Author Archives: Noel Ward

Certifiably Green

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What makes a company “green?” Anyone will admit that printing is hardly a poster-child for green industries, but there is still a lot to be said for ways of making printing greener than it is often thought to be. A lot goes into this: paper, recycling, ink and toner, energy, chemistry and more. Technology is on our side. Printing can be much cleaner and more sustainable. And just this week, two companies have rolled out their latest steps toward a more environmentally responsible printing industry

First up is Océ. Maybe because of its roots in the Netherlands and Germany, Océ has long taken an approach of environmental sustainability, well before it was fashionable. Numerous components of the company’s print engines have typically been re-manufactured rather than simply thrown away. Even its factory in Poing, Germany recycles heated and cooled air to reduce energy costs. Various features of its print engines and toners have been developed with sustainability in mind. Other equipment vendors have adopted similar policies, but Océ has always been a bit more vocal about this company-wide commitment.

Two new alliances, one with Certified Green Partners and another with Trees for the Future are the centerpieces of the company’s new Eco Start program aimed at  helping customers be more aware of, and proactive about the environment and their own businesses.  The most interesting part of this, which I’m looking forward to seeing first hand, is the Eco-Calculator, which predicts the carbon emissions of any Océ production printing system and calculates the number of trees that must be planted to offset its emissions. The calculator is designed to help customers evaluate the energy consumption and resulting carbon footprint of their Océ-powered print operations.

This is linked to Océ Eco Start Program. Through a partnership with Trees for the Future, Océ will plant trees to offset carbon emissions generated by production printing equipment purchased by Océ North America customers during the equipment’s first year of operation to help customers get started with a full year of carbon offsets. Imagine if more companies in our industry  took  their own versions of this type of leadership.

Then there’s Mohawk, which just today sent me a packet of new papers from their Mohawk Loop line. This is a comprehensive family of recycled and environmentally preferable papers. All made with 100% post-consumer waste, these offer a genuine environmental “pedigree,” if you will, and look to have the quality, variety and performance that should make them a good choice for designers with clients who want to extend their environmental stance to many types of printed materials. According to Mohawk, the new line is FSC-certified, manufactured using windpower and is carbon neutral.

In an age when print is declining in popularity and when some factions claim it is anything but environmentally sustainable, it’s wonderful to see actions like those announced this week by Océ and Mohawk. Other firms have their own initiatives and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.


Digital Print for the Greater Good

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With the economy staggering along like an arthritic, three-legged dog on serious drugs, most companies have cut back or eliminated many of their “community outreach” programs of social responsibility. This has left countless organizations that depend on the generosity of corporations feeling the pinch and cutting back on the programs and services they provide.

Happily, at least two companies in the printing industry are still fighting the good fight and are maintaining or have initiated programs that reach beyond their corporate walls and do so using digital printing technology. One is Océ, through its four-year-old Future Authors program in Palm Beach County, Florida, and Xeikon’s efforts at Print 09 in support of the fundraising activities of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Both firms have used their technology in ways that go beyond putting ink or toner on a page and deserve recognition for doing so in a time of economic stress and pressure.

Other firms in our industry are doing similar things, but these are the two that hit my radar most recently. If you know of other good examples please let me know. It’s high time that companies that do good are recognized for it.

Brand building and PRINT 09: Océ’s Inkjet Evolution, Part 5

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Last time we talked about ways Océ is helping customers build business with inkjet technology and how market acceptance of digital print quality has changed. Today, in the final installment of this interview, Mal Baboyian talks about how Océ is changing the way it presents itself to the market at big venues like PRINT 09 and gives us a glimpse of what the company will have on display in Chicago.

NW: Océ used to show only its high speed production presses at shows like PRINT or Graph Expo, but at recent shows you often have one or two wide format machines on hand. Why the shift?

MB: Océ has one of the broadest product lines in the industry covering the office, wide format, display graphics, and production printing. But even customers in these segments weren’t always aware of our other offerings and capabilities and didn’t necessarily think of Océ when they needed a different type of equipment. Having a wider range of equipment at shows strengthens our brand by showing the full scope of our offerings and helps position Océ as a leader in more segments of the printing market. We also share some technologies across the different divisions of the company and are always looking for ways to leverage what we know. As I mentioned, our inkjet experience in wide format aided us in developing the JetStream family. Many of our customers had no knowledge of Océ’s breadth of solutions in the office, production printing and wide format segments. And many of them have needs in more than one segment .
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Adding Volume to Match Capacity: Océ’s Inkjet Evolution, Part 4

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As we saw in part three of this interview, Océ’s history in both toner-based and inkjet printing gives it good credibility as it rolls out its new inkjet systems. Still, for most print service providers, having equipment with a lot of capacity is only part of the equation. That capacity needs filling and profitability is still a basic business requirement. So, I asked Mr. Baboyian, what does Océ do to build capacity and help print providers get a bigger share of their customers’ wallets?

