Excitement Is Building Over Production Inkjet

Every four years, drupa, the global commercial printing industry show, is held in Dusseldorf, Germany. Excitement is building because, once again, this is a drupa year.

If you had an ear to the ground in 2012, you know that it was supposed to be the year that high-speed, high-quality inkjet burst onto the scene. The technology promised to bring tremendous new cost efficiencies, dramatic increases in production flexibility, and a reinvention of how marketing and production are managed.

At the time of the last drupa, however, the technology wasn’t ready to take home—yet. Today, it is.

At EarthColor, we are super excited. In preparation for the show, our executives are traveling the world, analyzing, comparing, and testing the new technology. When we say traveling, we mean traveling. “I feel as if I have been on planes more than I’ve been on the ground lately,” jokes Cheryl Kahanec, EarthColor’s EVP Digital, who is traveling with EarthColor’s CEO, Robert Kashan. “We have been all over the country—all over the world.”

Why are we keeping our executives so busy? We think inkjet will be a game-changer for our customers.

We are particularly excited about the opportunity to revolutionize the cost structure of commercial printing. Until now, the ability to produce short-run, highly targeted and personalized documents 100% digital has been kept in runs of less than 5,000. To maintain quality at the higher volumes, our clients often use black-and-white overprinting of variable information onto pre-printed four-color offset shells. Depending on volume, this could take weeks of time. It also requires warehousing.

Inkjet offers the promise of full digital production even at high volumes. These devices print at speeds of 1200 ppm. This is not yet offset speed, but it is much closer than toner devices. Whether you are printing 15,000 sheets or 1.5 million sheets, with high-speed inkjet, you can print what is called “white paper” solution. This means white paper in, full-color documents, including 100% variable data, out the other end. No more offset shells!

“It’s really exciting,” says Kahanec. “We’re at a turning point in this industry right now. Inkjet is the bridge between digital and offset. It allows us to have the volumes of offset and the variability of digital. We’re testing as much equipment as we can, running samples and doing a complete analysis of the market.”

Kahanec sees a huge impact on clients running jobs in the 10,000 to 15,000 range who can now have the pricing of offset with the flexibility of digital. She also sees it impacting clients running very high-volume jobs who can slash their turnaround times. “It takes a couple of weeks to print the shells, cut them to size, then put them back through a device for imprinting,” she explains. “Now, we will be able to combine that into a single process. When you are dealing with millions of pieces, taking it to a true white paper solution saves weeks of time. We can take a two-month process—six to eight weeks—and do it in a single pass in six to seven days. Millions of pieces. It’s a big impact!”

Are you as excited about the possibilities opened by high-speed inkjet as we are? What are you most looking forward to? What do you think will be the biggest impact on your business?

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