Some exhibitors at Print downsized their stands from the last time they exhibited at McCormick Place, while others pumped up the square footage. Count xpedx among those in the latter category. The distributor of printing papers, graphic supplies, and production equipment doubled the space it occupied at Graph Expo ’04, and not just for the comfort of the extra elbow room.

The company, a division of International Paper Co., wanted the spaciousness of its booth to reflect the breadth of its offerings to U.S. commercial printers, 90 percent of whom it claims to serve as customers. It also wanted to raise its marketing communications profile to a level befittting a network with 250 locations, 7,000 employees, and an impressive but little-known technology testing center that xpedx hopes will remain in the best-kept-secret category no longer.

As the exclusive U.S. sales agent for Ryobi Ltd., xpedx also joined in making a big-iron statement at Print by helping Ryobi stage the worldwide debuts of a long eight-color perfector, a B2 four-color convertible perfector, and what it called a “deluxe DI press” with UV curing capability. Also demonstrated at the Ryobi booth was a workflow system that can, according to xpedx, integrate all aspects of a print shop’s business in real time.

Bring ‘em on

Don Harvey, vice president of xpedx Printing Technologies, said Ryobi was stepping up its commitment to the U.S. market with a line of medium-sized and small sheetfed offset presses that will stand comparison for output quality with any other machines in their class.

The U.S. market presently accounts for 20 percent of worldwide volume for Ryobi, which manufactures presses in Hiroshima, Japan. xpedx recently announced an expansion of sales, service, and technical support for the Ryobi line and is planning to open a national Ryobi demonstration center in Kansas City, KS, next year.

Currently, xpedx sells Ryobi equipment through 50 independent dealers that have their own service capabilities—a distribution model that permits support operations to be decentralized.

Harvey said that dispersing the support function in this way gives Ryobi users a service advantage that customers of direct-selling press manufacturers don’t have. Instead of having to wait for service to be dispatched from a central hub, he explained, a Ryobi user can dial the cell phone number of a local service manager for an immediate response.

The Ryobi line includes the 750 series of B2-size 20 x 29" and 23 x 29" presses; the 680 series in A2-plus size; the 520 series in A3-plus; the A1-size 920 series in four or five colors; and the 3404 DI series of A3-plus size, portrait format, four-color presses incorporating direct imaging technology by Presstek. The 750, 680 and 520 series can be equipped with perfectors, coating units, UV curing units, and infrared dryers.

Seven days well spent

Continuous demonstrations of a number of these machines in what was billed as Ryobi’s largest-ever print technology exhibit in North America helped xpedx achieve “very strong sales” for the line at Print, according to Harvey.

Foremost among Ryobi’s world-premiere presses was the 758S eight-color, a 4/4 long perfector featuring curing of UV or hybrid inks at the turn. With a maximum print area of 29.53" x 21.46", the press has features to prevent smearing after perfecting and to protect the back side of the sheets from damage during transfer to the delivery pile. Automated functions include ink fountain presets, sensor-based density control, continuous dampening with hickey removal, paper guide adjustment, and running diagonal registration control.

The other new B2-sized Ryobi was the 784EP, a four-color press with an automatic convertible perfecting device that permits switching between four-color straight printing and two-color front/two-color back perfecting. In its XL (30.12" x 22.83") configuration, the 784EP can handle six-up printing of 8.5" x 11" material at speeds up to 14,000 sph. Semi-automated plate changing, centralized print function control, and features to expedite job changeover are intended to equip the press for short-run, quick turnaround printing.

Also shown for the first time anywhere at Print, the 3404X-DI (UV) is the UV-capable version of the enhanced direct imaging press that Ryobi introduced at drupa last year. According to the manufacturer, its UV curing capability lets printers expand beyond paper into non-porous substrates such as film, plastic, metallized paper, and label stock. Presstek furnishes both the ProFire Excel Imaging System and the ProFire Digital Media that enable on-press plate exposure with conventional or stochastic screening at up to 300 dpi.

Ryobi also demonstrated the Smart Net color printing system, a solution said to be capable of networking everything from administration and estimating to prepress, press, postpress, and shipping operations. It was presented as a turnkey, open-architecture, CIP4-JDF compliant information management system for integrating all equipment and tasks in a printing facility.

“You need it. We have it.”

To those who visited its booth, xpedx talked chiefly about the advantages of sourcing printing needs from a single vendor of consumables, equipment, and services—a range of offerings that xpedx claims to provide more extensively than any other distributor. It also strove to promote the capabilities of its National Technology Center (NTC) in Twinsburg, OH, a product-testing facility that also furnishes technical support services of various kinds to xpedx customers.

Allen Nimmo, a Chicago-based digital imaging manager for xpedx, described the NTC as “11,000 square feet of raw technology” where the testing of inventory items proceeds nonstop. The inventory is huge: some 275,000 SKUs (stockkeeping units) of workstations; scanners; software; color management, measuring, and viewing systems; proofing systems; servers; networking and backup/storage equipment; platesetters, plates, and plate processors; and digital presses.

Nimmo said that having access to this array lets an xpedx customer compare multiple systems in one fully networked setting and thus make a well-informed decision about which system to select. Testing can be performed at the NTC in the customer’s presence, or details of the test can be sent to the customer’s site. The NTC can simulate the creative and/or prepress workflow of nearly any shop owing to the fact that it carries so many varieties of equipment, Nimmo added.

Operated by xpedx since 1997, the NTC is also a technical consultancy and 24/7 support center where customers can get practical help in the form of network analysis; workflow audits; and remote device profiling and calibration services. File serving, storage, and archiving can be addressed either as routine practices or as elements of a new service from NTC: automated, medialess remote business continuance and disaster recovery.

This means, Nimmo explained, working with customers to create redundant backups of critical production and business data: physically, at the customer’s site; and remotely, via data telecommunication to xpedx servers. The service also will make provision for continuous incremental backups.