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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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Custom Printing: New Digital Equipment Is a Game Changer

A commercial printing vendor I’ve been working with for about a year just hit the trifecta. They installed three new pieces of digital printing and finishing equipment, and I think this will be a game changer for this firm. I just received their press release, and I want to share the information with you and then explain why each piece is a step forward, both for this particular vendor and for the industry as a whole.

The HP Indigo 10000

I have written many times about my high regard for the HP Indigo press. For the first time, I strongly believe that with this particular technology digital commercial printing can match or even exceed the quality of sheetfed offset printing. That said, up until recently the maximum sheet size for the Indigo was approximately 13” x 19”. This left out many jobs otherwise ideally suited for digital printing (such as short-run pocket folders).

In contrast, the HP Indigo 10000 that this particular printer just installed takes a B2 sheet. This makes the press competitive with other 29” sheetfed presses, allowing for digital production of short-run or versioned pocket folders, large-format brochures with multiple folds, etc.

In addition, due to the liquid toner technology of the HP Indigo, this digital press has no dot gain to worry about, and there are no problems with trapping (printing one color slightly overlapping another, in order to avoid gaps between colors). The ElectroInk dries instantly, so wet-trapping is unnecessary, and all trapping is dry-trapping.

And with the extended inkset (up to seven colors, including ElectroInk white), the Indigo can accurately match the greater majority of Pantone colors. Therefore, PMS colors used in corporate identity logos can be faithfully simulated.

The HP Indigo 10000 can print on substrates ranging from 45# text to 150# cover. The press will accept coated and uncoated sheets, as well as colored and metallic papers, and stock used for folding cartons. In addition, the Indigo 10000 will print both sides of the sheet at once (which is known as duplexing).

What This Will Mean for the Local Printer I Work With

  1. First of all, this commercial printer will now be able to compete with sheetfed offset printers using 29” presses. The trim sizes of their jobs can be much larger than with the prior generation of HP Indigo digital presses.
  2. This commercial printing supplier will be able to offer quality equal to or better than its competitors who are using offset equipment.
  3. Since the HP Indigo accepts a much wider selection of paper than many other digital presses, this commercial printing vendor will not be limited in choosing printing stock. If a designer specifies a particular press sheet, either the printer will be able to use the name brand stock or substitute a comparable press sheet.
  4. This commercial printer will be able to help its clients better target marketing prospects. Because every piece produced by the HP Indigo can be customized, it will be possible to personalize each product and tailor the content to a specific audience (or even to individual prospects). In the long run, this will save money in postage. It will also increase the effectiveness of marketing initiatives.

The Horizon Cross Folder AFC

The custom printing supplier I work with also bought a Horizon Cross Folder AFC, which is an automated folding and cutting machine. Here are some of its features:

  1. The folder has a 15-second set-up time. An operator can set up any of 17 pre-programmed folding patterns from a touch screen console.
  2. The Horizon Cross Folder AFC will accept a wide range of paper stocks and will operate at up to 42,000 sheets an hour.
  3. The folder will even set the paper roller gap automatically based on the thickness of the paper inserted into the machine.
  4. The folder rollers are made of steel and polyurethane, which will ensure both longevity and a good grip on the paper, which will produce accurate folds.

What This Will Mean for the Local Printer I Work With

Basically this translates into speed and accuracy. The equipment will do an excellent job, but it will do it faster than older folding equipment and with less operator intervention. This will therefore translate into lower production costs, and that will allow for shorter production schedules that will cost less money.

The Horizon StitchLiner

The printer I work with also bought a Horizon StitchLiner. According to the press release, this saddle-stitching equipment performs flat-sheet collating, scoring, folding, stitching, and three-knife trimming in line. What this means is that magazine and book signatures don’t need to be folded on one piece of finishing equipment and then taken to another for stitching and trimming into booklets. All processes can be done using one piece of finishing equipment.

Not only is the equipment comprehensive, but it is also fast. According to the press release, each station on the stitcher can be set up in less than 30 seconds (from 8.5” x 11” to 5.5” x 8.5”). The operator can do this on the touch screen by noting the sheet size and booklet size. Make-ready can be done in less than 60 seconds.

In addition, the operator console will save up to 200 different pre-programmed jobs, and the equipment can stitch and trim up to 11,000 two-up booklets an hour.

What This Will Mean for the Local Printer I Work With

As with the Horizon Cross Folder, this stitcher will speed up production, reduce operator intervention, and lower consumer prices. At the same time, the equipment will allow this commercial printing vendor to meet or exceed the quality of prior work.

A Few More Observations

Moreover, what I personally find interesting about this equipment is the recent move by equipment manufacturers toward digital finishing. Prior to this, jobs produced on digital presses had to go through traditional folding, stitching, and trimming equipment. This push to automate finishing and to group together multiple finishing operations bodes well for the industry.

All of this equipment is ideal for packaging work, and this alone implies good things for the packaging and folding carton arena of commercial printing.

As mentioned before, in the realm of digital printing, the move toward larger sheet sizes also positions digital printing to compete head to head with offset. Clients and printers will be able to choose the appropriate technology—digital or offset—based on the length of the press run and the need for personalization.

Finally, these advances have spurred new developments in equipment for traditional offset printing.

This is an exciting time for both digital and offset custom printing.

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