Production Inkjet Shopping Guide 4: Graphic Arts Presses

By Ralf Schlozer / Published:

No technology area in print has seen as many launches and announcements in recent years as production inkjet presses. This can make selecting the right inkjet press a bewildering adventure. This guide aims at providing an overview of the main inkjet presses available for commercial and document-oriented applications. This final article in a four-part series will focus on graphic arts presses – the ones that squarely target offset applications or quality-critical print applications.

Inkjet graphic arts presses.

Inkjet production printing started in transaction and moved into direct mail and book printing. Uptake in commercial print was hampered for some time as quality and paper range were not sufficient. However, manufacturers improved inkjet technology considerably to launch presses that can address commercial print and several high-quality applications.

Inkjet presses for graphic arts have two critical capabilities: high imaging quality (akin to offset) and support for standard coated papers. Admittedly there can be debates about what exactly is an offset quality equivalent, as there is no clear definition. Usually, a 1,200 dpi resolution and advanced colour control are a prerequisite. Likewise, there are nuances in the support for standard coated media and depending on a press there can be quality or speed limitations for a certain paper. It still pays to test the printability if a particular media is required. Nevertheless, the presses listed below have a high chance that the results will be good.

Graphic arts quality presses come in two flavours: cut-sheet and web-fed. Cut-sheet presses have the advantage that paper can be changed quickly and efficiently (potentially without waste) – a requirement in many commercial print shops. So far only the Canon VarioPrint iX offers multiple paper decks, which makes instantaneous paper change possible. On the other hand, cut-sheet presses are noticeably slower than web-fed presses, especially considering the price points. Cut-sheet presses come in several formats, from B3 to B2 and B1 size.

Web-fed presses offer higher speeds and can add in-line finishing. They are more suited to sites that change applications less frequently. As all vendors offering GA-quality web-fed presses brought out many generations of web-fed devices before, the actual models draw from considerable experience. GA-quality presses are more expensive than crossover presses as top quality requires better inkjet heads and more elaborate paper handling and drying. Inks tend to be more expensive as well, although not the price per litre but the cost for the ink (and primer) used to print a certain image counts. However, GA-quality web-fed presses have a better price-output ratio than sheet-fed presses. All GA-quality web presses are 2-up presses with an imaging width in the 20”/50cm range.

Device

Base specifications

Overview

Cut-sheet

Canon

VarioPrint iX3200

Launched in 2020

320 ipm (A4)

1,200 dpi

Recommended for up to 10M A4 / month

Max print format 337 x 504mm

The iX-Series follows the VarioPrint i300, which was launched in 2015 and improves noticeably on quality and media range The printers use aqueous inks, have a 1,200 dpi resolution and feature B3 paper.

By using a primer also standard coated papers up to 350 gsm are supported. This adds commercial print applications to transaction printing, forms, books or direct mail – which were already covered by the i300. Accordingly, a good portion of the iX installations found their way into commercial and online printers so far.

Additional paper trays and in-line finishing modules, including a UV coater, are available.

A slower version exists as well with the VarioPrint iX2100, with 210 ipm and a recommended volume of 7 million impressions/month

Fujifilm

JetPress 750S

(in US: JPress 750S)

Launched in 2018

360 ipm A4

Up to 1,200 dpi

Max print format: 733 x 567mm

The first JetPress was already shown in 2012 and the 750S benefits from several generations of improvements. It has a larger sheet format than the predecessors with 750x585mm and can handle thicker stock up to 600micron. At the same time, the press became shorter thanks to a more efficient dryer.

In 2021 a high speed mode was added with 5,400 B2 sheets/hr at reduced resolution in addition to the 3,600 sph in full resolution.

The 750S uses Fujifilm’s own Dimatix Samba printheads. Resolution is 1,200×1,200dpi and the VersaDrop jetting technology uses four different drop sizes. The press uses aqueous inks and a primer to specifically print on coated papers. Duplex is manual, as the pile has to be turned and fed again. The sheet transport is based on an RMGT (Ryobi) offset chassis.

An option for food-safe inks is available. Achieving 600micron stock requires a carton configuration.

Konica Minolta

AccurioJet KM-1e

Launched in 2016

200 ipm (A4)

1,200 dpi

Max print format

575 x 730mm

Originally the KM-1 was launched in 2016, with a significant upgrade in 2020 to the KM-1e, improving media support and automation. In 2022 the HD version was added, for improved imaging quality, although with unchanged base specs.

