Digital Do's and Don'ts
IPG: What might you have done differently if you were getting a digital press today?
Terry Oliver: I would have eliminated the need for a folder finisher; we really don’t use it that often, since we have an offline folder. I thought it would be more efficient, but really it’s not.
Amy Leach: A couple things:
- We would have priced out PrintShop Mail [VDP software] at the same time as the re-negotiation.
- We would have liked to have known up front what other pieces of equipment could be added, versus us asking questions when a project arose.
- We would have liked to have known about the opportunities to print larger pieces.
- We would have preferred to have a Canon product rather than using EFI Fiery so that all of our equipment and software communicates more effectively.
- Would have liked better registration control.
- Training should have been included in the overall quote rather than just delivering the equipment and expecting our staff to figure it out.
- We would like to be offered classes to learn some maintenance that we could do on our own. This should be included in the leasing agreement.
- We would like to have closer reps. We would prefer same-day service appointments, but right now we are scheduling appointments due to travel time. This causes us to lose productivity.
Steven Rigby: At the time we began our research and acquisition process in the spring of 2014 there were no other viable options for a B2-size digital press so the HP 10000 was a very feasible option for us. Since we were already an HP Indigo shop we were very familiar with the front-end workflow. The HP 10000 was a smooth transition for us. We felt like we negotiated a fair price for the equipment.
Now, 12 months later, there are other viable cut sheet options for a B2-size press for those looking at this technology. Potential buyers should definitely take a look at the Konica Minolta or the Komori lines of cut sheet inkjet presses. They rival offset and HP quality and will be available on the market soon.
One thing to consider if looking at the HP 10000 is the options for a fifth, sixth or seventh color. It is less expensive to add these options when purchasing rather than adding them on later.
Jack Williams: We recently purchased a Kodak NexPress 3900 to replace our NexPress 2500 which was installed about seven years ago. The 3900 was installed in the same location after removing the 2500. Thus the installation and training was accomplished with little difficulty.
Donna Horbelt: I feel that I negotiated a very favorable agreement on my five-year lease for an iGen4 Diamond Edition. It was considerably more advantage
ous than the agreement signed five years prior. I am not a huge fan of in-line finishing but wish I had evaluated the addition of stapling only. I also moved from the gloss-based toner to a matte-based toner. The clients like it much better and it enables us to more closely match products being reproduced on both offset and digital equipment.
IPG: How would you have evaluated digital presses differently?
Oliver: Get more information on registration issues and substrate speeds. Mixed media substrates, for example, run very slow on this press, and we don’t have extra bindery associates or space, so we do everything in-line, which can be very slow when printing.
Leach: We would have liked to have “add-on options” for other pieces of equipment to allow our print shop to offer additional services.
Rigby: We feel like we did a thorough evaluation of the technology and options so we would not have done anything differently. Since there were no other viable vendors for what we were looking for, our research was very narrow. Having been an HP Indigo shop for 10 years, many of our questions were already answered.
Williams: Since we were familiar with the NexPress, we had a better idea of what to look for in a replacement. We visited trade shows, vendor showrooms and other printing facilities before making a final decision.
Horbelt: I wish I had looked harder at the NexPress and the HP Indigo. I feel they are in the same equipment category as the iGen and could have met my needs. Since I have always had a Xerox shop, it was more comfortable to stay with what I knew by upgrading the existing machine. I will consider other equipment with my next purchase. I also wish I had considered Process Manager. Currently all jobs are being impositioned in my prepress department.
IPG: What have you learned after using your digital press for a while now?
Oliver: Again, the mixed media speed; this wasn’t really explained in much detail when we bought the press, along with the registration issues we have with duplex requests. Also, the shared maintenance process, so if it’s something that could be fixed by one of my trained associates to keep us up and running then we can do that. We have grown so much in the past three years, based on the amount of copies we are producing, we could really use more uptime.
Leach: We’ve learned a few things so far:
- There is a higher maintenance requirement than on the offset presses.
- We have experienced several color management and flattening issues with our projects.
- On the booklet maker, we would like to see a larger capacity waste trim tray.
- The digital press offers a great many finishing options, which … allows us to keep FTEs at a minimum.
Rigby: We have been up and running for about six months and have discovered the following:
- We could have planned better for the install of the chiller unit. We installed the chiller in the pressroom to keep it out of the harsh weather. It can generate a lot of heat and also reduce the humidity. It is also very loud. The HP 10000 requires stable temperature and humidity levels to operate efficiently. We are now making plans to relocate the chiller outside in a sheltered area.
- Although HP had technicians on site for 30 days after install, we had a number of issues with fine-tuning the press beyond the initial 30 day install, some of which are still being ironed out slowly.
- To our delight we have learned that the front-end system is very robust and the multiple servers process large files very quickly.
- HP provides parts cabinets to the end user that contain many often-replaced parts. They provide a great parts inventory system with the press. We discovered that as certain parts were upgraded, the parts numbers did not match their inventory system so it was hard to input new parts into the system and manage inventory levels. HP needs to work on this.
Williams: Most of our discoveries were realized with the first installation. We purchased a creasing machine to accommodate folding of digitally printed jobs. We also discovered that we should use a high heat laminate to ensure that the film would adhere, especially to large, solid areas. We discovered that bleeds should not run into the binding area of a perfect bind job, as the fuser oil can cause the binding to fail.
