Xerox has announced a new inkjet press, the Baltoro HF, an entry-level cut sheet device aimed at the transactional, direct mail and catalog markets.
Xerox has used its own W-series drop on demand piezo inkjet printheads with 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution. So far these heads have mostly been supplied to OEMs, either as individual heads or as printbars so the Baltoro is first time that Xerox has put these heads in one of its own production printers.
The W-series have 5,544 nozzles, arranged in 24 rows of 231 each, with an effective print width of 115mm. These are grey scale heads with drop sizes ranging from 3 to 9 picolitres. They can be supplied as a single channel 1200 npi head (W1) or as two 600npi channels (W2), and have a maximum operating frequency of 120kHz. They’re compatible with both aqueous and UV inks, in temperatures up to 60ºC.
For the Baltoro, Xerox is using 12 of the W1 heads. It’s a four colour CMYK machine, so there are three heads per colour, configured to produce a single 4.5 pL drop size. Xerox was at pains to stress that this press should be seen as a platform, meaning that we could see further iterations launched in due course. It certainly looks to me as if there is space for another two colour channels though that’s purely speculation on my part.
The inks are Xerox’s High Fusion pigmented aqueous inks, which were first introduced a year or so ago for Xerox’s web-fed Trivor printer. Essentially this ink uses binders within the ink to attach the pigment to the substrate so that there’s no need for any precoating or priming process. Xerox says that the interplay between the inks, dot placement, screening algorithms and drop size also plays a part. It’s certainly noticeable that the Baltoro HF has a very compact drying area, using just seven near infrared lamps along a straight paper path. Xerox attributes this to having the inks do the job of the primer so that there’s less water to dry off the paper in the first place. This also means that there’s less risk of damaging the paper and makes the paper handling a lot more straightforward, as well as reducing the amount of energy required.
It’s a colour press, with an inline X-Rite spectrophotometer for colour management. That said, there is an option to cap the cyan, magenta and yellow heads to use it as a monochrome only device. This press is designed to cope with an average of 750,000 to 3,000,000 pages per month. It can print 197 A4 ppm simplex, or up to 302 duplex ipm on an A3 sheet. The standard speed can be upgraded through a simple licensing charge, though this mainly increases the duplex speed – the figures quoted here include the upgrade. It’s an interesting idea and means that customers can keep the price down when they first buy the press but instantly upgrade when the volume of work goes up.
It’s also worth noting that the press can take sheets up to 364 x 520mm and that those sheets can be fed from either the long or short edge, which does mean that the actual productivity varies quite considerably depending from one sheet size to the next. It can print to uncoated plain, inkjet treated, inkjet coated paper and will take paper from 60 to 270 gsm. It can be configured with up to four sheet feed modules, each with two paper drawers, allowing for up to 20,000 90gsm sheets maximum capacity.
It comes with Xerox’s FreeFlow front end which can handle PDF, PDF-VT, IPDS, PostScript, TIFF, JPEG, PPML, VIPP files. There are a range of finishing options, including sheet feeders from Tecnau and CP Bourg, booklet makers from CP Bourg and Watkiss, plus binding, perforation and hole punching.
The Baltoro HF is specifically designed to go head to head with Canon’s Varioprint i300 and Xerox says that it’s competitively priced against the i300 at “substantially less than $1m, inclusive of speed license”. Canon will likely welcome the competition, possibly through gritted teeth, if only because it validates the concept of a sheetfed inkjet press. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to shake up the sheetfed market, which is mostly dominated by electrophotographic presses like the iGen, which are very flexible in terms of the substrates they can print to. But both Canon and Xerox now have inksets that are capable of printing to a wide range of different media and have the sort of substrate flexibility that defines the sheetfed market but combined with the ability to handle a reasonable volume of work. It will certainly be interesting to see how the market reacts.
The Baltoro replaces the Brenva, which is now discontinued. Xerox is already taking orders for the new press, with the first units likely to ship in the US in mid Q3 and in Europe by late Q3 of this year. You can find further details on the Baltoro HF at www.xerox.com.