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Pushing the envelope

Mar 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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Inkjetting in the bindery typically is associated with basic addressing applications. But inkjet printheads, inks and controllers are continuing to push the envelope, so to speak. In general, users can expect better uptime, higher print quality and more environmentally friendly ink options. Other trends to note: more sophisticated personalization and new developments in high-speed hybrid.

Right back where it started from Kodak Versamark (Dayton, OH) got its continuous inkjet start in 1972, when it was known as Mead Digital Systems. Since then, the company has come full circle: Eastman Kodak bought the company, which then was called Diconix, as a wholly owned subsidiary in 1983. Kodak then sold the technology capability to Scitex in 1993. And in 2004, Eastman Kodak acquired the assets of Scitex Digital.

John Palazzolo, a Kodak Versamark product manager, says that in addition to inside/outside personalization on a saddlestitcher, more customer are using the vendor’s wider head technology, such as its nine-inch DS 9100, for the mail table portion of the binding line. On the inside, a customer might inkjet a subscriber card while the outside customization might be more elaborate. “A chain of health food stores, for example, has a promotional magazine,” he explains. “So the outside of the publication will have the name of the particular store, its address, some couponing, even maps.”

Folders get bolder
Wider print widths and higher print resolution have enabled Versamark to install its equipment on high-end folders.

Versamark’s range of inkjet options also includes the 5120, a 120-dpi, one-inch printer; 5240, a 240-dpi, one-inch printer; 5122, a 120-dpi, two-inch printer; and the 7122, which is also a 120-dpi, two-inch printer but uses solvent ink.

There’s also the 4350, a piezo, drop-on-demand solution that uses UV curable inks. “Because of the UV lamps, it’s not as flexible [in terms of placement],” says Palazzolo. “It typically will have to go on the back end of a saddlestitcher.”

Here come the hybrids
Versamark is seeing more interest in hybrid printing. “One of continuous inkjet’s advantages is longer mean time between incidents,” says Palazzolo.

“In other words, once it’s up and running, it tends to run without stopping.” He notes, “Hybrid installations cover the range of our technology, as far as print width and resolution. We’ve just installed two 7122 two-inch printers on a web press and are getting ready to install six of them on another web press.”

At PRINT 05, a Kodak Versamark inkjet tower was shown combined with a Muller Martini narrow-web Concepta press. Muller Martini and Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group announced a global partnership to develop and sell static and variable printing systems controlled through a common press console. Muller will sell the press, with support from Kodak Versamark.

Beyond the Bitjet
Domino Amjet (Gurnee, IL) is probably best known for the Bitjet technology found on some prominent magazine printers’ stitching lines, but its portfolio extends beyond addressing applications. Founded in 1978 in Cambridge, England, Domino’s inkjet and laser marking systems are used for numbering and barcodes, personalization, promotional games and postal barcodes/marks. The company also offers scribing lasers for coding and marking packages—systems that commercial printers can use to produce serial numbers on gaming applications.

Drop-on-demand and full-page variable data
Although Domino initially focused on commercializing continuous inkjet technology, in recent years it has added drop-on-demand offerings. Domino’s K-Series, its second-generation drop-on-demand product, lets users expand their variable data capabilities. It combines UV curable inks with a stitchable, high-quality imaging area.

“Where it will really shine is for doing variable logos and imagery across the whole piece,” explains Deb Burks, vice president of marketing. Multiple print heads are used to create a single image for full-page or web personalization. The K-Series K200 printer prints 300 dpi at 300 fpm, enabling it to be used inline on narrow-web presses. Applications include direct mail, labels and plastic cards. Users can change the print head’s angle to meet specific resolution and running-speed requirements.

At Ipex, Domino will preview a full-color production system designed for integration into existing offset or flexo print lines.

Two-inch addressing
The Bitjet+, successor to the Bitjet 212, is a binary inkjet system for addressing, personalization and graphics with up to a two-inch print band.

Key features include:

  • Reduced manual head cleaning—operator maintenance can be done between shifts.
  • Improved ink temperature control said to result in better print quality.
  • New acetone fluids for lower VOCs and expanded drying capabilities.
  • A new ceramic-charge electrode said to improve uptime.
Eight lines of inkjetting goodness
Domino’s JetArray, a continuous inkjet addressing workhorse, can print up to eight lines of text or variable data for high-speed mailing or bindery jobs.

