By Pat McGrew
Since the dawn of the age of high-speed inkjet presses, buyers of those presses have been encouraged to buy their ink from the hardware vendor. Good reasons were given, including concerns about contaminating print heads and print quality. If you consider the importance of the ink to how the heads perform and the relationship between the ink, the paper and the drying systems, it all makes perfect sense.
Inkjet hardware manufacturers have invested years of research and continue to innovate with their inks to create more vibrance, adherence to a wider range of substrates, and the ability to produce high quality print at higher and higher speeds. But there are latent demands for different inks that continue to emerge in conversations with printers. It started with the need for MICR (magnetic) inks to meet the needs of check printers and direct mailers, but it didn’t stop there. As toner-based printers sport more and more color options including neons and fluorescing, high-speed inkjet is expanding options more slowly. Cyan, magenta, yellow, black are the baseline with some additional options moving into the market. Some devices has an option for a 5th ink station which can be used for a custom color, security ink or MICR.
If you are printing and you want to add to the CMYK baseline, it’s not always easy. It’s difficult because on most high-speed presses the process of changing inks is cumbersome and time consuming. Plus, if you change out an ink it changes the overall characteristics of what you can print. So, what’s a printer to do?
Consider adding print modules to your print line. Whether you pick Memjet-based VersaPass or DuraLink solutions, HP’s SPS modules, Xaar, or heads from a range of other producers, many of these modules give you access to a wider range of ink solutions that are worth considering. Of course, always consult with your head vendor to assess suitability of any third party ink solutions for your installation.
In February at Hunkeler InnovationDays (Bi-annual event in Lucerne, Switzerland), where the focus is generally on innovations in finishing automation, both KAO Collins (KAO acquired Collins Inkjet in 2016) and Diversified Nano Solutions brought interesting stories for those looking to expand their ink options beyond CYMK.
Diversified Nano Solutions Corp has been producing interesting ink solutions since 2005. At Hunkeler Innovation Days they attracted attention from both hardware manufacturers and print producers with INKcrypt smart QR, a security solution that advertises 100% instant authentication using biomarkers in the ink. Think in terms of brand owners looking to authenticate their merchandise, pharma companies who want to ensure authentication of their products, and even concert promoters looking for a reliable way to ensure the authenticity of tickets. To be sure, this is not a free solution, but the ability to create biomarkers that can be added to ink opens opportunities to differentiate product offerings. And, yes, the biomarkers are FDA compliant.
The SmartQR test kit and the screen shot linked to the QR code.
The team at Diversified Nano also produce invisible fluorescing ink and other solutions that they say are compatible with the most popular inkjet print heads.
The Kao Collins team is at many print industry shows worldwide to show their ink solutions for a wide array of print heads. At HID19 they talked about their aqueous, solvent, UV curable, Oil-based, LED curable and EB curable inks, which are used in a wide variety of both wide format and industrial print applications. For product packaging and other industrial print applications, their inks offer options to add invisible and visible fluorescent components to add differentiation to print.
For printers looking to add differentiation to the print applications they offer, it is worth considering the addition of on press or nearline inkjet modules. With print module units and a good ink partner you can add specific brand colors, specialty effects and security, all of which can be value-added solutions to drive revenue and margins.
Remember that if you do add specialty ink solutions, everyone in the workflow will need training to accommodate the new options. Sales will need to understand the new production options. If you are a commercial shop with estimating and quoting software, it will require an update to account for specialty options. Customer Service Representatives will need education in when specialty ink options can be sold, and when they will not work with current finishing, substrates or other options. The production team needs to understand scheduling issues, especially if the modules sit separate from the main presses.
The combination of creative thinking about ink and team education can lead the way to higher profits.