Digital printing: fully digital printing has begun to interest narrow web converters more than ever before. Today, the technological options are growing, and a fascinating science appears to be entering a new growth phase.
At long last, the narrow web industry has begun to show some widespread interest in digital press technology. From the introduction of the first machines in the last decade, the pace of acceptance has been slow. Certainly there have been ardent (Ardent Software, Inc., Westboro, MA) A database vendor formed in 1998 as the merger of VMARK Software, Unidata and O2 Technology. Its products included the UniVerse and UniData databases and DataStage data warehouse utility. devotees of digital printing, those who made the decision to acquire an Indigo press or a Xeikon press to boldly go
To Boldly Go (commonly known as TBG where no other printer had gone before. But they were few, and some of them had to work hard to create the markets for their products.
That scenario appears to be changing. Labelexpo Americas 2002 in Chicago provided the stage for new and improved digital printing machines, both stand-alone types and those that can be incorporated into conventional flexo presses. Markets for digitally printed labels -- and they are all short run, and very short run -- show signs of consistent growth. Those who have digital presses already are taking on work for converters who do not have them. And some who own one press are considering the purchase of -- or have already purchased -- a second machine.
In the beginning
Indigo, an Israel-based company that was recently acquired by Hewlett Packard, started the whole digital business at Drupa in 1995, the global print show held every five years in Dusseldorf, Germany. Indigo manufactures what are best described as digital offset machines, both web fed and sheet fed, that utilize proprietary electrostatic Stationary electrical charges in which no current flows. For example, laser printers and copier machines place a positive charge of the image on a drum, and negatively charged toner is attracted onto the drum. The toner is then transferred to positively charged paper and fused to the paper by heat. inks.
The company's web press, which had been called the Omnius, made its way into a handful of narrow web converting shops over the next five years, though the company will not give figures on how many installations they have anywhere on earth.
The Omnius became the Webstream a couple of years ago, and in September of this year, at Labelexpo, the newest generation press emerged: The HP Indigo Press ws4000.
The ws4000 utilizes a Series II print engine that delivers up to 105 feet per minute in two colors, and 57.5 feet per minute in four colors. The engine goes more than twice as fast as those in earlier models.
Speed of digital presses -- or lack thereof -- has always been an issue among many in the industry who are on the fence about going in that direction. No, they are not capable of running at 300, 400, or 700 feet per minute, like conventional presses. Yes, the quality is high, even higher. The argument in favor of digital presses that diminishes the complaint about speed is that the entire conventional prepress operation -- film output, plate production, plate mounting, press inking -- is gone, resulting in savings of time involved in those steps, and the costs of parts, labor, equipment, error and waste.
The HP Indigo ws4000 offers offset print quality; seven colors of instantly drying ink; and resolution of up to 800 dpi. Press owners must buy their inks from Indigo, and though they are considered expensive, bulk purchasing Bulk Purchasing is when products are bought in large quantities. This often results in a lower price per item, or Unit price. Wholesale is selling or related to selling goods in large quantities for resale to the consumer. brings the price down, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Ray Dickinson, product marketing manager.
The company also offers a six color process known as HP IndiChrome, which adds orange and green to the standard CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow blacK) The color space used for commercial printing and most color computer printers. In theory, cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY) can print all colors, but inks are not pure and black comes out muddy. . Expanding the color gamut The entire range of colors available on a particular device such as a monitor or printer. A monitor, which displays RGB signals, typically has a greater color gamut than a printer, which uses CMYK inks. allows for depth and richness of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.
See also: Color not possible with the standard four colors.
"The new generation print engine offers better web management, higher speed, and an overall lower cost for printing," Dickinson says. "The engine was great to start with, and now we have extrapolated the core technologies to produce a better one. It's laid out a bit differently now."
Dickinson says that the new press model, which was unveiled in late September, has been installed at 10 locations prior to the end of October. "We're sold out now through December," he reports.
"We have multiple press installations," Dickinson says. "We have two at Tapp Technologies in British Columbia British Columbia, province (2001 pop. 3,907,738), 366,255 sq mi (948,600 sq km), including 6,976 sq mi (18,068 sq km) of water surface, W Canada. Geography
, we have them at W/S W/S Wholesale
W/S Weapon System
W/S Weak and Strong (Combined Ion Exchange Resin)
W/S Wait State
W/S Words Per Second Group, at Prestige Label in North Caroline, all the visible people. One customer has four of them. Some customers are doing a million impressions a month on a single press."
Dry toner An electrically charged ink used in copy machines and laser printers. It adheres to an invisible image that has been charged with the opposite polarity onto a plate or drum or onto the paper itself.
For several years, Indigo's only competitor was Xeikon, whose print engine was built on a different technology. Indigo's electrically charged inks are liquid, yet each droplet droplet
very small drop of fluid.
the finite particles of matter which are transmitted from animal to animal. leaps from a rotary blanket to the substrate. The Xeikon method uses dry toner, a product familiar to anyone who has changed the cartridge in an office laser printer.
