Digital and inkjet printers hot topic

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Digital printing continues to gain weight as a direct marketing strategy; however, recent advancements in inkjet technology are also keeping this type of printing at the forefront.

These were a couple of the takeaways from the ongoing Drupa conference in Dusseldorf, Germany, which is held every four years for worldwide printing industry to showcase the latest advance­ments in printing. This year's conference began on May 29 and will continue until Wednesday.

“Although the main focus of the show is still offset presses, it's clear that at least some digital presses are in or will soon be in the same league,” said John Zarwan of printing industry consultancy J Zarwan Partners. To wit, he reported that Xerox's and HP's booths were among the largest at the show.

At the conference, HP announced that Consolidated Graphics will install 36 of its digital presses this year, giving it one of the largest digital footprints in the com­mercial printing industry when combined with its existing fleet.

Many of the product introductions in the digital space were next-generation presses and new entries that bring down the purchase price and open up digital printing to a wider array of companies. Xerox introduced its Xerox 700 Digital Color Press, which prints at 70 pages per minute and uses a proprietary low-melt toner that prints full color at fast speeds with matte finish image quality. The $60,000 system is appropriate for direct mail and catalogs.

The market for entry level digital color presses — defined as color devices with an output of 41 or more pages per min­ute and a cost of between $20,000 and $100,000 — experienced 2007 year-over-year growth of 50% in the US, according to the May 2008 IDC Hardcopy Periph­eral Tracker.

Another hot topic at Drupa was new technology in inkjet presses, Zarwan said, adding that “all are clearly targeting and focusing on transpromotional materials.”

Fujifilm and Dainippon Screen both previewed sheet fed presses using ink­jet technology that won't be ready until next year. And Kodak's recently released Stream Inkjet Technology promises to combine the benefits of offset printing — reliability, low cost and high quality — with the benefits of digital printing, such as the ability to do variable data printing for high-volume commercial applications. The technology will serve as an entrée for continuous inkjet printing into com­mercial printers that want the benefits of VDP, short runs, personalization or versioning on jobs traditionally produced using offset presses.

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