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High-speed presses for 4-color, variable-data output.



Print shops wanting to diversify their product offerings may want to consider adding high-speed digital color presses. These super-fast presses are capable of producing 4-color fliers, posters, and brochures containing variable data. While lesser machines can product basic transactional printing (inserting a name into a letter or billing information onto an invoice), these presses are capable of producing completely individualized pieces-each page may contain personalized graphics, text, charts, and headlines.

On the downside, these presses typically are limited when it comes to output size (most feature a 12- or 20-in. maximum width), and they can carry relatively hefty price tags (up to half a million dollars). In addition, a shop must develop expertise in optimizing the sales and use of the variable-data components.

Before jumping into the high-speed game, check to see types of high-speed variable jobs your current customers as well as top prospects are in need of: complex variable-data fliers, brochures, mailings, etc. Ask them the frequency and length of the runs, the type of media/substrates they need, and the variety of finishing services they'll require after printing. All of these factors will help steer you to the type of high-speed press that can accommodate their printing needs.

In addition, consider these specific features when evaluating if a high-speed on-demand press makes sense for your operation, and in comparing and contrasting specific machines:

* Reporting speeds will often vary from company to company and machine to machine-some report in pages per minute (ppm) or pages per hour (pph), while others report in feet/meters per minute (fpm/mpm), or the elusive impressions per hour (iph) or impressions per month (ipm), etc.

* Some presses require an additional controller or RIP to handle the VDP processing.


* Consider the variable-data software recommended for use with the hardware, as well as the available training for prepress and graphic artists.

* Note the types of coated/uncoated rollfed or sheetfed media that the press will accommodate-some only print on typical papers, while others print on a variety of substrates and heavier media.

* The additional in-line or near-line specialty-finishing equipment-such as a specialty varnish, cutting, booklet making, or binding-will vary.

* Press OEMs will typically offer some kind of support and training; most companies now have business units devoted to this.

What follows is a sampling of the high-speed digital presses currently on the market. Each offers at least 4-color output, can handle complex variable-data printing, and is no smaller than 12-in. wide.

Agfa's latest entry in the high-speed, on-demand market is its new Dotrix Transcolor. Utilizing inkjet technology and its CMYK x2 UV-curable Agorix Nova inks, this press offers resolutions that reach 300-dpi grayscale (900-dpi apparent). The rollfed Transcolor offers a maximum print width of 24.8-in.; compatible substrates vary from 48 to 380 gsm for paper, and plastic thicknesses range from 50 to 400 microns.


Like the original Dotrix unit, the Transcolor features the single-pass color engine (SPICE). The machine's printheads span the printing width, and the substrate passes underneath, allowing for printing on both sides (duplex) in a single pass. Its intelligent printer data stream (IPDS) controller processes variable-data pages in real time for speeds up to 24 mpm or 484 ppm or 29,000 pph.

Transcolor's standard configuration is roll-to-roll with a jumbo reel unwinder and rewinder. Options include an in-line slitter bar and an inspection table; other compatible in-line and off-line finishing equipment is also available.

Agfa also offers its original Dotrix Modular unit. Like the Transcolor, it offers 300-dpi resolution, grayscale printing with Agorix UV-curable inks (CMYK), 24.8-in. print width, and is armed with the 24 mpm SPICE engine. The Dotrix prints single-sided and accommodates substrates from 25 to 600 microns thick. It comes standard with a jumbo unwinder/rewinder, and offers flexographic printing stations, slitting, and die-cutting converting options.

Canon offers several high-speed, variable-data color presses, including the imagePress C7000VP; the imageRunner C4080, C4580, and C5180 series; and the CLC4000 and CLC5100.

The new imagePress C7000VP images at 70 ppm for color printing on letter-sized paper with resolutions up to 1200 x 1200 dpi. Armed with its automatic duplex capabilities, it handles 64 to 300 gsm paper up to 13 x 19 in. and offers a 10,000-sheet maximum sheet capacity. It also features Canon's new oil-free V toner with 5.5-micron toner particles for sharp details; in addition, its new Gloss Optimization toner technology gives the look and feel of offset printing, Canon reports. Paired with the imagePress Workflow Solutions, a suite of hardware and software, the press allows for variable-data printing. Optional finishing accessories include a stacker, saddle stitcher, booklet trimmer, puncher, and more.

The imageRunner C4080/C4580/C5180 series printers are compatible with sheets up to 12 x 18 in., 17 to 140 lb, and offer a 3800-sheet capability. The presses feature print speeds up to 36 ppm for the C4080, 40 ppm for the C4580, and 51 ppm for the C5180. When paired with the ColorPass-GX100 controller, the C4080/C4580/C5180 presses can produce variable-data prints. Finishing options include stapler, puncher, and saddle stitchers.


The CLC 4100 and CLC5100 handle page sizes up to 12 x 18 in., feature paper capacity up to 4850 pages, accommodate media from 17 to 140 lb, and offer resolutions up to 400 x 400 dpi. The CLC4000 features 4-color print speeds up to 40 ppm, while the CLC5100 offers output speeds up to 51 ppm in full color. Optional equipment includes extra stackers and the Nagel booklet maker.

