Here comes B2 and B1 sheetfed digital

Here comes B2 and B1 sheetfed digital
A new world is dawning with B2 and B1 inkjet sheetfed presses now coming on stream
Although not all presses are available in Australia at this stage, there is a considerable buzz around the new crop of digital inkjet sheetfed presses announced or launched at last year’s drupa – and PacPrint this month will draw further interest from Australia and the region for these alluring alternatives to offset printing. 
The new breed of inkjet digital printing systems has morphed from the web configurations churning out mega-volumes of transpromo work – invoices and statements from banks and utilities, where quality was important but not critical - to sheetfed printing in the commercial arena, where a premium on colour accuracy and general quality is demanded.
Since last year’s drupa, sheetfed inkjet presses have come of age, with the major press vendors offering new iterations of their model lines, some of which will be scrutinised close-up at this month’s PacPrint in Melbourne. Until now HP Indigo – supplied in Australia by Currie Group - has pretty much owned the sheetfed B2 digital market with first its HP Indigo 10000, and now its successor the HP Indigo 12000. These printers use a liquid toner rather than an inkjet ink. 
Competition though is arriving fast in the form of the new B2 inkjet sheetfed platforms, several of which are now available to buy. And B1 inkjet is also on the horizon, with Heidelberg, Konica Minolta and Landa all developing B1 inkjet printers.
But where is the optimal sweet spot for inkjet-driven sheetfed printing? What market sectors offer a replacement point from offset printing? What type of commercial print house will want to buy them? To answer these questions, another more basic question beckons. How versatile are the new crop of sheetfed inkjet presses? 
No doubt printers are looking for a device that will not just replace offset for core paper-based jobs that are in decline due to attrition from electronic media. They will want a secure investment that sees their capital-equipment dollars buying a future-proof piece of hardware, ready to print as easily, say, on folding carton substrates as on paper. That raises the question of whether printing on certain stocks and on thicker gauges requires special pre-treatment of substrates.
In short, will sheetfed inkjet be the solution to print shops for longer runs, in the way toner has been the solution for shorter runs in the A3/A4 market that used to be printed offset? So who are the main contendors?
Konica Minolta Australia and KM-1
This vendor wowed the crowds at last year’s drupa with two major announcements. First up was its development work on the KM-C, a B1 format sheetfed UV inkjet digital press for commercial print and packaging, the first printing system developed from the ground up by Konica Minolta. Secondly, the Japanese outfit launched a B2 sheetfed inkjet press, now known as the AccurioJet KM-1.
The B1 KM-C advances the technology from the AccurioJet KM-1, with 1,200 x 1,200dpi resolution, and increased colour stability due to an inline sensor with image correction, as well as versatility across a broad array of substrates without the need to pre-coat. The flatbed sheet-feeding platform that Konica Minolta designed for the KM-C enables simple processing of materials such as cardboard and micro flute. It has no issues with stock gauges between 0.3 and 1.2mm and can print up to 2,200 B1 sheets per hour with a maximum paper size of 760 x 1,060mm.
Meanwhile, the AccurioJet KM-1 B2+ sheetfed UV inkjet press propels Konica Minolta to the vanguard of the industrial printing market, with an emphasis on critical applications such as label and package printing. This is the printer co-developed with Komori which uses Komori chassis, feeder, sheet transport and delivery, with Konica Minolta heads and inks. Though best known as a toner printer manufacturer in fact Konica Minolta is no stranger to inkjet, its market leading Nassenger range of digital industrial textile printing systems are well established, and it is this technology that the company has leveraged into the KM-1 AccurioJet. According to Konica Minolta, output speeds of 3300sph simplex and 1650sph duplex, as well as 1200dpi resolution, will make the press suitable for high-speed commercial printing and for producing short print runs to tight deadlines and processing variable data.
