Digital printing to grow at a fair clip in India

Noel D’cunha, deputy editor of PrintWeek India and the man who prowled the Drupa halls, points out why print CEOs who are opting for digital; should go beyond asking, ‘what’s the price per page?’

18 May 2012 | By Noel D'Cunha

In spite of the buzz about inkjet at Drupa, the fact is, there have been far more toner-based devices installed at commercial print firms. There is a palatable digital mood in the Indian printing industry. It has been driven by companies that pioneered variable data printing services and personalised print-media marketing services. Today, according to a print survey conducted by PrintWeek India, there are more than 4,000 machines installed across India (new and reconditioned).

The PrintWeek India report says: 4000 is an upper limit. The numbers, we have arrived at: 1,500 colour digital machines have been installed in India during the last five years. The reason, we have considered five years is, it is considered the life of a digital press in India.

The rate of installations is on the up. Today’s print firms understand the shift that is occurring in the market in new markets in b and c-tier cities, but in-plants are lagging behind in terms of digital implementation. Having spoken to some of the major vendors during Drupa, the sense we get is, although there is under-penetration of print firms currently offering digital print services. This number is expected to double (and indeed treble) within the next two years. Also a majority of print firms in India, using more than one digital device is increasing.

This means volumes are expected to increase. Again, the numbers from the PrintWeek India’s report suggests: This amounts to a total of 350 million prints a month. This is approximately three billion-plus prints a year (end-2011). This amounts to a Rs 2000-cr size industry.

The two scenarios where we expect a growth impetus is: the B2C market which is hugely competitive since the focus is on “print” and not the “end-product”. While in the B2B market is a tad better than B2C. The most successful print companies have moved beyond just putting ink or toner onto paper. Today, the successful printers are running as ‘multi-channel communication’ companies now, working with the customer right up the channel; in packaging, for example, from brand ownership to the supermarket shelf.

The two major themes at Drupa which seemed to emerge are: whatever a print company produces, one thing remains consistent—everyone needs support from vendors. The second concern is, pricing for print services continues to be a challenge for print firms.

Noel D’cunha’s ten digital highlights at Drupa
The Canon imagePress C7010VPS series combines Canon’s digital colour press technology with Océ Prisma Sync operation management. Since the acquisition of Océ in November 2009, Canon has reaffirmed its aim of becoming the global leader in the print industry. Today, the Canon has perhaps the largest portfolio in the mid size monochrome market. And I rate the Canon 1135 as one of the best available in the mid-range market for book production in India.

Besides the C7010VPS, an interesting Drupa 2012 announcement from Canon took place not in Dusseldorf but in Poing, Germany. Canon Océ held an event with 20 or so press and analysts to introduce the new Océ InfiniStream technology. Although the prototype B2 lithographic liquid toner press looked like a finished product, Canon Océ executives stressed that theirs was a technology announcement, because they continue to refine the new platform. Nevertheless, substantial progress has been made toward productising the technology, and Canon Océ says a full launch of the InfiniStream press can be expected within 12 to 18 months.

Epson’s SurePress X single-pass digital label press, and its UV ink product, were shown as a demonstration. This is described as offering a “step change” in digital label printing. It has a white ink option and footprint almost half the size of the current SurePress L-4033A model, and uses Epson’s thin film micro piezo inkjet technology. Epson has also entered the digital dry lab sector with SureLab SL-D3000 for on-demand photo and card printing.

With the T3000, T5000 and T7000, Epson is making a strong presence in CAD and corporate segment, while wilth the S30600, 50600 and 70600 wide-format presses, signage gets high quality indoor and outdoor equipment. The”Ultrachrome” ink chemistry used in both the presses could well become the new standard in highest print quality, wider applications and environmental capability.

HP showcased the HP Indigo 10000 which can print up to 3,450 B2-format sheets per hour (4/0), or 4,600 sheets per hour in Enhanced Productivity Mode (EPM). And at 2m-plus B2-format sheets per month, this level of productivity is 2.5 times higher than the HP Indigo 7500. What’s interesting is, the break-even point of the HP Indigo 10000 versus offset is about 2,500 B2-sheets. This is virtually double that of the HP Indigo 7500 Digital Press.

Kodak launched the Prosper 6000XL, which ramps up speeds to 1,000 feet per minute, or the equivalent of 5,540 A4 pages – a leap from the 5000XL, which produced up to 3,600 A4 ppm. Kodak inked a deal for the Prosper with Repro India. This will be India’s first Prosper 1000 Press with an IOS (Image Optimiser Station),  a Hunkeler finishing system and a Prinergy workflow, Trendsetter 800 platesetter plus a Digimaster 150 mono press.

