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Kodak in Dayton inherits the real inkjet tradition

14 April 2010

PrintWeek India - Sachin Shardul visits the Dayton facility and is impressed with the progress in Stream technology as it delivers higher speeds, superior quality of image on a wide range of substrates

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It's reasonably obvious that Stream technology shall drive the cutting edge of digital technology", says Daniel Denofsky, the straight-talking director, future products inkjet printing solutions of Kodak's inkjet technology which has created one of the most successful digital brands in the world.

Dayton inhabits a curiously timeless land and is also the birthplace of Wright Brothers, who invented the flying plane. It is a land which seems a universe away from tight deadlines, competitive pricing and global marketing-speak and yet it determines print, the world over.

The inkjet facility in Dayton is as big as a football stadium. Each division in the plant is clearly differentiated from each other. As I enter the shopfloor on the plant, I don't see a single human being, but as I proceed it's serious work in progress. Not for nothing has Kodak Versamark's dominated the variable digital printing arena for over 30 years. It's evident that technology coupled with teamwork underpins the print culture. A pool of talent with high skill-sets.

Three days at Dayton

For three-days, Kodak showcased the prowess of the Versamark and Prosper printing press. There were samples, aplenty. For example, a novel of Jane Eyre was printed on the Prosper 1000 press on uncoated paper; and the cover was printed on Nexpress SE3000 colour press using dimensional clear ink.

The Kodak team printed 20 personalised copies for us in couple of hours. While browsing through the Victorian world in the novel, I made quick comparisons between high-end digital versus commercial offset. When I compared samples with my 10x eye-glass, I felt there was a minor difference in the samples. With offset like quality, the images in the digitally printed samples were sharper due to first generation dots on the substrate. This is a plus point for digital process over offset process.

Undeniably, the Prosper 1000 is best suited for both large and small quantity of books where time is the critical factor in book production.

The world of books

It is said, each book is a world unto itself, and in it we take refuge. For that to happen, these books have to be created, perfectly. In India, the Right to Education Act is in place from the first of April in India. The Prime Minister has made a commitment of Rs 34,000 crore every year for a period of five years and has set aside Rs 15,000 crore for 2010-11. These should improve the quality and availability of schoolbooks in this country.

For faster and timely production, Kodak's inkjet technology could be the answer. The Prosper press can score in two specific areas:

There has been a slow but steady demand for books. At one end of the spectrum, leading book printers have set up book binding plants that rival their European counterparts. At the other end, there is a growing trend which is emerging from leading educational publishers and book manufacturers. This is a segment which is focused on delivering cost effective books, that are short run and aesthetically pleasing.

How to Prosper

What is truly astounding is, more than 30% of the books produced worldwide use Kodak technology. Kodak has introduced the range of digital book production solutions which are capable of producing 1,000 books per hour.

For book printing, Kodak offers Prosper press platform with drop generation rates which are 10 times that of a DOD inkjet technologies. This is possible because of Stream technology which allows for a very high speed and accurate drop placements leading to offset class output upto 175 lpi.

Prosper Platform

Prosper S10 and S5 are the first imprinting systems in the Prosper family. Both S10 and S5 are built on Kodak's Stream inkjet technology. The S10 system can be easily integrated into existing web-offset press, which can be used to produce direct mail solicitations and postcards, to promotional offers, coupons and business forms. S5 system uses pigment-based ink with excellent permanence on a variety of substrates, providing scratch, fade and water resistance.

Anir Dutta, product manager Stream press inkjet printing solutions at Dayton says, "The Prosper press platform consumes 22 % less ink as against thermal inkjet devices. It has one step inline process giving printers the ability to save upto 30% on total cost of ownership with 50% quick setup and make ready times."

A demonstration of Kodak's Prosper 1000 was illuminating. This is a compact mono-chrome press that offers one over one perfecting within a single print engine. This solution is suited for the trade and mass production of the books. Dutta informs me, "The Prosper 1000 press is modular and scalable solution that can be upgraded to a full colour press in the field to meet the higher needs of the educational and professional segments."

Stream technology

Stream is a definitive technology for continuous inkjet printing. Kodak has been developing this new technology for many years. Kodak is already the market leader for high-speed continuous inkjet printing technology with its existing technology that came to market in its initial avatar in the 1970s. This is deployed in the current Kodak Versamark VT and VX series presses.

The thing that strikes one about Stream is, it's a totally different continuous inkjet technology to the existing Versamark technology. For starts, it delivers higher speeds, superior quality on a wide range of substrates, and uses ink that provides better colours with a wider colour gamut.

This is because of nano pigment ink technology, which is a specialised process that uses micro metre size milli material to produce smallest available pigment particle that is nearest to the nano metre range.

That's how, a unique nano pigment ink set was invented. At the research and development ink section of the plant, it's discernible that Kodak expertises in polymeric dispersants that aid in the enhancement of image permanence. These are special ink formulations which are designed to enhance the image quality and permanence on a wide variety of substrate.

When I spoke to Jim Chwalek, who oversees the R&D at the inkjet platform centre at Dayton, I am informed that the image quality is superior, due to the light scattering properties of the nano metre size pigments and the manner in which they interact with the substrate. This creates a significantly wider colour gamut as compared to offset.

Also, as compared to dye-based inks on coated glossy papers, the colour density and gamut is vastly superior. Because of the light scattering properties of the nano pigments, undesirable properties such as differential gloss are reduced. With the polymeric dispersants technology, excellent image permanence in terms of light fastness, water fastness and ozone resistance is achieved.

Paper for inkjet

Kodak along with key paper manufacturers are collaborating in order to improve the imaging technology. David Hatfield, technical manager, paper development at Kodak recommends use of specific paper to get the optimum print result. The special inkjet papers have advantages for image quality like improved optical density, reduction of colour bleed, show-through and ink mottle and improved gamut.

Kodak anticipates high volume applications which can be serviced through 19 paper types for the world's book markets. Depending on customer specifications, about 11 high volume papers are available and functional on Prosper press.

In India, we are poised on the cusp of a great educational revolution. Today, more than 70 lakh children in India are not attending schools. All they need is a book. This is what a Prosper could achieve. n

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