A new JetArray ink, BK9501, is an MEK-based black ink with good adhesion for a wide range of substrates.

Small-character continuous inkjet
Since introducing its first A-Series product in 1998, Domino has installed more than 50,000 these small-character continuous inkjet systems worldwide. The A-Series is offered with MEK, ethanol and water-based inks as well as the recently introduced AQ VOC-Exempt solutions.

Controlling it all
At PRINT 05, Domino integrated the Bitjet+, JetArray and A-Series with its controller on a Heidelberg ST400 stitcher to demonstrate personalization with selective inside/outside printing. An Axode camera system provided barcode verification. The Editor GT, Domino’s Window XP-based controller, can manage up to 20 configurable inkjet heads (20 A Series or eight Bitjet+) anywhere on a line.

Strength in selective control
“Addressing is always going to be the bread and butter of inkjetting in the bindery,” says Bob Neagle, Videojet’s (Wood Dale, IL) graphic products manager. “But you’ll certainly see more complexity in terms of personalization. There’s more variable data as marketers take advantage of their customer databases.” Videojet’s flagship addressing and personalization equipment is the BX6000 binary array printer and VIP controller.

Neagle says controllers will play a key role in helping users cope with publications that may customize a certain page or offer for an individual subscriber. “Within selective control applications, our VIP controller’s print confirm function provides [the users] with peace of mind that they really did print the information intended for individual recipients,” says Neagle.

Improve reliability, ease of operation
Introduced about one and a half years ago, BX6000 is Videojet’s third-generation binary array printer. Neagle says it offers significant operational improvements vs. the company’s previous line.

“The BX6000 is a solvent-based printer that can handle pretty much any substrate used in the bindery without dryer assist,” explains Neagle. “With the ability to achieve print speeds of nearly 1,000 fpm, it often is used for long-run magazines.

“Everything at startup is computer controlled, so there’s no operator guesswork in terms of proper nozzle cleaning or flushing out the system when shutting it down,” he explains. “The way we control inks in terms of temperature and viscosity has improved four- or five-fold.”

Startup, which previously took 30 minutes, now can be done in eight minutes, with no operator intervention.

Maintenance routines also are far less intrusive. The old system required operators to stop every two hours for “phasing.” Neagle explains, “The operator would send a command to the printer to determine how best to charge the ink drops based on temperature and humidity [conditions]. Now, we automatically phase the printer. The BX6000 phases itself between every print, which results in better print quality with less operator intervention.”

Neagle sees potential for inkjet to take a bigger share of the digital imaging pie. “The technology is heading in that direction,” he says. Neagle didn’t offer specifics, but hinted at future developments: “Videojet, in the next year or so, will compete with [laser printing applications].”

Not just about the ink
Jetrion (Ann Arbor, MI) was officially launched in 2003 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Flint Ink. It is now part of the Flint Group, the entity that resulted from the recent merger of Flint Ink and XSYS Print.

Jetrion can claim bragging rights as the largest ink supplier to the bindery. This past fall it introduced low-VOC solvent inks for Domino and Videojet continuous inkjet printers. According to Dr. Ken Stack, Jetrion’s president, lowering VOC levels in the bindery may enable some users to expand their production capacity. “For operations now pressing against their VOC limit, the low-VOC inks offer an immediate solution,” he says.

In addition to its aftermarket ink business, Jetrion also offers the drop-on-demand 3000 series of inkjet printers. The 3010 can be mounted virtually anywhere—with a mail table, in the bindery, inline with a press or on a folder/gluer. It can use UV or solvent inks at speeds up to 1,000 fpm.

The 3025 (shown above) targets mailhouse and package printers—it can run up to 400 fpm on mail tables, inserters, bindery equipment and webs. It is offered with UV or solvent inks. Pitman now distributes Jetrion’s 3000 Series as well as the company’s continuous inkjet solvent, UV and low-VOC inks.

