There are vastly more small printing companies in the U.S. than large, or even mid-sized ones. Data on printing establishments reported by WhatTheyThink based on an analysis the latest  County Business Patterns report of 2021 census data which covered US companies printing on everything from apparel, textile products, metal, glass, plastics, and of course paper using lithography, gravure, letterpress, screen, flexography, and digital processes.1 The report highlighted a number of points that have been fairly consistent from 2010 to 2021:

  • Small operations, those with 1 to 9 employees, represent 71% of all printing
  • Operations with 10 to 19 employees represent another 12% of establishments.
  • Taken together, operations with fewer than 20 employees represent 83% of establishments and number over 18,000 US companies.

Even with less than half of these companies printing on paper, this is still a vast target market for OEMs. This is before counting the numerous in-plant operations of similar size. This market is also highly diverse with production applications ranging from monochrome and “business color” customer communications up to high-coverage, graphic arts applications. What these companies have in common are upper limits on capital investments, price sensitivity on running costs, and a limited labor pool. This is the sweet spot for what we categorize as “entry level” inkjet.

Serving the Entry Level Inkjet Market

When your entire annual payroll is under $1 million it’s hard to justify a capital expenditure of $500k or more, but most B2 and B3 inkjet press price tags start there and range up to $900k. There is also the question of press format; from a labor and work continuity perspective, a multi-tray SRA3 or B3 perfecting press is far more efficient than a B2 format press. Trays can be continuously loaded with paper, and new jobs queued while the press is running.

However, it’s also hard for operations in this segment to justify paying for features that they don’t need. An entry level transaction printer, low coverage direct mailer, or manufacturer of monochrome paperback book bodies has a need for crisp text but does not require the ink coverage or color coverage of a graphic arts printer. They also have a much smaller media range to support. Even as many companies try to diversify their offer to customers, those at the low coverage end of the production pool need to continue to produce those volumes cost effectively as they vie for new business. That is why it’s very difficult to deliver entry level graphic arts capabilities to any company that is not dedicated to high coverage applications with a need to support coated offset stocks.

The Graphic Arts Challenge

High coverage was a major hurdle for water-based inkjet to clear and, until recently, coated inkjet stocks were considered its kryptonite. Several roll and sheet-fed aqueous presses now deliver graphic arts quality output on coated gloss stocks, but this capability comes at a cost. They become cost prohibitive to use for non-graphic arts work. That’s because these presses generally use:

  • A more complex ink formulation and/or a pretreatment to enable compatibility with coated stocks.
  • Expanded drying systems to handle a higher ink load without damaging the media.
  • More nozzles with finer drop control to deliver higher resolution and color quality.

All these things add to the cost of the press as well as the cost of running and maintaining the press. More expensive ink, more energy to dry and more heads to manage. In 2023, it is very difficult to meet these requirements in a press with a ticket price significantly under a half million USD. 

And what about the companies who produce 80 to 90 percent of their business on less challenging stocks? Can they afford to print the bulk of their work on a high-end press to convert that remailing 10 or 20 percent of the volume? If work can’t all be run on the same machine, then there is the cost of additional labor overhead and floor space to consider. These are big challenges for inkjet OEMs and their customers. 

Kyocera’s Strategy

Kyocera Document Solutions has already been working very successfully in the entry level inkjet market. As I covered previously in “An entry-level press offering more than you expect,” Kyocera’s has installed nearly 400 of its TASKAlfa Pro 15000c press since it became commercially available in 2020.  This press is offered at price closer to the quarter million than the half million mark and delivers quality that meets or exceeds the needs of a wide swath of the entry level market as we defined it. The press is cost effective to purchase and to run delivering  G7 color targets on offset uncoated stock and a print resolution of 600 dpi or 600x1200 at reduced speed. As reported previously, it has a lot of features that you might not expect in an entry level press, but it can’t serve the graphic arts segment without being able to print on coated stocks.

Fred Morrone, Senior Manager, Production Inkjet Marketing at Kyocera said, “We are big believers in creating an upgrade path for our customers, but we also understand that sometimes the market needs are too different to cost effectively deliver in a single piece of equipment. That is why we are proud to announce the addition of the Pro 55000c to the TASKAlfa portfolio.”  Kyocera has taken the decision to continue to sell, support and enhance the Pro 15000c model while preparing to launch a complementary press to support the graphic arts market.

