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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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Archive for the ‘Digital Printing’ Category

Custom Printing: Kodak’s Advances in Production Inkjet

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

“Production inkjet.” When I hear the word “production,” I immediately think high volume. The company, or industry, is serious about getting the work out.

When I used my first inkjet printer, I was an art director/production manager for a large non-profit educational foundation. It was the ‘90s. The inkjet was slow, and the colors were somewhat garish, but we were happy to be able to see the overall look in mock-up form. The output was good enough for us to visualize the printed end result and communicate this appearance to clients. We were grateful.

Over the ensuing decades the quality of inkjet color improved dramatically, and the speed increased as well, but compared to offset commercial printing it was not adequate. Here’s a random comparison from one online writer. A laser printer can produce 100 pages a minute. An inkjet printer can produce 16 pages per minute. An offset press can produce 18,000 sheets per hour (300 sheets per minute). Moreover, since some offset presses accommodate 28” x 40” press sheets or larger, you can get a lot of pages, laid out side by side, printed in that 18,000-sheet-per-hour window of time.

Granted these are general numbers, but the comparison is not only relevant but also true in my experience. Inkjet is slow when compared to other printing technologies. The color is spectacular, due in part to all the additional colors beyond cyan, magenta, yellow, and black that many inkjet presses use, and the resolution is great. But they’re slow.

On the plus side, however, there are characteristics of inkjet printing absent in offset lithography. Inkjet presses can include variable data, and due to the minimal makeready (when compared to offset lithography), they are exceptionally economical for short press runs.

But The Issue with Speed Is Changing Now

I just read a few press releases from Kodak about their new Prosper 7000 Turbo Press, and the development of the technology is very encouraging. In fact, production inkjet may well be the future of commercial printing. Color fidelity is, and has been for a while, extraordinary, but the speed of this custom printing technology (as that word “production” suggests) is now increasing significantly as well.

Speed, quality, number of available paper substrate options. All of these are pertinent to the recent improvements in production inkjet. To put this in perspective, let’s say you’re printing a thousand copies of a 300-page print book, you will want the text to be clear and the photos to be crisp and detailed. But you’ll also want the overall time on press to not be excessive (or, as noted above, 300 pages x 1,000 copies at 16 pages per minute).

According to their press release, Kodak is now meeting these goals with the Prosper 7000 Turbo Press.

Here’s a description of its capabilities:

  1. Up to 5,523 A4/letter pages per minute.
  2. Far more substrate options than before, including newsprint, coated and uncoated papers, specialty papers, and recycled papers.
  3. Variable quality (affecting both speed and resolution, inversely), which allows the printer to match the job to the specific visual requirements. (A newspaper, for instance, doesn’t require the same level of quality as a promotional piece. Nor does a textbook need the same level of quality as a promotional piece.)
  4. Sustainability. “The Prosper 7000 Turbo Press uses eco-friendly, water-based Kodak nanoparticulate pigment CMYK inks,” which support “efficient drying even at peak press speeds” (“Kodak Announces Fastest Inkjet on the Market with Kodak Prosper 7000 Turbo Press,” 06/16/2022 press release from Kodak).

Let’s break this down. First of all, unlike most of the inkjet presses you may have seen (including office inkjets and even the large-format inkjet presses that produce signs), the Prosper 7000 Turbo Press is a web press (i.e., roll fed). Like a heatset web press used for offset lithography, it is designed to move very quickly.

However, speed isn’t everything. If the ink weren’t to dry quickly, all would be lost. But with the Kodak Prosper 7000 Turbo Press, the equipment is set up to dry the ribbon of paper traveling through the press using near infrared technology (NIR). This ensures that ink dries quickly on the surface of the press sheet.

Why is this important? Because it allows for thicker ink films, like those used in offset commercial printing. Denser ink coverage contributes to the striking color. Granted, all of this is either better or worse depending on the variable speed and resolution. (Kodak Prosper 7000 Turbo has three modes: Quality, which is similar to offset and which uses a 200-line halftone screen; Performance, which uses a 133-line screen and is good for textbooks; and Turbo, which uses an 85- to 100-line screen and is good for newspapers with low ink coverage.) This variability addresses both quality and overall ink coverage, maintaining the best resolution and speed for the specific output needed.

Why Should I Care?

Before I go any further, this is why I think this is relevant. Because a quick, accurate alternative to offset custom printing that allows for short and longer runs and also variable data printing will move a lot of jobs that had been printed on offset equipment onto digital equipment. This will not only enhance the quality and options for custom printing, but for a lot of jobs this will also save money. And (as Kodak notes), with supply chain issues and increased costs for offset prepress consumables, this will help printers (and hence their clients) measurably.