NW: OK. This is all good, and many printers I talk with see inkjet as having a lot of potential. But the thing they all say concerns them is being able to fill up a significant portion of the capacity of these machines. How is Océ addressing this and helping customers make the transition into inkjet?

MB: That’s a great question, and it really all comes down to applications and the importance of printers understanding their customers. When we first introduce a customer to the JetStream line we learn about all the applications they are running, who their customers are, and look for all the applications that make the most sense to print on a JetStream. For example, we know there are many jobs, especially in direct mail and transactional shops, that require preprinted forms. We’ve done the math, so we know that simply shifting these forms to inkjet adds a lot of volume to the press and will save the printer’s customer a lot of money. But as you know, that can a difficult conversation for some printers to have with their customer. So we provide the support our customers need when they introduce JetStream to their customers. We can help to explain the technology, answer questions, and show them, based on their current printing costs, how eliminating pre-printed forms can make a substantial difference in their business.
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Leveraging a Legacy: Océ’s Inkjet Evolution, Part 3

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In the second part of this interview we heard more details about Océ’s new JetStream 1000 inkjet press, how it fits into the market, and about print quality on inkjet systems. In today’s installment, Mal Baboyian talks about how Océ, with its legacy of toner-based printing is making the transition and commitment to inkjet.

NW: Mal, most people probably don’t think of Océ as having a history in inkjet printing, yet you’ve introduced several models of the JetStream family in a bit over a year and a half. But you haven’t done this on your own. Tell me about the alliance with Miyakoshi that has led to the JetStream line.

MB: Let me answer that in a couple of steps. First, Océ actually has developed a lot of inkjet technology and provided innovation and industry leadership in a number of markets. Our first inkjet products came to market almost 15 years ago. The wide format side of the company has been very successful and has the leading market share in some segments of wide and superwide format printing. Some machines, like the Arizona line of flatbed printers that can also print roll-to-roll, have won awards for innovation and quality. Last year at drupa I’m sure you saw our CrystalPoint solid toner technology which can be jetted onto a wide variety of substrates. At GraphExpo 2008, the Océ Colorwave 600 with Océ CrystalPoint technology won a Must See ‘Em award and this product has been recognized once again for PRINT 09 with a Must See ‘Em Encore award. Océ R&D developed and we manufacture these products. Of course, these wide format machines address a different market and at lower speeds than a production press, but the underlying knowledge of inkjet technology, chemistry, color, and material science has been very instrumental as we developed the JetStream family.

Second, our relationship with Miyakoshi is very much a strategic alliance that draws on the strength of both companies. Miyakoshi is a well-known offset press manufacturer that was developing an inkjet technology. We’ve brought our expertise in inkjet, color management, controllers, security, and error recovery systems for high-speed, high-volume digital printing. The win-win is that JetStream is built like a press for heavy duty use, our SRA MP [Massively Parallel] front-end can handle every aspect of the data in full color, and can be easily integrated into any PRISMA-based system as just another print engine.
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Size and Quality Matter: Océ’s Inkjet Evolution, Part 2

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In the first installment of this interview series, Mal Baboyian, president of Océ North America’s Production Printing Systems division shared some details about Océ’s new JetStream 1000 inkjet press and talked about the company’s reasons for bringing it to market. Today he provides more detail on the machine and talks about quality, one of the key issues for any type of digital printing.

NW: What kinds of applications will you be showing on the JetStream 1000 at PRINT 09?

MB: The JetStream 1000 prints everything in a single pass, so much like our VarioStream 7000 and 8000 family of toner-based presses, adding MICR is really just business as usual. At PRINT we’ll be running a number of apps using MICR printing and showing how trans-promo statements printed on the JetStream 1000 meet all newly announced regulations and are CPSA compliant. We’ll also be running full color books and a newspaper application that shows how inkjet can be a real fit for the changing shape of the newspaper industry.
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Océ’s Inkjet Evolution, Part 1

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Océ’s Mal Baboyian talks about the company’s move into inkjet printing

There’s nothing like a talking at length with an industry exec to get a better understanding of how a company thinks. And it’s especially important when a company is leveraging its legacy to adopt a new technology. Consider high-speed inkjet printing, one of the hottest topics in the industry today. Most major equipment vendors have significant programs for development and marketing inkjet machines that have the versatility and print quality to be compelling replacements for electrophotographic systems and even begin to intrude into the realm of offset presses. Océ has been one of the most aggressive in bringing new inkjet presses to market. It’s JetStream family posits a significant shift for the company which is an established player in continuous-feed toner systems. This makes me kind of curious, so I called Mal Baboyian, president of the company’s production printing systems division in Boca Raton, Florida to get the story straight from the top. We wound up talking for a long time and in this extensive, multi-part interview, Baboyian explained Océ’s vision for the market and shared what the company will have at PRINT 09. Watch for this interview to unfold here on Digital Nirvana over several days.
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Looking for Mr. GoodPrint

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This article original appeared at WhatTheyThink.com.