Horbelt: I upgraded the machine to be able to print on heavily textured paper stocks. This has been a huge addition as many of my clients are now designing their projects for these types of paper. The iGen can handle these paper stocks simply with no extra work required, which sets us apart from other digital color vendors in the area.
IPG: Did the digital press bring in exactly the type of work/volumes you predicted?
Oliver: Much more work than expected, because of the constant quality of the printed piece, and no color variations from print to print. We now do the majority of jobs that were outsourced before through our marketing/communications team because of the quality, along with ease of use and speed.
Rigby: We did extensive research into our volume and volume types. Our volumes were as we predicted and have not changed much after six months of operation with the exception in the amount of paper used for makeready, spoilage and overages. This has reduced our paper usage by a significant factor on each job.
We are beginning to see some potential for insourcing some work from the local governmental and private sector and will build a business plan in the coming months for new sources of volume.
Williams: The demand for high-quality, quick-turn digital printing has gradually increased. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that campus designers are aware of our production capabilities and design projects to accommodate that process.
Horbelt: The iGen4 has increased my work and volume tremendously. It also allows me to provide better customer service to my clients. As technology has grown, so has the demand for immediate order deliveries. Many projects are geared toward my offset press department due to large quantities, but I am able to meet immediate needs by printing a portion of the order digitally while waiting for the balance of the order from the offset department. I see my digital color continuing to grow as my applications are growing for posters, magnets and other specialty items.
IPG: Did your plans for producing variable data printing proceed as expected?
Oliver: We are really trying to expand in this area. This is something that we definitely plan to concentrate on in the coming year.
Leach: Our plans did not proceed as planned due to the expense.
Rigby: We have been doing VDP for many years and continue to do VDP on the new press. The big change now is the ability to do this work on a large B2-size sheet.
Williams: The demand for VDP has been less than expected.
IPG:Any unexpected installation/service issues?
Leach: Canon representatives had to be called to resolve color management issues. We repeatedly had Gordon Flesch (dealer) representatives attempt to solve the problem, but the machine kept resetting itself.
New versions of Fiery caused major issues with color management, and files weren’t flattening correctly and caused PDF errors.
Rigby: Most of the unexpected issues were tied to the chiller and the fluid flow to the press. Since the HP installers are not responsible for installation or adjustments of the chiller unit, it was challenging to get the flow just right. We had hoses break in the press on several occasions. Once the flow rate was worked out, the problems disappeared.
Humidity and temperature are critical in the efficient operation of the HP 10000. Our pressroom was a steady 70 degrees and 52 percent humidity prior to the install, which created a perfect environment for the HP 10000. However, when running at normal levels the chiller unit raises the temperature and lowers the humidity in the press room to unacceptable levels. This was unexpected, but we are taking steps to correct it. Anyone doing an HP 10000 install would do well to consider the placement of the chiller.
One important thing to note is that when installing an HP 10000, they provide a service tech on site for 30 days after installation to iron out any bumps and make adjustments. Some of our issues continued beyond the 30 days and HP brought in additional support to ensure a proper installation. Since the install, HP has been very proactive in responding to service issues, and generally service issues are taken care of within a few hours. Their telephone and on-site support is very good.
Horbelt: I leased the brand new Xerox iGen4 Diamond Edition, and installation occurred in October 2014. I was not prepared for any service issues since the past iGen4 that I had for five years had a 96-97 percent up rate and very few service issues. The new machine was delivered and installed but never met my expectations like the past machine. There were continual service issues and parts failures for eight months including eight different power supplies. No one could determine the cause of the issues with the machine. As per my agreement with Xerox, I requested that the machine be returned and a new machine be installed. Prior to approval for the new machine, Xerox engineering determined that the machine settings were incorrectly set at the factory. I still do not understand why it took eight months to determine the cause of all of the issues we were having. Since the settings have been corrected, I have not had one service issue with the machine.
IPG: Other big issues that came up:
Oliver: The only other issue that I can think of is the software technical support from my vendor. I really do about everything on my end, because I don’t feel that the knowledge base is there.
Leach: We wished we would have had formal training rather than trying to figure issues out ourselves or calling Gordon Flesch. We would like to be offered classes to learn some maintenance that we could do on our own.
Rigby: One important thing to consider is paper grain. The 10000 operates more efficiently when using short grain on text weights and long grain on cover weights. These were not brought to our attention in the acquisition process. HP needs to communicate this better to potential buyers. There are several paper mills that have responded to the growing HP 10000 market and are now manufacturing paper that is compatible in size and grain.
Additionally, they are packaging the paper on mini skids that can be rolled right into the feeder of the press. Our pressmen appreciate this as it makes for more efficient workflow and creates less work in throwing B2-size paper into the feeder.
We have not experienced too many challenges with binding other than the HP ink is a little soft depending on the finishing equipment. Post press coating becomes necessary on certain types of binding.
The 10000 handles large files beautifully. With the multiple server bank on the front end, large files are RIPed with little effort, especially when processing VDP files. The 10000 operates very quietly and you can easily carry on a conversation next to the press while in operation.
HP does a fine job in training new operators. They offer training sessions for new operators and advanced training for experienced operators. The shared maintenance program is excellent and most HP operators can perform much of the daily maintenance and repairs.
Horbelt: Since my shop has large offset equipment, we moved our digital equipment to a separate room away from the dust and noise of the offset department. This has increased productivity and lessened daily maintenance. While we have had some occasional humidity issues, we are able to keep the room fairly stable to ensure consistent color and productivity. IPG