Drupa checklist

Being a large and growing print show, the demand for hotel rooms for Drupa seems to get worse every time.  True, Dusseldorf has a ‘Fairs Fair’ scheme, where hotels don’t exceed their rack rates for the show, but the rooms still get booked up years in advance.  I’ll be staying one hour’s drive away and still paying over the odds.  So you have to book in advance, without knowing what will be shown.  Will there be exciting new technology?  Or will it just be the demo machines from Drupa 2008 now ready for production?

My interest is ink jet technology, and 2008 was meant to be ‘Ink Jet Drupa’, so what will this one be?  In 2008 we saw the launch of the HP web press technology, new web and sheet fed ink jet, the Fujifilm Dimatix Samba Printhead.  What could possibly be new and interesting at Drupa 2012?  Have I booked 4 nights hotel for nothing?

No I haven’t.  Here are just some of the new developments that have been pre-announced:

Delphax will be launching the Memjet-based Elan press, which prints at 250 A4 pages/min. at 1600 x 1600 doi, or 500 ppm at 1600 x 800 dpi.  It prints CMYK + 2 spot colours.

Eastman Kodak Prosper 6000 XL press using the Stream continuous ink jet technology, running at 1,000 feet/min., that’s 5 metres/sec.  The press is rated at 160 M A4 impressions/month, and is claimed to be up to 45% more cost effective than thermal DOD and 31% better than its own Prosper 5000 XL press.

Epson will be showing the Surepress X single pass label press using LED UV-curable inks.

Fujifilm will add a B2 ink jet carton press using UV inks to its Jetpress 720 sheet-fed press, and also launch an ink jet web press running at 127 m/min.

Impika are launching a range of machines, the fastest being the iPrint eXtreme at 375 m/min. at 1200 dpi and a print width of 711 mm.

KBA Rotajet 76 is a joint development with RR Donnelley and uses Kyocera piezo printheads to print at 150 m/min. at 600 dpi. Over 30 inches wide.  RR Donnelley also has the Apollo technology, which uses ink jet to form a temporary hydrophobic or hydroplillic image on a plate like material, which is then conventionally inked.  Readers of the Pivotal Resources Directions ink jet patent reports will be familiar with this technology, which may (or may not) see the light of day.

Konica Minolta KM1 is a B2 sheet-fed ink jet press developed in collaboration with Komori.  It uses new 1200 dpi KM piezo printheads to print at 3300 sheets/hour.

Landa Labs Nanographic technology should be easily the biggest launch.  Claimed to use liquid ink based on nanoparticles and ink ejectors, it is claimed it will print on to a wide range of substrates without pre or post treatment.  This past week has seen the announcement of Komori and MAN Roland as licensees.

MGI Digital Graphic Technology Alphajet B2 sheet-fed press has 6 colour units plus a varnish with a throughput of 3,000 sheets/hour at 1200 dpi.

Screen has increased the spec. of the Truepress SX to handle cartonboard, and is rumoured to have a label press with its own ink jet heads.

Timson T-Press book press uses the Kodak Stream technology on their own paper feed mechanisms, and prints on paper up to 53 inches (1.35 m) wide at 650 feet/min.  It’s aimed at printing between 5-14 million books per year.

So is that all?  Well HP will be showing their production ink jet web presses, and Xerox hasn’t announced anything but will draw the crowds with Cirque du Soleil.  Canon and Océ will be showing the ColorStream 3700 ink jet press.  And apologies for not including all of the other companies launching new ink jet products, peripherals etc.

Beyond ink jet there’s also plenty to see.

HP Indigo is launching a B2 sheet-fed press, the 10000.

Kodak’s Nexpress has a electrophotographic press with a 5th unit capable of printing gold, neon pink or fluorescent colours.

Miyakoshi will show a press using the HVT (high viscosity toner) liquid toner technology in conjunction with Ryobi.

Xeikon will show its Quantum technology as a demonstration, also believed to be based on HVT technology.

So, look out for me in the aisles, see you there!

Mike Willis

Ink Jet IPEX?

Held half way between Drupa trade shows, IPEX is a big printing industry event that you cannot ignore.  Coming up in just 2 months time 18-25 May 2010 at the NEC, Birmingham, UK the advance of digital printing is going to be very apparent.

I’ve been attending IPEX shows since the early 1980’s when there was almost no digital printing.  Xerox was selling high-speed production copiers and had a printer version.  Delphax was promoting ionography, and Bull magnetography.  In those politically incorrect days I was aghast to see strippers peforming on the Polychrome plate stand – the challenge of attracting an audience to a commodity product hasn’t gone, but the method has changed!

But the most exciting IPEX for me was 1993 when Indigo and Xeikon first showed their products.  Industry pundits were predicting the demise of offset printing by the year 2000.  The buzz about the place was enormous.  As usual the initial growth of new technology was grossly overestimated and it would be around a decade before a significant market penetration for digital colour had been achieved.

So what about ink jet?  Well, the Drupa show in 2008 was tagged ‘Ink Jet Drupa’ and certainly the new technology demonstrated was impressive.  Ink jet had finally shaken off the image of desk-top products – good quality but unreliable.  But with a few exception, the really impressive stuff was there as prototypes.  The expectation for IPEX 2010 is that we will see commercialised products and they will be working.

Kodak will be showing their Stream continuous ink jet technology, now incorporated into the Prosper range of machines.  Printing 200 metres/min. it has a duty cycle of 120 M A4 pages/month!  HP’s web press prints at 122 m/min. but has a wider web width and so similar productivity.

But perhaps the most interesting machines will be ink jet sheet-fed presses.  Fujifilm and Screen showed non-working prototypes at Drupa 2008 and we have been closely monitoring the patents published by both companies to understand better how they work.  At the moment the Fujifilm 720 press looks more interesting from a process point of view.  To enable printing on to a wide range of paper stocks, both machines use a colourless fixer or print improver liquid with is printed before the image.  This reacts with the ink to considerably improve the waterfastness, and the precipitate the colorants on the substrate surface giving brighter images.  The Fujifilm patents describe a further twist.  The ink contains not just coloured pigments but transparent polymer beads.  After printing these are fused on to the substrate in a process similar to the hot roll fusing of toner technology.  The result is likely to be good adhesion and gloss even on smooth coated substrates.

We will be commenting further on technology at IPEX, and of course reviewing it after the event.  And the IMI Europe Ink Jet Conference, to be held this year in Lisbon 27-29 October, will be featuring both the technology and markets for ink jet digital presses.

Kodak’s Stream inks

As most people know, Kodak has been developing a new continuous ink jet technology over the past few years and is now exploiting it as the Prosper digital press platform.  Kodak has just posted on YouTube a presentation by Jim Chwalek on the ink technology used.

There are two main points.  First the use of Kodak’s milling technology to produce nano-particulate inks leads to strong vibrant colours.  Secondly, as continuous ink jet is being used it is claimed that there is no need to include large quantities of slow drying wetting agents in the inks that drop on demand heads need to stop nozzles from clogging.  This enables Kodak to print high quality images directly on to glossy papers without mottle and bleeding.

Certainly the print samples that Kodak has been showing are impressive.  It will be very interesting to see how this ink technology compares with the pre-coating ink fixer or image improver technologies that Hewlett-Packard and Fujifilm are using.