Diving Into Technologies at OEM Events
Highlights from Canon, EFI, HP and Nur.
In recent months, four OEMs-Canon, EFI, HP, and NUR-held events that allowed end users as well as working journalists to take a sneak peek at newly introduced products and technologies, chat with company executives, and see how print providers are garnering profits in the marketplace. What follows are our recaps of, and highlights from, each event.
EFI Users Discover, Innovate, and Integrate in Las Vegas
The theme for the 2007 version of EFI Connect, EFI's annual end-user conference, held at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas in early June, was 'Discover, Innovate, Integrate,' and it's safe to say that the 1500 attendees did just that during the four-day event.
More than 150 educational sessions allowed participants to kick some tires and test drive EFI products. In addition, exhibits from Canon, Adobe, Konica Minolta, and others allowed attendees to check out wares from 19 companies offering complementary tools, supplies, and technologies.
EFI CEO Guy Gecht opened up the event on Sunday night by discussing how five primary factors-'the big five'-are influencing the current print market:
* Consolidation-the number of commercial printers is shrinking (such as Donnelley buying Banta, etc.);
* Power of information-how there is so much information available to us, but print providers now have to ensure that they make sense of the information they get in order to turn it into profits;
* Proliferation of digital printing-allowing for the integration of color and shorter runs;
* Industrial printing-printing beyond paper, such as rigid, packaging, textile, and specialty products; and
* Going green-how print providers are pursuing environmental repositioning.
The next morning, Mark Olin, senior VP/general manager, Professional Printing Applications, wrapped his comments around the theme of finding a 'roadmap to success'- applying that theme not only to print providers, but EFI itself. He indicated, for instance, that EFI is now organizing itself around three primary divisions: Fiery, Vutek, and Apps; the latter includes the company's print-management solutions, including MIS as well as Web-to-print, scheduling, and other add-ons, including proofing. (Jetrion, acquired from the Flint Group in 2006, does not fall into any of these three divisions, but will remain a self-standing unit within the company.)
In addition, Olin announced, the company has created six market-based focus teams, formed as a result of EFI's identification of key customer-growth opportunities. Focusing upon workflow, the teams comprise representatives from EFI sales, service, development, support, and product management. The teams include: Superwide Format, Closed Door Digital Production (businesses offering digital printing but no storefront or copy services), Publication Printing, Direct Mail, Narrow Web/Flexo, and Warehouse Management & Fulfillment.
On the product front, EFI made these announcements:
Fiery XF RIP: The company announced the new Fiery XF RIP, version 3.1, which supports its full line of solvent and UV Vutek printers. The RIP is specifically aimed at color rendering, providing full gamut saturated colors, EFI reports. New features include:
* The Clean Color feature directly addresses the production market’s specific needs for vivid, saturated color with pleasant modulation and clean appearance. Clean Color Technology provides both an exciting and eye-catching appearance in all image areas as well as highly precise and correct colors where they are needed, such as skin tones, grays, and spot colors. The feature can be run in automatic or custom mode; it can also be switched off.
* The Full Gamut profile is designed to exploit the maximum color gamut of printing equipment. Primary colors are reproduced perfectly and color rendering is not limited by profiles.
* The new XF Server on Macintosh OS X provides a cross-platform application for Windows and Mac environments. This eliminates the need to change to a mixed environment.
* Font Checker, to detect missing fonts and prevent type mismatches.
* Monitor Profile Selection tool, designed to turn client workstations with calibrated and profiled monitors into soft-proofing devices.
* Pre-defined workflows to simplify set-up and reduce set-up time.
* Advanced Back-up and Restore mode to save reference, monitor profiles, and the server configuration to enable quick restoration of the system if needed.
EFI Fiery XF software’s boasts a modular structure, allowing users to add the Color Verifier Option to ensure consistent color quality-even on remote sites-or use the EFI Fiery XF software to connect xerographic devices for concept proofs or digital print runs.
The Fiery XF, says EFI, will be the pathway for integrating the company’s Print MIS solution and Web-to-Print products into superwide-format operations in the future.
PrintSmith 8.0: EFI PrintSmith version 8.0, the latest version of the company's print-management information system, can now help manage wide-format and super-wide format printers as well as rollfed presses.