The KM-1e uses LED UV inks, which gives the press the ability to print on many stocks without primer. The UV inks, developed by KM, give a much more matte impression than many UV inks on the market.

Konica Minolta refers to the KM-1e as the Swiss Army Knife of printing, as the press is very versatile in its applications. Most users are in commercial print. Support for media up to 0.6mm thickness (0.45mm in duplex) allows for light packaging.

The press prints with 3,000 sheets/hr in simplex and 1,500 sheets/hr in duplex mode.

The press base of the KM-1e is manufactured by Komori, which sells the same hardware as IS-29s.

Komori

IS-29s

Launched in 2016

200 ipm A4

1,200 dpi

Duty cycle 10M A4 / month

Max print format 575 x 730mm

Komori launched the jointly with KM developed KM-1 as IS29 in 2016. The upgrade in 2020 resulted in the IS29s from Komori.

While both devices have the same hardware and LED-UV inks, the DFE and workflow offerings do differ. Also, sales, support and availability are differentiators for both suppliers.

Most IS-29 users are in commercial print with a few users in carton printing.

Landa

S10P

Launched in 2016

866 ipm A4

1,200 dpi

Maximum Print format duplex 28.1 in x 40.6 in / 714 mm x 1032 mm

Shown as a concept at drupa 2012 and presented at drupa 2016, the Landa S10P has been in the making for a while. It admittedly has a unique imaging concept, however. Installations of S10P started in 2019. It remains the only B1 inkjet press for commercial print so far.

Landa calls its imaging process Nanographic printing, based on nano-sized pigment particles in the ink. The process starts with jetting ink for all separations on a blanket. The aqueous inks are dried on the blanket, resulting in a sticky ink film, which is transferred in one pass onto the paper. This reduces the paper dependency of the process as the water is already evaporated when the ink film is transferred.

The press can produce 6,500 sheets/hour in simplex or 3,250 in perfecting mode. Initially double the speed was targeted, but this has not been realised yet. The press is available as 4 or 7 colour version.

The press base is manufactured by Komori, including feeder, delivery and an optional analog coating unit.

There is a single sided version available with the S10, targeted at folding carton print.

Roll-fed 2-up

Canon

ProStream 1800

Launched in 2017

133 m/min, 1,790 ipm A4

Up to 1,200 dpi

Recommended for up to 58M A4 / month

The Canon ProStream Series was launched in 2017 to target high-quality applications and commercial print. In 2020 a new top-of-the-line model, the ProStream 1800, was added.

The press uses Canon ColorGrip jetted primer and a newly designed drying system to allow for printing on offset coated stocks. The dryer is an air flotation dryer system, comparable to web offset dryers. The ProStream uses native 1,200dpi piezo drop-on-demand print heads from Kyocera and Canon’s proprietary polymer pigment ink. Substrates from 40gsm to 300gsm are supported.

Many users are in book and direct mail markets, while a number of installations at commercial and online printers exist as well.

A ProStream 1000 is available with a web speed up to 80 m/min. The 1000 can be upgraded to a 1800 on site.

HP

Advantage 2200

Launched 2022

Up to 244 m/min (mono) or 152 m/min in colour

1,000 ipm color/1,600 mono

Up to 2,400 dpi

Recommended for up to 62M A4 / month or 90M mono

The PageWide Advantage 2200 with Brilliant Ink was launched this year as HP’s color and quality flagship press, surpassing the HP T250 HD launched in 2020. First installations exist and the press will become fully available in 2023.

The press is modular, especially regarding the number of dryers, and hence found its way into the crossover press guide as well. The configuration with three dryer modules and active cooling & remoisturing is targeted at coated media and weights up to 300 gsm. Keep in mind that when configured with less drying capacity, the press will not support offset coated media.

The 2200 is 33% faster than the T250 HD in quality mode and 60% faster in mono performance mode, which would be a bonus for book printer with large volumes in black & white.

The press offers a native resolution of 2400 nozzles per inch using the HP B62 HDNA thermal drop on demand printheads and HP Brilliant Ink enhanced with HP Optimizer. In base configuration the press has a compact footprint of 47 feet (14.42 m), in the three-dryer configuration it is 3m longer.

Note that BlueCrest, a strategic partner of HP since 2009, will offer the IntelliJet Advantage 2200 with Brilliant Ink as well.

