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Drupa developments 1

Mar 1, 2004 12:00 AM

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Industrial inkjet printing

Dotrix's (Ghent, Belgium) “the.factory” is a high-speed, digital color press that targets industrial applications, such as package, label, decorative and security printing, as well as point-of-purchase (POP) work. It features a single-pass inkjet color engine (SPICE), which is also available as an OEM module (most notably on vendor Mark Andy's flexo presses). “The.factory” uses UV-curable inks designed to print on industry-standard substrates that require high throughput and short runs.

Dotrix will show the existing roll-to-roll version of the press, as well as one equipped with a jumbo unwinder and sheet cutter for POP and folding-carton jobs. Other developments include a new UV-curing unit, Pantone-matching capabilities and an extended portfolio of substrates and inks.

Barco showcased an early version of “the.factory” at Drupa 2000. Dotrix was born in 2001 as a Barco spinoff. This January, Agfa (Ridgefield Park, NJ) acquired the assets and staff of Dotrix for €6 million.

The bottom line: “Inkjet will predominate in the markets we want to serve,” said Etienne Van Damme, Agfa's manager of business development. The exec explained that the acquisition will help accelerate Agfa's efforts to establish an inkjet production platform.

Automation/quality control for web presses

QuadTech (Sussex, WI) is migrating its Color Control System (CCS) onto its new ICON networking platform, which allows multiple QuadTech products to be integrated and controlled from a single controller. QuadTech's video-based CCS provides closed-loop color-control on web presses by tracking and maintaining solid ink density. CCS with System Brunner's Instrument Flight (CCS/I.F.) software provides automated three-color and midtone gray-balance control. CCS/I.F. measures and analyzes more than 30 color attributes before adjusting ink keys. The ICON architecture enables CCS operation to be integrated into the control consoles of the company's RGS and RCS register controls. Crews can then operate all of the integrated QuadTech systems from any operator console.

Two Data Central software modules, automatic setup and performance reporting, overlay the control provided by current QuadTech press controls. The automatic setup function was designed to help printers run more short-run jobs per shift. Using industry standard data formats as defined by CIP4, Data Central automates the setup of individual register, cut-off and color-control of QuadTech products operating on the ICON platform, reducing makeready times. The performance-reporting module measures press performance. It also provides a detailed quality record for every job, so that unsatisfactory signatures can be identified and removed, or to calculate accurate rebates for spoiled copies.

The bottom line: QuadTech remains committed to Harry Quadracci's “Lights Out” vision of the automated pressroom. It has shed its former “QTI” moniker to reflect the consolidation of recent changes to its business, including the 2002 purchase of PressTech Controls, a company credited with inventing ancillary press controls. In addition to commercial web offset products, look for the company's gravure (publication and packaging) and newspaper developments.

Press, platesetters, workflow and screening technology

Screen (Rolling Meadows, IL) will unveil a new press, three platesetters, JDF-enabled workflow modules for its Trueflownet workflow system and an expanded range of FM screening solutions at Drupa 2004.

Screen's TruePress 344 digital offset press has on-press imaging but it uses the conventional offset process. Unlike most direct-imaging (DI) presses, it's not a waterless press. Rated at 7,000 A3+ sph, the four-color press combines an 830-nm multi-array laser diode (MALD) with what is described as state-of-the-art processless plate material.

The TruePress 344 reportedly can produce a 500-sheet single-sided job in less than 25 minutes, with a five-minute makeready. Plates can be imaged at 2400 dpi using traditional screening; the press also will be offered with the company's Spekta AM/FM hybrid printing.

The Truefit Advance module reads jobs' image data files and automatically sets the ink keys, reportedly enabling the operator to get a job up to color in about 30 sheets. TruePress automatically scans every sixth print, analyzes the data against the original calibration, and adjusts ink and water accordingly.

PlateRite Micra, a two-up platesetter, features a 30-mW violet-laser diode and resolutions of 1200 or 2400 dpi. It can handle plate sizes ranging from 9.8 × 13 inches to 20.3 × 22.8 inches at 23 plates per hour.

PlateRite Ultima 16000 thermal multiformat platesetter can handle plates ranging from four-up (25.6 × 21.6 inches) to 16-up (57.9 × 45.9 inches). Depending on media sensitivity, the Ultima 16000 can image up to 23 57 × 45-inch plates per hour. A variety of plate-handling options are offered.

Another thermal platesetter, the PlateRite Ultima 32000Z can handle plates ranging from 25.6 × 21.6 inches to 83.6 × 50.2 inches, with imaging resolutions of 1200, 2400, 2438 or 2540 dpi. Twin 512-channel laser diodes, based on grating light valve (GLV) technology, enable the platesetter to output 40½ × 31½-inch plates per hour at 2400 dpi.