Each of Hewlett-Packard’s Indigo digital presses utilizes a liquid HP ElectroInk in up to 6-color (plus offline spot-color capability). The commercial printing models are generally sheetfed with print widths up to 12.1 in. and resolutions up to 812 x 1624 dpi. All of the Indigo machines offer Indigo Yours Truly VDP software for full-color personalization of documents.

The latest and fastest iteration is the Indigo press 5000. While both the 5000 and the Indigo press 3050 feature the same speed of 4000 8.5 x 11-in. images/hr (iph), the 5000 also includes a more robust paper- handling system, a higher duty cycle, and, when printing monochrome, it will hit 8000 8.5 x 11-in. iph. The 5000 and 3050 are both compatible with paper weights up to 130 lb, and feature resolutions up to 812 x 812 dpi. The Indigo press 1050 offers a 12.1-in. image size and resolutions up to 800 x 2400 dpi; it's compatible with paper up to 100 lb, and prints up to 2000 8.5 x 11 in. iph.

The webfed Indigo press w3250 can reach 4-color speeds of 4000 duplex pages/hr, has an 11.9-in. maximum print width, is compatible with paper up to 100 lb, and offers resolutions up to 800 x 1600 dpi. Optional equipment includes additional inks, another RIP, an external digital front-end solution, and stacking modules for automated unloading during continuous printing.

HP also offers industrial Indigo presses intended for the label and packaging market: the ws4050, ws2000, and s2000. These are also capable of 4-color variable data work, but typically just run variable UPC codes or addresses.

The first product of a joint venture with Ricoh, the new continuous-forms IBM Infoprint 5000 images variable-data documents up to 20-in. wide. Capable of handling rollfed papers from 17 to 34 lb, the Infoprint 5000 uses water-based pigment CMYK inkjet inks that are resistant to fading and smearing. Resolutions up to 360 x 720 dpi and color depth are achieved through the use of multiple drop sizes and two bits per spot.

The Infoprint is available in simples or tandem duplex configurations for one-, two-, or three-up printing. Its web speeds reach 209 fpm or 916 full-color letter-size ipm in 2-up tandem duplex mode; it can produce up to 4 to 5 million impressions per month, the company reports.

The Infoprint 5000 ships with the extendable IBM multi-computer printer controller that drives Adobe PostScript RIPs to expedite the processing of variable-data jobs.

Kodak offers two lines of high-speed presses: NexPress and VersaMark. Both are modular systems that are capable of full VDP printing, but the sheetfed NexPress uses toner technology while the rollfed Versamark system features inkjet technology.

The NexPress machines use dry electrophotography 4-color toner and are compatible with a variety of paper and specialty substrates. Most presses offer 'operator replaceable components' (ORC) so print shops can replace parts themselves to optimize uptime and maintain overall performance. In addition, these presses offer a range of optional equipment (available on most units), including the NexPress fifth imaging unit (for spot colors, coating, and glossing), additional feeders, high-capacity delivery units, the Kodak NexStation IV front end, in-line booklet maker, and near-line Kodak NexGlosser.

The NexPress 2100 Plus is a sheetfed press that images up to 600-dpi resolutions. It accommodates substrates from 60 to 350 gsm and up to 14 x 20.5 in. This NexPress produces up to 2100 duplex letter-sized full-color pph. It also offers upgraded speed (to 2500 pph).

The NexPress 2500 images up to 2500 duplex letter-sized color pph and features resolutions up to 600 dpi. It now offers a speed upgrade option to match the print speeds of the S3000. With speeds topping out at 3000 duplex 4-color pages/hr, the new NexPress S3000 features an 11,000 sheet feeding capacity, 600-dpi resolution, and is compatible with a variety of substrates from 60 to 350 gsm. The new S3000 will begin shipping in October.

The mid-level NexPress M700 offers speeds up to 3840 pph, 1200 x 1200-dpi resolution, a 12.71-in. imaging width, compatibility with several uncoated and coated papers and specialty stocks, has a dual-fusing system to enable mixed media printing at production speeds, ORC capability, and a feeder capacity of 6000 sheets.

The Kodak Versamark V-series is a modular system with print widths up to 17.92 in. and resolutions as high as 300 x 1200 dpi. Featuring top speeds of 500 fpm, the V-series printers offer a choice of controllers, as well as pre-and post-production options such as roll unwind, perforating, fanfolding, sheeting, and stacking.

The Versamark VT3000 features speeds up to 500 fpm, resolution of 300 x 600 dpi, and is compatible with a range of preprinted or blank rollfed paper from 60 to 160 gsm. Capable of producing more than 2000 VDP ppm, the Versamark VX5000/VX5000e presses boast resolutions up to 300 x 600 dpi and speeds up to 500 fpm; the VX5000e offers an enhanced resolution mode for resolutions up to 300 x 1200 dpi.

The Versamark D-series generally is a narrower system that is aimed at the commercial and mailing market to print variable data on labels and envelopes. The Versamak DS900, however, allows for a 2-head system that measures 17.92-in. wide, produces up to 1000 fpm, and offers resolutions up to 300 x 300 dpi.

