Inkjet Presses and Dead Parrots

by admin on January 15, 2009

So if you have never seen the sketch by Monty Python, watch it right now or obviously you won't get the joke. By the way, this is the second post in a series of essays that I am writing on the future of prepress. The first post is here.

Anyways, I'm not trying to infer that inkjet presses are a joke. Well, maybe. No,  what I'm trying to say is that I don't get why a printer would actually want to buy one. In corporate lingo-speak, the buying proposition is somewhat cloudy. Let's say I'm the owner of a printing press and a salesguy comes with a nice powerpoint presentation. Okay, here we go:

With my printing press, I don't have a click charge, I can buy ink in gallon jugs and my make-ready time is pretty good with CIP3 and thermal CTP. I can't print on the range of substrates as the flexo guys but it's a lot better than in the days of film. Oh, I do have to pay pressmen a salary.

Okay-dokey, with an inkjet press I may or may not have a click charge, I gotta buy my ink from one supplier, my make-ready is awesome (as long as the machine doesn't break down), the range of substrates that I can print is more limited, I can do variable-data printing (with the right software) and maybe I can fire a pressman. Maybe.

And what does the printing press owner say? I gotta buy ink from you? Okaythanksgoodbye.

Okay, so you say, if inkjet presses are not the way of the future, then why did printing companies invest so much money in the technology? And the answer to that, my friend, is patents.  Everybody knows that Epson and HP make SUPERTANKER loads of money with inkjet, or to be more precise, with inkjet consumables.  So, back in the 1990s, if you are a clever MBA executive in the printing industry and somebody says, hey I've got a $100 million, where should I put it, you would say inket. And that's what the industry did. Unfortunately, we ended up with patented technology in search of a market. Guess what, printing press owners can read public financial statements too, and nobody is going to swap in a Chevy that runs on gas you can buy at any gas station in the country for a Cadillac that only runs on gas that you can buy from one vendor.

Unless, of course, you can swing some sweet financing. And here it where it gets interesting: If I am completely wrong (it's been known to happen, just check my stock portfolio) then even in this economic downturn, vendors should still be able to move a few inkjet presses here and there. But now that easy vendor financing (thanks to the credit crisis) is now nothing more than a memory, then the prediction is that  inkjet press sales will fall off a cliff.

But inkjet presses are not the way of the future, then what is? Well, hopefully,  the engineers' fascination with inkjet will die a quick painless death (okay probably not) and the whole industry can move on to something else. It's not like inkjet has to be the end of the road. My last project at Creo involved experimentation with laser engraving on copper cylinders for the gravure industry. THAT got a lot of people excited in the industry, people like customers who had chequebooks instead of the patent clerks. But that project died because of lack of funding: It wasn't inkjet.

{ 2 trackbacks }

The Future of Nexpress at Kodak | Prepress Pilgrim
February 16, 2009 at 1:56 pm
Inkjet Presses and the Holy Grail | Prepress Pilgrim
April 20, 2009 at 10:02 pm

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