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GOA: The Big, the Small, the Best in Show

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Press release from the issuing company

GOA has not usually been a stage for major product launches and this year was no different. However, some firms made important announcements and one of them is my pick for "Best of Show." At the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Hewlett-Packard rolled out its two new DesignJet 8000 and 9000 models, but this was the first public debut to potential customers. Although not in the wide format pavilion, the 9000 still drew a crowd who were interested in the Seiko-based low solvent printer. The new units are part of a family ranging from 24" thermal head units to grand format, 8-color piezoelectric machines capable of wrapping large trucks and buses. Most carry the HP brand but the largest units are being sold under the Scitex Vision brand following HP's acquisition of SV last year. Both 8000 and 9000 models have a 64-inch print width, 720 x 720 print resolution and have optional air purifier systems to reduce VOC's (volatile organic compounds), long an issue for solvent presses. Speed is a key differentiator between the two new models. The 8000 runs at 88 square feet per hour while the switchable resolution 9000 delivers 176 square feet an hour at 720 x 720 dpi and up to 540 feet per hour at 540 x 720, earning it the badge of fastest in its price range. Pricing starts at $23,000 for the 8000 model and $33,000 for the 9000. HP customers such as sign franchises FASTSIGNS and Signs by Tomorrow have already been involved with testing of the new devices and see them as a real plus for franchisees who need wider, solvent-based capabilities to meet their customers' expanding wide-format printing needs. Wide format color is where the market is headed, but not every wide image needs color. Also new was Xerox's new 6204 black-and-white copier/printer aimed at commercial print shops and architectural, engineering and construction companies. This compact device is designed to produce engineering renderings, topographic and aerial maps and mechanical and architectural drawings. It can be had as a printer-only or as a copier/printer and can crank out four "D-size" (24 x 36-inch) images per minute and can be upgraded to print 5 images per minute. Unlike many of its competitors the 6204 is compact enough to find a home in an office instead of being relegated to a basement as are many other wide format monochrome printers. Much of the space savings comes from an integrated scanner and print controller that enable it to be placed close to a wall, taking up little more space than some horizontal file cabinets. The 6204 is priced at $13,000 as a printer and $16,825 as a printer/copier. The rest of the wide format players at were packing a hall that was almost exclusively wide format--or at least seemed that way with all the enormous prints carpeting the floors. From the compound-curve flexibility of vehicle wraps to printing on rigid substrates wide format is one hot market. The range of products coming off these machines was nothing short of amazing. Beyond the usual signage were movie posters, advertising displays, banners, and wall coverings. Some vendors were printing cartoon characters, guitars, and other items on foam beetle.jpg core, then trimming out each character using a computer-driven automated cutter. One doesn't have to think very hard about how such items--and others like them--can help drive a unique part of a printing business. But long and wide was not the best part of the show. Small is Good Although Hummer owners would disagree, size doesn’t always make for a better product. The "Best in Show" for me was a printer that at its widest printed just 8.5-inches wide. The Degrava DP-8500 is a continuous feed, full-color press for tickets, tags, labels and anything else where a narrow format is all you need. Driven by a LED engine from OKI and powered by an embedded controller it comes with everything needed to produce full color images --including ones with variable data-- on a wide variety of substrates. The Degrava Color Pro RIP handles color correction, color management and job archival on up to four printers so several jobs can be run at once. This little boxes had crowds around them every time I went by and company founder and CEO, John Monteleone and president Dennis Kallaher said the interest at the show had been very strong. The DP-8500 clearly fills a need for printers trying to differentiate themselves from competitors and want to offer something new, better-- and profitable. At about $50,000, the DP-8500 is an investment a savvy printer will be able to amortize quickly and see a quick ROI. Monteleone told me about one printer who had a customer come in needing labels printed for a 50th anniversary celebration. No one else was able to meet the turnaround time and the variable content needed on the labels, but the printer just loaded the job and fired up his DP-8500. The job ran, the labels were applied and the customer went away happy and relieved. Even companies presently doing labels on full size, high-end digital presses can take advantage of this little guy because it can run with little human support and handle a broader range of converted and non-converted stocks. This frees up a big press for longer, more demanding full-size runs, providing greater flexibility in a shop. CTP Growing Rapidly With ever-present buzz and marketing hype about digital presses and wide-format printers, they still account for only a relatively small part of the market, especially in developing markets. Offset is still the way most printing gets done. Those presses require plates and more and more of those are using CTP technology. A couple years ago a Central American rep for Presstek explained to me how the company's technology was finding a home under the tropical sun because it gave new life to old presses. A new CTP machine delivers a much better plate than his old equipment, at a lower cost, and provides a better print even when hung on a 25-year-old press. That hasn't changed, and more printers are taking advantage of CTP technology. As with printers everywhere, there is an increasing need in the Central American and Caribbean market to reduce workflow steps, eliminate human error and a growing awareness around minimizing the cost and environmental impact of chemistry. This is providing a tremendous opportunity for Presstek, because its product offerings are chemistry-free, easy to use, and can increase productivity while reducing cost. Also, the improving economies in some countries are enabling investment in CTP and Direct Imaging (DI) products that let printers reduce costs and add services that make their business more competitive. For example, until recently, the only affordable solutions available to the quick/small commercial printers were either paper or polyester platemaking systems. That changed when Presstek introduced the Vector TX52 Thermal CTP System that gave quick/small commercial printers an affordable, small-format, chemistry-free CTP solution. The Vector CTP system provides those benefits, and can also image metal plates for about the same price as polyester. For 2006, Presstek plans to continue working in Central America and the Caribbean, with a view to expanding its presence in Mexico and is in the process of expanding it’s presence in Europe. But we're not done yet! GOA/Xplor coverage winds up tomorrow with awards, comments from show organizers and my take on how this new mix of show and conference really worked.




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