If it’s one-to-one marketing jobs you’re seeking, then you’ll be dealing with variable data. And for that component, there’s no better tool than a high-speed digital color press. These super-fast “on-demand” 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 highly individualized pieces—each page may contain personalized graphics, text, charts, and headlines.
It’s important to note, however, that 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.
If you’re considering adding an on-demand press to your operation, check to see which 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. Examine 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 an on-demand press and in comparing and contrasting specific machines:
• Reporting speeds will often vary from company to company and machine to machine; some companies report in pages per minute (ppm) or pages per hour (pph), while others report in feet/meters per minute (fpm/mpm), or impressions per minute, 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.
We’ve assembled a sampling of the high-speed on-demand presses currently on the market, and present them here. Each offers at least 4-color output, can handle complex variable-data printing, and is no smaller than 12-in. wide.
Agfa offers two variations on its Dotrix printer: the Transcolor and the Modular.
The Dotrix Transcolor is specifically designed for complex variable-data printing, and features CMYK x2 UV-curable Agorix Nova inkjet inks and 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 (see below), 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’s 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 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 imagePress C6000VP is built on the same core architecture as the C7000VP but geared for midsized to large production environments. It can hit 60 letter-sized pages per minute (ppm), offers true 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution and 256 levels of grayscale, and can accommodate media up to 13 x 19 in. (Note: Canon also features the C6000, which does not feature variable-data capabilities.)
The company’s imagePress C1+ is a color device with clear toner designed for the “light production and proofing” markets. It offers print speeds up to 14 ppm for color jobs (up to 60 ppm for black-and-white and up to 40 ppm for clear printing jobs), and can handle a wide range of paper stock including coated and textured stocks. It offers true 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution, accommodates media up to 13 x 19 in., and integrate with all desktop color-management solutions. Its print controller options include variable-data capabilities.
The HP Indigo 7000 is targeted at volumes of more than 1 million pages/month. Accommodating paper sizes up to 13 x 19 in. and supporting a wide range of substrates—including coated, uncoated, and specialty media—the Indigo 7000 can output 120 4-color, A4-size pages/minute. It’s a standard 4-color (CMYK) system, with 5-, 6-, and 7-colors optional. It can hit a resolution of 812 and 1219 dpi at 8-bit. Three SmartStream workflow solutions are available, including Production Pro Print, Production Plus Print, and Ultra Print servers. Other features include an intuitive touchscreen interface, on-the-fly ink replacement, a paper stacker that supports 6000 sheets, and a JDF-enabled architecture.
HP announced enhancements to its Indigo press 5500 last year, allowing for greater productivity. The 5500 added: an additional feeder, an in-line connection to the HP Indigo UV Coater, a kit for enabling printing on thicker media up to 450 microns, and a range of SmartStream print servers. The press, aimed at shops with average monthly volumes in the 300,000-1 million pages/month range, can reach speeds up to 68 ppm in 4-color mode and can handle media up to 13 x 19 in. The 5500 accommodates 4-color process (CMYK), 6-color IndiChrome (CMYKOV), and 6-color photo imaging (CMYKcm); like the 7000, it can hit 812 and 1219 dpi.
The company’s Indigo 3500 is designed to be “an affordable, offset quality digital printing solution.” The 4-color 3500 (6- and 7-color printing is optional) can reach 68 ppm in 4-color mode and will accommodate media up to 12.6 x 18.7 in., and both coated and uncoated stock. It features an HP Press Production Manager with an integrated Harlequin RIP. The optional SmartStream Designer (in three editions) allows for the creation and output of variable-data jobs. Paper input capacity: 3300 sheets.
Earlier this year, InfoPrint enhanced its InfoPrint 5000 series presses, boosting their speeds to 420 ft/min (the former speed was 210 ft/min). Created in January 2007 via a joint venture between Ricoh and IBM’s Printing Systems Division, InfoPrint offers its 5000 in simplex or tandem duplex configurations for one-, two-, or three-up printing. The continuous-forms 5000 images variable-data documents up to 20-in. wide and it’s capable of handling rollfed papers from 17 to 34 lb. The press offers a choice of water-based and dye inks (CMYK); 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 5000 ships with an extendable printer controller that drives Adobe PostScript RIPs to expedite the processing of variable-data jobs. The company also offers the 3000, 4000, and 4100 printing systems, although all of these are black-and-white presses.
Kodak’s modular NexPress sheetfed presses use 4-color toner technology and are capable of full VDP printing. All are compatible with a variety of paper and specialty substrates. Most 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 a fifth imaging unit (for spot colors, coating, and glossing), additional feeders, high-capacity delivery units, various front ends, and near-line Kodak NexGlosser.
The NexPress S3000 features a 5-color print engine and can hit a resolution of 600 dpi onto media as large as 14 x 20.5 in. It can accommodate a wide range of substrates—including coated and uncoated papers as well as synthetics, magnetics, foils, and much more—and has high-capacity paper input and output. It can output 3000 A3/tabloid single-sided sheets/hr.
The NexPress S2500 can output 2500 A3/tabloid single-sided sheets/hr and images up to 600-dpi resolutions. It accommodates substrates up to 14 x 20.5 in.
The NexPress M2100 delivers 2100 A3/tabloid sheets/hr and also images up to 600 dpi. Maximum sheet size is 13.8 x 18.5 in. It can handle media up to 80 g/m2; total capacity of 6500 sheets.
