By: Mark Vruno
Emerging from its financial struggles, Kodak thinks this may be the year inkjet web technology makes a larger leap to newspapers. Here’s why …
Ringing in 2013 could be a prosperous proposition for newspaper print production personnel. At the WAN-IFRA World Publishing Expo in Frankfurt this past fall, Kodak said it is extending its Stream Inkjet Technology and Prosper press platform to newspaper printing in 2013 to enable fully digital, color page production. Customers used Stream technology to inkjet print some 10 billion pages last year alone, an uptick of nearly 50 percent over 2011, marketing director Will Mansfield recently told online magazine My Print Resource. But not many of those were newspaper pages — not yet, anyway.
This tech migration makes sense for Kodak, which for more than 100 years has provided newspaper customers with flexible solutions that streamline production and increase efficiency. As the market has changed and demands on newspaper publishers have increased, Kodak has kept pace, offering a portfolio of solutions that address the need for faster production with high quality at lower costs. This portfolio includes workflow and automation solutions, computer-to-plate devices, plates, proofing, screening, digital printing, and services.
“Kodak is the world leader in printing production workflow,” wrote industry consultant Henry Freedman in his quarterly newsletter, “Technology Watch,” for myprintresource.com. “With over 18,000 licenses of its Prinergy software and 24 of the 25 world’s largest book producers as customers, Kodak rules workflow,” he added. “Having its own software along with the purchase of 3M/Imation and Creo/Scitex makes Kodak the world leader in production color management for printing.”
In the inkjet space, the Prosper press platform is already embraced by direct mail printers and book publishers. In 2013, Kodak anticipates more newspaper printing applications. Based on innovative, proprietary Stream Inkjet Technology, the existing platform delivers digital without compromise, enabling print service providers to produce offset class output in terms of quality, productivity, and cost for their clients. For example, the Prosper 5000XL Press brings offset class output approaching 175 lines per inch with roll-fed speeds of up to 650 feet per minute (fpm) and features a monthly duty cycle of up to 90 million A4 letter-size pages.
Karen Mitchell, worldwide director of Kodak’s publishing segment, said, “The beauty of the Prosper technology is that it is scalable, meaning that we can use (it) to develop targeted solutions for almost any application. The benefits for newspaper professionals will be many. For example … newspaper printers can enjoy higher speed, greater width, and better image quality compared to many of the drop-on-demand technologies in the market today.”
Fast, ‘hybrid’ imprinting
The Prosper S-Series Imprinting Systems currently available for newspaper printers and publishers enable inline digital printing on an offset press for variable data at full press speeds. With a print width of up to 4.16 inches, the S-Series can be used for monochrome or CMYK production and run at speeds up to 3,000 fpm with a maximum resolution for newspaper applications of 600 x 300 dpi. These solutions give newspapers the ability to seamlessly combine digital content with offset content to drive higher value for readers and advertisers alike.
There has been some activity in the news space since the U.K.’s CN Newsprint group became Kodak’s first customer to use the 600 dpi Prosper S20 Imprinting System in a newspaper production environment. The manufacturer says to expect even more inkjet news going forward. Digital imprinting, after all, provides a way to “version” or personalize advertising campaigns by enriching static content with variable information and pictures. In addition to simple options for local advertising with no plate changes, it makes it easier to integrate print in cross-media marketing campaigns, helping brands to create tighter online and offline communications. Sequential winning numbers, variable QR codes, and different URLs or graphics, for example, mean no two newspaper copies contain exactly the same ad.
According to a release from CN Newsprint, the company can print a 4.1-inch area that can include a serial number, barcode, graphic, or even a bingo card that is totally unique to each copy. This capacity is available on everything from four-page promotional flyers to a 64-page tabloid, with print runs ranging from small to millions of copies weekly. Advertisers are using the high-impact, cost-effective technology to enhance marketing campaigns, increase website traffic, and drive foot traffic to stores/ locations.
For instance, Furness Newspapers recently employed hybrid imprinting on a ticket promotion. “The overall campaign has been a huge success. We had 119 entries via text and online to win tickets over the two days we were promoting it,” said Furness deputy advertising director Craig Kirkpatrick. “The client loved the creative aspect we were able to deliver them and loved the fact we were using the digital head.” CN prints more than 25 million newspapers annually at a clip of about 60,000 per hour. Guy Forrester, CN print division general manager, said, “If we can maintain these speeds and print variable data inline, it will be a huge boost to our business.”
The company is testing specialty applications such as retail marketing, vouchers, interactive games, and lotteries, and discussing them with its broad customer base. “We print a lot of inserts and supplements for leading supermarkets, such as Tesco, Asda, and Sainsburys,” Forrester said. “We’re looking at how we can use the Kodak Prosper S10 Imprinting System to customize the inserts by geography, with unique vouchers and interactive games. Another option is barcoding for inclusion in retail promotions,” he said. “With the S10’s variable data capabilities, we can print unique barcodes that can be redeemed at a supermarket checkout. These are huge commercial opportunities for CN Newsprint.”
