New choices continued to flood the high-end digital production equipment marketplace yesterday as more vendors announced or previewed devices for that space at On Demand.

The show, heavily attended throughout its first two days, is one of the liveliest venues for monochrome, spot-color, and full color digital production systems in years and contains, needless to say, not a single offset press. The audience is thick with representatives of in-plant printing operations, corporate reprographics departments, government agencies, university presses, quick printers, and commercial printing businesses—all of whom have come to the show with a pent-up demand for digital technology that seems to have coincided almost magically with the fruitions of the vendors' various product development programs.

That makes for plenty of traffic and excitement in the aisles of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, but there’ll be no magic shortcut to selecting the right system for the corporate in-plant or the neighborhood print shop back home. Given the breadth of options now available to those who have decided to acquire or expand digital printing capability, only careful research of customer requirements and internal workflows will point the way to a system that can be counted on to make money whenever it puts toner (or, in a few cases, duplicator ink) on paper.

Coverage of the proliferation of choices continues today with announcements from three more Japanese vendors with definite plans to boost their shares of the North American market for digital printing equipment: Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Sharp.

Konica Minolta (booth 2125) has pushed further into the high-volume production category with a new addition to its bizhub PRO series of production printers, the bizhub PRO C6500. Kevin Kean, vice president for product planning and development, says the bizhub PRO C6500 will target users of the company’s widely installed bizhubPRO C500, offering a high-output device with a lower cost of acquisition than competing systems. He notes that new machine can be configured “lightly” for simple production or in full-dress fashion with inline finishing.

Operating at 65 ppm in both black & white and color, the bizhub PRO C6500 has a 7,500-sheet input for long runs and a duty cycle of 200,000 copies per month. The device will ship in nine production printing configurations and one high-end office configuration and is available with controllers from Fiery and Creo.

The bizhub PRO C6500 is being introduced jointly with a new version of Konica Minolta’s Simitri polymerized color toner, Simitri-HD (high definition). The company says that its small particle size and oilless fusing enable Simitri-HD to create smooth, high-quality, high-resolution prints that resist cracking, scuffing, and curling in a process that saves energy and increases the reliability of the machine.

Another production platform being showcased at On Demand by Konica Minolta is the bizhub PRO 1050, newly configured with an inline perfect binder said to be capable of producing up to 300 books per hour. The bizhubPRO is a 105 ppm printer that can be configured in 18 different ways, including various finishing options and on-board document storage.

Ricoh (booth 2325) has significantly stepped up its offerings in high-speed black & white output by introducing the Aficio multifunction printer (MFP) models MP9000 (90 ppm), MP1100, (110 ppm), and MP1350 (135 ppm). The series can handle paper up to 13" x 18" and up to 80 lb. cover, including recycled, pre-punched, card stock, bond, transparencies, and tab stock. Besides scanning, copying, e-mailing, and delivering scanned files via FTP, users can edit print jobs at the console with functions such as creep adjustment and mixing one-and two-sided originals. A multi-feed detection system removes misfed multiple sheets for continuous operation at full production speeds. Finishing options include units for booklet making, trimming, cover feeding, and book folding.

Ricoh also is demonstrating the high-volume capabilities of its EMP 156, DDP 184, and DDP 92 production publishing systems. The most muscular of the three, the EMP 156, can produce 4.5 million images per month at 156 images per minute (ipm) in simplex or duplex, according to Ricoh. The DDP 92 is a 92 ppm, 600 dpi printer with a multiple-original feature that permits the printing of multiple sets at full speed. The DDP 184 combines two 92 ppm engines to print black at 184 ppm in duplex mode.

Another On Demand debut from Ricoh is the HQ9000 Priport digital duplicator, a 135 ppm, 600 x 600 dpi device that uses a fast-drying ink to reduce roller marks and eliminate set-off. Additional clarity is said to be achieved by a new imaging technique that evenly penetrates the paper with the ink. Masters reportedly last for 4,000 impressions, and Ricoh puts the cost of a print from the HQ9000 Priport at about one-third cent.

Sharp Electronics Corp. (booth 1642) does not yet have a machine aimed at the commercial production market for digital color, but Clifford Quiroga, product management director of the document solutions division, said that such a system would be announced toward the end of the year. In the meantime, Sharp is showing On Demand how it does digital color with the unveiling of three new high-end workgroup systems, the MX-5500N, MX-6200N and MX-7000N.

These devices have enhanced features including copier speeds ranging from 55 to 70 ppm (41 ppm in color). Built for heavy volume, the new models have a paper capacity of up to 6,600 sheets and a 150-sheet document feeder. They use Sharp’s multitasking controller technology with multiple job queuing to process copy, print, and scan jobs more efficiently. The new models can be equipped with an optional Fiery Print Controller to produce graphics-quality color with enhanced color depth using Fiery tools and software.

Sharp hopes to extend the functionality of its entire MFP line with Sharp Open Systems Architecture (Sharp OSA), which it describes as a developmental platform that will enable developers and Sharp partners to make software applications related to document production easily accessible to users of Sharp devices directly at the machines. The Sharp OSA development kit lets developers use XML, XHTML, and other standard Web-based protocols to customize their applications for user access in this way.

For example, a Sharp partner selling copier supplies could write a Sharp OSA compatible program that would let users place orders for toner through the same touchscreen that controls the device. Because the software is Web-based, the order is sent directly to the partner’s location for automatic input. The user at the Sharp copier sees an order confirmation number and a delivery date on the touchscreen. A call for service could be placed in the same way, through the copier itself, with a service ticket number and the technician’s estimated time of arrival displayed on the touchscreen.

Quiroga says that by enabling dealers, developers, and other localized providers to write and embed customized supporting applications that customers want to access quickly, Sharp OSA can add new value to the devices through which the applications will be available. Pushing the interface to the workgroup level, he adds, will also make money for Sharp: “If you can connect to the back-end systems faster, you’ll get the clicks.”