The State of On-demand Printing
ON MAY 29, 2008, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal called “Ink-jet Printers Get Set to Turn the Page.” According to author William Bulkeley, “Ink-jet printing technology that dominates inexpensive desktop printers is about to enter the world of commercial print shops. If the new technology succeeds, it could spell trouble for Xerox Corp. and lead to expanded business for Eastman Kodak Co., Hewlett-Packard Co., Ricoh Co. and other ink-jet makers.” That article, published on the first day of Drupa, as well as statements from industry experts Andy Tribute and Frank Romano, created a buzz suggesting that ink-jet printing would displace offset and toner-based printing as the dominant printing technologies. I’d like to discuss the facts behind the buzz and offer some conclusions about the real state of competing technologies.
Ink-jet’s Role Today
Ink-jet printing can be divided into two categories: continuous and drop-on-demand (DOD). Drop-on-demand systems emit single droplets of ink upon electrical stimulation. The main advantages of drop-on-demand ink-jet are its simplicity, compactness and low cost.
Continuous ink-jet (CIJ) printing involves shooting a very fine stream of ink that breaks into predictable size droplets, which can be individually deflected by an electrical current directly onto a substrate. The primary advantages of CIJ are extremely high speeds—systems run at 1,000 feet per minute (fpm), producing more than 4,000 81⁄2x11˝ pages per minute (ppm)—and the ability to print in a wide range of physical environments and on many substrates.
CIJ has proven itself for years for a variety of applications. Printers utilize ink-jet for applying addresses and messages to covers, as well as addressing inside order forms. Financial printers use widebar ink-jet systems for printing insurance and finance documents. In addition, printers have installed ink-jet systems inline on bindery equipment for applications ranging from direct mail to addressing, messaging and personalization.
Howie Fenton is an independent consultant who focuses on analyzing/benchmarking the performance of printing operations. Fenton helps companies use metrics, best practices and workflow strategies to streamline operations. Call (720) 872-6339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org