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THE POSSIBILITY OF HANDLING short-run, on demand and customized four-color printing on digital printing presses has been an exciting issue since the advent of the Heidelberg GTO-DI in 1991 and, even more so, since the arrivals of the Indigo E-Print 1000 and the Xeikon DCP-1 presses at IPEX in 1993. With substantial refinements to those products and the debuts of some additional ones expected at the upcoming Drupa show, interest was especially high in two Seybold Seminars sessions on the topic:
* User experiences, particularly as they related to handling variable or customized print jobs. This focus was chosen because it has long been touted as one of the key advantages digital printing presses and as a capability. with the potential to help make print more targeted and therefore competitive with other forms of information delivery media in the future.
* Workflow issues relating to digital printing and what companies can do or have done to reengineer their workflow processes to accommodate digital presses.
Market survey cites innovation as motivator
John Zarwan from State Street Consultants, a market research and product planning company specializing in the graphic arts, reported preliminary results from a "work-in-progress" study. Thus far, State Street has interviewed 70 users of digital presses, including 60 in the U.S. and two in Europe. They covered Heidelberg GTO-DIs, Agfa Chromapresses, Indigo E-Print 1000s and Xeikon DCP-Is.
The survey asked users about their motivations for buying digital presses, how they handle new-business generation to keep the presses running, overall benefits they have achieved, how their customers feel about the technology, typical print runs, and profitability vs. pricing. It also solicited comments on consumables, maintenance and a wealth of other issues.
The strongest factor motivating buyers to date is the urge to stay on top of what they consider the future of printing, to become an early adopter and pioneer. Many color trade shops and imaging service bureaus believe that digital printing is a logical step for them and their clients; many feel they need to do this to survive as their traditional business disappears or changes.
Digital press owners are also interested in offering their customers the advantages of fast-turnaround color printing and have found that customers are willing to pay extra for short runs. In the future they hope the technology will help them work with their customers to develop targeted marketing pieces using the inherent variable data and customization capabilities of the machines.
Comments from the four digital press users who made presentations about their experiences supported this conception of buyer motivation.
Graphics Express uses Chromapress. Rick Dyer, president of the Graphics Express service bureau founded in 1988 (84th on Inc magazine's 1994 list of the fastest growing privately held companies), said he was clearly motivated by a desire to innovate. Far from its humble origins as a walk-in service bureau, the company now provides a wide range of services, including high- quality drum scanning, film separations, Canon color copier output, presentation graphics, and digital video production and postproduction. Other departments include an interactive services group for developing multimedia work and a digital printing department.
Dyer wanted to enter printing--and digital printing in particular- both to leverage his company's existing digital infrastructure and to provide new services. His Agfa Chromapress, installed for about seven months, fit into the company"s existing digital workflow and fulfilled the need to satisfy his requirements.
Moore expands with Indigo, Xeikon. Moore Business Forms, represented by Mark Kilgore, vp of marketing and business development, has been involved with ink jct and toner-based digital printing on volume-oriented web presses for about 20 years. The company, which became a beta site for Indigo in 1993, also has Xeikon presses for color work and Xerox DocuTechs for black-and- white printing. It views digital color printing as a complement to its other printing and database management services, as wall as its worldwide digital infrastructure. The company, with 100 manufacturing locations in 59 countries, also has a joint venture with Toppan Moore in Japan and a digital printing facility in Amsterdam.
KP pioneers with Indigo, Toyo. KP Corp., formed in the 1960s, specializes in developing, implementing and managing information delivery systems customized for transporting client information to whatever output medium the client wants. Represented by Greg Goldman, project manager for digital color printing, KP has been evolving from a traditional commercial printer to a full-service graphic communications company in the past five to seven years. It currently employs 500 people in 14 facilities in California, Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Washington.
In software publishing, KP works with developers to manufacture their documentation and disks. It provides CD replication, packaging and registration cards, as wall as warehousing and distribution. Its goal is to help clients reach the audiences they are trying to address--a goal that could be served well by digital color printing.
In addition to pioneering in demand color printing, KP is cooperating with Toyo Ink, the exclusive distributor for indigo in Japan, Southeast Asia and Australia, to develop marketing and manufacturing strategies for itself and for Toyo as it sells digital presses in its own markets. Toyo, which was interested in benefiting from KP's experience in on-demand, black-and-white printing, is hoping to understand better how on-demand printing puts constraints on the print manufacturing process as a whole.
Port-to-Print picks Xeikon. Jim Devine of Port-to-Print, who spoke during the workflow session, said his company wanted to become involved with digital …