Is Inkjet in Your Future?
What will your in-plant operation look like two years from now? How about five years? One technology that may be finding a home on your shop floor is inkjet printing. It may already be present in the form of monochrome addressing systems or wide-format devices. But if the hopes and dreams of leading equipment providers play out, full-color inkjet presses may also coexist alongside offset and EP (electrophotographic) systems.
So what will these systems look like? A lot like they do right now, only better. High-speed, full-color inkjet today is at roughly the same stage of development as EP color toner was about 10 years ago: partially ready for prime time but with the caveat that buyers of these systems are pioneers on the leading edge of an emerging technology.
The presses from the big players are all continuous-feed models and feature speeds from 225 to 650 feet per minute and print widths up to 30˝.
InfoPrint, Kodak, Screen and Océ all have numerous installations in a range of print facilities. HP has a handful of its big inkjet systems installed, while Kodak and Xerox either offer new systems today or are readying them for the market. All require minimum monthly volumes of at least 10-15 million impressions before the economics begin to work, so they are not for everybody. With one or two exceptions, there are no cut-sheet production inkjet systems available.
As these systems evolve, new algorithms will focus on the subtleties of drop size and placement, improved print quality, amount of ink used, color accuracy, and the range of papers available. Further under the hood will be print speeds, head durability, use of additional colors and increasingly powerful servers. We can expect a long battle for dominance as the different technologies evolve. And it all starts with the print head.