Kodak also created, what it claims a new gold standard in digital print for its Kodak Nexpress digital production colour press with a new fifth imaging unit solutions and an extended long-sheet option. By adding new gold, pearlescent, and neon print solutions, Kodak may well have provided marketers a new feature to capture their audience more effectively.

Konica Minolta unveiled its B2 inkjet press co-developed with Komori. Codenamed KM-1 – offers 1,200 dpi resolution and can reach speeds of 3,300 sheets per hour (sph) in simplex mode or 1,650sph duplex. The manufacturer also spoke of its new toner-based technology plus the Bizhub Press C1100 which is due for a commercial launch next year.

Two of the Landa presses were running live at Drupa: the B2 S7 (up to 12,000sph) model and the B1-format S10 (up to 13,000sph) could be seen printing five times a day after Benny Landa’s theatre presentation. But one of the most arresting aspects of Nanography is the radically different look of the Landa range of presses, which are operated via a three metre-long touchscreen on the front of each machine. Landa’s aim is to make printing press operation as intuitive as operating an iPhone. When a press is running unattended it switches into ‘vital signs mode’, displaying giant numbers that show how many minutes and seconds will elapse before the press needs attention –for example, more paper or an ink change. This information is also displayed on a portable tablet device that can be carried around the factory.

MGI is a dark horse – and a bankable horse – in the digital race. It was four years ago that MGI launched its Jetvarnish for UV spot coating using inkjet technology. This system made it possible for the first time to incorporate spot coatings even in short runs without having to fabricate expensive plates and screens. At Drupa, the French manufacturer of digital printing and finishing solutions is raising the bar even further with the introduction to the market of the Jetvarnish 3D, a system for simulated embossing using UV ink. The Jetvarnish 3D supports spot coating with and without an embossed effect. Users can select from three levels of gloss: satin, gloss and ultragloss.

At the show, MGI also unveiled the AlphaJet B2 size press, which is in a beta stage and is currently running in a commercial press in Paris. It will be for commercial offering from 2013 or early 2014.  Aura Print Solutions, the Indian representative for MGI, rang the bell of confirmation on the very first with the announcement of sale of Meteor 8700XL, the kit launched in 2011.

Drupa 2012 was the second Drupa for Ricoh; and the company points to market share statistics that show it commanding a leading share of the cut-sheet colour production device market that rose to almost 30% in 2011, and all from a standing start in 2008. There have been other significant landmarks along the way, too. In the summer of 2010, InfoPrint Solutions, formerly a joint venture between IBM and Ricoh, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Ricoh Company. As a result high-speed inkjet systems including the IP 5000 range, along with associated document workflow know-how, became part of Ricoh’s portfolio. And then, Ricoh and Heidelberg agreed a partnership for digital devices. This move took Ricoh products into the heart of the Indian pressroom, and unit sales of its Pro C901 and C751 machines have increased as a result.

Xeikon presses are renowned for their dry toner electrophotography and true 1,200dpi, combined with four-bit variable dot density. This ensures the press is capable of smooth solids and blends with rich colour depth and subtle contrasts, ideal for the most vibrant images and true-to-life art reproductions. This resolution also means crisp, sharp details, indispensable for accurate printing of fine lines such as serifs in certain fonts, or in images such as technical drawings. Xeikon can handle a range of weights from 40 to 350 gms. Moreover, dry toner can be used on any type of substrate, without any pretreatment, and yields results even on ultrathin paper. There is no risk of bleeding or deformation, which makes the finishing process easier.

Xerox who dominate the cut-sheet colour market in India, launched two printing systems: the iGen 150 and the Ci Press 325. The new iGen 150 can print up to 150 A4 pages per minute using the full sheet format (364x660mm). New image generation technology, with 2,400dpi resolution and line screen, also ensures improved output quality. The Ci Press 500 is an entry level inkjet production system. The smaller Ci Press 325 achieves speeds of up to 100 metres a minute.

Besides, at the Xerox stall the Color Press 1000 was busy demonstrating the fifth colour clear ink printing capability for a spot UV kind of effect. 

That social media channel is a good way of increasing a company’s trustworthiness and goodwill was not lost of Xerox, which interestingly had a social media cafe with online twitter and business development zone, which it said “with help printers grow profits”. Certainly, when companies are able to have conversations with their customers, the result is going to be a great amount of credibility.



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