One of the most significant product developments in recent years was the RISO HC5000 that was introduced in Japan in late 2003 but which first really came to public attention at drupa 2004. While this was not the first inkjet single pass printer, it was the first that showed how the future was likely to develop with its functionality, performance and price. When this product was shown at drupa it was at 110 pages/minute the fastest cut sheet digital color printer in the world, while at the same time being almost the cheapest. Prior to drupa we had seen single pass digital color printers such as the Kodak Versamark and Agfa Dotrix, both of which were continuous feed devices, and much faster and vastly more expensive than the RISO HC5000. The RISO showed that inkjet printing with single pass engines was the future. The product offered average quality on uncoated papers but with far lower operational costs than the xerographic multi-function printers (MFPs) and “Light Production” printers such as the Xerox Docucolor 240/250 that were introduced around the same time. In 2006 RISO upgraded the HC5000 with the HC5500 that had improved quality and a speed of 120 pages/minu

The latest RISO development is a continuation of the product line with a new range of products under the ComColor brand. This product line has five models ranging from a low end 90 pages/minute ComColor 3010 at a price of $25,194 to the top of the line ComColor 9050 running at 150 pages/minute with a price of $46,194. These new printers do not replace the current RISO HC5500 although I find it difficult to see any major advantages the HC5500 has over the ComColor products. The equivalent ComColor 7010 that has a speed of 120 pages/minute is priced only around $1,200 more than the HC5500, but with a better specification. The main difference with the ComColor products is they are more compact, are more productive as printing can start on a job before the full job has been ripped, the duplex printing speed is faster, and there is a denser faster drying black ink. The ComColor units also use a new printhead design from the HC5500 that is rated for a higher number of impressions.

All this may sound wonderful, however there are some limitations in the overall RISO offerings. The key limitation is quality that is not as good as comparably priced xerographic products, nor is it as good as the only equivalent inkjet printer, the HP CM8050/8060 MFP products. However the RISO ComColor products are much faster than these competitive products. The RISO printers also cannot print on coated stocks because of the oil-based inks they use.

RISO claim that they have had good sales success with the HC5000 and HC5500 products with some 1,800 units in the field with over 600 of these in the Americas. RISO has some interesting distribution channels including Kodak who sell the HC5500 into the same market as its Versamark printers as a complementary solution for shorter run transactional printing. The overall sales numbers up to now however are not very impressive when compared with the huge number of comparably priced xerographic printers that are sold each year.

The ComColor product line however should change this situation as the product line is very competitive and has been enhanced substantially for the digital printing market. In the distribution area RISO now has partnerships with Objective Lune and Prism for page composition software, and Pitney Bowes has an agreement to re-sell the HC5500.

The new ComColor product line however may well be challenged aggressively in the future when HP introduce their planned “Light Production” printers that were hinted at last year at drupa and GraphExpo. These are likely to be inkjet based using the same Scalable Printing Technology printheads that are used in a range of HP printers. At present most inkjet printing developments have been in multiple pass SOHO and display printers, and in high-speed single pass continuous feed printers. The new ComColor product line may well herald the next move for inkjet printing in moving to compete in the “Light Production” space that is currently dominated by xerographic engines from companies like Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh and Xerox.