In the fall of 2011, the Axel Springer offset plant in Hamburg-Ahrensburg, Germany, began using the S30 system for variable publishing and advertising campaigns in printed newspapers. One of its six manroland Colorman newspaper presses has been equipped with this Kodak imprinting system, which can deliver consistently high quality with 600 x 200 dpi resolution at web speeds approaching 3,000 fpm (almost 50 ft./ sec.). Much like CN is doing, the combination of conventional coldset weboffset and high-speed inkjet printing means variable data can be imprinted into static content without compromising web-offset productivity.
How it’s configured
The Prosper S30 Imprinting System is installed in the superstructure of the Colorman press. This configuration affords flexibility, as one web can be printed by two different towers, depending on the web lead. With this imprinting arrangement, variable elements can be printed on the newspaper’s outer pages as well as on selected inner pages. For integration purposes, manroland web systems had to alter the web feed routes. Various web guide rollers and crossbars were fitted so that the printhead and other mechanical components could be mounted. The inkjet printing zone is located exactly over a guide roller, guaranteeing a constant gap of only a few millimeters between the printhead and the web.
“We keep in close contact with our manufacturers, and it was through Kodak that we learned about digital imprinting,” said Thomas Drensek, head of offset printing at the Springer plant. “We originally considered it five or six years ago, when manroland web systems began carrying out in-house tests. We installed our first Kodak Imprinting System — a Versamark DH6240 printhead — as part of an experimental setup in the web press in 2010.”
The Prosper S30 Imprinting System supports variable monochrome printing within a 4-5/32-inch zone across the complete product cut-off length. Axel Springer uses the system with water-based Kodak pigment ink, which it pulls from 20-liter cubitainers directly alongside. The black density achieved with this ink on newsprint is similar to offset.
Holger Benthack, Axel Springer production manager, outlines the basic specification for the imprinting solution: “For us, speed is hugely important, because we can’t afford for production to slow down. Obviously, we needed high imprinting quality — on par with offset, if possible. Space was a consideration too — our staff needed plenty of room to operate the press. And from the customer’s point of view, availability is crucial.
“The Prosper S30 System delivers on all fronts. In the old days, digital imprints were only possible using the DH6240 System with 240 x 120 dpi, at no more than 35,000 cylinder revolutions an hour,” Benthack said. “With the S30 System, we’re achieving 42,500 revolutions — the equivalent of 13.2 meters a second. Plus the higher resolution and the more vivid black are crucial advances.”
More real-world examples
After extensive testing with Kodak’s support, the first real production run with versioned advertising got off the ground in October 2011, with an advertisement in an industry supplement of Hamburger Abendblatt. Each of the 220,000 copies of a Kodak ad motif was printed with a unique prize code via inkjet imprint using the Prosper S30. The code was the password to a lottery with a printer as the top prize.
Another example is the large-scale campaign run by German newspaper Bild for its Hamburg readers over a period of several weeks in April to May 2012. In the Cash Million lottery, tickets bearing a one-off, inkjet-imprinted number combination were included with the newspaper at the start of the week. Readers were urged to compare their numbers with the daily lucky numbers, with a chance to win cash and other prizes at the end of the campaign. The program was designed to strengthen reader loyalty.
A similar prize draw was organized last May when approximately 35,000 copies of Welt Kompakt were imprinted every day with the Prosper S30 system. An exclusive prize code on the tabloid’s title page held the key to desirable consumer electronics. The promotion was originally supposed to last only two weeks, but the publisher extended it two more weeks due to the campaign’s success.
Hybrid production on the web press will almost certainly be stepped up following such a positive experience, according to Springer managers. An extra 20 minutes of makeready time are normally scheduled when the Prosper S30 system is involved, because the position of the printhead must be manually adjusted perpendicular to the web travel direction. The position of the inkjet image is optimized in the printing direction with the help of manroland web systems software. “We start by operating the press at proof-printing speed, then set all of the offset parameters and simultaneously pre-adjust the inkjet head,” Benthack said. “In the past, we’ve also had to include another stop for recalibration and the fine adjustment, but this won’t be necessary in the future.”
In the medium term, the printer, manroland web systems, and Kodak will optimize the installation to reduce makeready time to just a few minutes, make the setup easier to use, and improve registration. A powered drive and remote control of the printhead position on the crossbar of the web press desk will play a particularly important role here, along with technical measures to reduce the registration tolerance to 0.1 mm throughout the speed range.
“Our initial campaigns with Welt Kompakt and Bild here in the Hamburg region were an unqualified success,” Drensek said. “Thanks to the vast personalization options, this technology has enormous potential and has a major role to play in our future.”
