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Konica Minolta moves out of its comfort zone

Wednesday, 08 June 2016
By Patrick Howard

Konica Minolta's production print future – Anthony Lewis and David Procter with the technology concept press, the flagship KM-C.

Digital embellishing, production printing and labels are the focus for the digital company at this drupa while bizHUB remains the core product.

Imagine a tour of the Konica Minolta stand at drupa with David Procter and Anthony Lewis, the two executives responsible for the Japanese company’s graphic arts business, with little or no mention of the iconic bizHUB brand that brings in most of the revenue. Focused on the future, brands such as KM-1 and MGI occupy much of their attention with Procter for one, declaring, “We have to move beyond manufacturing cut sheet printers.”

The focus is a testimony not only to the enduring value of the bizHUB brand, which, in a way, can almost look after itself, but also to the dilemma created by an ultra competitive and efficient digital printing sector. With click charges from the major players at an all time low and heading south, especially in the mid-production colour-printing sector where it ranks Number Two in the local market, (in Europe it’s Number One), Konica Minolta is looking for other ways to enhance its engagement with the industry.

As part of the whole digital industry’s tilt towards the industrial printing market it’s setting its sights on applications for the label and packaging sectors. On the drupa stand it is showcasing new printing technologies that address these sectors, even as all around bizHUBs continue to demonstrate their utility for production printing.

At the show Konica Minolta has introduced a new brand, Accurio, to emphasize it is no longer solely focused on production printing. The Accurio brand features on all of the company’s inkjet digital press and digital workflow solutions

High on the list and indeed the flagship of the brand is the AccurioJet KM-1 UV inkjet press. First shown at last drupa as a concept press and commercially launched at this one, this mainstream production press is breaking new ground for Konica Minolta. It is highlighting the value of hybrid printing with the integration of the KM-1 into existing offset processes, duplex printing and larger sheet sizes, as well as printing on packaging board, lightweight papers and textured stock.

A B2 inkjet printing zone where the KM-1 is linked in production with MGI’s JET varnish digital embellishing engines takes much of the drupa stand up. According to Anthony Lewis, this combination will provide commercial printers with production flexibility and the opportunity to offer more to their customers.

“It’s not for everyone but I’m confident enough printers will see how the combination provides great value in the commercial printing sector,” he said.

Olaf Lorenz, general manager of the international marketing division Europe, explains the new orientation. “In line with our management philosophy, The Creation of New Value, we want to inspire our customers to seek new horizons for their businesses and attain the goals they set for success.”

Konica Minolta’s own new horizon can be see by the KM-C, a B1-format UV inkjet digital press that is presented as a technology concept this drupa, same as the KM-1 was last time. Squarely aimed at the commercial print and packaging sectors it is the first printing system developed from top to bottom by Konica Minolta using much of the technology from AccurioJet KM-1, giving it excellent image resolution as well as colour stability, inline sensor and image correction. Notably it is able to print on a wide range of paper substrates without pre-coating. KM-C is built around a flatbed sheet-feeding platform designed by Konica Minolta that enables processing of packaging stocks. Expect to see it coming to market next drupa, in three years time.

It’s clear Konica Minolta sees a lot of potential in its alliance with MGI, so much so that it has taken a majority ake in the French-based digital embellishing company. MGI JETvarnish engines are across much of the new application strategy on display at drupa not only operating with the KM-1 but also in conjunction with the label printer bizHUB PRESS C71cf and the GMC DC330 Mini finisher as part of a very efficient label solution.

This drupa sees a Konica Minolta with ambition to be a significant player across a much broader part of the printing industry. This entails the local company going out to engage with a whole new demographic of commercial and label printers, even at the expense of leaving its own successful comfort zone. It’s not such a big leap as it may appear; the company has a track record with a solid history of success in the commercial production sector selling Kodak Nexpress before the two parted company. The arrival of AccurioJet KM-1 sees it back in that business.



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