Introducing the Kyocera TASKAlfa Pro 55000c for Graphic Arts Production

Kyocera TASKAlfa Pro 55000c 

The TASKAlfa Pro 55000c was announced at Printing United in October with commercial availability expected in the second quarter of 2024. Pricing is projected to be under $500,000 which Kyocera anticipates will  be the lowest acquisition price in the market for direct to offset coated paper inkjet capability. Here are the details we have so far on the new press.

Table 1. Feature comparison of Kyocera TASKAlfa Pro models


NEW TASKAlfa Pro 55000c

TASKAlfa Pro 15000c 2


Kyocera piezo drop on demand

Kyocera piezo drop on demand

4 gray levels


1200 x 1200 dpi

600 x 600

(600 x 1200 reduced speed)





New water-based pigment chemistry

Water-based pigment





Fiery FS300 Pro

Fiery FS300 Pro


Automatic CMY head wet capping

Not available


146 ipm (letter images)

146 ipm (letter images) on all media (at 600 x 600 dpi)

Duty Cycle

5 million images per month

3 million images per month

Media types

Uncoated offset, Inkjet treated, Inkjet coated, Offset coated including offset gloss coated


Uncoated offset, Inkjet treated, Inkjet coated (Does not support offset coated stocks)


Media size

6.92” x 8.27” – 13” x 19.2”

6.92” x 8.27” – 13” x 19.2”

Media weight

52 - 400 gsm

52 – 360 gsm

Print streams



Input capacity

6,100 sheets / 11,810 sheets


Output capacity

5,000  to 10,000 sheets

4,150 to 14,000 sheets


Standard L 20.25’ x D 3.6’ x H 4.3’

Standard L 14,43’ 29”D x 48”H

Full system: 26.5’ 29”D x 48”H


4,160 lbs.

3,165 lbs. or less.


Press : Single Phase 200 ~ 240V 31A

Drying Unit : Three Phase 208V 50A, Single Phase 200 ~ 240V 11A

Paper Feed Unit : Single Phase 120V 15A

Paper Output Unit : Single Phase 100V 2.7A

1500W/5118.2BTU, 120 V 60 Hz 8.5 A/NEMA 5-15, 15A


Target segments and applications

Graphic arts:

·  Marketing collateral

·  Corporate identity

·  Sign & Display

·  Direct mail

·  Magazine/Catalog

·    Customer Communications

·    Direct Mail (letter mail)

·    Books

·    In-plant printing operations

Kyocera reported that the paper path, drying, and printhead technology as well as ink and fluids chemistry was specifically designed to enable the TASKAlfa Pro 55000c to shine with a more demanding set of target applications.

Despite the differentiated opportunities for each press individually, Kyocera expects to see customers running both presses side-by-side in addition to individual installations. Through wide-ranging customer input Kyocera is confident that the TASKalfa Pro 55000C will be a solution for both existing high-volume inkjet users as well as new adopters of inkjet technology to migrate work from offset and toner technologies. This is the same pattern of adoption that has driven the success of the TASKalfa Pro 15000C since its launch.

Dustin Graupman, Senior Director with Kyocera’s Inkjet Division said, “We are coming to market with a press that will raise the bar on what can be accomplished by a financially accessible, sheet-fed inkjet press delivering high coverage on a wide array of media including coated offset media. It’s important that we do this while continuing to meet the needs of our current customers and distribution partners. We expect this to be a perfect complement to the Pro 15000C as we keep investing to expand the performance of that platform. We see them sitting side-by-side in many customer environments.”  

You can learn more about Kyocera’s TASKAlfa Pro portfolio and see the Pro 55000c in action at drupa 2024.


  1. The study did not include commercial enterprises printing on fabric (grey goods) or in-plant printing operations of companies with primary businesses outside of print.
  2. For further details and configuration options on the current TASKAlfa Pro 15000c, see “An entry-level press offering more than you think” by Elizabeth Gooding