For wide-format and superwide-format printers, materials and labor calculations can be done as a function of the area being printed, while pricing can be done by run or finished size with multiple calculation methods to determine price (including area). PrintSmith users can define each rollfed press or wide-format printer within the system, entering machine costs, speed capabilities, minimum/maximum width of rolls, etc. The software also supports finishing capabilities for these processes. Material calculations for roll-fed presses can be done by weight to support how paper rolls are typically ordered.
Other highlights of 8.0 include: a 'Quick Access Panel' enabling users to customize the functions they see in this special window for faster access to commonly used features; paper calculator templates for quicker job set-up; automated security back-up of the software; and full 'cost plus' system capabilities. A new optional electronic scheduling module provides information on load factor, downtown, overtime, milestone activities, and more. It integrates with the Tracker module to provide users with real-time shop-floor data collection and job costing.
PrintSmith integrates directly with EFI Fiery-driven output devices; 8.0 now enables digital assets to be attached within PrintSmith and sent directly to the Fiery. Version 8.0 is also integrated with EIS, EFI's visual tool for business analysis, providing an interactive 'command center' that instantly recaps the state-of-the-business and links to other key data.
Logic SQL: The next version of EFI's Logic SQL print-management software, previewed at the event, will offer estimating improvements, tighter integration with the PrinterSite portfolio, integration to Manhattan Associates' warehouse and fulfillment solutions, and, for the first time, support for superwide format printing.
EFI Logic SQL combines end-to-end integration of the print-production process with a powerful set of data-collection tools, with applications covering every business function from estimating to billing, order entry to shipping, purchasing, inventory control, finished goods, accounting and more.
On the estimating side, the main screen has been re-designed to display all key information, making it much easier to understand what is happening with the progression of the estimate and easier to spot mistakes. A new component to handle superwide format estimates has been added and a core system enhancement has been made to allow for Tracking Revisions.
Hagen MIS: EFI previewed the upcoming version of its EFI Hagen OA management information system, which is designed to support technology-driven printing operations, from medium-sized commercial printers to multi-plant enterprises. Key core Hagen OA enhancements in the new release include: new estimating wide-format finishing standards to assist in the quoting of finishing operations such as grommeting or sewing; improved functionality around the mailing module to better support the postage deposit workflow; user security copy features to support copying security profiles between companies; a new Finished Goods order import utility; and the expansion of the work center and operation ID fields.
In addition, Hagen OA will add functionality to the JDF workflow in regards to sheetfed and prepress devices, as well as digital-device support. The future version will better support digital devices through compliance with JDF for price-list estimating and production processes, among other JDF enhancements.
The upcoming version also has improved integration to PrinterSite Exchange, EFI's Web-to-print solution.
Nur Holds 2007 Customer Retreat
To borrow from the company's slogan, employees at NUR Macroprinters want people to know that they are all about their customers. So much so that the company hosted approximately 75 of those customers at a retreat this past May. Held in Scottsdale, AZ, the event brought customers together to share ideas, learn about developments at Nur, and even enjoy a little fun in the sun.
Given the changes in the makeup of the executive and management teams of Nur over the past couple years, the retreat focused on the revitalization of the company and gave customers a chance to meet some members of the Nur management team including CEO David Reis, Nur American president Mark Packman, and Yuval Cohen, the chairman of the board. Setting the tone for the event was the aforementioned company tagline-'we're all about our customers,' with an emphasis on Nur's dedication to customer service and support.
Mark Packman got things started on Monday afternoon by addressing the 'vision' for Nur America. He shared that the company hopes to increase its sales team by 50% in 2007. Packman also noted that one area of focus for the company this year is the re-development of the Expedio market in the US.
Industry panel presentations opened the following day. Representatives from companies including Spectra Color, Fusion Systems, Caldera, Human Eyes, and Avery spoke about their companies' products and highlighted the benefits of using those products and technologies with Nur equipment. Following the presentations were breakout sessions presented by a few of the industry panel presenters as well as by representatives from other industry players, including Ultraflex, SGIA, Hilord Chemical, Pro-Tech Fabrics, Triga, Miller Weldmaster, Hasco Sales, and Fotoba. The breakout session topics included 'The power of re-branding your business,' 'What it means to be 'green,'' 'Digital fabric printing applications and technologies,' 'Uncovering value-added P-O-P opportunities,' and 'Accessorizing your digital press.'
