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Sep 1, 2008 12:00 AM

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Inkjet systems for postpress addressing generally fall into two basic categories: continuous and drop-on-demand. Drop-on-demand (DOD) technology typically has a three- to four-mm throw distance and is therefore better suited for flat addressing applications. Continuous inkjet (CIJ), with a throw distance of 10 to 15 mm away, offers greater flexibility for saddlestitching and other binding line applications.

While DOD isn't as fast as CIJ, some current technology offers excellent color as well as pigmented inks. But no single inkjet technology can do it all — each has its merits depending on substrate, print quality and throughput requirements.

“CIJ lets you thow ink, not only at further distances, but at angles, in some cases,” notes Marc Johnson, marketing manager, high-speed inkjet solutions for Kodak's Graphic Communications Group. “Narrow one- or two-inch heads can go sideways at 90 degrees. In some applications, these heads even go upside down at an 180 degree angle. That's a huge [advantage] if you have a newspaper on a gripper.”

The wider the inkjet head, the greater the flexibility. One-inch heads can handle basic addressing, while two-inch heads provide a little extra room for ad messaging.

“Four-inch heads provide all of the above, plus the ability to make a decent swath on a direct mail piece,” says Johnson. “This is where you start getting people like Japs-Olson who take a Lego-like approach [moving inkjet heads from mail tables to press lines and other equipment]. For larger printers, flexibility is the biggest advantage of wider heads.”

Japs-Olson's (St. Louis Park, MN) inkjet arsenal includes equipment from virtually every vendor, including 11 Kodak Versamark 2.75-inch heads as well as two nine-inch heads placed side-by-side. The Versamark DS 5300 and 9100, with 2.75 and nine-inch heads, respectively, are used for high-resolution, 300-dpi applications. Portable print stands and dryers enable Japs-Olson to move the 18-inch head configuration among three press groups as well as its high-speed folders. (See “Pushing the envelope,” March 2006.)

A DOD debut

Kodak will showcase several new inkjet introductions at Graph Expo. As a DOD machine, the Versamark VL2000 is something of a departure for the vendor, which got started with CIJ technology in 1967. Targeting transactional and commercial print environments with volumes ranging from 1 million to 5 million impressions per month, it employs roll-to-roll operation at 600 dpi × 600 dpi and has a maximum speed of 250 fpm at up to 18.67 inches in width. Applications include statements, direct mail, books and catalogs.

Kodak's Versamark VT3000 is based on its traditional continuous inkjet platform. A scaleable solution that can be customized for speed, configuration and color, the VT3000 can be used for transactional and transpromo applications. Capable of maximum speeds of 500 fpm that yield up to 2,040 pages per minute, the system can produce monochrome, spot and process color printing all on the same platform.

‘Like CIJ on steroids’

But the biggest buzz concerns Stream Inkjet Technology, Kodak's attempt to push CIJ technology beyond addressing applications to the next level: A high-quality mainstream printing process that will challenge offset. “Stream takes everything we've done at the Kodak Research Lab in Rochester — all the material sciences and pigmented ink technical knowledge — and combines it with the sheer volume and production sense that the Dayton group has [from its Scitex Versamark heritage],” says Johnson. “It's like CIJ on steroids. You have all the CIJ advantages — speed reliability, low cost of operation — as well as high quality color.”

At Drupa, Kodak showed a prototype of Stream Concept Press — a high-speed, process color system with resolution that exceeds 600 dpi with output quality said to be in offset's ballpark. It can print on clay coated and uncoated papers for applications such as catalogs, direct mail and free standing inserts.

The Stream Concept Press won't be at Graph Expo, but visitors will see the Stream Concept Printhead demonstrating speed and integration capabilities appropriate for hybrid work: It can do monochrome, offset-class VDP applications at up to 1,000 fpm. As the first planned product with Stream technology, the four-inch Stream Concept Printhead from Kodak is designed to produce a deep, rich black at 600 dpi on glossy substrates. See

Editor's note: Inkjet products continue on pg.28.

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