Inkjet: Evolution after the revolution?

Drupa 2008 was hailed as the ‘inkjet Drupa’. Unsurprisingly the inkjet players are convinced that digital technology will take Drupa by storm again. A preview report by PrintWeek India.

03 Apr 2012 | By PrintWeek India

If the last Drupa was about first-generation high-speed inkjet web presses, hailed as litho-slaying technology by some and shown by HP, Kodak and Océ, then this year will be about the evolution of that technology from concept to production. It will also be about the expanding range of applications where inkjet has become the fastest-growing, if not the dominant, technology.

Xerox India’s Pankaj Kalra says he has reasons to believe that digital printing technology including inkjet is the growth engine for the entire printing industry and that Drupa 2012 will show just how much inkjet and digital technologies have changed the print industry.

He explains, “Negative growth trend in conventional printing is quickly being compensated by the growth in the digital printing segment.” Hence the question most printers at Drupa 2012 will be asking is:  ‘when can I start and with what equipment’.

HP India’s Puneet Chadha agrees that the focus for digital will be on the growing range of application for the technology and that inkjet will be the fastest growing technology. “Definitely,” he says, adding, “you will see faster and wider web width getting introduced to the market. “We will be showcasing the industry leading white paper printing technology, which doesn’t need any special treatment of media for inkjet.”

Fujifilm Europe marketing communications manager Graham Leeson says that the focus for digital will be on the growing range of applications for the technology, rather than the radical launches that defined the exhibition four years ago.

“Inkjet technology will have grown to another level in terms of its impact on print and will have become more viable in more applications. However, I don’t think we will see any new products that will revolutionise the market,” he says.

Kalra thinks that there will surely be a continued growth and evolution of the digital printing technologies and inkjet is no doubt an extremely fast growing segment within the digital. “Any printing technology which enables wider applications, better productivity and creates a good economic value will always be in the forefront of development and upgradation.”
Developing software
Industry experts believe that major manufacturers will focus on developing software such as new workflow systems, in order to help printers increase efficiency and cut costs.

Kalra says, “Absolutely. Digital printing is all about enabling new print applications. If someone would have noticed in events like Drupa and Ipex South Asia, the Xerox stand and Xerox solutions have always been aligned to the various application zones and the respective digital applications.”

Kalra says that he also expects to see a focus on workflow and efficiency. “I think there will be new technologies at Drupa but in the current economic climate many businesses are trying to focus on a couple of key areas,” he adds. “We are looking to help printers reduce their costs and increase automation through a collection of digital workflows that integrate into the web. We want to help our clients achieve growth and do more with the technology they have.”

Chadha says, “Workflow is as important as the printing technology today. You will see more and more Indian companies investing in workflow and other software in production and colour management in an effort to manage traditional offset along with digital printing. There is now a need for software to help ensure that all their processes are efficient.”

This is one of the main benefits of Fujifilm’s own inkjet device, the B2 sheetfed JetPress 720, which was specifically designed to slot into the physical workflow of a typical B2 litho printer. However, the press has taken longer to come to market than anticipated and some commentators, including Infotrends, have questioned what the potential markets are for devices such as this and Screen’s Truepress JetSX.

Leeson responds, “The market for cut-sheet digital printing is relatively buoyant, driven by the demand for shorter run lengths and the opportunity to get involved in areas such as personalisation. There has been a lot of interest in our JetPress 720 and we are talking to a number of companies with a view to confirming orders.”

But the question remains, and Fujifilm and Screen will need to prove the benefits of their inkjet vision to the crowds at Drupa versus the more established web-based technology from HP, Kodak and Océ, in addition to toner-based, cut-sheet devices.

Kodak, has announced that its next generation Prosper high-speed inkjet web press, the 6000XL, will be one of 10 new or upgraded products to be shown at Drupa and it has indicated that it expects one of the major trends at Drupa to be printers looking for products or services that help boost efficiency or cut costs. Director of commercial segment strategy and marketing Chris Payne explains, “In a world where competition is intensifying and long-term customer loyalty is increasingly viewed as a prize corporate asset, the failure to maximise the impact of these valuable touchpoints represents a missed opportunity to improve the bottom line.”

Payne says the manufacturer will highlight existing Kodak inkjet users who have grown their businesses and bottom line with “new capabilities and services, unique applications and improved operational efficiencies”.

Meanwhile, the company has also finally gone public on its partnership with UK book press manufacturer Timsons on the T-Press, which uses Kodak’s Stream technology. St Ives subsidiary Clays will be the first customer to adopt the T-Press.

Kalra confirms that, Xerox which belatedly entered the inkjet market with the launch of the CiPress 500 last year, will demonstrate the waterless inkjet press at Drupa 2012. The inkjet printer, according to Kalra can print on ordinary offset papers without any coating and will be a key technology to look out for at Drupa 2012.

Increased effectiveness
Puneet Datta at Canon India, predicts that an important issue at Drupa 2012 would  be the “industrialisation” of digital print.  “Digital print will have reached a new level through product enhancements; it can now be used to print high volumes and it can reach a greater number of applications.”

Although much of what we are likely to see from the commercial inkjet sector at Drupa 2012 will be evolution rather than revolution, one area which HP’s Chadha believes could experience a major shift is brand owners’ priorities when placing their print campaigns.

Chadha adds, “Today, the brand owners are not willing to pay the PSPs for wastages and costs are becoming increasingly significant on the infrastructure and operations. The margin for errors is becoming thinner for the PSPs.”

From what it looks this will be the year the industry moves from talking about cost per page to cost per lead. “Until recently printers focused on reducing cost and increasing speed but now they are realising the value of getting more out of their infrastructure,” says Chadha.

With brand owners wanting to increase the effectiveness of what they print, the scenario represents a much bigger shift than any technological advance we are likely to see in Dusseldorf.
Our verdict: In 2012, inket would be a much bigger threat to litho than the first generation of “litho-killing” high-speed inkjet presses that caused such a stir in 2008.

•    Drupa 2012 will be about digital technology’s move from concept to production and the expanding range of applications where inkjet is the fastest-growing technology

•    Inkjet will have grown to “another level” in its impact on print and applications it can be used with, says Fujifilm’s Graham Leeson

•    Manufacturers will focus on developing software such as new workflow systems rather than the radical launches of Drupa 2008

•    Manufacturers aim to inspire printers with ideas to drive efficiency and to do more with the technology that they already have

•    Questions raised over likely demand for B2 sheet-fed inkjet presses – like Fujifilm’s JetPress 720 or Screen’s Truepress JetSX

•    Xerox to preview its CiPress 500 waterless inkjet press

•    Xerox’s Pankaj Kalra thinks negative growth trend in conventional printing is quickly being compensated by the growth in the digital printing segment

•    HP’s Puneet Chadha says brand owners want to increase the effectiveness of what they print