More Specs

Here are some more features:

  1. The throughput of 5,523 A4/letter pages translates to a printer “almost 35% faster than its nearest competitor” (“Kodak Announces Fastest Inkjet on the Market with Kodak Prosper 7000 Turbo Press”).
  2. The paper range is 42 to 270 gsm. Check this on a calculator. It allows for text and cover weights.
  3. The web width is 8” to 25.5”; cut-off is up to 54”. What this means is that for press signature work such as print books, you can get more pages on a roll of press stock in proper signature layout to allow for folding and trimming into larger press signatures, and therefore you can produce your print book work faster.
  4. The press is meant to be run 24 hours a day, every day, with a 200-million-page duty cycle per month. That means the press is durable and meant for hard use. So it’s not going to sit idle while you wait for repairs.

The Takeaway

Interestingly enough, with automation and increased productivity, offset presses can do shorter press runs efficiently. At the same time, production inkjet presses like the Prosper 7000 Turbo Press can do longer press runs efficiently. (The two technologies are gradually approaching one another in terms of speed and flexibility.)

I don’t think either technology will cease to exist, with one eclipsing the other completely, at least not anytime soon.

I think that digital inkjet (both production inkjet and grand-format inkjet) and the increasingly efficient offset printing (with automated plate changing, and closed-loop, electric-eye color monitoring and calibration) will both thrive, with each being appropriate for different work. After all, you’re not going to produce variable data work on an offset press, and you’re not going to produce 500,000 copies of anything on a digital inkjet press.

In my view the takeaway is that you should study both technologies and decide which works for each type of job you’re producing. Ideally, you should find the best vendor for each technology, and then select the right one for the specific commercial printing job at hand.

The more you learn about all of this, the more ready you will be for the future of commercial printing. And, in my reading, I’m seeing that in spite of current paper shortages, both offset and digital printing have a spectacular future coming. At least that’s what I see in my crystal ball.

Custom Printing: Printing Directly on Kraft Paper Tubes

Sunday, May 8th, 2022

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

A client of mine came to me this week with a question, “Can you print directly on kraft paper tubes?” She is the senior VP of design at a firm that makes, packages, and sells lip balm. She didn’t want to print and affix labels to the cardboard tubes. (more…)

How to Find the Best Online Printing Company?

Thursday, February 10th, 2022

There are many online printing companies out there in the market, and each one claims to be the best in the industry. In a situation like this, how to figure out one of the best online printing companies that can provide you with quality services at an affordable cost?

This infographic will help you with some important tips on how to select the best service provider in the entire town. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in! (more…)

Commercial Printing: Sidestepping Flaws in Digital Printing

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

To reverse the common maxim, “Every silver lining has a cloud.” This also holds true for digital custom printing, the relatively new technology that has brought to commercial printing both a much wider color gamut than offset printing and the ability to make each printed piece different from every other piece in the press run. (more…)

Custom Printing: Printing Photos and Type on Cakes

Sunday, October 31st, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

About twenty years ago when I was consulting with a congressional publisher I attended a birthday gathering at which I saw my first printed cake. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept. I couldn’t picture how it had been done. Inkjet, I assumed, but I couldn’t envision the print heads elevated over a three-inch-deep sheet cake. Also, I thought about the health issues. How could you print on a cake and not compromise the health of those who ate it? (more…)

Custom Printing: Kodak’s New Production Inkjet Press

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

I’m not a gearhead. I don’t get excited about car specifications or even computer specifications, but when it comes to custom printing, I’m actually getting very excited about the developments in digital printing. In this arena, I do get pumped about equipment specs. (more…)

Custom Printing: Designing for Digital Printing

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Photo purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

Designing for digital printing is a subject that needs regular attention these days. Digital and offset printing are not the same. While each has its benefits, they both have potential drawbacks that you can minimize based on your approach to the design of your custom printing project. (more…)

Custom Printing: Bacardi’s Direct Digital Bottle Printing

Monday, July 27th, 2020


reproduction rights purchased from … www.depositphotos.com

When BACARDI does something, people pay attention. As a contemporary brand, BACARDI is stylish and sexy–on the cusp of the future. (more…)

Custom Printing: Laser Branding Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Literally branding food. Not in the sense of creating brand associations between a product and the values it reflects, but branding like cowboys did with their cattle. Now you can brand fruits and vegetables with thick skins using lasers. Way cool. (more…)

Custom Printing: Printing Large Fashion Color Cards

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

A client of mine regularly prints decks of small fashion color cards that are bound with a screw and post assembly. They are very much like a PMS swatch book. My client’s clients use these small books to help them choose clothing and make-up that match their complexion. My client reprints this job maybe four times a year, and I have brokered this commercial printing job for almost five years. (more…)

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