Ricoh introduces VC80000

Ricoh has announced a new continuous feed single pass inkjet printer, the Pro VC80000, which is targeted at the commercial print, direct mail and books markets. 

This is said to be a follow on from the current VC70000 models but I’ve been told that this press has actually been built under contract by Miyakoshi, which would be a new partnership for both companies. Most of the existing VC models – including the VC40000, VC60000 and VC70000 – were built in conjunction with Screen though the entry level V20000 is a rebadged Domino N610 engine.

This change in manufacturing partner seems to have been driven by market pressure. Ricoh entered the continuous feed market through acquiring IBM’s digital print division in the early 2000s, which was mostly focussed on transactional printing. So teaming up with Screen, which has not traditionally concentrated its efforts on the transactional market, made perfect sense for both companies at that time. 

However, as the print technology has improved, Ricoh has moved steadily closer to the graphic arts market, which has left it competing directly against Screen, with both companies essentially offering the same printer since the Ricoh VC70000 is based on the Screen Jet 520HD+. So it was perhaps inevitable that Ricoh would eventually switch to a new platform to put a bit of space between itself and Screen. 

The deal with Miyakoshi gives Ricoh much more control over the printer design. It’s an exclusive arrangement meaning that Ricoh has provided some technology to Miyakoshi and paid for any further R&D that was required. And, of course, Miyakoshi has considerable experience, both in developing continuous feed inkjet printers and in working to this sort of OEM arrangement so this is a good deal for both companies. For now, Ricoh will continue to sell the VC70000 but clearly any future models will be based around the Miyakoshi-built platform. 

The new model is slightly wider than the previous machines, having a 23ins web with a 585mm wide imaging area. Tim Taylor, Ricoh’s global marketing director for inkjet production solutions, says that the wider width is particularly important to the European market, which uses slightly larger B-sized pages than in the US, explaining: “The 3-up B5 book market has always been an achilles heel in the book market.”

The printheads are the latest variant of Ricoh’s Gen5 design. Taylor explains: “They have been improved in a few ways. The most important is liquid cooling so the temperature of the heads is constantly controlled, which was not on the 70000.” He continues: “What’s also changed is the drive electronics to increase the frequency which is why we can do the higher resolution speed.”

On the face of it, the maximum speed and resolution remain the same at 150mpm and 1200 dpi respectively. But what has changed is the production speed. This is because the VC70000 only achieves 150mpm at 600 x 600 dpi but most users would run it at 1200 x 600 dpi, giving a speed of 100mpm.

However, the VC80000 can run at 150mpm at the same 1200 x 600 dpi allowing Ricoh to claim a 50 percent speed increase since most users will use it at this resolution. The press itself can produce 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution but the speed drops to 93mpm, with Taylor saying that it’s very hard to see any quality improvements for most applications at this speed.

There are 11 heads per printbar, and space for up to five printbars. Naturally Ricoh is concentrating on printing CMYK for now with no decision taken yet on how to use the fifth bar, which will depend on customer feedback.  

The VC80000 will run all the standard paper types, including uncoated and inkjet treated up to 300gsm. However, the speed does drop on the heavier stocks above 250gsm. 

Ricoh has developed a new ink, which as with the previous models, contains all the necessary binders so that there is no need for any primer. Ricoh has been a little cagey about discussing the ink though I’m going to speculate that the liquid cooling around the heads might suggest a more viscous ink with a higher pigment loading than the previous ink.

As with the VC70000e, Ricoh is offering an optional undercoating unit though Taylor says that it shouldn’t be necessary for most substates, noting: “The print results we have seen so far without undercoat are very encouraging and it certainly won’t be the case where everything needs an undercoat.”

One interesting thing to note is that much of the imaging system appears to me to have been shared between the continuous feed VC80000 and the sheetfed Z75 that was recently announced. This includes the printheads, the print carriage and print bars, which all follow the same print width. Sandar Sondaal, Ricoh Europe’s director of commercial print sales, has also suggested that the ink from the VC8000 is the same ink as used in the Z75. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ricoh is also not very keen to talk about the drying system, which it has nicknamed ‘firefly’. This consists of a series of small heated drums and hot air with no UV or NIR used. Taylor says: “It’s just a particularly efficient way of using heated rollers and hot air.” This efficiency should also lead to lower energy consumption and cost.

Taylor says that this system should also help the machine heat up and cool down more quickly, which should allow for faster start-ups in the mornings and cut down on time between jobs. 

The combination of the ink, the drying system and the paper path inside the printer has led to a fairly compact print unit, shorter than the VC70000. The full machine with two print engines for duplexing is said to be less than 10 metres long. This is always an important consideration with continuous feed presses, since many users will want to run inline finishing units to maximise their productivity. And, of course, space costs money, particularly in Europe. In addition, Ricoh has improved the communication interface from the press to make it easier to add post-press devices. The press also supports auto-splicing units for non-stop production.

The new press also boasts a lot more automation, largely driven by the demands of the US market, where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find skilled staff, though this is also a growing problem in other markets from Europe to Japan. Taylor notes: “With this machine the level of automation has come a big step forward from where we have been and from what else is available in the market.”

It includes a spectrophotometer as well as the Scanner system that was first introduced with the VC70000e. This scanner continuously monitors the print output and the printheads, and can detect quality issues including nozzle outs. 

These features form part of a new automated system for making paper profiles, which is essential every time a new paper type is used. As Taylor notes: “This can take time and you have to know what you are doing.” This is now fully automated and just needs someone to press a button though it does take around 40 minutes to complete. 

Another example deals with the front to back registration, which is tricky with single pass presses because the amount of water contained in the inks affects the properties of the paper, which can stretch and wander on the web. Taylor says that this has been considerably improved: “When you start printing a job you always had to stop it to see if the front to back registration was correct and that all took time. But now the scanner is monitoring it live and adjusting it live.”

There is one VC80000 currently installed at Sattler Media Group in Germany, which has acted as the worldwide beta site. Sattler, which has been using the VC70000, specialises in commercial printing, direct mail, omnichannel marketing and logistics. The company is headquartered in Hornburg but has five production sites around Germany, and uses a wide range of kit from web offset through to sheetfed toner presses. 

Christian Haneke, Innovation and Solutions Manager for Sattler, states: “The level of automation achieved by Ricoh’s Pro VC80000, combined with up to 50 percent higher output of high quality products compared to our current technology, as well as its operator friendly approach, is transforming the role that inkjet plays in Sattler Media Group’s production portfolio.”

Sattler mainly plans to use the VC80000 for direct mail. The company does have the optional undercoater but is mostly planning to run at 150mpm without using it. Sattler will shortly add a Contiweb Autosplicer and Remoistening unit as well as an online Hunkeler Cut & Stack including Dynamic Perforation.

Taylor says that the development and beta testing has been a very smooth process, noting: “We have learned a lot from where we started.” The VC80000 is available to order now with deliveries expected in Europe in January 2024. Taylor says that Ricoh is expecting to have three or four installations in place in Europe by the time Drupa rolls around. You can find further details on Ricoh’s existing continuous feed printers from

: Just to be clear – none of the people quoted in this story are the source behind this part.



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