Inkjet Cuts Costs, Boosts Quality at University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Printing Services has joined a growing list of higher-ed in-plants that have installed a production inkjet press. In July, the 25-employee operation fired up a new cut-sheet inkjet press and began transitioning offset and digital work to it.
“It’s a decision we probably put off longer than we should have, but now that we’ve made it, it was absolutely the right thing for us and for the university,” proclaims Assistant Director Shawn Welch. “We’re able to produce material at lower costs [and] higher quality. We’re able to keep a lot of work in-house now.”
The move not only reflects the institution’s commitment to innovation but also showcases the tangible benefits of adopting advanced printing technologies.
The in-plant began its inkjet quest in 2018 when Welch attended the Inkjet Summit and started considering options. At the time, the in-plant ran several offset presses, including a six-color and a five-color, plus several digital toner presses.
“When the pandemic hit, we decided to shut down offset,” Welch says. To continue handling the university’s offset needs, the in-plant contracted with four Twin Cities commercial printers under a unique arrangement where Printing Services supplied the paper using university contracts, its prepress department performed basic file preflighting, and press sheets were delivered back to the in-plant for finishing and mailing.
“Basically, we were paying them to put ink on paper,” Welch remarks.
The new inkjet press changed all that.
“The goal with buying inkjet was to bring as much of that work back in-house as we could,” he says.
By printing previously outsourced work on the new inkjet press, the in-plant is saving big money for the university. In the first four months, Welch says, Printing Services transitioned 40 jobs equaling 600,000 impressions from offset to inkjet, saving about $51,000. Over a full year, this will bring in more than $150,000 in savings, he projects.
Additionally, about a million color impressions have transitioned from toner-based equipment in the first four months, resulting in approximately $14,000 in savings, or an estimated $40,000 over a year. Another $15,000 in annual savings will come from moving 1.8 million black impressions from toner to inkjet, Welch estimates.
Lest anyone still have lingering doubts about the quality of these inkjet pieces, Welch is quick to dispel such concerns.
“My personal opinion is that the quality is equal to what we had [from] offset,” he observes. “In many cases I’d say it surpasses some of the offset quality that we had here or were getting elsewhere. I think it prints phenomenally well on [an uncoated] sheet.”
He’s especially impressed with the inkjet press’ ability to print solids.
“Consistency from sheet to sheet is perfect,” he adds. “Boy, what a difference between trying to hold color on an offset press.”
The in-plant prints a variety of items on the inkjet press: business cards, stationery, post cards, brochures, booklets, newsletters, magazines, and more.
“We’re running tabs on it, which is another big plus,” Welch says.
To provide saddle stitching for magazines and newsletters, the shop recently added a new high-speed saddle-stitcher. It has a cover feeder and also scores and folds.
“We wanted something for some of the more high-end pieces,” Welch explains.
He feels the new inkjet press is more than capable of handling the in-plant’s anticipated volumes.
“We’re projecting about 6.5 million impressions on the [inkjet press] this year, based on the first four months,” he notes. “We’re running almost four times faster on the [press], so it’s really increased our capacity.”
That said, the in-plant is still operating several digital toner presses, including one with MICR capabilities.
One thing that drew the in-plant to the inkjet press was its flexibility. It boasts eight paper trays, so the shop can easily handle jobs with multiple stocks. It can auto duplex and prints one-up 8.5x11" pages at the same speed and cost as two-up 11x17" pages.
“We put a lot of eggs in one basket with the [inkjet press], and for the most part it’s handling it,” Welch says. Most importantly, he adds, “Our customers have been very, very happy with it.”
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Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.