they ought to consider it should do a thorough analysis before they either dismiss or take the leap.


By Chris Lynn on Oct 29, 2013

As Bill Brunone says: "It's complicated.' And his comment is a reminder of how easy it is to fall into the trap of discussing cost instead of value. Discussions of breakeven run-length are a necessary but not sufficient part of the analysis. For any printer considering digital or hybrid technology, consideration of the new opportunities opened up by being able to offer not only economical short runs, but also fast turnarounds, variable data, web2print, digital finishing, etc needs to be included.

On a separate subject, I was delighted to see Heather Kendle's comment that dpi should not be the principal quality benchmark - like megapixels on digital cameras, dpi is a misleading index of performance for inkjet printers. This topic too is complicated, but as she says, drop size and drop placement accuracy are critical to image quality.


By Greg Imhoff on Oct 29, 2013

Great thread full of promise and content. ROI, IRR and Break-even analyses all deserve full disclosure. FTR I do not think Mike Fox or SCREEN employees would put numbers claims out they could not back up so it will be positive to see how they compile their break-even points - as Christopher and others point out above, this needs to be clear.

I believe Ink Jet will continue to displace Toner machines due to quality forces perhaps summed up best under "Moore's Law". As for Offset or Flexo displacement one needs to know and compare costs and applications, while forecasting market needs and technology upgrades in the life of an investment. It is about fit to need.

I do not agree with the premise that dpi should not be considered as a "principle benchmark" as this is what customers buy namely = image output. So resolution to some clients @ 1400 dpi or even 600 dpi ranges may be good but to others not so much as we all know, Offset & Flexo routinely output @ 2540 dpi without blinking. The key in digital may be in improving resolution (data starvation of the RIP engine) I think Aron refers to in the body of Patricks article.

Ink Jet is growing but not yet totally there (Moore's Law). The market progress is in Ink Jet no doubt but other technologies are responding as well.


By Chris Lynn on Oct 29, 2013

Greg - your comparison is misleading: inkjet 'screening' is not comparable to conventional (AM) offset or flexo screening. 2540dpi refers to the resolution of the laser-setter that creates the screen dots on the film or plate. A 150 line screen dot might be made up of individual laser dots in a 16x16 matrix, giving 256 potential dot sizes. The human eye can resolve about 1 arc-minute, which translates to about 1,000dpi at normal viewing distance, so there is no point in rendering text at any higher resolution. When we talk about inkjet printing of photographic images, you can trade off resolution for grey levels i.e. variable drop sizes - hence Screen's claim of 1,000dpi 'apparent' resolution from an engine with 600dpi 'resolution' - although they really mean 'addressability'.


By Greg Imhoff on Oct 29, 2013

Chris pardon my apparent misleading comment if I compare dpi screening as values stated in the article.

In my experience a client can see and discern the difference between a 1200 dpi output ie: Newspaper vs. 2540 dpi Commercial prints.

Thank you for your technical statement and yet I feel a bit in the dark. Do you have a site I might visit to learn more on the screening, arc and gray level addressability issues mentioned?


By Erik Nikkanen on Oct 29, 2013

It seems there is some confusion about lines per inch (lpi) of the screen which is noticeable and the addressing of the laser spots which are basically not noticeable.

Maybe terms are not clear or are not used properly. When talking about screens, I suspect people use both terms, lpi or dpi meaning dots per inch. Dots of the screen per inch. That can be confusing when the discussion is about imaging or related levels of tone.


By Greg Imhoff on Oct 30, 2013

Maybe Erik you are right however, I am not confused over LPI or DPI definitions & applications.


By Chris Lynn on Oct 30, 2013

Greg - without getting into a lot more detail, your point about a visible difference between newspaper versus commercial prints could be attributable to any number of factors.

Sorry, I don't know of any good sites covering screening technology, but manufacturers like Screen, who make both CTP equipment and inkjet presses, or possibly some of the RIP vendors would likely have some useful technical materials.


By Greg Imhoff on Oct 31, 2013

Chris you are right in that there are many variables between the two however, imaging resolution differences at the RIP do remain...

Ftr I helped to set the industry standard in CTP to identify and communicate imaging in LPI, Screen Angle, RIP calibration and more (AM / FM Screening etc.) with most Plate and Platesetter manufacturers - ie: Kodak, CREO, SCREEN, FUJI, SLP, AGFA, plus mainly by introducing equipping training and supporting their engineers, field service technicians and most of their CTP client installs. This was done with with our CCDot and FlexoDot.
More on this may be seen or learned here: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=23629550&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile or, look under my linkedin Summary, for the color brochure with leading industry references inset in the 2 page margins.


By Anthony Thirlby on Nov 11, 2013

With regards to the dialogue above on cost to BEP against offset, some samples of actuals below;
381 m/r and 268k impressions in 32 hrs


Our XL 105 against our Nexpress is 138 sheets


By Greg Imhoff on Nov 11, 2013

Anthony do your 138 # and graph relate to net make-ready differences on your floor?


By Anthony Thirlby on Nov 11, 2013

Greg, all inclusive, I can comfortably sell sheet 10 on all offset work due to the ink profiling / scheduling process we run (we don't do a m/r), the cost to breakeven is based on true net operating cost.


By Greg Imhoff on Nov 11, 2013

Cool. Sounds like you know your processes and having automated items such as Ink Presets help you run supremely fast.