About a dozen years ago I was at a trade show in San Jose, California, eavesdropping on two printers who were peering at prints from a big full-color digital press.

“You can tell it’s toner,” said one.

“Yep,” sighed the other, shaking his head with resignation, “It behaves like toner.”

Unimpressed, they wandered off.

I wonder what those two guys are thinking today. If they are like many of the people Gartner talked with in the course of its latest research on print quality, they may be saying something quite different.

Gartner has just completed a study of some 443 production print managers in the U.S., France, Germany, and the UK that provides convincing evidence that, for the first time, long-held preferences for offset printing have been up-ended. The companies contacted included financial services, insurance, utilities, communications carriers and retail enterprises, as well as print service specialists. Respondents were production print operation managers, senior-level managers overseeing an operation, or had responsibility for production print hardware and/or software purchases. The documents their operations produce encompassed bills and statements, direct mail, insurance documents, and book, magazine and newspaper printing. In the estimation of these print professionals, offset’s dominance has been superseded by digital printing’s quality and value for the money. As Peter Basiliere, a Gartner research director closely involved with the study, said to me over breakfast when we discussed the study, “2009 officially marks the beginning of offset printing’s long decline.”

The study was designed to provide unequivocal evidence about the perceived differences between the four main printing technologies. In one of its primary questions, the telephone survey asked respondents to rate the image quality of toner (dry ink), liquid ink (HP-Indigo), ink jet, and offset printing on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 was “Poor Quality” and 7 was “Excellent Quality.”

Overall, the data show survey respondents think toner not only provides better image quality than offset printing, but offset comes in last among the four technologies.

Toner: 5.68

Liquid Ink: 5.40

Ink Jet: 5.24

Offset: 5.17

“With 443 respondents, differences of as little as 0.10 are statistically meaningful,” explains Basiliere. “The much smaller sample sizes commonly found in other surveys require a much greater difference in order to make a valid statement about the results.”

“The difference between toner (and, to a lesser extent, liquid ink) and offset is particularly significant,” he continues. “Ink jet is preferred over offset, but only by a slight margin, so those two are basically on a par. This means ink jet technologies still have a ways to go before there is a significant perceived quality difference compared with offset printing.”

There were some notable differences by country. France, for instance, preferred liquid ink over dry toner and had the least affection for offset printing. German respondents on the other hand — perhaps predictably– had a different take, preferring offset over digital printing by a wider margin than other respondents’ preference for digital over offset. Gartner thinks the difference may be in part attributed to the legacy of German print service providers using locally manufactured offset presses such as Heidelberg, Manroland or KBA, all capable of producing very high-quality printing.

But Basiliere thinks that perception may shift before much longer. “Germany is very environmentally conscious,” he says, “They are concerned with recycling, limiting waste, and reducing costs. And they’re interested in more color. I think we’re going to see a shift in Germany toward greater acceptance of digital as run lengths get shorter, and the capability of digital to print on a wide variety of substrates continues to improve. The quality is already there, it just has to be accepted by German printers and their customers.”

Image quality may be the most obvious measure for print providers, but value is a close second. Using the same 1 to 7 scale, respondents said digital printing, particularly with toner, provides the best value for money.

Toner: 5.58

Liquid Ink: 5.29

Ink Jet: 5.23

Offset: 5.13

Perhaps predictably, this trend was reversed in Germany, where the offset preferring respondents had a much-lower regard for digital printing’s value.

On average, color accounts for about 40% of all pages printed in respondents’ operations over the past two years, a share they don’t expect to change during 2009. Because of the mix of documents that the responding companies produce are biased towards transactional and direct mail, color growth may in fact be flat in this time of economic uncertainty. Whether this is true for graphic arts, where color is expected, is a deeper question that doesn’t seem to be addressed in this study.

In my opinion the data, with a sample of 443, is pretty much bulletproof. However —and this is a fairly big “however”— the companies surveyed are more involved with high volume production print than the “graphic arts” types of applications targeted by iGen, Indigo, Xeikon, and NexPress owners. This means the data does not necessarily reflect the opinions or experiences of users of those machines. But when you consider that many print providers with such devices have come to use their digital and offset presses interchangeably based on press availability, turnaround times and internal economics, it would seem that while Gartner’s data does not specifically address the graphic arts side of the market, it certainly confirms that the tide has turned and that offset is merely on the mountain, not at the top.