MGI's Meteor DP40 Pro press accommodates media up to 12.25 x 18 in., offers resolutions up to 1800 dpi, and 4-color toner printing speeds up 2100 pph. With a maximum sheet capacity of 5750, this press is compatible with a wide variety of paper and plastic substrates from 60 to 320 gsm; it offers automatic duplexing for media up to 260 gsm. The machine includes an EFI Fiery RIP and Genebase software for variable-data processing. Options include auto color calibration via an integrated spectrodensitometer, an offline UV varnish, and a PowerLam hot-roll laminator.

The Oce CPS800 and CPS900 systems offer high-speed, variable-data printing onto 12 x 18-in. sheets. Using 7-color toner technology, these printers provide resolutions up to 600 x 2400 dpi, a 3700-sheet capacity, and speeds as fast as 1800 8.5 x 11-in. iph [images/hr], with print speeds unaffected by substrate type. Users choose between the Oce 1000C and 960C color controller, both of which are compatible with PPML format, and can add the optional Pageflex Persona and Atlas PrintShop software.

Punch Graphix now offers a family of high-speed, variable-data color presses under its Xeikon brand name-the Xeikon 4000, 5000plus, and 6000. These single-pass duplex printers all utilize 4-color Xeikon FA toner, feature a 600-dpi resolution, and print variable data onto media rolls up to 20-in. wide. All three machines are powered by the X-800 DFE digital front end that acts as RIP and processes variable-data as well. All vary slightly on the thicknesses of compatible media, speeds, and duty cycles.

The Xeikon 4000 is the company's entry-level press. Compatible with media from 40 to 250 gsm, it features two speeds up to 130 ppm, and duty cycles of up to 2.7 million pages/month (at 3 shift/day, 5 days/week). The Xeikon 5000plus offers three print speeds up to 130 ppm, media compatibility from 40 to 350 gsm, and a monthly duty cycle up to 3 million pages/month. In addition, this press has in-line density and registration control and is upgradeable to the Xeikon 6000. The top-of-the-line Xeikon 6000 offers media compatibility with substrates from 40 to 250 gsm, four print speeds up to 160 ppm, and a monthly duty cycle of up to 5 million pages/month.

Options for these presses include a jumbo reel unwinder, print protector to add a protective coating, in-line folding, envelope inserting, in-line or off-line book-binding, and an OmniVac air-treatment system.

Just released is the company's rollfed Truepress Jet520 inkjet press. This 4-color variable-data machine is a continuous-feed, single-pass printer that produces images up to 20-in. wide. It reports prints speed up to 209.9 fpm at 720 x 360-dpi resolution or 409 8.5 x 11-in. ppm; while the 720 x 720-dpi print mode produces 104.9 fpm.

The Truepress utilizes CMYK water-based pigment inks that resist degradation caused by exposure to water and light and exhibit good drying properties with uncoated stock. The Seiko Epson printheads produce multi-tone printing with a color depth of 4 tones per drop (2-bit imaging) for each color.

This printer comes with the printing unit and a rewinder/unwinder. Users can connect the Truepress to a variety of inline post-processing equipment.

Xerox offers several presses for high-speed, variable-data production: the iGen3 110 and 90, plus the DocuColor 5000, 6060, and 7000/8000.

Xerox’s iGen3 110 and iGen3 90 Digital Production Presses offer 600 x 600-dpi x 8-bit resolutions; a choice of Xerox DocuSP, Creo Spire, or EFI Fiery servers; media sizes up to 14.33 x 20.5 in.; and use SmartPress 4-color dry ink. Accommodating a wide range of coated, uncoated, and specialty substrates from 16 to 130 lb, the standard feed trays hold up to 7500 sheets; the optional High-Capacity feeder adds an addition 50,000 sheets. The Xerox iGen3 90 reaches top speeds (for 7 x 7-in. images) of 90 ipm, while the Xerox iGen3 110 offers 120 ipm. Finishing options for iGen3 presses include laminators, booklet makers, punches, binders, and more.

The company's DocuColor presses all offer media sizes up to 12.6 x 19.2-in., duplex 4-color printing, utilize Xerox toners, a maximum paper capacity of 8000 sheets, can accommodate a wide range of substrates, and users choose a Xerox, EFI, or Creo front end. The DocuColor 5000 handle media up to 110 lb and can print at full speed (50 ppm) with substrates up to 220 gsm (80 lb). Imaging at 2400 x 2400-dpi resolution, the company suggests an average monthly volume of 150,000 pages. Finishing options include high-capacity stacker, stacker/stapler, and booklet maker.

The 600 x 600-dpi x 8-bit DocuColor 6060 offers a top speed of 60 ppm with a 150,000 average ppm, auto-duplexing for sheets up 12 x 18 in., and Low Oil Fusing Technology. Finishing options for this press include laminators, stackers, staplers, booklet makers, punchers, binders, and more.

The DocuColor 7000/8000 offers 2400 x 2400-dpi resolutions, top speeds of 70/80 ppm, and an average monthly volume of 200,000 pages. Print shops can add finishing options such as laminators, stackers, staplers, booklet makers, punch, binders, and more.



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