Xeikon introduced its dry toner-based digital machine in the mid-1990s, and Nilpeter, the Danish press manufacturer, added the unit to its product line. The press prints at speeds up to 48 feet per minute. Its most recent generation machine is LabelSprint, a compact finishing unit based on the Xeikon UCOAT system. It operates in-line and offers roll-to-roll finished output. It has a modular design In the context of systems engineering, modular design — or "modularity in design" — is an approach aiming to subdivide a system into smaller parts (modules) that can be independently created and then used in different systems to drive multiple functionalities. that can be configured con·fig·ure
tr.v. con·fig·ured, con·fig·ur·ing, con·fig·ures
To design, arrange, set up, or shape with a view to specific applications or uses: for various options, including UV coating UV coating is the name given to various processes and coverings that utilize or protect against ultraviolet radiation. Ultra-violet coating of paper
Ultra-violet coating is a glossy coating applied over ink printed on paper and dried by exposure to UV radiation. , rotary diecutting Rotary Diecutting is diecutting using a cylindrical die on a rotary press. A long sheet of material will be fed through the press, and the die will rotate, cutting out shapes, making perforations or creases, or even cutting the sheet into smaller parts. , slitting slit
A long, straight, narrow cut or opening.
tr.v. slit, slit·ting, slits
1. To make a slit or slits in.
2. To cut lengthwise into strips; split. and stripping. The standard color gamut is CMYK, with the addition of white.
Mark Andy's DT Series
For the past two years, Mark Andy has been teasing teasing
the act of parading a male before a female to see if she displays estrus, and is therefore in a state where mating is likely to be fertile. the narrow web industry with its digital printing module. The industry knew that the business inside the box would be built with inkjet heads, but the company has been careful and deliberate in its production. Last year select converters were invited to visit the production plant in Belgium during Labelexpo Europe week.
This year, however, the wrap is off, and Labelexpo attendees in Chicago got an eyeful eye·ful
1. A complete view.
2. One that is pleasing to the sight, especially an attractive person.
3. of what is called the DT Series -- Digital Technology, which includes the digital printer and a laser diecutter from LasX.
The DT is a large black unit that rests in the center of a Model 2200 press. Right now the company is producing the digital machines mounted in 13" wide models, according to Ken Daming, Mark Andy's director of product management. "In March of next year we will offer it on our new LP 3000 13' press," he says.
The inkjet heads inside the unit -- there is potential for six, but four are being developed now for CMYK -- are from Xaar, the Dutch company, and are shared wall piezo "Piezo", derived from the Greek piezein, which means to squeeze or press, is a prefix used in:
LICENSEE. One to whom a license has been given. 1 M. Q. & S. 699 n. of Xaar, has improved on the heads.
Dotrix, a Belgian firm, buys the heads and puts the unit together and sells it to Mark Andy. The official name is the SPICE Rack, which stands for Single Pass Inkjet Color Engine. Dotrix also manufactures the Dot.Factory, a digital inkjet system used in other segments of the print industry.
"The inks are tailored toward the label market," Daming says. "Converters don't like to be told where to buy their inks, so we are certifying three ink suppliers: Avecia, Akzo Nobel Akzo Nobel is a multinational company, active in the fields of healthcare products, coatings and chemicals. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the company has activities in more than 80 countries, and employs approximately 62,000 people. , and Sunjet. We're testing now, and we plan to work for the next year or so to add more colors."
Print results, Daming adds, "are between UV flexo and screen printing. The ink is a bit thicker than UV ink, but not as heavy as screen. It has a very glossy look." The inks for the Mark Andy DT are UV curable cur·a·ble
Capable of being cured or healed. , and don't require a varnish varnish, homogeneous solution of gum or of natural or synthetic resins in oil (oil varnish) or in a volatile solvent (spirit varnish), which dries on exposure to air, forming a thin, hard, usually glossy film. .
The unit that was on display at Labelexpo is back in the company's demonstration facility, and is being shown to potential customers as the mechanics tinker with it. "The reaction at Labelexpo was extra positive," Darning says. "People told us we hit a home run." The company has begun to sell the press, he notes, adding that announcements will be forthcoming.
The DT Series benefits by being preceded and followed by conventional flexo print stations, which can be used to lay down solids or other print patterns. The digital unit itself prints at 80 feet per minute, maximum. "That's all four colors at once, for 100 percent coverage," Daming reports.
The digital press is marketed with a head replacement package. "When the heads wear out, we send a new pair. The price of the heads is amortized into the price of the ink. The new heads just snap into place." It's too early to gauge the lifespan of the heads, Darning says. "It could be six months, maybe longer."
The DT does not require special substrates, he adds. Some stocks might need a coating, which can be put down in line or ahead of time.
Mark Andy has exclusive rights to sell the LasX digital diecutter with its system. The cutter cutter, small, one-masted sailing vessel, with a rig similar to that of a sloop except that it usually has a sliding bowsprit and a topmast. From 1800 to 1830 cutters were in service between England and France. comes with either a 300 watt or a 300 watt sealed [CO.sub.2] laser. "We are writing software to tie the DT and the LasX together," Darning says. "This means that the prepress person would create one file that would be interpreted into the digital press language as well as the diecutter language."