Kodak

Prosper Ultra 520

Launched in 2020

150 m/min, 500 fpm

2,020 A4 ipm

Up to 1,800 x 600 dpi

Duty cycle: 60M images/month

The Prosper Ultra 520 is the first Kodak press for the document printing market featuring the UltraStream technology, which uses electrostatic deflection of the drops. Kodak presses are the only inkjet presses using continuous inkjet technology.

The press operates with Kodak’s nanoparticle aqueous pigment inks with a wide gamut. Kodak states that with a 600 x 1,800 dpi resolution the results are comparable to 200 lpi offset screening.

There are two models available, the Ultra C520 for high ink coverage applications and paper weights from 45 to 270 gsm and the Ultra P520 for medium-to-low ink coverage applications and papers up to 160 gsm. Accordingly, the C520 is the most suitable device for commercial work and high quality direct mailers, inserts, catalogs, brochures and books.

With 14.9m (48 ft. 10 in.) length in the base configuration, the press is fairly compact. An optional primer unit is available.

Ricoh

Pro VC70000

Pro VC70000e

Launched in 2018

150 m/min, 492 fpm

2,020 A4 ipm

Up to 1,200 dpi

Duty cycle: 40 mio images/month

The Pro VC70000 was launched in 2018 and builds upon the Pro VC 60000 launched earlier. The Pro VC70000 sports a patented dryer technology and special aqueous inks that allow printing on standard coated stock. The dryer uses a combination of heat rollers, radiant heat, and air movement in a relatively compact space.

The Pro VC 70000 uses Ricoh’s own stainless steel printheads with a 1,200 dpi resolution. Paper from 40 to 250 gsm is supported. The max speed only supports papers up to 157 gsm and 600 dpi resolution. The Pro VC70000 is popular among direct mail printers with some installations in commercial and book printing.

Most recently the Pro VC70000e was launched, sporting a primer unit, Ricoh’s Pro Scanner and AI software to simplify operation and extend the media range. Installed presses can be upgraded to the “e” model.

Screen

Truepress Jet 520HD AD

Launched in 2018

Up to 120 m/min,  ipm (option for 150 m/min)

2,020 A4 ipm

Up to 1,200 dpi

Duty cycle: 50 mio images/month

The Truepress Jet 520HD AD and Truepress Jet 520HD+ are two versions of the Truepress Jet 520HD targeted at commercial print and coated paper usage.

Compared to the Truepress Jet 520HD (launched in 2014), which already has a high imaging quality, the “+” version includes a NIR drier to print on more standard coated papers. The extra pinning and drying power allows for printing on coated stocks at much higher speeds. Still, standard coated papers might not run at full speed.

In 2019 the Truepress Jet 520HD AD was added, with AD standing for a new advanced drier unit, which combines a constant temperature dryer with small diameter heated rollers

A key development for the HD presses was the SC-inks, launched in 2016. These aqueous polymer inks were designed to print on coated and uncoated paper. In 2022 SC+ inks were launched for an expanded colour gamut. This version should allow coated paper at up to 150 m/min speed.

The standard press configuration offers a top speed of (120 m/min) 394 fpm as standard, but can be upgraded to 492 ft/min (150 m/min). The resolution varies with the speed.

Users of the Truepress Jet 520HD+ include publishing, commercial, direct mail and catalogue printers.

The duty cycles indicates the maximum monthly volume on a permanent basis. The recommended volumes are usually lower and the typically realised volumes at customer sites are even lower. It should be kept in mind that the highest speed, especially for roll-fed printers, results in a reduced imaging quality. High coverage and paperweights can mandate a reduced speed as well. For B2 presses the images per minute (ipm) were calculated on a 4-up imposition although sometimes a 6-up imposition is possible with reduced margins when printing US letter size formats.

There are more products on the horizon that would fit the graphic arts market once available. The Komori version of the Landa S10P, the Komori NS40 has been launched but seems not to be available in most geographies yet. The B2 format Pro Z75 from Ricoh has been previewed but is not commercially available so far. The AlphaJet from MGI is now officially launched and could fit in this segment, however, the very versatile concept of the press makes it more suitable for specialty and industrial applications – although we might need to review this once more installations become known. In any case, more devices in different formats will become available in the near future and especially the cut-sheet market should offer more opportunities.

This buyer’s guide is intended to give a rough overview of the devices available. A lot more details on the products can be found in the Inkjet Insight Device Finder .

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About the Author

Ralf Schlozer

Ralf Schlozer is Independent Print Analyst. Ralf provides analysis, sizing and forecasting the market for digital printing technologies and associated applications and business processes. Connect with Ralf on LinkedIn

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