Print & Pack’s Komori Impremia
At the newly configured Print & Pack Australia, formerly Ferrostaal, David Corbo, sales manager, southern region, is excited by Komori’s Impremia, the vendor’s brand for its digital printing systems, and specifically the new B2 Impremia IS29. This is the press co-developed with Konica Minolta, and which has Konica Minolta printheads.
“Komori has for years advocated the Komori OnDemand concept - the fusion of offset and digital printing to accommodate the evolving print environment. As part of this initiative, Komori has developed a high-end digital printing system based on the technology and know-how gained over its decades in manufacturing offset and security printing presses,” notes Korbo. “The lmpremia IS29 is the professional production machine built from the ground up for today’s printers.”
Discussing Impremia IS29, Korbo says that Komori has focused on three critical points in developing a digital printing system for printers’ diverse needs and emerging market requirements. These are: the ability to print with ordinary printing paper;  to produce high print quality with the feeling of volume that is associated with offset printing; and to perform postpress processes immediately after printing (single-sided and double-sided).
Impremia’s handshake with a gamut of substrates means there is no need for special paper, due to UV inkjet technology, no need for any precoating or certified paper, and the press can handle a range of  0.006-0.6mm sheet thicknesses for single-sided printing.
Apart from that, Impremia also offers a high image quality approaching that of offset, instant curing, and the ability to start finishing immediately, due to UV ink, and the same high front/back register accuracy as offset.
The lmpremia IS29 has a maximum sheet size of 585 x 750mm, says Korbo, emphasising that digital printing in the 29-inch size greatly expands the range of work. The system prints large posters, paged items with multiple impositions and packaging that conventional A3 machines could not handle.
Korbo says Komori is developing for the future, hence its heavy investment in the Impremia range, and future prospects include the NS40 Nanographic Press, now slated to be commercially available towards the end of 2018.
Heidelberg ANZ and Primefire
Sheetfed inkjet technology is at the heart of Heidelberg’s Primefire 106, a B1 digital press offering 1,200 x 1,200dpi quality at a print speed of up to 2,500 sheets per hour, and capable of production volumes of up to 1.5 million sheets per month. Aimed at package printers, the Primefire enables personalised packaging on folding carton. A German packaging printer is the first beta site for the Primefire, which may well be the first B1 inkjet press that comes onto the market.
Primefire is a co-development between Heidelberg and its strategic inkjet partner Fujifilm, with the former supplying the hardware – chassis, feeder, paper transport and delivery, while the latter provides the inkjet head technology. The two have also combined with Gallus in the launch of the Labelfire digital inkjet label press.
The Primefire seven-colour inkjet array allows for 95 per cent of the Pantone colour space, and PrimeFire 106 can handle size formats up to 75 x 106cm – like a Speedmaster XL 106 – enabling printers to use existing finishing gear without any additional capital outlays for customised digital bindery kit. Jason Oliver at Heidelberg Digital Print Solutions, says the Primefire 106 will open new digital business models in folding carton printing.
Screen GP Australia’s B2 TruePress
Screen GP Australia’s managing director Peter Scott reports that while the Japanese digital-press and workflow giant does not have a new entry in the B2 sheetfed segment at this time, it does provide sheeting as an option to its digital inkjet web lines. “Screen GP is more active in digital web presses, such as the Truepress Jet L350UV label machine and Truepress Jet 520 series, which can have a sheeter added to the finishing end”, he says.
Scott notes that a Truepress Jet SX B2 inkjet device with sheeter is installed at Benefitz in New Zealand. “With its exclusive focus on inkjet for digital printing, we can expect to hear more in this area from Screen GP in the future,” he adds.
Located on Auckland’s North Shore, Benefitz operates two sites for its services, which include small-format digital printing, a Truepress Jet SX B2, personalised and variable printing; Komori and Heidelberg offset presses - and finishing that includes PUR perfect binding, hard-case book binding, folding and saddle stitching, diecutting, UV coating, laminating, guillotining and more. The company also runs large-format, grand-format and flatbed digital printing, canvas stretching and large-format print finishing.
