Canon shows ProStream 3000

Canon has used this year’s Hunkeler Innovation Days event to launch its latest ProStream, the 3000, which builds on the basic design of the 1000 but will allow Canon to target higher value applications.

The ProStream is a continuous feed single pass inkjet press aimed mainly at the book printing and direct mail markets. The basic specifications are similar to the existing 1000 series. So it takes rolls up to 558mm wide. As before, there are two models, with the 3080 running at 80mpm and the 3133 producing 133mpm, the same speeds as the existing 1000 and 1800 models. Not surprisingly, the monthly duty cycle for the two models also remains the same at 3.7/ 6.1 million B2 sheets respectively.

As before, Canon has used Kyocera printheads, 64KHz KJ4Z, combined with a Canon waveform, printing in greyscale with 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution. Canon has also added an active cooling component to the heads to give better temperature control and more consistent viscosity to the ink. The ink itself is the same water-based pigment ink as the existing ProStreams.

So, what has changed? Mainly, Canon has rethought the paper path to improve the drying system and moved the external cooling unit to inside the body of each engine to give better temperature control as well as extending the drying area in the second engine. The result is what Canon calls asymmetric drying, which means that the first print unit is much shorter than the second. As before, the paper runs right to left, entering the first unit and passing under the printheads for printing. It then doubles back and heads back underneath the printing area, past the drying unit and then past the cooling rollers, toward the unwinder before turning again and passing along the bottom of the press to exit the first unit and into the second unit where it repeats the same back and forth.

The drying itself is via hot air with a fan to accelerate the movement of the hot air, or as Thomas Hofmann, head of continuous feed printing, puts it: “There is hot air from both sides so its like a hair dryer.” The paper is partly supported by this hot air as it travels within the press, which Canon refers to as air flotation, and which reduces the risk of anything scratching the paper.

Hofman continues: “The key thing is that its just air that’s blown on the paper from both sides, not just the side that is printed but also the other side.” He says that this results in “as little stress as possible to the paper and as little deformation as possible.”

Hofman says that the large heating elements can heat the drying area to around 130ºC, noting: “So the temperature is not so hot to burn the paper. We can heat up and cool down quite quickly depending on the coverage. The large blowing unit is larger than the first generation, which improves the efficiency.”

After drying there is a cooling area with water-chilled rollers. Hofman adds: “This ensures that the humidity in the paper is stable so there’s the same humidity in the paper after its been printed.”

The ProStream machines can run coated (matt, silk and gloss) and uncoated offset stocks, as well as inkjet treated paper. The ability to print to offset media is mostly down to Canon’s ColorGrip primer. Canon has also improved the way it applies this with a new Smart ColorGrip feature that lets users determine how much of the primer they want to use in specific areas of the media. Jennifer Kolloczek, senior director for production printing for European planning, marketing and innovation, explains: “It depends on the media you are printing on and the image that you are putting down.” She says that with some lighter weight media you might want to use the water-based primer on a non-image area to balance up an image with heavier coverage and have more uniformity across the paper. This Smart ColorGrip is also available as an option for the 1000-series machines.

The main benefit of these changes is that the press now runs heavier stocks before it slows down. Kolloczek notes: “The asymmetric drying allows us to have the same high quality on heavier weights.”

In practice this means that whereas the 1800 could only run stocks up to 160gsm at the full rated 133mpm, the new 3000 can take stocks up to 200gsm at 133mpm. The 1800 would slow from 133mpm to 80mpm with papers over 160gsm up to 250gsm, and then slow further. The new 3000 improves on this, running paper heavier than 160gsm up to 270gsm at 80mpm, before slowing further up to 300gsm. Canon will test heavier papers for customers and Hofmann says that the new 3000 machine has run paper up to 400gsm at 40mpm.

Now, from these numbers alone it might seem that this is a relatively modest upgrade. But by increasing the speed on the heavier stocks, Canon is now able to challenge for higher value work particularly in the US market. Hofman says that Canon has traditionally had a strong market presence in transactional printing but that for higher value applications such as calendars and photobooks it’s necessary to target papers in the 150 to 230gsm range. So the ability to run 200gsm stocks at the full 133mpm will help Canon in its approach to these markets.

Hofman adds that 270gsm is also important to the US direct mail market because this weight is stiff enough to be used for postcard and mail formats that attract a lower postage rate. For these substrates the new 3000-series is twice as fast at 80mpm, which is a substantial productivity jump.

Canon will continue to sell the ProStream 1000 series, with Kolloczek suggesting that there might be some pricing advantage as well as pointing out that the 1000 series can handle very low weights down to 40gsm, where the new 3000 machines start at 60gsm. 

Canon also says that the more efficient drying system means that the press consumes less energy.

The first of the ProStream 3000 models will be installed at Pixart Printing in Italy, which already has three ProStream 1800s. Another one is also due to go to For You in South Korea. Kolloczek adds: “In total we have about 160 ProStreams to date worldwide.”

Canon has also updated the software for its VarioPrint iX-series of inkjet sheetfed presses. The new version, R4.3, adds a new, automatic image quality verification system, which scans every sheet to check the quality and dynamically makes system adjustments as needed. Canon has also improved the automatic media validation process as well as the detection of potential multi-sheet feeds in the paper input module that diverts detected sheets to the sentry bin. This will be offered to existing customers starting in March 2023. 

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