UV looks good
“We believe UV has a lot of room to grow,” says Stack. “It takes the substrate variability out of the bindery while providing very high quality on plastics and paper.”

Stack describes the market for ink jet in the bindery as “flat but somewhat up.” The company sees opportunities for its drop-on-demand technology to replace some existing continuous ink jet installations. Stack also cites strong growth potential in the packaging market. Jetrion has a significant number of installations inline on flexo presses—press vendor Mark Andy is a reseller.

A brief overview
Inkjet systems for postpress addressing generally fall into two basic categories: continuous and drop-on-demand. No single inkjet technology can do it all—each has its merits depending on substrate, print quality and throughput requirements.

How low can you throw?
The real issue, according to Kodak Versamark’s John Palazzolo, is throw distance: How close must the inkjet head be to the paper? Drop-on-demand technology generally has a three- to four-mm throw distance and is therefore better suited for flat addressing applications. Continuous inkjet, with a throw distance of 10 to 15 mm away, offers greater flexibility for saddlestitching and other binding line applications.

Ink options
Continuous inkjet systems typically use solvent- or water-based inks. Solvent-based inks can be used on a wider array of substrates, dry quickly and accommodate faster speeds than water-based inks.

A mixture of pigment and solvent helps maintain the ink’s viscosity as well as enabling fast drying and good adherence to a variety of surfaces. Solvent options include acetone/ethanol or methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). Because MEK is highly volatile, and a strictly regulated pollutant in many states, some users have sought alternatives such as lower VOC inks.

Water-based inkjetting dominates the mailing market. It performs best when applied to uncoated or lightly coated stock—applications include envelopes, forms and reply cards, as well as other jobs demanding high-quality, high-resolution results.

Water-based inks have substrate restrictions as well as special drying requirements.

On the cover
This Buskro inkjet system, photographed at Padgett Printing (Dallas), features Atlas heads and an Iamsco dryer. The Atlas system is available with a nonvolatile, solvent-based ink for printing on most coated or glossy stocks at up to 40,000 pieces per hour.

Hey, that’s me!
Every issue of AMERICAN PRINTER is personalized. Quebecor (Midland, MI) uses a Domino system to inkjet each subscriber’s name and address on the cover.

Inkjet on the move
Everything about Japs-Olson (St. Louis Park, MN) is big. Founded in 1907, the 650-employee operation occupies a 510,000-sq.-ft. plant. Capabilities include variable-data digital printing, as well as sheetfed, heatset- and nonheatset-web and flexo printing. Direct mail is a major application: An onsite U.S. Postal Service (USPS) facility handles three to four million pieces of a mail a day.

An alternative to laser printing
“Our clients have always demanded the highest possible quality,” says Michael Murphy, president. “We use Buskro, Domino Bitjet and Kodkak Versamark [systems].”

The Buskro systems feature one-inch HP heads and can be found on Japs-Olson’s inserters, while the Domino Bitjet handles heavy coated and high-gloss products. Kodak’s Versamark inkjets DS 5300 and 9100, with 2.75 and nine-inch heads, respectively, are used for high-resolution applications.

Japs-Olson, a long-time user of the smaller Versamark heads, recently added Kodak’s nine-inch technology. “We’ve watched the technology evolve,” says Murphy. “We like the format size—it gives us a lot of flexibility and variability. Now that the quality is up to 300 dpi, that is the quality level our customers are going to require for them to use inkjet [rather than] lasering.”

Two nine-inch heads are better than one
Japs-Olson currently has 11 Versamark 2.75-inch heads and is using two nine-inch heads side-by-side.

Portable print stands and dryers enable Japs-Olson to move the18-inch head configuration among three press groups as well as its high-speed folders. “This has given us tremendous flexibility in offering a range of cost-effective products,” says Murphy.

In addition to giving Japs-Olson variable-data printing capabilities on its high-speed web presses, inkjetting inline streamlines the production process. “It allows us to merge two separate offline processes,” explains Murphy. “Before, we would have to print and then we would image offline. Now, we’re able to print and image and then mail directly off the printing press. So, it saves a tremendous amount of floorspace, material [handling] and production time.”


Katherine O'Brien is the editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at