Interview with Randy Vandagriff, Senior VP of Print on the new KODAK PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press
Sponsored by Kodak
1. Kodak refers to PROSPER ULTRA 520 as the “press which closes the gap with offset”. What do you mean by that and what were your primary goals when you developed the press?
Offset print volumes are in decline yet offset remains the benchmark for quality, speed, paper choice and long runs. But offset cannot print variable content and struggles to economically print small quantities as press runs have become shorter and more targeted.
Many inkjet presses using competitive DOD print heads allow for variable printing of transaction documents and some simple direct mail and books. But they fall short of offset quality and cannot print on glossy papers – or if they can it’s with very expensive inks at slower speeds. Hence they are too costly to use for many short and medium run applications. This is what we identified as the gap with offset.
In order to close the gap, we designed and built a revolutionary new inkjet press that offers offset quality at a speed of 500 fpm (150 mpm), can print on glossy papers with high ink coverage at top speed, and achieves a higher run-length cross-over with offset for low cost production.
2. How does PROSPER ULTRA 520 fit into Kodak’s existing line-up of PROSPER inkjet presses?
The existing line of PROSPER presses is based on the proven, high-speed KODAK Stream Inkjet Technology. These presses have changed the market for high speed commercial production moving to digital and are focusing higher volume applications of up to 20 million A4 images per month and above.
The PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press is powered by KODAK ULTRASTREAM Inkjet Technology, which is Kodak’s fourth generation continuous inkjet technology. With this latest addition to Kodak’s inkjet press portfolio, we are targeting printers that would have print volumes around 10 million A4 images per month.
3. For what kind of application is the PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press an ideal choice?
PROSPER ULTRA 520 is ideal for a broad array of static and variable content printing applications. The press is available in two versions: PROSPER ULTRA P520 is targeted at transactional and transpromo printing, publishing applications and commercial print up to moderate ink coverage. The P520 has two dryers per side of the web. PROSPER ULTRA C520 is the perfect choice for the production of direct mailers, inserts, catalogs, promotional brochures and books – even those with high ink coverage on coated papers. That’s why the C520 has four dryers per side of the web.
4. The web-fed digital press category is the most crowded inkjet market. What makes you so confident that Kodak can win here?
What’s unique with PROSPER ULTRA 520 is its capability to provide the highest image quality by utilizing ULTRASTREAM Inkjet Technology, comparable to 200 lpi offset screening, but at an affordable cost. In addition, the press is able to do this in a production environment with speeds of 500 fpm (150 mpm) or more than 2,000 A4 pages per minute and high ink coverage on glossy substrates. That’s something no one else in the marketplace can offer, so PROSPER ULTRA 520 has outstanding prospects in the competitive environment.
5. How do the achievable overall quality and the colour gamut that can be reproduced with your inks on PROSPER ULTRA 520 compare with offset?
PROSPER ULTRA 520 uses one low-cost CMYK ink set for all papers, even glossy. Kodak’s proprietary ink pigment milling process means the press delivers a 95 per cent larger gamut than SWOP offset and can match 93 per cent of Pantone colours (within 4 dE). This enables PROSPER ULTRA 520 to print vivid images with vibrant colours, reliably render the CMYK offset gamut, match brand colors and exceed customer expectations.
6. PROSPER ULTRA 520 is Kodak’s first digital press to employ ULTRASTREAM Inkjet Technology. What specific advantages does ULTRASTREAM have for customers?
ULTRASTREAM takes our core continuous inkjet technology to the next level, enhancing the quality by increasing the resolution to 600 by 1800 dpi, but also decreasing the ink drop size. The result is an image quality that’s equivalent to offset, 100 per cent digital but running at production speeds. What adds to that is the capability of Kodak’s inks. Our water-based nanoparticulate inks offer printers an exceptionally large colour gamut and optimum drying efficiency.
7. In what ways is ULTRASTREAM superior to other inkjet technologies like DOD in high-speed production printing applications?
KODAK ULTRASTREAM provides the ultimate in line straightness, highlights, detail and colour fidelity as well as consistency over long runs. Ink drops are created faster than DOD and this allows just one array of print heads to print the full 520 mm width at 500 fpm or 150 mpm, unlike DOD systems that must slow down and / or add extra print heads.
Drops travel to the paper faster than DOD and this targets them exactly for better quality. Moreover, drops are round and precise, unlike DOD that creates misshapen drops and extra satellite drops, leading to jagged edges on text and lines and less sharp images. And unlike a number of rival presses, PROSPER ULTRA 520 does not need to print spit bars and colour lines between jobs in order to avoid nozzle clogging.
8. Why do your inkjet solutions rely on water-based inks? Don’t they make drying more difficult, particularly with high ink coverage on coated papers?
Kodak’s inks have lower levels of humectants than the competition. That means faster drying, even with high ink coverage on coated and glossy paper substrates.
Correspondingly, PROSPER ULTRA 520 features a proprietary intelligent drying system using near infrared technology. This drying solution combined with our low humectant inks are the key to printing heavy ink coverage on glossy papers at the press’s top speed.
9. Why did you design PROSPER ULTRA 520 for a maximum print width of 520 mm? After all, larger widths would also be possible with ULTRASTREAM.
The maximum print width of 520 mm (20.5 inches) allows for a wide variety of imposition formats consistent with traditional offset presses. That ensures seamless compatibility with sheetfed offset presses in B2 and B1 format as well as with any post-processing equipment that printers already have installed. This print width also plays a part in PROSPER ULTRA 520’s compact design and small footprint and, not least, contributes to its competitive investment costs.
10. Paper is the largest variable cost in any print job. How does PROSPER ULTRA 520 help customers keep their paper costs under control?
PROSPER ULTRA 520 offers various features that help printers keep their paper costs low. The press can print on inkjet-compatible substrates at full speeds. Cost-effective standard offset papers can also be run on PROSPER ULTRA 520 with an optional inline pre-coater.
As the press does not need to print spit bars and colour lines between jobs to exercise the print heads, there is no paper and ink waste from printhead maintenance. Furthermore, the press employs Kodak’s Intelligent Print System, which continuously monitors and optimizes stitching, colour-to-colour and front-to-back registration. This also helps avoid costly paper waste.
11. High-speed digital presses, which are typically expected to produce a large number of relatively small, segmented or VDP jobs, place special demands on the digital front end’s performance. What does PROSPER ULTRA 520 offer in this respect?
Press controls and job management are handled by the KODAK 900 Print Manager, which is based on extremely efficient hardware. The digital frontend employs the state-of-the-art ADOBE APPE 5 RIP and runs the press at peak performance with easy set-up, make-ready, and a sophisticated job queuing system. The system accepts all the leading file formats such as PDF, PDF/VT, and AFP and supports connectivity to JDF/JMF compatible prepress and finishing systems. Furthermore, an optimized interface with KODAK PRINERGY Workflow maximizes production efficiency and data security. These features ensure optimum integration of PROSPER ULTRA 520 in today’s production environments.