Canon Océ and VarioPrint
Offering a sheetfed B3 format inkjet press, Canon Océ  has refined its 2015 entry into digital sheet printing to the point where the new VarioPrint i300 now beats sheetfed toner presses on speed, and webfed inkjet on quality. Sporting an engine adapted from the Océ ColorStream inkjet webs, with 600dpi Kyocera printheads and DigiDot 2-bit variable drops for a ‘perceived 1,200dpi’ quality, the VarioPrint i300 is rated at up to 300 A4 impressions per minute.
Canon is also focusing on its new ColorGrip technology for the i300, enabling the press to print on a broad range of stocks – and at a much higher quality, due to drops of priming liquid that are laid down beneath each drop of  ink. The priming technology uses a spare channel on Canon’s six-channel CMYK inking system.
Meanwhile, DrivePress, which uses a scalable, high performance Prismasync controller, allows users to plan jobs well in advance and provide information to help keep the machine running without unplanned stops.
Fujifilm’s JetPress 720S
Although not available locally at this time, the JetPress 720S is Fujifilm’s powerful second-generation solution in the sheetfed digital press field. The Jet Press 720 was announced at drupa 2008 and became commercially available in 2011. Subsequent years have seen widespread installations globally.
This led to Fujifilm launching its second-generation Jet Press 720S, with a host of refinements, including the Samba advanced single-pass printhead technology. Samba’s improvements have mirrored those of the Jet Press 720 itself, and the latest innovation is the ability to replace individual Samba modules within a print bar.
Press up-time has been expanded by a fifth with software upgrades for improved efficiency and job handling. The 720s can print on heavier duty carton stock, including canvas media.
“Short runs, fast turnarounds and print-on-demand are all standard requirements in today’s fast moving world. And with ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’ being increasingly in vogue, there is a resurgence of interest in high-quality, very short-run print, particularly where the physical, emotional and tangible benefits of print can win over online information delivery,” says Fujifilm.
“These trends are set to continue at an even faster pace in the future, with the classic long-run versus short-run print model set to be turned on its head. This is where forward thinking printers can prepare for the future and position their businesses to be at the forefront of these developments. B2 inkjet is the perfect technology to address these changing market conditions, and the Jet Press 720S is without doubt the front runner,” the company says.
KBA-Xerox VariJET project
A joint venture between KBA’s sheetfed solutions division and Xerox is developing a sheetfed digital carton press with a working marque of KBA VariJet 106. The project, announced at last year’s drupa, aims to provide a short-run or VDP alternative to offset printing for products such as cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals. The model is interesting for its hybrid nature – and the press will be configurable to various requirements, from units of a standard KBA Rapida 106, and cold foil and coating, including double coating units, as well as die cutting.
Printers will be able to print offset and digital on the same press, or configure it as a digital-only device. Rated at 4,500 sheets per hour, the speed is forecast to increase for the release of the model, sometime during this year. Printers will be able to run multiple versions of the same carton, as well as customised cartons, creating new business models for industrial production printing.  
Landa Nano S40 Komori Impremia NS40
Benny Landa wowed the crowds at drupa 2012 with his nanographic printing concept, essentially the promise was digital printing in B1 and web formats on offset stocks at offset speeds with offset quality. If Landa can make it work and achieve the consistency of print and robust engineering needed in a commercial print environment it may sweep all before it, if the costs are workable of course. Development though has taken longer than expected, Landa is attempting some highly complex physics and chemistry, and attempting to achieve that in a commercial print environment.
Five years later the presses are not available, however the first one will be going into a beta site, at an Israeli packaging printer, in July, with two more beta sites anticipated before the end of the year. If all goes to plan Landa is aiming to have the Nano presses available by the end of 2018. The first press will be a direct rival to the Heidelberg Primefire 106, it will be the B1 S40 version, which is aimed at the carton printing market. The Impremia NS40 is Komori’s version of the press, which in Australia and New Zealand will be available through Print & Pack. PP

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