The primary benefits of roll-fed presses include the ability to standardize on substrates, achieve super efficiency and optimize operating costs for high volume applications. These devices have succeeded for applications that are easier to standardize such as, transaction, direct mail and books. Until recently, the print quality from these devices was better suited for these applications and less suitable for graphic arts applications such as business identity, marketing collateral, posters and display. Additionally, it’s more difficult to frequently change paper rolls between jobs which limits the usefulness for shops where each job is unique.
Sheet-fed presses have traditionally addressed high image quality requirements, short runs, substrate flexibility, larger format applications such as folder or posters, expanded color gamut and value-added enhancements. They are typically classified by the size of the sheet starting with A, B or C series. There’s a good discussion of ISO 216 (A & B series) ISO 269 (C series) on Wikipedia. The zero size for the largest sheet is 33.1″ x 46.8″ for A series, 39.4″ x 55.7″ for B series and 36.1″ x 51.1″ for C series. The size of sheet-fed presses are often discussed in terms of B series, but reality they may be closer to the other formats which is why you often see manufacturers refer to their presses a B2+ or B3+. The B1, B2 and B3 presses and sheet sizes are divisible by the B0 format. For example, two B1 sheets equals one B0, and so is the case for B2 and B3. Most of the presses run a maximum of 15,000 – 18,000 sheets per hour, and many can be configured with 5 or more colors and in some cases up to 12 colors.
|B0||39.4″ x 55.7″|
|B1||27.8″ x 39.4″|
|B2||19.7″ x 27.8″|
|B3||13.9″ x 19.7″|
Sheet-fed inkjet presses are the new frontier. From those designed to replace toner-based solutions for document printing, to others which are intended for near-photographic applications. They will also fit in environments that already have workflows designed for sheet-fed printing and are best suited for customized print applications. The Inkjet Insight Device Finder catalogs a wide range of these devices from 182 ipm up to 866 ipm and sheet sizes that approximate B1, B2, B3 and C3. Some of the listings are for products that have been publicly discussed, may be prototypes or planned products, but are not commercially available. These will help you understand where the market is heading and future capabilities.
|Vendor||Product||Closest Sheet Size||IPM||Ink||Resolution||Colors|
|Komori||Impremia NS40*||B1||866||Aqueous Pigment||1200 x 1200||8|
|Landa||S10P*||B1||866||Aqueous Pigment||1200 x 1200||8|
|FujiFilm||JPress 720S||B2||180||Aqueous Pigment||1200 x 1200||4|
|Komori||Impremia IS29||B2||300||UV Curable||1200 x 1200||4|
|Konica Minolta||AccurioJet KM-1||B2||300||UV Curable||1200 x 1200||4|
|Canon||Océ VarioPrint i200||B3||194||Aqueous Pigment||600 x 600||4 + MICR|
|Canon||Océ VarioPrint i300||B3||294||Aqueous Pigment||600 x 600||4 + MICR|
|Canon||Voyager*||B2||300||Aqueous Pigment||2400 x 1200||4, 7|
|Xerox||Brenva HD||B3||182||Aqueous Pigment||600 x 600||4|
|Kyocera||TASKalfa Pro 15000c*||N/A||146||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Delphax||Elan||C2||500||Aqueous Dye||1600 x 1600||4|
Notes: *Devices have been publicly discussed, may be prototypes or planned products, but are not available. Inkjet Insight has calculated IPM in some cases where specifications are reported in sheets per hour.
Where Do They Fit?
Wading into the debate about where products fit based on capabilities is wrought with challenges especially when the products are prototypes or the information we are evaluating is based on marketing messages and not real-world evaluation. With that said, our team decided to dip our toes and do a qualitative comparison of three sheet fed inkjet equipment scenarios to a hypothetical B1 (40-inch) offset press.
In this case, offset is the benchmark offering customization and ability to produce a wide range of applications. A typical 40-inch press can run between 15,000 and 18,000 sheets per hour. The range of compatible papers is extensive, often limited to the imagination of the customer. Many are installed to produce CMYK with additional spot colors and specialty inks and the output is compatible with coatings and foils for added enhancements. While we used the 40-inch B1 offset press as the benchmark, we know that even this might not be accurate because the throughput of a B2 or B3 offset press is different from a B1.
We chose to compare this hypothetical press to three inkjet press scenarios:
B2 & B3 Aqueous Inkjet
Current products on the market include Delphax Elan, Canon Océ VarioPrint i-Series, FuijFilm J-Press 720S and the Xerox Brenva HD. There are both aqueous dye (Delphax) and aqueous pigment solutions. In general, these are a closer fit to roll-fed equipment with the added advantage of changing substrates frequently and document production workflows. The pigment solutions offer greater image fidelity which is attractive for offset replacement. Even within this group of products, there is a broad range of differentiation capabilities and generalizing is tricky. For example, the FujiFilm J-Press 720S and Canon Voyager (code name) offer promise offset or near photographic image quality. So, don’t splash too much water at us… each press is different and offers a unique selling proposition.
B2 & B3 UV Inkjet
There are two UV solutions that share the same platform, the Konica Minolta AccurioJet KM-1 and Komori’s version, the Impremia IS29. UV ink offers the ability to print on a wide range of papers, as well as synthetics, labels and other specialty media. This expands the opportunity within general commercial print environments. This may be the right equipment if you are looking to produce marketing collateral, pocket folders, posters, labels and plastic cards on one device.
B1 Aqueous Pigment Inkjet
The Landa S10P and the Komori variant (Impremia NS40) are the only B1 sheet fed format inkjet press that has been announced for the market. While neither are currently available, the packaging version, Landa S10 is currently in beta testing. Using an intermediary transfer belt system, these presses aim to transfer ink onto the surface of substrates through direct contact rather than non-impact jetting. Landa is sensitive about market positioning and doesn’t refer to their press as inkjet. Rather, the use the terms Nanography and Nanoink to describe their unique approach and ink formulation with claims of an ultra thin ink film that can adhere to any substrate. We will be able to fully evaluate this technology as it becomes commercialized.
Is Offset Really the Competition?
There is a lot of talk in the industry about transferring pages from offset to digital presses. In reality, sheet-fed inkjet pages will come from different sources and the value proposition of each press must be considered based on its capabilities and market positioning. Some presses will compete in the document production space for applications such as transactional, direct mail and books. Others are focused on marketing collateral, and photo books, pocket folders, calendars, ID cards, packaging, and posters. The obvious sources of pages include, offset, sheet-fed toner, roll-fed inkjet and new applications. There will also be print volume that comes from wide format, screen printing and specialty print markets.
There are currently great solutions on the market that fit multiple niches and application sets. It’s time to start talking with your vendors, understanding your applications and requirements and testing their technology to determine a fit. This space is going to evolve over the next couple years especially with drupa 2020 right around the corner. We should expect to see commercialization of many of the devices that have already been discussed in the market, along with new entrants who will push the envelope.