Six New Inkjet Presses: ‘A Complete Game Changer’ for GPO
The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) may not have been the first government in-plant to embrace inkjet technology, but when it did so late last year, it did it in a big way. The country’s largest in-plant installed six production inkjet presses all at once, replacing six web offset presses that were more than three decades old.
GPO added five Océ ColorStream 6000 inkjet presses — which can print up to 417 fpm with a print width of 21.25˝ — and one Océ VarioPrint i200 cut-sheet inkjet press. And while it may seem like an ambitious move to implement all these devices at once, Greg Estep, deputy managing director of plant operations, insists there was no other way due to the large volume of work GPO is required to print in a very short timeframe.
“At night we get the Federal Register, we get the Congressional Record, we have both the House and Senate calendars, and we have any type of bills that might come through,” he recounts. “So we have a large amount of volume that we have to get through the system in a short period of time. We need the capability to … be able to deliver it to the hill by 9 a.m.”
GPO will use the ColorStream 6000s to print the Congressional Record, Federal Register, Senate and House reports, economic indicators, hearings, budgets, appropriations bills, the congressional directory, and more. Estep says inkjet allows GPO to be more agile in the type of work it prints, so his team will be looking for new work for the presses, and talking with agencies to explain how inkjet technology can help them meet their goals.
“Our customers on the Hill really are excited,” he says. Also on board is new GPO Director Hugh Halpern, who has seen the inkjet presses and talked with operators about them.
GPO plans to use the VarioPrint i200 cut-sheet press to handle book covers, forms, and pamphlets for congressional and executive branch customers. It will complement GPO’s Presstek DI press, with some jobs moving from the DI to the i200.
“We’re currently evaluating what work we can move over to that machine,” Estep affirms. He realizes he will need to manage the expectations of customers not used to the look of inkjet printing.
“It produces a quality sheet,” he stresses, “but if you’re used to getting ... conventional offset, it’s a change.”
GPO did not jump into inkjet rashly.
“We’ve been looking at inkjet for 10 years,” says Estep. He and his team checked out inkjet presses at trade shows and visited other printers using inkjet, but it was only in the past three or so years that they felt inkjet speeds and quality could meet GPO’s standards.
To finish the work printed on the five roll-fed ColorStream 6000s, GPO employs a variety of in-line and off-line solutions. One press has the capability to run roll-to-roll or in-line to a combination Standard Hunkeler/Horizon Roll-To-Booklet/Roll-To-Stack finishing solution to create saddle-stitched booklets or book blocks for perfect binding. Other presses deliver printed rolls to two off-line finishing solutions: a Standard Horizon Stitchliner 6000 Digital, which produces saddle-stitched booklets; or a Kolbus Bookjet folder, to create folded signature book blocks.
End of the Web Offset Era?
Three of GPO’s Hantsho web offset presses have already been shut down, and the other three will soon follow suit, Estep says. Those presses worked well when GPO needed to print 9,000 copies of the Congressional Record every day, but with that count now down to 2,100 copies, the time was right to switch to digital printing.
“We no longer run long production,” he says.
Eliminating the web offset presses has drastically reduced the high paper waste, maintenance needs and staffing requirements of the past. With inkjet, Estep says, it’s a push-button operation, with no need to build in time for changing rolls or getting the image centered.
“It’s basically removed all of the variables that you would have on a conventional press,” he notes.
Productivity is higher, the consistency of the final product has improved, and “the [inkjet] press is safer for our operators to work on,” Estep declares.
That said, GPO has retained its newest web offset press, a Timsons ZMR “Zero Makeready” press, which was installed in 2014.
“We wanted to have a lot of options,” he explains.
The in-plant also added an eight-color RMGT LED UV offset perfector press a year and a half ago to print high-end color work, such as publications.
“It significantly increased our through-put, and also the quality,” Estep says.
GPO has also installed a Kolbus Bookflow hard cover book production machine for binding longer publications, such as the U.S. Code, which runs more than 1,000 pages.
GPO has made recent strides on the software side as well. It has replaced its 30-year-old production management system with EFI Pace, and added a warehouse management system module from Oracle. Plans to implement EFI’s Digital StoreFront are also under way.
Of all the recent changes at GPO, however, it’s the inkjet presses that have summoned the most enthusiasm.
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 nearly 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, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.