Early this New York morning, before the keynotes, before the show floor doors opened at the Javits Center, Océ North America launched its latest assault on the digital printing market.

The day began with breakfast in Océ's booth where the company's Digital Document Systems division announced two important new products, the VarioStream 9000 and the CPS 900, along with important additions to the VarioStream 7000 line, the VarioPrint 5000, 3000 and 2000 families, and further enhancements to its PRISMA workflow software.


Innovation, that persistent driver of growth, change and success was the theme at the Océ booth, and the company's array of new offerings gave credence to the message. Most notable was the new continuous-form VarioStream 9000 which is being billed as the industry's first black-and-color-ready electrophotographic printer. For the moment, the new 850-ppm machine is black-only, but one spot color is expected to become available later this year. And after that it gets more interesting--and more innovative. In keeping with Océ's traditional practice of building scalable and upgradable equipment, the 9000 is designed to morph into 5-color printer that will ultimately offer four-color printing plus a fifth spot color. This means a printer can start with a monochrome VarioStream 9000 now and upgrade the same machine to provide full-color printing as demand grows.

Behind this product strategy, says Guy Broadhurst, director of product market for the Digital Document Systems division, is Océ's belief that first, there is presently substantial demand in the market for spot color, and that this demand will grow as customers migrate an increasing volume of jobs to include more and more color. Second, those customers don't want to have to invest in more and more equipment to meet their customers' changing needs. The VarioStream 9000 is designed to support customers who are seeking to manage this migration to color in the most efficient and cost-effective way. And at the same time, the machine can be used for everyday black-and-white printing and spot color. It's very much in line with the long envisioned universal printer concept.

Timing for the complete evolution of the VarioStream is unclear, but could take up to three years. The question voiced about this timetable was whether the market demand for color will grow at a rate that will allow Océ to roll out color on the VarioStream 9000 at such a slow pace. On the one hand there is certainly opportunity lost by moving slowly. But if you look at the customers where Océ has its greatest strengths --data centers, service bureaus and other transactional and production printing applications--the demand for color is growing at a much slower pace than in other graphic arts markets. This makes a gradual roll-out of continuous-form color printing seem much less an issue.

The VarioStream 9000 follows the modern practice of using belts to transfer images instead of drums and has a unique belt configuration that enables one-pass duplexing. Like most Océ production print engines, it can print in 240, 300 and 600 dpi, but coming versions will support much higher linescreens as the machine is readied for graphic arts applications such as multi-color books, direct marketing materials and other publishing duties, such as newspapers.

Only time will tell if the VarioStream 9000 and its future variations are the first of the kind of flexible high-end print engines of the future. Something tells me this is a box to keep an eye on.

But Wait, There's More!

Also on the continuous-forms front was a new version of the VarioStream 7650cxnewly featured with Enhanced Print Quality and an expanded print width. The 7000 family is Océ's high-speed line which seems to expand at every show.

For those who favor cut-sheet printers, an enhanced version of the VarioPrint 5000 cut-sheet family was rolled out, this one able to run two-over-two spot color. This was a feature I heard customers asking about at one of Océ's summer road shows last year. The innards of the machine were clearly designed with this capability in mind and here it is. This adds a dimension to cut-sheet printing not available on systems from other manufacturers and adds new flexibility for a variety of applications.

Océ has slightly expanded its full-color offerings with the new CPS 900, a 30-ppm 7-color printer with roots in the CPS-700. It uses Océ's CopyPress technology to produce offset-quality images and has the flexibility to combine color and monochrome in a single print run. Océ says color consistency and ease of use make it an ideal candidate for many moderate-volume color applications in print shops and corporate environments.

And last but not least were the multi-functional Océ VarioPrint 2090 and 3090 systems. With the ability of running complex jobs with multiple media types, single and double-sided documents, and precise finishing requirements these boxes are aimed at CRDs, quick and franchise printers and corporate workgroups. Like most Océ print engines, these can the PRISMA workflow to help manage and control jobs in multiple print environments.