What is the general M-R time start to finish Anthony?


By Greg Imhoff on Nov 11, 2013

By M-R I mean in time to hang 105 plates etc.


By Patrick Henry on Nov 11, 2013

As Greg correctly notes, ink presets and other process-streamlining techniques do indeed keep offset production running supremely fast at ESP Colour Hub, where Anthony is the managing director. Here's the full story:



By Greg Imhoff on Nov 11, 2013

Thanks Patrick and Anthony. Brilliant article showing what Offset and Digital are capable of. The key to success here is in knowing and controlling the variables.

I agree with Anthony on the following wisdom:
"“The press becomes a by product of the prepress process,” Thirlby explains. “We are trying to produce as many plates and to do as many makereadies as we can. We have taken the profiling away from the press and by having no makeready on the run, it removes a process step."

I know this works having trained thousands in this simple principle. In any event Anthony has taken these principles to a new levels -4 minute plate changes, specified range of stocks etc to be beneficial and it all makes sense with clients fitting his business model and growing. Good for you Anthony; thanks Patrick.


By Erik Nikkanen on Nov 11, 2013

Question. Anthony, if you are comfortable selling the 10th sheet, then why would you need close loop colour control? Just insurance?


By Greg Imhoff on Nov 13, 2013

Hi Erik. I suspect Anthony's business model includes closed loop color to keep all variables under control. You know, DMAIC.


By Erik Nikkanen on Nov 13, 2013

Greg, he does have in press closed loop colour control.

My point is that if one has a sellable print at 10 impressions why would one need closed loop control. It must be that in reality the 10th impression is not that good or consistent shortly after starting and needs further adjustments.

It is not likely that one hits the target first and then wonders off. It is more likely that one misses the target and then there is the need to get closer.

I don't doubt that they are doing a remarkable job but I look at the physics of the process and that does not always match up with the claims.


By Greg Imhoff on Nov 13, 2013

Erik the on press dwell time, depending upon ink key moves and press operating speeds, may show impression changes from the ink ball through the ink train, to arrive on the substrate ~ every 200 (+/-) sheets.

So the goal may be to achieve 10 sheet saves and to help achieve this Anthony has a built in tool that accurately measures, diagnoses and tracks all process areas for continued Deming DMAIC controls. If the scanning tool is present and if it helps why not use it?


By Erik Nikkanen on Nov 13, 2013

If one has a scanning system, then sure it can be good to use it.

But in the spirit of Motorola's DMAIC method, inspired by Deming, why not ask "why is a closed loop colour control system needed". Why? That would be interesting for Anthony's group to ask.

Other questions could also be interesting. Why do the initial ink key settings differ from the final ones generated from the closed loop colour control actions? Why?

If the answer is that we don't know, then there is an opportunity to improve the process in a Deming way. find and fix the fundamental causes of variability.

Ultimately, that fastest way to arrive at a consistent sellable sheet is to have the correct presetting algorithms and the capability in the process to continually deliver what is preset. One does not need closed loop control then.

You only need closed loop control when you can not understand and solve the fundamental problems. This is still the opportunity for improvement in offset printing.


By Greg Imhoff on Nov 13, 2013

We cannot know Erik except to answer speculate one reason may be a different White Point is found on the Press paper.

Another reason could be different conditions being found on the press from the ink preset file settings, within a longer press run.

Only Anthony could say and we agree if it is there why not use it and there is always room for improvement. This is why I suspect the press scan data is measured, collected, analyzed, improved upon etc.


By Anthony Thirlby on Nov 14, 2013

Erik / Geoff, if you send me your contact details I will send you all the algorithms sequences (screen grabs) we run as our technology is not available elsewhere. (a.thirlby@espcolour.co.uk)

Erik, the process you are working through runs on the basis that we make-ready, which we don't, understanding the constraints of the method allows us to maximise the ability to stabilise colour from the outset, I understand your question I think, however to understand and maximise the technology you first have to push everything upstream through set stripping parameters. Yes it does question the reasons why, yet on the flip side closed loop gives me complete continuity across all aspects that are important, man, machine and materials

One of the main reasons we have developed and worked through porosity of stocks / paper whiteness / ink pick up / pigmentation / scheduling by ink weight profile and paper weights is to ensure we are constantly minimising any variable into the process. The technology through inpress control / automated deinking / pre-inking / ink opt / colorflow / color assistant / quality monitor allows complete stability for us real time, which is why we have developed self learning data sequences within the workflow. Yes you can get into conversations regarding polarised / non polarised with inline, however we are working on eliminating that element as well currently, ultimately it comes into education for your client, then delivering a platform to maximise what technology does and doesn't allow you to do. The technology now allows us to cover all requirements whatever the run and to print consistently and with more science behind colour than most of my competitors, yes we position ourselves to produce a commodity product, however the consistency of quality for us allows to remain and sustain the highest scoring averages within the commercial print sector in the UK, which is a very simple thing to achieve once you understand how to maximise the ability of the technology available. (hence the closed loop).


By Erik Nikkanen on Nov 14, 2013

Anthony, thanks for your comprehensive explanation of maximizing the use of available technology and for the generous offer of providing screen grabs. I will contact you. I am interested in the "why" but I appreciate your efforts to develop the "how" in your operation. Thanks again.


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