What’s Driving Innovation in Web-Fed Inkjet Systems?

By Mary Schilling / Published:

It was rewarding to have over 200 people join us live for Inkjet Insight’s Inkjet Innovation Week’s first webinar,Driving Innovation in Web-Fed Inkjet Systems” which I presented with Jim Jackson, president of Mail-Safe and the help of Richard Romano, managing editor for WhatTheyThink.

We set the stage for a discussion of the new ink, paper and drying technologies coming on the market with an explanation of the large amount of water needed for inkjet printing and the problems that can frequently occur, from buckling and smearing, to the extensive drying process making paper dry and brittle. 

Understanding water content in aqueous inks is very important, because it’s the water content that starts to degrade the paper and give you issues. For a 42-inch-wide press running 3 meters a second, you are applying just under a liter of water per second. That’s a lot of fluid a press must dry. The speed at which the ink must dry is very dependent on the paper and dryer configuration.

So, OEMs are continually finding creative solutions to make the process easier and faster, while giving customers the ability to expand their portfolios and increase profits. This starts with ink chemistry.

Ink Chemistry

“From 2017 Hunkler Innovation Days to 2020, there’s been a really big focus on overall ink chemistry changes,” according to my co-presenter Jim Jackson. “Everybody is getting creative in how they’re putting different additives in the ink while reducing that water content. From adding polymers and glycols to increasing the pigment amount so that you can reduce the amount of water in that ink and help dry at speed. Ink manufacturers are focusing on greater color gamut and drying and finding ink solutions which do not require treated paper.”

This means more paper is compatible with production inkjet machines, and with shorter drying times, printers can achieve heavier coverage and greater color saturation. The bottom line is, you are able to manufacture higher quality at faster speeds.

Some companies leading the way in ink technology are Canon, with its Prostream 1000, Ricoh’s ProVC60000 and ProVC70000 and Screen’s Truepress 520HD and 520NX.

“In last few years Canon, Ricoh and Screen modified their chemistries to use higher pigment loads and used a varied amount of polymers to adapt their inks to a broader range of coated offset paper production capabilities,” Jackson said.

In 2020 HP is making big changes by focusing on stock innovation as well as ink chemistry.

“OEMs are focusing on cross function chemistry and paper optimization through inline jetted treatment fluids and higher pigment load inks. This serves their current commercial and packaging market, while broadening a printer’s options. It also makes things easier on the customers running all kinds of stocks.”

Drying Innovation

In addition to ink chemistry, companies are also focusing on drying innovation. 

“It takes less than a third of a second for ink to start absorbing into the paper fibers of treated paper. For uncoated, it’s even faster,” Jackson said. “Water is damaging to paper and any media printed on it. The cross function of paper is gradually destroyed by water if it’s not extracted very quickly. The tiny fibers of the paper separate and in turn the fibers no longer serve as an adhesive. Adding heat to the paper, they become dry and brittle and can show visual curl or cockle.”

Even with changes in ink chemistry meant to support higher coverage, longer drying times may not be enough to set the ink. Added to that is the fact that traditional drying methods may not respond as quickly with some of the new additive combinations and that higher heat can damage the paper.

In addition to traditional heat/drying processes, NiR (near-infrared) technology is now being added to presses. Inkjet Insight recently conducted a study of adphosNiR technology on lightweight coated paper.

We found adding NiR to a heated air drying process on the particular inkjet configuration tested during research returned higher drying results. The jobs dried faster, with fewer finishing issues and made more substrates compatible. It also reduced the overall heat level needed, which improved the quality of the product. You can find the detailed results of the study here

Market Expansion Innovation

With these technology changes, each market is going to have varied needs. Color gamut, brightness and saturation needs will all be different from direct mail to packaging. Traditional sales methods are also still a barrier. 

“The conversation with your customers really has to change from cheapest price per piece to most effective use of their marketing dollars,” Jackson said. “And the press speed requirements will also  depend on what application you’re trying to print.”

Once again, those products expanding into different markets over the past year are Canon’s Prostream 1000, Ricoh’s ProVC60000 and ProVC70000 and Screen’s Truepress 520HD and HDNX. Also on Monday, Kodak also announced the new Prosper Ultra 520 Inkjet Press which promises to deliver offset-like quality at a consistent production speed of 150 mpm/500 FPM on glossy papers with high ink coverage and variable print. This press is scheduled for availability near the end of 2020. Learn more about the Ultra 520 here.

Each inkjet developer started out targeting a particular market and then expanding, as their process and fluids have changed, creating devices which have allowed printers to expand their scope into different market segments.

This evolution has positioned HP to develop an entirely new system. Their new HP PageWideWeb Press T250 HD with HP Brilliant InkTM is leveraging  their optimizer fluid and utilizing new ink chemistry. In addition to new inks, the press uses new HP heads in with a top resolution of 2400dpi  with dual drop weights. It will ship with an inline spectrophotometer. It’s designed for commercial offset print work including high coverage on coated and uncoated stocks. The printer is completely upgradeable from any of theT200 series PageWideWeb presses.This press is also targeted for delivery near the end of 2020. You can read more about the PageWideWeb Press T250 HD here.

HP PageWide Web Press T250 HD

HP PageWide Web Press T250 HD – image courtesy of HP

Changes in paper optimization, ink chemistry and drying over the last year has really opened up new offset coated paper choices, producing a larger gamut bringing more accurate spot color reproduction to printers. This has opened up more opportunities for customers to compete side-by-side with conventional offset and packaging it well. This helps diversify a printer’s inkjet portfolio into new markets.

The ability to print on a variety of coated offset stocks allows inkjet to be more cost competitive on longer-run projects. Printers can also run highly saturated color closer to production speeds. This also opens up more variable marketing for direct mail customers with greater personalization, increasing response rates. 

As inkjet technology continues to develop, Inkjet Insight tracks these changes, from inkjet technology trends, to new production inkjet products, features, capabilities and applications Research them all on the Inkjet Insight Device Finder.

To watch the full “Driving Innovation in Web-Fed Inkjet Systems” webinar, and learn more about our sponsors Adphos, HP and Pixelle, please register here.

It was a great week, stay tuned for more highlights.

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About the Author

Mary Schilling

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Mary Schilling is the co-owner of InkjetInsight.com, she writes technical inkjet industry articles, provides RIP and workflow training, manages print quality analysis evaluation, ink management and color management for OEM’s and end users for pre and post machine installs. Mary Schilling consults with paper mills, fluid and inkjet machinery suppliers on how to improve color and print quality for high speed and industrial inkjet involving paper, plastics, metal, fabric and glass with UV and aqueous inkjet fluids. This experience led her to receive Innovator of the Year awards from the Flexographic Technical Association and from Xplor International for her efforts in closing the gap between inkjet printing for document, and digital corrugated packaging. She is the owner of Schilling Inkjet Consulting, Published Author and Certified ColorGate Color Trainer and Distributor. Her latest published works can be found www.thinkforum.com/bookstore

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