RR Donnelly has developed an inkjet press that is looking to be the bees knees, according to PrintingNews.com.
"Developed by RR Donnelley engineers under the code name Apollo, this technology also offers enhanced variable imaging capabilities, such as jetting MICR and other specialty offset inks onto a wider range of paper stocks."
Unfortunately, there is not a lot of more information on RRD Donnelley web site about this technology. Therefore, I will now render analysis and opinion on the basis of insufficient information which may cause certain industry insiders to snigger if they should happen to read this blog. But that has never stopped me before.
First of all, if RRD has been able to implement inkjet presses without contractual/logistical constraints to use ink from a specific vendor, that is huge. That is industry-transforming. That should be causing their competitors to have sleepless nights. I would rate this as arguably a more significant breakthrough than the rise of thermal CTP in the early 1990s (which was also spearheaded by RRD working with Kodak and a small company called Creo). If we parse the press release like a Kremlinogist, then there is a strong implication that RRD has that ability:
"This technology also offers enhanced variable imaging capabilities, such as jetting MICR and other specialty offset inks onto a wider range of paper stocks."
This naturally begs the question as to which inkjet vendor is supplying RRD with the heads. It's sure as heck not HP or Epson. Please, somebody leave us a comment and tell us who, you can remain anonymous if you want.
Anyhow, since I don't have a lot of hard info to go out, let us have more delicious speculation: Unless something has changed in the last 10 years, this throws out the business model for selling inkjets, which was dependent on a large degree to owning the consumables stream. If RRD has inkjet technology in the marketplace with an "open" substrates capability, then why would a printer buy inkjet technology from a "closed" vendor.
Never, never ever underestimate the reluctance of a commercial printer to be "locked-in" to a vendor with regard to consumables. Now if RRD has a lot of smart people upstairs and its possible that they can keep this open technology to themselves for a little while, but not forever. I mean, last time I checked, Quad Graphics wasn't run by a bunch of dummies either.
My prediction: the second-tier inkjet press manufacturers are going to get hammered by this, and the first-tier (okay, I mean HP) guys are going to have some serious selling to do to their customer base.
More on this, as soon as more news trickles out.