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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Book Printing: Black-only, Web-Fed Inkjet for Books

When I first read Kodak’s literature about the new PROSPER 1000 Plus Press, my first question was, “What about color work?” But then I reflected for a moment and thought about all the print books I’d designed or brokered that had black-only text blocks. I paused.

I also thought back to a comment a commercial printing supplier had made when asked to bid a black-only print book on his digital press. He declined to bid, saying that running the job black only while letting the cyan, magenta, and yellow toner units sit idle (it was a laser-printed job) would be bad for the equipment.

So I was open to the idea of black-only, web-fed inkjet printing for books, and I read further about the KODAK PROSPER 1000 Plus Press.

When I learned that it could print at up to 1,000 feet per minute, I went online and compared “feet” to “miles.” The PROSPER 1000 Plus Press can print at speeds up to 11.36 miles per hour, which is almost three times the speed at which I run on the treadmill. That’s fast. From a business perspective, it’s incredibly efficient.

Here’s what I learned from further research:

KODAK PROSPER 1000 Plus Press Specifications

  1. This black-only press uses proprietary KODAK Stream Inkjet Technology.
  2. It allows for two-sided (black over black) simultaneous printing (known as perfecting in traditional offset or duplexing in digital printing).
  3. The press can print on up to 24.5 inch paper rolls (i.e., it is a web press, not a sheetfed press).
  4. Its speed limit of up to 1,000 feet per minute translates to 4,364 A4 pages per minute.
  5. The press includes the KODAK 700 Print Manager Digital Front End, which improves connectivity within both the printing and finishing workflow and also facilitates operator control of the process.
  6. In its literature, Kodak also highlights the PROSPER 1000 Plus Press’ ink-reduction function, enhancement for small type (improving type readability), and estimating and reporting functions.

Benefits of Web-fed, Black-Only Inkjet Printing

Current print-market conditions demand increasingly tight job turn-arounds. Customers also order shorter runs, but they order more often. And, they may require extensive personalization (or at least customization and versioning). Obviously, offset commercial printing cannot meet this need. But digital inkjet can, and for black-only press runs the KODAK PROSPER 1000 Plus Press may be ideal.

On a more macro level, with the cost of both delivery and warehousing on the rise, web-fed inkjet presses can be located closer to the point of delivery (i.e., at multiple locations across the country). With shorter press runs, print suppliers can save money on freight costs, warehousing, inventory, and fulfillment by decentralizing the printing process in this way.

Good Words from Kodak

Will Mansfield, Worldwide Director of Sales and Marketing for Inkjet Presses, Eastman Kodak Company, captures the core benefits of such a press in his promotional literature, highlighting “…print quality and productivity akin to offset, but with the immediacy and versatility of an all-digital workflow.”

Implications for Design and Production

I gave some thought to what this might mean for graphic arts and commercial printing, and what kinds of jobs might fit the specifications of the KODAK PROSPER 1000 Plus Press.

  1. Many case-bound books and trade paperbacks have black-only text blocks. In fact, I would venture to say that a huge percentage of trade paperback work is black only. Xerographic presses now do a lot of this printing (even on a small scale, on tiny presses owned by booksellers, and on roll-fed laser toner presses), but web-fed inkjet printing could probably do the same kind of work much faster and therefore for much less.
  2. A whole industry is based on “transpromo” work, which is essentially imprinting personalized ads on customer’s phone bills and other invoices. Although this can be done on laser toner equipment (even on fast laser equipment such as Xeikon’s web-fed laser presses), I wonder if web-fed inkjet presses might not do this work even faster.
  3. With recent articles coming out about how even younger-generation students prefer physical textbooks over e-textbooks, I think the slack will be taken up by either digital laser or web-fed inkjet. And since web-fed, black-only inkjet printing seems to be incredibly fast, for those textbooks with simpler, black-only text design, this kind of equipment might drive down print book prices, increase vendor margins, and allow for just-in-time delivery (with no warehousing).
  4. Variable-data commercial printing in black ink could potentially be added to preprinted, static 4-color press work. This is called “imprinting on pre-printed shells.” I know it is possible to print roll to roll (to feed the press from a web roll and then wind up the paper into a roll at the delivery end of the press). Therefore, I would think it possible to first pre-print static, process color “shells” onto web rolls of printing paper, and then re-run these rolls of preprinted “shells” through black-only, web-fed inkjet presses. This would add the final imprint of the personalized information, and printers could then cut and finish the paper at the end of the black-only inkjet run.

Just a thought.

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