The NexPress M700 offers speeds up to 2160 A3 sheets/hr, 1200 x 1200-dpi resolution, a 13 x 19.2 substrate foramt, compatibility with several uncoated and coated papers and specialty stocks, and a feeder capacity of 6000 sheets.
The company also offers its rollfed Versamark systems, which feature inkjet technology The Kodak Versamark V-series is a modular system with print widths up to approximately 18 in. and resolutions as high as 600 dpi. 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. Kodak offers two other presses in the V series as well as a D series of printers (narrower systems typically aimed at the commercial and mailing markets to print variable data on labels and envelopes).
MGI Digital Graphic Technology
MGI’s Meteor DP60 Pro accepts media sizes of 5.5 x 7 to 13 x 19 in. and handles paper substrates from 70 to 350 gsm and plastic substrates from 4 to 16 mil. The DP60 contains three 500-sheet capacity trays and a large-capacity loader for up to 3000 sheets; prints at 2400 dpi max; and reaches a speed of 3900 A4 sheets/hour. This machine offers vibration reduction, oil-free toners, automatic duplexing and includes an EFI Fiery RIP with ColorWise Pro tools and integrated swatches. The company also offers the Meteor DP60 Paper, designed exclusively for paper substrates and synthetics such as Teslin. Both DP60 models have full variable-data capabilities.
The company’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, the 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.
Océ North America
Digital press offerings from Océ include the Océ CS665 Pro and CS655 Pro presses. Both can print 600 x 1800 dpi and handle various media types up to 13 x 19.2 inches. The CS665 can hit a maximum speed of 36 ppm (11 x 17) while the CS655 can reach 33 ppm (11 x 17). Controller options include EFI Fiery or Creo Color Server (as well as the Oce PrismaSync color controller on the CS655), while finishing options include staplers, stackers, binders, folding units, and booklet-makers.
The Océ 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. images/hr, with print speeds unaffected by substrate type. Users choose between the Océ 1000C and 960C color controller, both of which are compatible with PPML format, and can add the optional Pageflex Persona and Atlas PrintShop software.
New from Punch Graphix under its Xeikon brand name is the Xeikon 8000, an addition to the company’s family of high-speed, variable-data color presses. The 8000 boasts 1200-dpi image quality and printing speeds of up to 230 A4 pages/min. It can image onto media as wide as 20.15 in., including paperboard, synthetic media, coated or uncoated stock up to 350 gsm or 122-lb. cover; its One-Pass-Duplex technology allows for simultaneous double-sided printing. Standard is an X-800 digital front end; choice of roll-to-roll or roll-to-cut sheet configurations.
Last year, the company announced that the 1200-printhead developed for the 8000 would now be available for the Xeikon 6000 and 5000plus digital color presses (until now, these two engines were standard-equipped with a 600 dpi variable-dot-density resolution). New Xeikon 6000s now come standard with the 1200-dpi head; the new head is an option on new Xeikon 5000plus machines (the 600 dpi head will remain standard). Xeikon reports that adding the 1200-dpi unit not only impacts the print quality, but also increases the maximum image width from 19 in. to 19.7 in.
The 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 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. The printer is able to print on media such as coated or uncoated paper, paperboard, synthetic materials, and label stock, from 40 gsm to 350 gsm or 27-lb text to 122-lb cover stock. Printing speed will vary with the selected media.
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 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).
Screen USA’s Truepress Jet520 is a 4-color, variable-data, continuous-feed, single-pass printer that produces images up to 20-in. wide and a maximum print speed of 420 feet per minute; it can hit a resolution of 720 x 720 dpi. The Jet520 can accommodate inkjet paper, standard paper, and uncoated paper, and its applications include direct mail, product manuals, publications, invoices, and much more. It can switch between printing full-web, single-sided to half-web duplex. This press comes with a rewinder/unwinder, and users can connect the Truepress to a variety of inline post-processing equipment.
The iGen4 from Xerox made its North American debut at Graph Expo 2008. Building on the company’s iGen3 press, the newest addition to the iGen lineup features auto density control (to detect and eliminate density variations), a carrier-dispensing system, high-definition linearization (for color stability), advanced color profiling, and an in-line spectrophotometer. It can handle sheet sizes up to 14.33 x 22.5 in., and a broad range of substrates. Featuring a top resolution of 600 dpi (x 8 bit), the iGen4 can hit a top speed of 40 impression/min (at maximum media size). User can choose among a FreeFlow Print Server, Creo XX Color Server or EX Color Server powered by EFI Fiery.
Xerox’s iGen3 110 and iGen3 90 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 impressions/min, while the Xerox iGen3 110 offers 120 impressions/min. 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 7000/8000AP press offers 2400 x 2400-dpi resolutions, top speeds of 70 pages/min (80 for the 8000), 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. An Automated Color Quality Suite with inline spectrophotometer is optional.
The 600 x 600-dpi x 8-bit DocuColor 6060 offers a top speed of 60 ppm and auto-duplexing for sheets up 12 x 18 in.. Finishing options for this press include laminators, stackers, staplers, booklet makers, punchers, binders, and more.
The DocuColor 5000AP can handle media up to 12.6 x 19.2 in. and 300 g/m2. It can print at 25 A3 pages/min and image at 2400 x 2400-dpi resolution. Choice of four print servers; finishing options include high-capacity stacker, stacker/stapler, and booklet maker.
Printvinyl Scored Print Media
New Printvinyl Scored wide-format print media features an easy-to-remove scored liner for creating decals, product stickers, packaging labels, and more. The precision-scored liner, with a 1.25” spacing on a 60” roll, guarantees a seamless and hassle-free removal process.
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