Training of pressroom personnel on the DT is short, he notes. "We installed our first beta machine in Sweden, and during the second week we began to train. Within a few days the operators could run the DT. The operator interface is very user friendly, very simple."
Chromas Technologies, of Canada, back when it was known as Webtron and Aquaflex, started a group called the Digital Label Alliance. The year was 1996, and the alliance of 17 converters and one press manufacturer was intent on coming up with a new digital printing process. After a few years of quiet effort, the Argio was introduced.
The Argio (named for the argiope spider, which spins an intricate web) is an inkjet machine that also mounts into a conventional flexo press. Chris Faust Christopher C. Faust (born 1955 in Fort Riley, Kansas) is a prolific landscape photographer in St. Paul, Minnesota. He holds a degree in biology from Saint Cloud State University and a MS in Educational Media from Saint Cloud State University. , director of business development, says that the unit can be mounted into any press. "We can put it on Mark Andy, Comco, Webtron presses, even custom presses, in addition to Aquafiex presses," he says. "We're looking to make it more mainstream, not limited to our press platform. If we do that, it limits the potential.
"The only qualification we require is a good tension control system. You can't put it on a 20-year-old band driven press with lots of vibration." The Argio has a separate servo An electromechanical device that uses feedback to provide precise starts and stops for such functions as the motors on a tape drive or the moving of an access arm on a disk. control motor that takes the tension from the press, stabilizes it, and returns the web to the press.
The Argio press prints one color. "One color right now, but we have a design and testing system in Montreal today for a multicolor platform," Faust says. "We are pursuing a multicolor system, but it will probably not be a four-color process four-color process: see printing. system."
The reasoning, Faust explains, is that the short run market focuses on solids, text, line type and variable imaging almost exclusively. "We feel that that's more the marketplace than process images," he says. "Most end users don't have a library of multiple process images. We're going to target it at the multicolor work. Ours will most likely be a four- to six-color system." Chromas' Argio utilizes inkjet inks from SunJet, a division of Sun Chemical.
Faust says that the inkjet heads in the Argio, which are manufactured by Spectra, differ from those built by Xaar in that the Xaar head walls change shape to suck the ink into the chamber, whereas the Spectra heads have the ceiling of the chamber rise and fall to bring ink in from the sides. "It's not a wear item," he says. "So far we have seen our heads last up to three years.
"The other nice thing is that you don't have to coat the substrates, as you do with some other digital processes," notes Faust. "In fact, the inks work better in some cases without the coatings." With films, he says, standard corona Corona, city, United States
Corona (kərō`nə), city (1990 pop. 76,095), Riverside co., S Calif.; inc. 1896. The city developed as a primary citrus fruit producer and shipping center. There is also light manufacturing. treating is adequate, as long as the surface tension is a the proper level.
From the beginning of the narrow web digital era, press owners have worked hard to develop markets to sell their digitally printed products. Some find it easy; others struggle, and have to "invent" markets for customers.
That doesn't seem to be the case today. One example: At the annual meeting of the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute in October, several converters inquired about others who own digital presses, because they had really short run print opportunities and wanted to keep the customer happy. Quite a few of the digital press owners, it turns out, do a fair amount of work for other converters.
Steve Dunlevy, president of Reid PSO PSO - Oracle Parallel Server Printing and Manufacturing in Andover, MA, has owned an HP Indigo Omnius for about a year. "We're still cutting our teeth with it," he says, "and we're finding out something new every day. We find that we are having to invent markets. We can compete with offset people on POP materials, but it depends on what you can coat and what you can run through the press.
"But most important, we are comfortable with it. It's not a racehorse racehorse
refers usually to thoroughbred but may also include standardbred, trotter. but it does a great job, and the Indigo people give very good support."
"I see most of the secondary brand markets taking advantage of digital printing," says Ray Dickinson of HP Indigo. "It is definitely popular for the boutique Boutique
A small investment firm specializing in offering specific, but limited services to a select number of individuals.
These investment firms are the alternatives to large financial supermarkets. They provide a highly personalized environment for investing. products, the private label brands. And also for nutraceuticals -- boatloads of nutraceuticals. Most of our customers are in the $3-$5 million sales range, and most of them deal with regional brands. Business is booming, and our customers are booming. Even in down times there are still double-digit growth sectors. This is definitely one of them."
The following is a list of companies that market digital printing presses.
Circle 180 on response card
Digital Label Alliance Chromas Technologies
St-Bruno, Quebec J4B 5H2 Canada
business development manager
Indigo America Inc.
400 Unicorn Park Drive
Woburn MA 01801 USA
product marketing manager
Mark Andy Inc.
18081 Chesterfield Chesterfield, city (1991 pop. 73,352) and district, Derbyshire, central England. An important industrial center, Chesterfield produces mining equipment, railroad cars, metal products, glass, and pottery. Airport Rd.
Chesterfield MO 63006 USA
Ken Daming, dir. of product management
15851 SW 41st St., Suite 800
Davie FL 33331 USA
Andrew Colletta, president
Xeikon America Inc.
1360 N. Wood Dale Road
Wood Dale IL 60191 USA
Don Bence, VP/GM packaging group