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Drupa snooper – B2 or not B2 – Is this the drupa question?

Tuesday, 03 April 2012
By Print 21 Online Article

Everyone’s doing it, the B2 polka at this drupa- including the man himself, Benny Landa. It’s 1993 revisited when the father of digital printing first introduced the concept of high-end digital printing in a theatre setting at Ipex. This time around its his Nanographic Printing Process joining the raft of new entrants into the field. Andy McCourt snoops the B2 scene at Düsseldorf.

A raft of announcements and prototypes of B2 sheetfed digital presses has occurred in the past week and it seems that the digital press developers see this as the ‘next level’ in digital’s infiltration of the Offset Empire. So, where digital is concerned; B2 or not B2 – what is the answer?

Looking back at the evolution of digital printing, we can see that it began with the A3/B3 format and has been so successful that today very few new offset presses in this format are sold. Exceptions would be Heidelberg’s Speedmaster 52 Anicolor and KBA’s Genius 52UV – both very robust presses targeted at specific needs. To all intents and purposes, digital has taken over in the A3/B3 new press market.

At drupa 2012, the digital world is drawing its battle-lines for a full-on assault on the next level – the B2, or 4-up, format. We have seen B2 DI or direct-imaging presses come and go in the form of Heidelberg’s 74DI and KBA’s Karat 74 but these were essentially computer-to-plate setters built into presses, a genre that never really took off as make-ready times plummeted and CtP setters gained speed. The lack of variable data which true digital presses have was also absent.

Let’s look at who is bringing B2 size digital to drupa, why and the processes they employ:

Landa Corporation – Benny’s back!
It’s finally out – the “Father of digital colour printing,” Benny Landa (pictured) whose Landa Corporation is the largest first-time exhibitor in drupa history will show six new presses employing the Landa Nanographic Printing Process.

One of these will be in the B2 format. There will even be a B1 format Nanographic digital press, which rockets digital into the heartland of 8-up offset. All the presses use Landa NanoInk™ which is water-based and applied via inkjet nozzles at either 1200 dpi or 600 dpi.

Up to eight colours can be printed but even the basic CMYK gamut is claimed to be the widest in the industry. Speed is up to 11,000 sheets per hour which equates to a blistering 730 A4 pages-per-minute in the B2 format. Duplexing (perfecting) speed has not yet been revealed. Landa Corp claims the lowest cost-per-page of any digital process since standard offset stocks can be used and the ink film on the substrate is half of that used in offset, meaning less ink is used for a more saturated visual effect, thanks to NanoInk’s remarkable nano properties. Your trip to drupa will be worthwhile just to see this alone.

EXCLUSIVE! Ryobi-Miyakoshi
You read it here first! You can google B2 digital, Ryobi and Miyakoshi all you like but you won’t find this news anywhere else but on Print21’s drupa Snooper! On the Miyakoshi stand will be a B2 sheetfed press co-developed with Ryobi. The imaging technology is liquid toner – developed here in Australia by Research Laboratories of Australia. Miyakoshi already offers web presses using this method, so all they needed was a reliable sheet-feeding and handling chassis – who better than Ryobi to provide this?

Miyakoshi has exerted a huge influence on high volume digital printing, having made successful web presses for Kodak, Xerox, Canon-Océ and under their own name. At first sight, it looks like the B2 sheetfed digital machine will be sold as a Miyakoshi but who knows? Ryobi knows it must enter the digital market soon.

Pictured: Miyakoshi/Ryobi’s new B2 digital press

The world’s first B2 digital press was previewed at drupa 2008. The Truepress Jet SX has taken a while to get to market but I am told there are beta sites in Japan, USA and Europe. Screens’ SX uses Epson piezo inkjet technology for very high definition 1440 x 1440 dpi printing. Sheet size is 530mm x 740mm, the most universally popular. Screen offers single-pass duplexing but throughput slows by 50% when duplexing from 1,620 to 810 B2 sheets per hour.

Standard offset stocks can be printed and a new feature is the ability to print on board up to 0.6mm which opens up a huge short-run folding carton market. Designed for single-person operation, the Truepress Jet SX is driven by EQUIOS workflow from a central dashboard.

Pictured: Screen’s JetPress SX – first of the B2 digital presses.

Hot on the heels of Screen’s announcement came Fujifilm’s foray into B2 sheetfed digital with the Jet Press 720 which uses Fujifilm’s own Samba printheads developed by its Dimatix division. These printheads use MEMS technology and resolve at 12000 x 1200dpi with four levels of grayscale. While announced at drupa 2008, the first prototype was shown at Ipex 2010.

Maximum sheet size is 750mm x 530mm (printable area 720mm x 520mm) and 2,700 sheets-per-hour can be printed. Curiously, there is no in-machine single-pass duplexing which indicates Fujifim see the packaging market as the main game for the Jet Press 720.

MGI is doing very well overseas with its toner-based Meteor 8700XL press that, while A3+ in format, can image up to 1016mm in length. On March 22nd the French-headquartered company announced it would show a prototype B2 inkjet press at drupa – the AlphaJet. Provisional specifications are impressive – six colours, up to 3,000 sheets per hour, 520mm x 740mm sheet size, up to 500gsm stock. However, where MGI has scored a golden-point goal is in incorporating spot and flood UV coating into this future press.

This comes from MGI’s established JETvarnish offline UV coating product, which is already a B2 machine – one is operating in Melbourne CBD at Lorimer Printing. AlphaJet’s printheads yield 1200 x 1200 dpi and are piezo. With six colours, inline spot UV and 3,000 sph, AlphaJet is definitely one to watch at drupa.

HP Indigo
Announced at HP Indigo’s pre-drupa conference, the new model 10000 is a B2 press using Indigo’s liquid toner technology, not inkjet. Indigo did try to commercialise a B2 press in 1998 but it never came to market. With HP’s R&D heft, it seems and technical issues have now been overcome and their drupa booth will show both the 10000 commercial version and the 30000 folding carton version, both with sheet size of 740mm x 530mm. Speed rating is 3,450 sph or 4,600 in Enhanced Productivity Mode.

The standard configuration is 4 colours but it can go up to 7 colours with IndiChrome colour mixing. Duplexing is by re-insertion; work-and-turn in offset parlance for the heavier-stock 30000 and single pass for the 10000 when, as you would expect, speed halves. UV coating and die-cutting are catered for with HP Indigo’s partnering with HighCon (laser die-cutting) and Scodix (spot UV coating) – like Indigo both Israeli-developed.

Pictured: HP Indigo’s 30000 B2 folding cartion press

The rest
Who knows what other surprises drupa might bring to the B2 digital sheetfed sector? My feel is that this new format for digital is destined to do to B2 offset what A3 and B3 digital has done to smaller format offset. I sense that the carton packaging sector is also set for a shake-up now that the ‘flatted’ cartons that fit on a B2 sheet can be printed digitally. B2 enables far more versatility in the finishing area with existing products from MBO, Stahl, Horizon, Polar, Kama and so on, waiting in the wings for double-sized digital output.

B2 or not B2? There are still some unanswered questions such as speed and pricing, but I think these will be addressed at drupa.

So, fearing not the ‘slings and arrows’ and venturing into a ‘sea of troubles,’ I’m picking B2 digital to be one of the stars of drupa 2012 in all its forms – inkjet and non-inkjet. For the complete soliloquy from Hamlet, click here.

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