Happy birthday, digital print: you are 21 years old - The Noel D'cunha Sunday Column

It is 1993. The year in which R D Burman's Ek Ladki Ko Deha and Kuch Na Kaho, are composed and will go on to become blockbusters. The Indian economy is stabilising. The duo of PV Narshima Rao and Manmohan Singh waved the magic wand. Just then, in a corner of the world, an innovation that will trigger a print revolution comes of age. It is twenty one years since the launch of Indigo and the Xeikon.

01 Mar 2014 | By Noel D'Cunha

As my colleague in PrintWeek UK, Jo Francis says, "Although there are fewer than 650 websites on the entire internet, Mosaic, the browser credited with popularising the World Wide Web, has been released. And in September, at the Ipex ’93 trade show at Birmingham’s NEC, a revolution in print was also underway."

Jo Francis adds, "Twenty-one years ago, Indigo launched its E-Print 1000 with the sort of razzmatazz we’ve come expect from founder Benny Landa. And, in a more low-key corner of the show, Xeikon’s DCP-1 was shown under the Chromapress 32i banner by Agfa, one of the original investors in Xeikon."

That was then.

And today, the numbers for India: 3,894 colour digital presses (Xerox - 1,800, Konica Minolta - 1,500, HP – 134, Canon – 250, Kodak – 75, Ricoh - 100, MGI 33-35)

Entry-level digital presses
It’s a no-brainer that entry-level presses allow an offset printer the flexibility to produce a wide range of applications to meet customer demand. This is what Falit Pandya of Print Vision in Ahmedabad had to say. “If I am printing 150 magazine or books, I am not going to print the cover on offset, if I’ve got digital in-house. It makes more sense to print it on digital.” Entry-level presses allow the offset printers an affordable option to handle small print jobs cost-effectively.

Here are  four popular ones among entry-level digital presses in India. These are Canon C6011/7011, Konica Minolta Bizhub Press C6000, Ricoh Pro C5100S and Xerox J75.

Canon C6011/7011
Canon introduced two new entry-level Imagepress in the C6011/C7011, offering speeds of upto 60 and 70 letter-size pages-per-minute with up to 1,200x1,200dpi image resolution.
The C6011/7011 allows print service providers the opportunity to help increase productivity and deliver a wider variety of applications by way of new in-line feeding and finishing options.
Equipped with Canon’s proven Prismasync controller, production can be streamlined, making printing workflows more intuitive and consistent. It also allows customisable workflow, which means one will not need to maintain several separate pieces of equipment for each type of job for its client need.
The Long Sheet Feeder1 solution introduced with this kit supports paper sizes of up to 13" x 26", enabling applications such as book covers, large posters, banners, point-of-purchase signage, pocket folders, 12-page brochures, and calendars to be created in one seamless workflow.
Canon has since installed 150 units of both the presses.
Konica Minolta Bizhub Press C6000
The Bizhub Press C6000 is Konica Minolta’s entry level colour digital product for printing professionals. The system’s production print capabilities allow a multitude of paper input, inline finishing and print controller options, and can be supplied in a basic configuration that has flat sheet capabilities to produce high quality digital colour print output.
For the C6000, Konica Minolta’s third-generation production colour system, the company has developed integrated changes at every stage to make its print systems more in tune with print professionals’ requirements. The KM C6000 system is the company’s most popular colour print system in all market sectors where colour print quality is demanded.
Typical print jobs include business cards, promotional material, educational documents, general images and documents, and advertising material such as brochures and booklets. With the media flexibility the KM C6000 offers, print jobs from as small as A5 to a size slightly larger than A3 allowing for bleed so pages can then be cut down to A3 size.
The larger sheets can be printed directly, and with the addition of inline finishing, saddle stitched booklets and even perfect bound books can be created.
According to Konica Minolta, there are more than 600 installs in India.
Ricoh Pro C5100S
The Ricoh Pro C5100S sits beneath the rest of Ricoh’s production colour machines – but only in one respect. The light production machine has a lower intended monthly pages volume than the Ricoh Pro C651, C751 and C901. And for small business owners and first time users looking for entry level printers, the Ricoh Pro C5100 series offers a small footprint with a quality engine.
The C5100S is suitable for quick printers, corporate inplants and marketing and design agencies looking toinsource their print production. It is also suitable for the agency market for producing samples, book proofs and even packaging mock-ups.
A standard configuration includes engine, paper tray and stapler finisher with enhanced media handling. These devices also offer varying levels of controllers, allowing customers to select the best options to meet their workflow and productivity requirements. The C5100S is suitable for all production applications, with easy integration into CRD and commercial printers.
In the last three months, Ricoh has installed over 30 machines in India.
Xerox Color J75 Press
Xerox introduced two entry-level presses last year, the J75 and C75. Both had the same core technology but were pitched at different markets.
The C75 is aimed at in-plants, design agencies and existing or emerging digital print businesses; the J75, meanwhile, is aimed at similar markets but also commercial print shops and printers producing high-volume, high-value applications.
Both devices are laser printers, and utilise Xerox EA Dry In. It includes Xerox’s built-in colour calibration technology and Simple Image Quality Adjustment), which monitors the input/output density or colour variation and quickly corrects any discrepancy.
The J75 combines duplex printing, copying and scanning and is capable of printing and copying at 2,400dpi on a range of coated and uncoated substrate from 64-300gsm at speeds of up to 75 pages per minute (ppm).
There’s an automatic inline spectrophotometer system, called the ACQS, which ensures the J75 delivers quick, simple monitoring and calibration.
Since its introduction, Xerox has installed 75 units of the J75 family.
India v/s world...
It is said that first impressions are lasting impressions. Well, there are a few digital print specialists, who have been helping its customer to creative positive impressions of their business. These specialists do everything from high-end brochures, calendars and corporate reports, to leaflets, fliers, business cards and photo-albums.
Avantika Printers, Kadam Digital, Sonal Xerox, KCL Imaging, Photo Perfect, Positive Point, Chanakya Mudran, Inndus, Perfact Digital, Arun & Rajive, Print Stop, to name a few that I have visited, have been impressive. Their success has been due to their ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
That said, what I saw during our travel to UK in March, 2013. And it was really exciting.
Real Digital International (RDI) in Croydon, can be described as the archetypal 'field of dreams' business. The firm was formed in 2005 with 12 persons. They were among the first to do full colour transpromo for direct mailers. Now it’s a two location plant with 130 persons who are on a profit-sharing scheme; and a healthy growth.
An ambitious plan, which included huge upfront investment in kit, impressive turnaround and solid IT backbone extends the company’s print scope. Real Digital has a fleet of iGen4s and i Gen3s (a total tally of nine), backed by Xerox monochrome devices. The highpoint is the 2:1 ratio of post-press to press kit. This is an impressive range from Stahl folders to Buhrs inserters to Hunkelers for paper finishing.
“That’s what stops us from being a one-trick pony or being in a situation where we are trying to force a client to do something just because it suits our equipment. Instead, we find out what our clients want and translate that into the technologies available and figure out how we take different elements of those technologies to do what they want, or more often than not, more than they want,” said RDI’s David Laybourne, managing director of Real Digital.
Premium performance commands premium price
One thing is certain, premium performance commands a premium price. Whatever the size of the job, if the Indian digital print specialists are looking for that premium space, it will need to have a clear mission – to provide a highly cost-effective printing service, with the best turnaround times and expert advice.
The digital journey has well and truly begun in India.
Happy twenty-first birthday.