AIIM On Demand 2006 is proving to be a tough show for vendors with new products to unveil—there are just too darned many debuts to rush from booth to booth to see. This certainly is the case on the output side, where the show’s opening day complicated the already abundant choice of digital document production systems with a large number of new entries that soon will be jockeying for payoff positions in the categories they represent.

This week and next, this writer and other members of the WhatTheyThink editorial team will report the principal introductions and try to discern some trends in a marketplace that finally seems ready to buy digital printing systems in the quantities that the vendors of these devices have long hoped for. Print equipment buyers, say the vendors, are savvier than ever about their options, or at the very least, no longer need to be coaxed and cajoled in the direction of digital production. Having heard from their customers that color in small, rapidly produced quantities will be the tenor of their business from now on, these printers have replaced "if" with "when" in their thinking about acquiring digital capability.

Sensing their receptivity, the major manufacturers have come to Philadelphia with devices that they claim will make better-looking prints faster and more efficiently than predecessor systems or the competitive products that the upstarts hope to knock out of the box. We begin with presentations of this kind made by three vendors that are no strangers to making the most of their opportunities at On Demand: Canon, Duplo, and RISO.

Canon (booth 1624) yesterday set what may stand as a record in press conference efficiency by making 18 new-product announcements in about 45 minutes (including Q&A). The market impact of this brief session will be felt for months, though, as the Canon introductions try to change the competitive landscape of the markets into which they have been thrust: digital office color printing; graphics, creative, and proofing; and probably most significant, digital production color, a new arena for Canon.

For corporate environments, the debut product is the Color imageRUNNER C5180, said by Canon to be the first in an all-new line of 10 Color imageRUNNER models that it will release this year. With an automatic document feeder that can handle multi-page originals at speeds up to 70 letter-sized images per minute (ipm), the Color imageRUNNER C5180 can print at 51 pages per minute (ppm) at resolutions of up 1,200 X 1,200 dpi. It will be available as an expandable “base” model or in an “i” configuration with print and enhanced send features for general office environments.

Four new imagePROGRAF large format printers—the 60" iPF9000, the 36" iPF700, the 24 " iPF600, and the 17" iPF500—expand Canon’s suite of inkjet offerings for the graphics arts, corporate and computer-aided design (CAD) markets. The iPF9000 will be equipped with a 12-color printing system that uses Canon’s Lucia pigment inks and high-precision print head technology to achieve what the company says is full-photolithography image quality.

Canon’s aggressive move into the high-end digital graphic arts market will be spearheaded by the imagePRESS C7000VP and imagePRESS C1 digital presses, having their formal unveilings at On Demand. At the briefing, the devices—known until yesterday as imagePRESS models “X” and “Y”—were said to be targeted at professional printing environments as alternatives to offset. The imagePRESS C7000VP is aimed at commercial printers and others seeking to add high-volume digital capability. The imagePRESS C1 will be offered to the proofing, short-run, and creative color printing market, a segment that Canon believes to be underserved by other digital press manufacturers.

The imagePRESS C7000VP is designed to print at 70 (ppm) for letter-sized output in color and black & white. The imagePRESS C1 will deliver up to 14 ppm in color and 60 ppm in black & white, based on letter-sized output. Both devices will use Canon’s new generation color imagePlatform controller, “gloss optimization” technology, finishing capabilities and an improved toner to deliver the promised look and feel of offset. They will accommodate media sizes up to 13" x 19", with the imagePRESS C7000VP able to maintain full rated output speeds regardless of stock weight or coverage. The new presses are expected to be available in the fourth quarter of this year; pricing was unavailable.

Canon also introduced new imageWARE document management solutions for users of imageRUNNER devices: imageWARE Accounting Manager Version 5.0, imageWARE Enterprise Management Console, and imageWARE Remote.

Duplo (booth 2349) is best known as a supplier of finishing equipment, but its portfolio also includes several digital duplicators for low-cost, moderate-volume reproduction of simple documents when neither photocopying or offset printing is quite the answer. At the top of this line at On Demand is the DP-460H, said by Duplo to be the first such device with a vacuum-activated feed system: an innovation that minimizes image shift and other problems caused by feed rollers.

The DP-460H can operate at up to 130 ppm in sizes up to 11.7" x 17". After the cost of the “plate”—the rice paper/polyester master automatically imaged by the machine—has been recovered at about 50 copies, the cost per copy drops to about one-half cent. Used plates are automatically ejected and held in a storage area of the machine for convenient disposal. All common file formats can be accepted, although pure PostScript input requires an optional driver.

RISO (booth 3149), the subject of a preshow report here last week, also makes digital duplicators, but it now offers something else as well—an inkjet device built to deliver what RISO calls “communication color” in practical-minded environments such as in-plants and corporate reprographics departments. The HC5500 full color inkjet printer, in preview at On Demand, uses a 24-head Forcejet piezo system and oil-based CMYK inks to produce color that looks good, prints quickly, and goes easy on the budget—the best-of-all-worlds level of quality that “communication color is supposed to represent.

Expected to be available this summer, the HC5500 prints A4 landscape in full color in normal mode at 120 ppm. Duplex printing in normal mode is 92 ppm. Riso says that the running cost is $.03 per page in full color. The HC5500 prints up to 11" x 17" in weights from 12 lb. bond to 80 lb. cover and can handle envelopes and card stock. At On Demand, the device is being used to print, among other items, 9" x 12" envelopes in full color with variable addressing. Also available is an in-line finisher that offset stacking, stapling, hole punching and booklet making functions.