Ipex highlights from the first day

imageThere haven’t been any big surprises at Ipex but we have learned a bit more about some of the upcoming digital printers.
Journalists like to pretend that we know everything, but in truth most of us spend the first day of a big show locked into press conferences and interviews so that it’s very hard to get a good impression of the actual show. Fortunately, there have only been a handful of press conferences scheduled for this Ipex, with the first being for Konica Minolta.
The Konica Minolta guys like to joke around a bit. Toshitaka Uemura, general manager for commercial printing, started off with a story about nearly missing his wife’s birthday whilst he was away owing to a time zone misunderstanding. Akiyoshi Ono, who heads up the inkjet division, went one better, claiming that he was married to Yoko Ono.
Nonetheless, its worth remembering that Konica Minolta has only been involved in production printing for around ten years, which has mostly seen continual growth apart from a brief drop around the 2008-9 recession. Uemura attributed this growth to offering a service business and new print engines, adding: “We expect four percent growth every year for the next four years.”
There’s been a lot of attention on Konica Minolta because its KM1 is by far the most interesting, if not the only, new inkjet machine here. Its a B2 sheetfed machine capable of producing 3,300 sheets per hour.
Ono went out of his way to stress that there is no simple break even point based on the cost of the machine and the cost of the inks, adding: “I will kill you if you are still talking about this tomorrow.” It got a laugh in the press conference but in reality he’s not the first vendor to claim that greater margin from personalisation, added to less downtime, should make the press cheaper. He may be right but this kind of argument is always wheeled out when there’s a high cost to the inks.
Konica Minolta is now actively looking for a European beta site, with a view to installing a beta machine at the start of 2015 and full commercial launch by the end of 2015.
MGI announced a new printer model, the DP 8700XL+, a further addition to its Meteor range of dry toner devices. According to MGI this is faster, with better print quality than previous models due to a new thinner toner. It takes a large 330x 1200mm sheet size. There’s an XLS mode that can produce up to 18 330x650mm sheets per minute. Normal production speed is 4260 A4 pages per hour up to 400gsm and it can auto duplex up to 300gsm. Resolution is 3600dpi at 8-bit with various screenings from 130 – 270lpi, plus three stochastic screens. It can also take plastic up to 450 microns. It uses a Fiery RIP which supports the Adobe APPE.
MGI also announced a couple of finishing products. There’s a new inline finishing unit for the Meteor range of printers. The DF Pro can produce up to 4260 pages per hour and can handle documents from 330mm wide to 1200mm long. There are seven basic tools for producing horizontal and vertical cuts, horizontal perforations plus three interchangeable tools for positive or negative vertical creasing and vertical perforation. It takes substrates up to 350gsm
The iFoil is an inline option for the JetVarnish 3D, that adds hot foiling. It is capable of producing up to 1,700 B2 sheets per hour, which is somewhat slower than the 3000 sph speed of the JetVarnish. It takes the same substrates as for the JetVarnish and is compatible with most hot stamping films.
There’s also a new JetVarnish 3Ds that will be sold exclusively through Konica Minolta. Konica Minolta says the ‘s’ stands for small, though MGI say that it stands for smart – which suggests that MGI’s marketing team are more on the ball. Essentially it’s a B3 version that will be a good complement for Konica Minolta’s BizHub dry toner printers. Both companies were a little coy about future distribution agreements but it seems likely that we will see Konica Minolta selling more of the MGI kit, though this may be a few years away, partly because MGI has existing contracts to honour, and partly because they have hinted that they may develop future products together.
MGI also talked about its AlphaJet inkjet, which was shown as a B2 prototype at the last Drupa. MGI has now rethought this and says it could be a B1 machine and targeted mainly at the packaging industry.
Xeikon gave us an update on its Trillium liquid toner printing. This was shown at the last Drupa as a simplex mono machine but Xeikon has been running a full colour duplex machine in its R&D centre and is about to install its first beta at TagG Informatique, a direct mail printer in Savoie, France. This machine will be 4/4 running at 60mpm. Indeed this company is so confident in the technology that it has already bought the machine. The full commercial launch will come in 2015 and is likely to cost around €2.8m. Filip Weymans, director of segment marketing for labels and packaging, likens the running costs to that of an inkjet with high ink coverage, or in other words, more expensive than inkjet. But of course the real selling point for this machine is the print quality and the ability to print to a wide range of media.
Xeikon has also set up a fourth business unit – folding carton – alongside the existing divisions of document, labels and prepress. This is a growing part of Xeikon’s business and to take advantage of it the company has added a second packaging configuration to its dry toner range, including orange toner as standard alongside CMYK in order to ensure a wider colour gamut.
Xeikon also announced a new Web Cleaning module that sucks dust off the carton, even though this does not interfere with the printing process.

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