Inkjet Presses and the Holy Grail

by admin on April 20, 2009

Have you ever seen a dog with its favorite stuff toy? It keeps picking up the toy in its teeth, growling as it shakes it around, chompin' and chewin' and leaving bite marks all over the plastic. Then it goes and buries the toy somewhere, waits a week or two, and digs it up again and the cycle repeats itself. Well, that how it is with this blog and inkjet presses. It's time to dig it up and start growling.

Now, sometimes I start to worry about the opinions I've hold on ink jet presses. What if I am wrong? What if they are wonderful inventions that save every print owner time and money? What if all the ink jet manufacturers secretly read my blog only to laugh at my ignorant stupidity? What if I making myself out to be the biggest fool on the internet? All these thoughts keep me up at night. But then I read articles on inkjet presses like this one from American Printer.

Now this Steve Johnson guy is a pretty sneaky writer. He starts off by illustrating most customers can't tell the difference in quality between digital presses and offset.  But just as soon as you start to think of whipping out the credit card and phoning up HP for a brand new Indigo, he unleashes  the money quote:

"The explanation inside the magazine said the offset covers were printed on a 41-inch Heidelberg Speedmaster. It didn't mention number of units or perfecting capability, nor did it specify run time, but I'm guessing that 35,000 covers were completed in under two hours. No big deal.

The digital counterpart required 35 hours of press time — downright painful compared to the offset run of exactly the same job."


Now you've got be kidding, I mean, I really didn't know that. So if you are running about 35,000 impressions, an ink jet press is 20 times slower. Let's see, you also have to buy ink from the vendor, maybe pay a click charge, and oh, I bet  you can't do spot colors as well. Read the article, look at the picture, and weep for this industry.

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Jay Zipursky April 21, 2009 at 10:15 am

Is anyone selling (or buying) digital presses as offset replacements? If so, they are idiots.

The main selling points have been small run lengths and variable print. If the quality is now indistinguishable from offset, then it makes the barrier even lower. “Oh, you need an extra 100 copies because you were short? No problem… We’ll print them on the Nexpress and you won’t even tell the difference.” or “There is no minimum runlength here.”

Now, if someone can look at the ROI of these new scenarios digital enables, you and Steve can shoot that down and I’ll shut up. 🙂

admin April 25, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Yeah, okay, I’ll take a whack at this: So, you need an extra 100 copies? Why don’t I run them off my $5000 Xerox copier instead of my $250,000 Indigo press. Or to put it another way, if I have a Canon and an offset press, and the other guy has an Indigo, where does the Indigo guy beat me? 100 impression? 1000 impressions? 10000 impressions?
And as far as variable data printing goes, how about CMYK on the offset, the printing variable data through a Docutech?
Just askin’

Jay Zipursky April 27, 2009 at 10:54 am

Those are the right questions but I don’t have an answers. Hell, I’m not even working in the graphic arts industry anymore. 🙂

Chad Simpson October 27, 2009 at 3:05 am

The models that are right for an Indigo, Nexpress, and I-Gen are the high volume variable data models. You mentioned printing shells on offset then printing the variable data on Docutechs or Digimasters. If all you are doing is addressing and some variable text that is a good model to look at, but in many cases variable data is more than that. For example, you go to the casino and play 3-card poker, you like to stay in rooms with a window view of the skyline, and you normally drop $3,000.00 dollars when you go and don’t win. The casino wants you to get a postcard with a coupon for a free weekend stay in a room with a view. The way that want to accomplish this to send you you a beautiful looking postcard showing you this pristine view of the Las Vegas skyline at night from one of their rooms. Over this picture in knockout is text saying, “John Doe come stay with us for the weekend and play one of many of our three card poker tables with the first $300.00 on us.” Now the casino wants each card personalized for each customer in the same sort of way as this one. Whether this actually works for the casino in generating more revenue or not is irrelevant, it is what they want. There is no way you can print this piece with shells. Now you could print this with a KM6501, but if the run is going to be 100,000 or so a week for this one job you will need a lot of KM6501s and the operators and space to run them and you will be waiting to on technicians to fix them all the time if you are exceeding the recommended monthly volume for these relatively low volume machines.

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