Improved financing approved
In late November, Kodak announced that it received and accepted an offer from the Steering Committee of the Second Lien Noteholders Committee for interim and exit financing totaling $830 million in loans. The commitment strengthens Kodak’s position to successfully execute its remaining reorganization objectives and emerge from Chapter 11 in the first half of 2013.
“As we continue to progress toward successful emergence, we remain focused on doing what is best for the company’s creditors and other stakeholders, including our customers, suppliers, and employees,” said CEO Antonio Perez. “We are pleased that these existing creditors have come forward with a new proposal that offers better terms … The improved financing commitment provides a longer maturity, lower fees and pricing, and greater liquidity than our previously announced (Nov. 12) commitment. This is a vote of confidence in the future of our company.”
The financing is subject to completion of definitive financing documentation and Bankruptcy Court approval at a hearing to be scheduled soon.
Print and Finish Newspapers, Then Books
In late November, the new Océ JetStream 5500 fullcolor inkjet printing system and the manroland web systems’ variable pin folder FoldLine VPF 211 were announced. The JetStream 5500 full-color inkjet printing system prints 5,140 A4 images per minute or 30,000 B2 format sheets per hour on a 30-inch-wide web. The multipurpose manroland web systems’ variable pin folder creates professional tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. This heavy-duty solution producing more than 8,000 24-page tabloid newspapers per hour stems from the partnership of Océ and manroland.
“What makes this solution so unique is the ability to produce professionally finished newspapers during the night, and then during the day shift professional books, booklets and magazines, all on one system,” said Sebastian Landesberger, executive vice president of Océ Commercial Printing. “We are giving customers the best of both worlds. Not only can they produce finished products with the highest quality, this solution maximizes the customer’s return on investment like no other solution in the market.”
Using the industry-proven Océ DigiDot inkjet drop-on-demand and multilevel technology, an excellent image quality of 600 x 480 dpi is achieved at 833 fpm, and a 656 fpm result in premium 1200 dpi perceived image quality. The FoldLine can keep up speed-wise, producing broadsheet newspapers with up to 96 pages and up to 12 newspaper sections at 833 fpm. The solution permits variability in formats, number of newspaper sections, cut lengths, etc. Book signatures and cylinder-stitched booklets in a number of different formats can be delivered with extremely short makeready times.
Is Inkjet Fast Enough?
Digital print technology has made tremendous strides in the past five years, especially in the transactional print, direct mail, and book-publishing segments. Further penetration of inkjet into truly commercial printing was expedited last year, as 2012 saw more coated, treated papers come on line suitable for inkjet printing. The wider, web-fed inkjet presses now can run up to 1,000 fpm, or 5,000 8.3 x 11.7-inch A4 pages per minute, at 133-lines-perinch resolution. Some imprint head modules can image nearly a mile of paper every 60 seconds, up to 5,000 fpm. (See above.)
“‘Technology Watch’ research shows that Kodak systems attain speeds of 1,000 fpm — and greater — daily on production plant floors,” said editor/ consultant Henry Freedman, who spent more than 835 hours last year scrutinizing Stream and Prosper technologies. “Because we have found that Kodak presses not only print at a higher speed but also can print at a higher quality at a higher speed than other presses, we are confident in declaring that Kodak is class-leading,” Freedman concluded. The newsletter’s eight-page, spring 2012 edition details his findings, looking “under the hood” of the 1000 model and examining the Prosper design, including ink, print heads, and media.
Still, Jim Hamilton, group director at market research/consulting firm InfoTrends, and other industry analysts question whether color inkjet web printing speeds ever will be fast enough for true, mainstream newspaper applications — even with light ink coverage on uncoated bond paper. That is why we are seeing hybrid configurations in this segment, too, such as Kodak’s aforementioned Prosper imprinting systems and KBA’s 30.7-inch RotaJET 76.
The latter, a high-volume, 500 fpm digital web press, was developed in collaboration with mega print firm RR Donnelley. The RotaJET can output up to 3,000 four-color A4 pages per minute (that’s 85 million per month) at 600 dpi resolution. According to Oliver Baar, project manager for KBA digital printing systems, it unites innovative precision engineering, high-powered hardware and software, and cuttingedge piezo inkjet technology to create an industrial-scale production tool for short runs and personalized prints.
The RotaJET initially is targeting the book, brochure, commercial, direct mail, and magazine sectors, with packaging and newspapers to follow, according to KBA. The two arrays of 56 printing heads that arch over the two large central impression cylinders can be moved aside for cleaning and maintenance purposes. The printheads are automatically aligned (or “stitched” because the configuration resembles back-stitching) and cleaned. Internal systems communications and the integration of third-party systems are JDF-enabled.
Visitors to drupa last spring saw demonstrations of variable production based on the popular APPE (Adobe PDF Print Engine) workflow. With its powerful front-end kit, the RotaJET can handle large volumes of data at maximum speed in full-color production. The digital press also pumped out gang-stitched magazines and promotional brochures via a SigmaLine inline finishing system from Müller Martini.