Kodak announces Ascend press

Kodak has introduced a new dry toner press, the Ascend, as well as an SaaS version of its Prinergy workflow and a new varnish for its Prosper inkjet systems.

Kodak’s new Ascend is a dry toner production press aimed at the packaging and indoor signage markets.

Kodak is marketing the new Ascend as suitable for packaging and indoor signage, pointing out that it’s designed to print and embellish heavyweight stocks. But it feels much more to me as if Kodak has simply reworked the existing Nexfinity production printer to handle heavier print stocks. That in itself doesn’t seem to me to be such a bad idea since the Nexfinity is a proven platform and it would make sense to use it as a springboard into the packaging market. Yet Kodak, far from making this obvious comparison, instead tried to convince journalists to compare it against wide format printers, which just seems bizarre. 

The Ascend has the same 356mm maximum print width of the Nexfinity. It can print on sheets up to 1219 mm long with the standard configuration, which is similar to the 1295 mm that the Nexfinity can handle with its optional long sheet feeder. Kodak has made an argument that a long sheet can handle just as many A4 pages as a B2 sheet, which does make sense when printing documents, but not so much when printing signage and will limit its appeal for packaging applications. Indeed, the press appears to have a similar configuration in terms of substrate feeders as the Nexfinity, which was primarily designed for production printing of paper documents.

The Ascend will take substrates from 148 to 687gsm, equivalent to 711 microns or 30pt. Naturally as an electrophotographic press, it can print to most materials without requiring any kind of pre-treatment. Kodak says that it has the straightest paper path of any toner press, with long sheet and manual duplex special registration system, which presumably helps with the heavier substrates. 

The press runs at 7200 A4 pages per hour or 120ppm simplex, which halves for duplexing. It appears that the press can maintain this speed even on the heaviest stocks. Kodak also quotes the speed in area as 572sqm/hr, which puts it in the same ballpark as some of the mid-range wide format printers. 

Apart from the substrate range, the other headline feature is that Kodak has developed 13 embellishments for this press, so that it’s possible to print and embellish in a single pass. Or at least it would be if there were enough print stations to handle a range of different embellishments. But instead it has the same five print stations that the Nexfinity offers so if you’re printing CMYK then you can only print one of these 13 embellishments in the same pass. It takes “under eight minutes” to change from one to another, which probably means that most customers aren’t going to be changing between embellishments too often during a shift.

The most interesting of these new embellishments is the Foil dry Ink. Otherwise, the embellishments themselves appear to be broadly similar to the fifth imaging unit options offered with the Nexfinity. However, Kodak says that the toner itself is a new formulation and that “the underlying foundation of materials is different” to the existing toner. Kodak has also rebranded the toner, and now calls it Kodachrome, a nod to Kodak’s famous slide film. The toner is safe for indirect food contact and, as with most dry toner, is easily deinkable, which ticks the sustainability box.

Kodak says that the imaging system is “fundamentally new” but didn’t share any details. The resolution is 600 x 600 x 256dpi, which is not as good as the 1200 dpi of the Nexfinity. 

Naturally, Kodak wouldn’t put a price on the Ascend though the price is absolutely key to the success of this device. If it’s priced low enough to offer a reasonably fast solution for indoor signage and some packaging then this may prove to be an interesting option. But if it’s too expensive then customers would be better off with either a wide format printer, that might be faster, can print to bigger boards and can also handle outdoor signage, or an inkjet corrugated printer, that might be cheaper to run and cope with higher volumes. 

Jeff Perkins, Kodak’s vice president of sales for digital and inkjet products, suggested that the price would reflect the ability to print the colours and embellishments in one pass, but I suspect that Kodak would really need more than just five print stations to make that argument stick. 

The press is not due to be available until the second quarter of 2022. It’s also worth noting that Kodak is planning updates for the Nexfinity, including new laser-safe matte inks, and robustness improvements on lightweight, uncoated, and high speed commercial applications.

Alongside the Ascend, Kodak also announced the Prosper Digital Varnish, a water-based varnish for use with its Prosper S-series presses and Prosper Plus-series imprinting systems. It has a matte finish and is said to be resistant to both rubbing and water and is mainly aimed at paper-based packaging applications. It can be used for flood or spot coating and should offer a quick and cheap alternative to applying a post-press coating, depending on how much protection the application requires. It’s available in North America now and for the rest of the world by the end of this year.

In addition to this, Kodak has also developed a new SaaS version of its Prinergy On Demand workflow, called Prinergy On Demand Access, which is aimed at smaller and medium-sized companies. It includes preflight, colour management, file management, backup and routing. It also features the file submission, remote customer collaboration and online approvals from Kodak’s Insite prepress portal. It’s a browser-based system charged on a monthly subscription basis. It’s built on a Microsoft Azure platform, which should ensure that it’s both robust and secure, and is available from the first quarter of 2022. 

This works alongside the Prinergy On-Demand Business Solutions and which includes the PrintVis MIS and Vpress web-to-print. This also runs on a Microsoft Azure platform, and comes with Microsoft Teams with all of its email, calendar, communication and document management capabilities. 

Finally, Kodak also updated its Mobile CTP Control App, which allows remote control and monitoring of platesetters and covers things such as operation status checks, plate usage and environmental conditions. The new version adds access to both real-time and historical data to help printers better optimise their plate-making operation. It also allows users to customise these reports to prioritise their own needs. It’s available now and runs on both Android and iOS platforms.

You can find further details on all of these products from kodak.com.

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