The 32000Z is compatible with any workflow system capable of generating 1-bit TIFF files as well as Screen's Trueflow. Trueflow, Screen's established PDF/PostScript workflow, is the core of Trueflownet, a JDF-enabled business environment.

Other Trueflownet modules include Ritecontrol print manager; Riteonline, a Web-browser based online print-ordering module; Riteportal, for online PDF creation; Ritetransfer, a file-transfer system; and Riteapprove, a remote-proofing service.

Ritecontrol, a JDF workflow module, supports the interface between Trueflow and a user's specific management information system. It enables JDF control of all the print production processes, including design, prepress, press, postpress and delivery.

Screen's Randot X second-generation FM screening is based on Harlequin HDS screening and includes 20-, 15- and 10-micron screening. Screen will incorporate Randot X into its Spekta screening package to give its thermal platesetter customers a broader range of options.

The bottom line: Don't look for Screen to join the Networked Graphic Production (NGP) Group. “We actively support CIP4,” declared Phil Eaves, Screen's European marketing manager. “We don't see the need to join any other group.” Screen's booth will feature JDF presentations from Adobe and Enfocus as well as workflow demonstrations.

We're looking forward to more information on the 344's processless plates. Screen reportedly has the leading worldwide market share of four- and eight-up platesetters. Ten companies, including Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG), Lastra, Hamada and Ryobi, will have Screen platesetters at their booths, as will Screen's many OEM partners.

Wide-format inkjet printer

Encad (San Diego), an Eastman Kodak Co., has launched the Novajet 1000i inkjet printer. Said to print at speeds up to 150 sq. ft. per hour in photo quality, it features a printhead with 640 nozzles for each of its six colors and resolution of up to 1200 dpi. A dual component rapid-evaporation drying system dissipates moisture, enabling the printer to take up a wide variety of Kodak media at full speed. A proprietary ink-tiling method lays down ink in a random pattern for each color and print mode for good print quality during high-speed printing. Quantum ink, developed and manufactured by Kodak, is offered in dye and pigment formulations.

Cost is $11,995 for the 42-inch model; $16,995 for the 60-inch model.

The bottom line: Encad CEO Barry Lathan noted the 1000i is the first printer jointly developed by Encad and Kodak. Encad will be sharing its booth with NexPress.

Integrated servers, MIS, workflow and proofing solutions

EFI (Foster City, CA) will showcase integrated servers, MIS, production workflow and proofing solutions. Its booth will feature:

  • A 2,000-ppm, color variable-data Kodak Versamark printer driven by an EFI Fiery server

  • Connected workflows with Heidelberg, Screen and other partners

  • OneFlow prepress software connected to EFI Balance job distribution software and Fiery servers

  • MicroPress black-and-white production software connected to a Fiery server

  • Hagen OA and PrintSmith MIS systems connected to EFI's digital workflow

  • JDF-connected workflows that include Hagen, Best proofing technology, OneFlow, Balance, Fiery, Internet solutions, and digital and offset presses

  • JDF connectivity to cross-vendor workflows in CIP4's booth

  • EFI proofing software with Best technology.

On the JDF front, EFI also will show Press Connector, a module for EFI MIS with JDF connectivity to Heidelberg, Komori and MAN Roland, and a Prepress Connector that provides JDF integration between EFI MIS and prepress workflow solutions. Internet solutions — including Digital StoreFront, PrintSmith Site and EFI Exchange — will feature JDF integration with MIS and workflow solutions.

The bottom line: The former Electronics For Imaging has rebranded itself as EFI. CEO Guy Gecht noted that the old name didn't convey the “ever-broadening scope of our software and hardware solutions.” In 2000, controllers represented 100 percent of EFI's business. Printcafe, Best, T/R Systems and other acquisitions have enabled EFI to move far beyond its core color-server technology and squarely into the business of automating and streamlining the print process.

JDF workflow, violet platesetters and color management

Fuji Photo Film Co.'s (Hanover Park, IL) exhibit will feature:

  • Large- and midsize-format zones showcasing eight- and four-up violet and thermal CTP solutions, JDF-based workflows and screening technologies

  • A design agency zone with RGB workflow, image-capture and proofing devices, and color-management solutions

  • A CTP plate zone displaying photopolymer, thermal and processless plates

  • A color-management zone featuring the vendor's color-management software for both inkjet and print-on-demand devices.

