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Heidelberg divests DI presses, Presstek presses on – news commentary by Andy McCourt.

Thursday, 09 March 2006
By Print 21 Online Article

These are direct-imaging machines where the plate – using Presstek technology – is imaged on-press, rather than in an offline CtP setter.

Introduced as the GTO-DI at Print 1991 in Chicago with great fanfare, Heidelberg’s DI range has proved successful over its 15-year life, enabling offset printers to take on short-run colour work and eliminate separate prepress sections. However, technology has moved on and demand has shifted to modular offline CtP, according to Heidelberg’s head of product management, Andreas Forer:

that caters to quick make ready, short run, high quality colour. HAN’s customers
who have adopted DI have made a success of this technology in the their own
market place. This won’t change because Heidelberg has discontinued
production of these machines,” said Plummer.

“The business model still holds true and with
Heidelberg’s commitment to ongoing support in terms of service, spare parts and consumables developed and built up to support the installed base our customer’s are assured that we will stand by them.”

He added: “CtP has become more competitive and stable across all formats and with on-press automation and integrated workflow such as Heidelberg’s Prinect
system the productivity advantages of DI can now be similarly achieved with traditional offset technology.”

Heidelberg is backing both modular offline CtP and its new Anicolor Inking Unit (to be premiered at IPEX), to deliver the short-run benefits of DI presses – and more. With Anicolor, makeready time is the time it takes to mount the plates, and colour is right immediately. Anicolor uses a kind of anilox roller technology from flexography, and eliminates ink keys. According to Heidelberg, wastage is reduced by a staggering 90 per cent.

Does this mean the end of DI as the ‘hybrid’ technology sitting in-between conventional offset and toner-based digital? Not according to its co-inventor and President of Presstek, Ed Marino who says; “What continues to be remarkable to me is the performance our customers are experiencing with DI presses. Our customers are winning with this technology.” Presstek also supplies the imaging units and plates to DI presses from Ryobi, KBA Karat, Kodak and AB Dick, which it owns. (Xerox flirted with DI presses five years ago, showing the B3 Docucolor 400DI and A3 Docucolor 233DI at Print01 Chicago but discontinuing them). Presstek has announced it will launch its own 52cm DI press, built on a Ryobi platform, at IPEX:

“The new Presstek 52DI is a huge step forward in digital offset printing. It is not only the highest performing and most advanced two-page direct imaging press in the market but, by truly capturing the value of DI and zero transfer printing technology, this may be the best two-page press ever,” says Marino, whose company reported a doubling of revenue in 2005 over 2004, with a 75 per cent increase in DI press units sold.

Michael Malone, managing director of GrafikaLinks and distributor of Presstek equipment in Australia, says it has not yet been decided whether the new DI press will reach our shores: “I will be flying over to IPEX to evaluate the new machine and take a close look at it, so there is a good chance it will reach the local market,” says Malone. “The technology seems strong, the price just has to be right.”

MY CALL

It’s about flexibility and who owns the technology. Presstek has virtually 100 per cent of the core technology to enable DI presses. Heidelberg’s development of Anicolor is 100 per cent theirs, and at least on paper until IPEX, it looks very impressive. There is nothing wrong with DI presses provided you don’t need more that 4-5 units or a format larger than half-sheet. They are quick to makeready and clean to use.

With all the current fuss on ‘processless plates’ – DI presses have been processless for years! Heidelberg did show a prototype Speedmaster 102 a few years ago but, in that market and others where more than one press is installed, CtP makes better sense. Why? One CtP setter can feed several presses. Add Prinect workflow and auto plate change – and maybe Heidelberg’s new Anicolor inking – and you have presses capable of competitive printing below 100 sheets – digital’s heartland (well at least non-variable digital).

Taking Heidelberg’s market muscle out of the DI scene might hurt sales in the short-term but Presstek seems determined to press on with its own 52DI, Ryobi, KBA and Kodak (in N America only). Plug ‘n print offset at 10,000 iph is a pretty attractive proposition.

IPEX could be pivotal for the 52cm 2-up offset press market. And the question could be “Do I go DI or Anicolor with CtP?” And then of course there is HP Indigo with 2-up presses that are both offset and digital with variable data capability. Hmmmmm…..

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