New Inkjet Printing Press Tops List of Kodak Product Launches
Eastman Kodak is stepping up its comeback campaign with the launches of significant new products, including an inkjet press it describes as a potentially game-changing solution for commercial and publication print.
The announcements came in a virtual press conference with journalists and analysts on June 15, the third formal outreach that the company has made to the trade media this year. Again leading a team of Kodak executives was James V. Continenza, executive chairman, who continued to drive home a message that Kodak is a financially stable, customer-focused organization with a total commitment to all of the print markets it now serves.
The presentation spanned the entire Kodak portfolio, which also includes products for packaging despite the company’s exit from its flexography business.
The newest star of the lineup is the Kodak PROSPER ULTRA 520, a rollfed inkjet press that Randy Vandagriff, senior vice president, print, called “virtually indistinguishable” from offset lithography in print quality. He said closing the gap with the ULTRA 520 will hasten the migration of work from offset to digital, including jobs requiring heavy ink coverage.
The PROSPER ULTRA 520 is a successor to the PROSPER 6000, which Kodak will continue to sell. The new press boasts an impressive set of specifications starting with a 600x1,800 dpi print resolution and a top speed of 2,000 A4 pages per minute across a 20.5˝ print width.
The press handles stocks from 45-250 gsm and can print standard offset stocks with pretreatment (which can be applied with an on-press module or an off-line unit). Its nanoparticulate CMYK inks are water-based, eco-friendly, and the lowest cost of their type, according to Kodak. The inks, made by Kodak, are also said to be capable of reproducing a gamut 95% larger than the SWOP color space.
The new press is the first Kodak-manufactured platform to be built around the ULTRASTREAM continuous inkjet writing system, a technology Kodak initially developed for implementation by partners. Two versions are scheduled to come to market by the end of 2020: the PROSPER ULTRA 520 for commercial applications; and the PROSPER ULTRA P520 for publishing.
Kodak has begun taking orders for the PROSPER ULTRA 520 platform and is planning to exhibit it at PRINTING United (October 21-23). The price will be in the $2 million range, said Jeff Zellmer, vice president of global sales and strategy.
Continenza indicated that Kodak also is working on developing a cut-sheet inkjet platform, something that the portfolio does not presently contain. There will be “more to come” under that heading, he said.
Other new products scheduled to go to market this year include:
- SONORA XTRA Process Free Plates, offering longer runs, resolutions up to 450 lpi, and 20% faster platemaking and better image contrast than existing SONORA X plates;
- the KODAK MAGNUS Q800 Platesetter with the T-Speed upgrade, enabling the unit to image up to 80 plates per hour with a capacity of up to 3,200 plates;
- available now, a cloud-based, on-demand version of the Kodak PRINERGY workflow, which Todd Bigger, president of Kodak’s software division, described as a highly secure, redundant, and reliable alternative to self-hosted workflow software that can be scaled via subscription to printing operations of any size.
Coming in 2021 is the MAGNUS Q4800 Platesetter for extra-large format (XLF) platemaking at 32 plates per hour, supporting up to eight plate sizes and up to 4,800 plates online.
Kodak also is relaunching its NEXFINITY electrophotographic production press, which now features, said Zellmer, “the best toner formulation in the world.” This enables the device to achieve 256 levels of density per pixel while running at up to 152 ppm. Maximum sheet length is 51˝. The NEXFINITY fifth-color station accommodates 12 different specialty inks, spot colors, and finishes, with changeovers between them taking just minutes.
Keeping an eye trained on the flexible packaging market, Kodak and partner UTECO have added a wide version of the UTECO Sapphire EVO press, based on ULTRASTREAM inkjet imaging technology. The UTECO Sapphire EVO W prints CMYK at 600x1,800 dpi across a 49.2˝ print width at speeds up to 500 fpm. Built for flexible packaging applications on plastic films and paper, the press uses water-based PROSPER Press QD Packaging Inks that are certified for indirect food contact.
Vandagriff called the Sapphire EVO W the first digital packaging press to match the productivity of flexo and the quality of gravure, adding that its crossover with flexo occurs at 20,000 square meters of printed output.
Taking a broad view of the Kodak portfolio as it now stands, Continenza declared, “We’re using technology to drive cost down, to make it better for our customers.” He asserted that print technology – which Kodak spends $25 million annually to research and development – should reduce end-users’ costs by making products simpler and more economical to operate.
Continenza also explained why Kodak remains a supplier of offset plates and platemaking systems even as it continues to double down on digital as a business strategy. Having a stake in both processes is good for Kodak’s customers, he said, because “digital is not the only solution. It’s not one choice. We are supportive of both.”
He restated his promise to give Kodak the kind of “functional, measurable, trackable, and accountable structure” it will need to stay focused on its customers in a time when many business relationships have been upended by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. An advantage for Kodak here, he added, is being in a better financial position than it has seen in 20 years, thanks to the sale of the flexographic portfolio and other economies.
Citing Kodak’s 130-year corporate history and the many thousands of patents it has earned along the way, Continenza said Kodak would continue to “take the complex, and make it simple” with solutions that reward customers with “print that pays.”
“We lost our way for a little while,” he acknowledged. “But, we’re not done. You’re not going to see things that aren’t real. You ask us a question, and we’ll answer it.”
“Welcome to the new Kodak,” Continenza said.