Fujifilm's latest internal-drum four-up violet photopolymer platesetters offer a format size that allows automatic plate creation from a duplicator up to the largest of four-up presses. The manual and semi-automatic versions can be operated in G10 bright yellow safelight. The automatic device holds one cassette of up to 120 plates, with fully automatic interleaf paper removal. The system can be configured with or without internal punching and is supported by a new entry-level Celebra RIP. Other workflow options, including Luxel Gateway and Rampage, also will be supported.

A new single-cassette version of the eight-up violet Luxel V-9600 and Vx-9600 CTP offer entry-level automation. With a cassette capacity of up to 120 plates and full interleaf paper removal, the option will be upgradeable in the field from the manual or semi-automatic product. Fuji will offer a new FM screening solution with its range of violet products that will complement the company's existing Co-Res product. This new FM screening solution reportedly will image both thermal and photopolymer plates.

A new positive thermal CTP plate, Brillia LH-PJ is said to offer good tone reproduction and is compatible with 10-micron-dot FM screening. The plate also is scratch-resistant and can be used with UV inks without post baking. Double coating and graining technologies are said to facilitate high durability and printability without losing tone reproduction. A new multigraining technology, which allows additional micro grains on the aluminum surface, reportedly can provide a wider ink/water balance and reduced scumming problems with plate. Run length is 200,000 impressions with normal ink; 50,000 to 100,000 impressions with UV ink, unbaked; and 70,000 to 150,000 impressions with UV ink, baked.

Fuji also will debut next-generation Celebra Extreme PDF, digital printing, proofing and CTP workflow systems featuring JDF functionality and a Mac OS X interface. To facilitate a seamless JDF imposition workflow, Fuji is bundling Dynagram's DynaStrip imposition software with Celebra Extreme.

The company also announced a print-on-demand RIP, initially to be released in Japan. This front-end system for on-demand printing currently supports the Xerox DocuColor 6060 and 2060 but will be expanded to other devices.

The bottom line: Fuji continues to do a brisk business with its violet plates and platesetters — reportedly 65 percent of its four-up machines are violet. Although Fuji will make a processless plate announcement, details are scant — it's unlikely an actual commercial product will be appearing soon.

No-process plate, proofing solutions and color management

KPG's (Norwalk, CT) Thermal Direct no-process plate is based on fourth-generation technology. It can be imaged on most thermal CTP devices and doesn't require a debris-removal system. Thermal Direct plates reportedly are compatible with a wide range of inks and fountain solutions. Capable of producing run lengths of up to 75,000 impressions under optimal press conditions, the plate is said to hold one percent to 98 percent dots at 200 lpi and can be used with 20-micron FM screening.

The pre-sensitized aluminum plate can be handled in daylight environments for up to one hour or yellow light environments for up to four hours. CTP equipment used with the plate doesn't need to be made light tight and plates can be manually loaded. The electrochemical grained and anodized aluminum substrate provide a traditional hydrophilic surface said to equal the on-press performance of processed thermal plates.

The company also will unveil an entry-level CTP system featuring a ROOM workflow and Screen's PT-R4100 thermal platesetter. The system includes both a server and an inkjet proofing device. KPG also will show its DirectPress 5034 DI.

On the monitor proofing side, KPG will show its Matchprint Virtual Press Side proofing system. Connected through the Web gateway, agencies, creatives, prepress houses and printers can view and approve or electronically mark and return for correction the same proofs within minutes. The system consists of a color-critical viewing environment incorporating a Macintosh G5 computer with a high-end monitor, KPG color-calibration software and controlled lighting. (KPG also recently acquired RealTimeImage. See our industry news section on p. 9.)

The KPG booth also will feature a SWOP-certified Matchprint inkjet proofing system including KPG Matchprint Color RIP V3.0 and new Matchprint media. V3.0 is based on Adobe's CPSI and incorporates KPG's proprietary color technology. The RIP supports additional inkjet printers, including new devices from Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Epson.

KPG also will showcase Color Fidelity System, a consistent method for the proofing and communication of both RGB and CMYK files.

The bottom line: KPG joins Presstek as the only vendors of process-free plates — both target shorter run lengths. KPG CEO Jeff Jacobson said while the vendor remains committed to thermal plates, there's “a good chance” the company could get into the violet market in a few years.

Variable-cutoff press with erasable plates

Mitsubishi's (Lincolnshire, IL) booth is divided into future technology, new technology and digital zones. The future zone will feature the Diamond 16 Max-V web offset press with variable cutoff (546 mm up to 625 mm) and reusable plate system (RPS). The RPS features an alumimum plate with a special polymer coating. After printing, this coating is washed off the plate and a fresh coating is applied. Unlike conventional DI plates, the RPS is an offline erasing and writing system.