Also offered were visits to one of two local print providers, both of which had recently installed Nur machines. Paramount Promotions, based in Phoenix, demonstrated its new Expedio 5000, while those who went to the Tempe-based Mouse Graphics saw the shop's new Tempo Q in action.
Dave Bartram, marketing director at Nur, delved into the new product developments and launches. Bartram discussed the growth of UV demand in the marketplace and Nur's emphasis on further improving and developing UV technology. A recent area of expansion for Nur in this area is the launch of the Expedio Inspiration, a UV-curable printer with roll-to-roll and flatbed options, which was announced at the retreat and introduced at Fespa.
A 10.5 ft printer with a flatbed module, the new Expedio Inspiration is designed to handle both flexible and rigid media for indoor and outdoor applications-including polyethylene, paper, mesh, vinyl, textiles, banner material, self-adhesive vinyl, foam, PVC, acrylic sheets, polycarbonate, and more.
Utilizing 32 Spectra S-class printheads, the printer features both 4- (CMYK) and 8-color (CMYKcmyk) print modes with automatic switchover capabilities. Offering a maximum resolution of 800 x 635 dpi, it can print on rollfed substrates up to 10.5-ft wide and on rigid materials up to 8.2 -ft wide and up to 1-in. thick. Well-equipped for high-volume production, the printer features a maximum speed of 1200 sq ft/hr as a rollfed machine and a maximum speed of 370 sq ft/hr when printing on rigid substrates. The company reports switching between rollfed and flatbed modes is fast and easy, taking approximately 15 min to do so.
The printer also offers the option of printing simultaneously on two rolled substrates, each with a maximum width of 5.2-ft wide. Additionally, the printer features multi-file capabilities, allowing multi-roll printing of different images simultaneously. Nur reports the printer is capable of producing prints with an outdoor durability of up to 2 yr without coating or lamination.
In addition to the flatbed module, other optional features include curing modes (shutters control kit) for gloss controlled prints and double-sided printing capabilities. Users choose between Caldera's GrandRIP or Wasatch's SoftRIP upon purchase.
HP Adds Indigo Presses and More in Rome
At its annual Graphic Arts Summit, held in Rome, Italy, in May, Hewlett-Packard announced that it was expanding its graphic-arts portfolio. In addition to its Designjet Z6100 printer (which we reported on in our June issue, see p. 24), the company has added: two new HP Indigo presses, the HP Indigo 5500 (also available in a special photo package) and the entry-level HP Indigo 3500; the company’s first branded finishing accessory, the HP Indigo UV Coater; the HP mPrinter 1700c, a process-color device for OEM partners; and the HP Designjet T Printer series for the technical market.
Extending the versatility of HP's Indigo press 5000, the new Indigo press 5500 is designed to offer higher monthly duty cycles and is geared for high-volume production environments such as marketing collateral, direct mail, books, and manuals. Available in 4- or 6-color (CMYKcm) formats, its speeds top out at 68 pages/min (ppm) in 4-color mode, or 272 ppm in single-color mode; it can accommodate media from 80 to 350 gsm (55 lbs. text - 130 lbs. cover) coated, 60 to 320 gsm (40 lbs. text - 120 lbs. cover) uncoated.
Standard features include: fast ink replacement for spot colors; support for a wider range of media, including off-the-shelf media up to 13 x 19 in.; resolution-enhancement technology for higher-resolution imaging up to 2400 dpi addressable; a new paper-feeding unit; and increased media gamut. The press also provides 4- and 6-color Pantone emulations and ICC profiling.
Options include: off-press digital front ends (DFE) including Indigo Production Manger for large and complex jobs, Indigo RIP Expansion Rack off-press solution to increases RIP capabilities, and for photo workflows, the Indigo Scalable RIP Solution that provides high-performance processing and automates workflow and production tracking.
Price: $415,000, includes 4-color and on-press DFE (digital front end) system. The Indigo 5500 will eventually replace the 5000, although the 5000 will remain available through 2007.
The new HP Indigo press 3500 is intended as an entry-level digital production device for shops adopting digital technology for the first time or those moving up from light-production color copiers. Building on the HP Indigo press 3050, it's designed for commercial and in-plant printing firms that have lower-end usage needs and for those specializing in marketing collateral, direct mail, books, and manuals.
