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B2 vs. B3 inkjet: The battle begins

Fujifilm upgrades its B2 printer while Ricoh adds a new solution


September 10, 2021
By German Sacristan

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Ricoh B2 Pro Z75 inkjet printer runs with aqueous inks at 4,500 B2 sheets per hour. Photo courtesy Ricoh

Fujifilm launched a B2-size printer 10 years ago, followed by HP in 2013, and years later by Konica Minolta and Komori. Even though expectations have always been high for this larger format of digital printing, reality has fallen short. The opportunity was always there to shift more shorter offset runs and variable data print jobs to B2 digital, along with going after the big size MIF of the largest A3/B3 production electrophotography printers that have been in the market since the early 2000s.

The biggest challenge to convert PSPs with large print volumes being produced on A3/B3 electrophotography large production printers to B2 was the high capital investments of the B2 printers. Another challenge was to shift more offset print volumes to B2 digital, as even though B2 has lower running costs than the A3/B3 electrophotography devices, there is still a big gap versus offset.

What is shifting things is the new introduction of B3 inkjet presses with commercial print quality by Canon (iX series) and Xerox (Baltoro-Color Accelerator Module). These printers provide high productivity and duty cycles at a lower capital investment cost than B2, therefore offering lower TCOs in most cases. The B3 inkjet pressure on B2 should make B2 manufacturers reduce their capital investment costs to better compete with B3.

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Fujifilm JetPress 750 HS can print 5,400 B2 sheets per hour. Photo courtesy Fujifilm

Fujifilm JetPress 750 HS

At virtual.drupa earlier this year, Fujifilm announced its new JetPress 750 HS, which brings greater productivity from its successor (5,400 B2 sheets per hour vs. 3,600) in all media weights. The compromise there is that the resolution drops to 1200 x 600 dpi. The new printer may also not need primer while printing at 1200 x 600 dpi, reducing the running cost considerably. New inks might reduce the cost of consumables, too. Finally, Fujifilm protects customer investments by making the 750 HS field upgradable.

Ricoh B2 Pro Z75

Ricoh also announced its new B2 Pro Z75 inkjet printer to compete in the expanding B2 and B3 markets. The device runs with aqueous inks at 4,500 B2 sheets per hour and can print on a variety of substrates, including offset coated papers up to 400 gsm. The B2+-size is 23 x 29 in. at up to 1200 x 1200 dpi. The new drying system is expected to deliver good print quality, even on thin paper.

The large production cutsheet inkjet market is expected to be busy and even more competitive with roll-fed inkjet printers, what with more flexibility (variety of input drawers) and lower capital investment costs. Large production cutsheet B2 and B3 inkjet devices are expected to capture a great part of the print volume consolidation happening in the market due to lower TCOs and commercial print quality.

It will be exciting and interesting to watch this healthy cutsheet B2 and B3 inkjet battle as printers try to shift more offset print volumes to digital, while gaining as much electrophotography business as they possibly can.

This article was originally published on www.keypointintelligence.com. It also appeared in the September 2021 issue of PrintAction.