On the sheetfed side, Mitsubishi's Diamond 3000 tandem perfector (TP) and Diamond 3000LX will be featured in the new technology area. The 3000TP enables one-pass perfecting and aqueous coating/infrared drying on both sides of the sheet. The 3000LX prints on various stocks across a wide thickness range and will be used for digital workflow demonstrations. The digital zone will feature MIS and prepress interface software.

The bottom line: The RPS is a few years away. Plates are reportedly erased, rewritten and ready in 14 minutes. It reportedly can rewrite conventional CTP plates up to 20 times, with a plate life of 100,000 impressions. Currently plates are provided by Mitsubishi Imaging.

Controlling and managing color

X-Rite (Grandville, MI) will show seven streamlined hardware and software color-management solutions, targeting creative, prepress, commercial print, on-demand and packaging users. Its first product is a one-step, self-contained method for both evaluating color quality and generating color profiles. At the touch of a button, a press operator can initiate a fast color measurement from a linear CMS test form to create an ICC color profile.

X-Rite also plans to introduce a low-cost, upgradeable, portable spectrophotometer. It pairs patented color-measurement technology with innovative software to color manage the initial phases of the workflow.

For the prepress area and on-demand printers, X-Rite will introduce a new X-Y AutoScan spectrophotometer for fast measurement of ICC color-management test forms. It reportedly can measure targets in less than three minutes.

The bottom line: In 2003, X-Rite acquired Monaco's hardware and software color-measurement solutions as well as CCDot, a plate-measurement specialist. The company hinted at joint partnerships for digital proofing and on-demand printer calibration.

Midrange production copier/printer

Xerox (Rochester, NY) DocuTech 100/120 copier/printers target the market between light- and full-production digital black-and-white machines. Incorporating imaging and paper-handling technology developed for the vendor's iGen3 digital-production press, the new DocuTechs are rated at 100 ppm and 120 ppm respectively and feature modular architecture.

Both feature built-in CD/DVD for printing directly from a CD or automatically burning an archival CD of production jobs. Up to eight programmable trays can handle up to 11,600 sheets, ranging from 309 × 470 mm with weights from 56 gsm bond to 216 gsm cover.

The bottom line: With these new DocuTechs, Xerox is targeting what it claims is a $7 billion market of black-and-white printing produced on offset presses. In addition to the iGen3 and its other printers, Xerox will emphasize its FreeFlow workflow tools including DocuSP, DigiPath, VIPP and others.

Flatbed inkjet printing for packaging

Inca Digital (Cambridge, UK) announced the Spyder 150, a flatbed inkjet printer with a 60 × 40-inch print area designed with point-of-purchase work in mind. The printer, which features piezo drop-on-demand technology with Spectra inkjet heads, offers three modes of output, producing resolutions from 400 dpi to 1000 dpi and a maximum output of 50 sq. meters per hour. Sericol has created new UV inks for the Spyder 150.

Inca also will demonstrate a prototype inkjet system that allows full-color printing in a single-pass over a substrate. Sun Chemical will commercialize the technology in the sheetfed corrugated-packaging market.

The bottom line: See Inca if you want to print on chipboard, aluminum, ceramics, corrugated board, plastics, fiberglass or flooring laminates. The company is also doing some lenticular work. Inca was formed in 2000, one of several Cambridge Consultants spinoffs that also include Domino, Elmjet and Xaar.

Prepress production workflow

Artwork Systems (Ghent, Belgium) will introduce Odystar, a native PDF 1.4 workflow that runs on Mac OS X. It features Enfocus PDF technology and supports JDF as a job-ticket format. Automated production tools include preflight and corrections, trapping with support for PDF 1.4 transparencies, imposition, proofing, printing, flattening and separation. Odystar also reportedly can convert an existing legacy RIP environment into a fully functional PDF 1.5 workflow.

Artwork Systems also will introduce Paragon screening for direct-to-plate applications that is said to suppress red and green patterns. Its Autoblend Hybrid screening uses a new blending technology to change from AM to FM screens.

The bottom line: We tend to hear more about Enfocus, a company Artwork acquired in 2000. On the packaging side, Artwork will show new Certified PDF technology for its ArtPro (currently 8,091 seats) and Nexus workflows (1,782 installations).

Editor Katherine O'Brien is looking forward to sharing more Drupa news with you next month. (This material is from the Drupa 2004 International Media Conference, recently held in Dusseldorf.) Contact her at