Capable of handling media as large as 12.6 x 18.7 in., the Indigo 3500 produces speeds up to up to 68 ppm in 4-color mode or 136 ppm in single-color mode. It can handle media as thick as 80 to 300 gsm (55 lbs. text - 130 lbs cover) coated, 65 to 300 gsm (45 lbs. text - 110 lbs cover) uncoated. Other features include: resolutions up to 800 dpi (1600 dpi addressable), up to 7-color printing, adjustment-free paper handling, a press-production manager front-end utility; and 4- and 6-color Pantone emulations and ICC profiling.
Price: $325,000, includes 4-color and on-press DFE system.
HP also launched various new accessories for its line of digital presses, including several new DFE solutions for Indigo models, plus the HP Indigo UV Coater-the company’s first digital-press finishing device. Designed for use on high-quality color applications, the Indigo UV Coater is a near-line device that produces gloss, matte, or satin finishes and supports multiple HP Indigo presses.
Capable of handling sheets up to 14 x 20 in. in thicknesses from 115 to 450 gsm, the UV Coater can achieve speeds up to 4000 12 x 18-in. sheets/hr. It's compatible with varnishes from Nicoat and Arets Graphics. Ideal coating applications include high-quality direct-mail, photo books, calendars, greeting cards, marketing collateral, and book covers.
Price: hand-fed configuration: $71,000; with automation upgrade, feeder, and stacker, $89,000. Expected availability is September.
In addition, HP has combined several of these new solutions to create the new HP Indigo Photo Package for high-value photo applications such as photo books, albums, and greeting cards. The new package includes the 5500 model press and the HP Indigo Photo Enhancement Server, which is designed to automatically detect and correct images in need of sharpening and smoothing, as well as to improve contrast and shadow detail. Also included in the Photo Package is the new HP Indigo UV Coater and the HP Indigo Production Manager version 1.1 DFE.
For business development and support, the HP Indigo Capture program offers tools to help HP Indigo customers manage and grow their digital-printing businesses. In addition to customer training, marketing tools, and media locator services, the program now includes estimating tools that help customers determine cost-effective conventional and digital crossover points.
The new HP mPrinter 1700c brings color to variable text and graphics, using HP’s thermal inkjet technology. Developed by HP Specialty Printing Systems, the narrow-format mPrinter 1700c produces CMY-process color that can be used for personalized mail, transactional print, and other operations. Available for use in OEM partner technologies, the mPrinter enables vendors in the mail processing and in-line variable imprinting to add color highlights and graphics.
With print speeds up to three times faster than HP’s previous offering in this category, the new HP Designjet T Printers series-HP Designjet T610 (personal) and T1100 (workgroup) printers-are aimed at the CAD and GIS markets. Both printers are available in 24- and 44-in. models, offer rollfed and sheetfed capability, and delivers top printing speeds of 445 sq ft/hr. The T1100 printers are also available as ps models with an embedded PostScript, PDF, JPEG, TIFF, and Adobe PostScript drivers.
The T printer's Three-black inkset (CMY matte K, photo K, gray) produces true neutral grays, enhanced detail, and hard-to-achieve tones, reports HP. The series’ HP 72 printhead produces 6- and 9-pl droplets, resolutions up to 2400 x 1200 dpi, and line accuracy to 0.1%. In addition, the HP Designjet T Printer series is widely compatible with CAD applications.
Canon imageProGraf iPF6100/iPF5100, and the Value Behind Paper
In June, Canon held its Digital Solutions Forum 2007 in Chicago, with a focus on color production, workflow, and service. 'The Value Behind the Paper' was the theme carried throughout the event. As Tod Pike, senior vice president, Canon USA’s Imaging Systems Group, said in introducing the event, 'At this year's Digital Solutions Forum, we will show how our customers and partners are putting Canon technology and innovation to use to solve real business challenges.'
The exhibit floor offered a full range of Canon printers and solutions, as well as supporting technologies. In addition, hourly seminars were offered on topics ranging from 'What Printers Want-Help Your Customers Survive the Digital Print Revolution' to 'Success Strategies for Print Environment.'
In the large-format area, Canon's latest additions-the 24-in. imageProGraf iPF6100 and the 17-in. imageProGraf iPF5100-were formally introduced to the North American market (the iPF6100 had made an unannounced 'cameo' appearance at the PMA show, held this past spring).
Both rollfed printers offer a 12-color pigment inkset with Lucia inks (CMYKRBG photo c, photo m, photo k, gray, and photo gray). New ink formulations for black, matte black, gray, and photo gray are designed to reduce bronzing and provide better ink adhesion for improved scratch resistance. Canon reports that the company's L-COA (large-format printer common architecture) high-speed processor, which directs the printing process, has been enhanced to provide better ink-drop control for improved dot patterns and reduced dot graininess.
The printers feature a dual printhead design for a total of 30,720 nozzles (2560 nozzles per color, 6 colors per printhead), with an ink droplet size of 4-pl. The maximum resolution offered is 2400 x 1200 dpi, with maximum throughput speeds of 135 sq ft/hr at 1200 dpi. The printers also feature automatic clogged-nozzle detection and are equipped with the ability to recalibrate to factory settings to help ensure printing consistency and accuracy.
Additional features include: switching between regular and matte black ink, helping to eliminate wasted ink and time; borderless printing capabilities; and a large LCD panel. The maximum media thicknesses for the iPF6100 are as follows: top loading, 0.08-0.8 mm; front loading 0.5-1.5 mm; and roll feeding, 0.08-0.8 mm.
Both printers feature imageProGraf Printer Driver 2007, compatible with Windows as well as Mac; Digital Photo Front-Access software, which lets users view and arrange multiple images from a digital camera and import them into editing software applications; and export print modules for Adobe Photoshop and Digital Photo Professional (DPP), which allow users to directly process and print raw image files from DPP or Adobe Photoshop. Optional is Canon's new PosterArtist 7.0 software, which supports the company's 'Kyuanos' color-management technology for Windows. In addition to producing consistent color tones, Canon reports, Kyuanos technology can optimize the output by taking into consideration factors such as the lighting conditions under which the graphic will be displayed, dramatically affecting the image's appearance. Using one of the six supported media, Kyuanos enables users to specify the output to match the final lighting conditions-be that indoors, outdoors, or under warm or cool lighting conditions.
Price: iPF6100, $3495; iPF5100 price has yet to be set. The iPF6100 is currently available; the iPF5100 is expected to be available in Q3 2007. Canon reports that the 17-in. iPF5000, which debuted in 2006, will continue to be marketed.
In addition, Canon introduced two new large-format substrates that are compatible with dye and pigment aqueous inks-Universal White Film and Adhesive White Film. The Universal White Film is a 7-mil polyester with a glossy microporous coating to provide quick drying and water-resistance. Applications include trade-show graphics, high-impact photo printing, and point-of-purchase materials. The 4.6-mil Adhesive White Film offers an ultra-smooth surface, high-gloss finish, and permanent-adhesive backing. In addition, it features a special back coating that minimizes curl for easy application of the film to a variety of surfaces.
Also on the scene was Canon's latest high-speed press, the imagePress C7000VP (introduced earlier this year), which was operating in two different configurations. One was producing on-demand camera instructions booklets; the other was printing 4-color 11 x 17-in. posters (in fact, the brochure touting the C7000 VP's capabilities was also produced on that same press). Canon realizes that key in driving the acceptance of high-speed presses by commercial as well as digital shops is the adoption of a different set of business tools. To this end, Canon announced its new Business Builder Program to help high-speed businesses be successful. It includes a business self-assessment tool, gap or weakness analysis tool, application tool set with marketing tools for 24 vertical markets, and a sales strategies tool set.
The event encompassed more than just the host company's wares. More than 50 Alliance Partners were invited-EFI, Ergosoft, Onyx, GEI, PosterJet, SAi, Quark, Pageflex, and others-to present their solutions in conjunction with Canon products. For example, GEI demonstrated the new combination of the Colortrac smartLF Scanner 4080E with the Canon imageProGraf W8400D; the matched pair can scan and print, as well as scan and upsize the original image. And Ergosoft matched its RIP to a large-format Canon printer and was outputting 4-color graphics.
Canon is also starting a mentoring program through which customers will have direct access to business and printing experts in business planning, sales, marketing, production, and workflow. And the company will create a Customer Maintenance Program so end-users can do more of the routine maintenance and simple repairs, thus increasing productivity and optimizing image quality.