Océ’s Inkjet Evolution, Part 1

By | August 25, 2009

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.

NW: Mal, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. I want to start with inkjet. Océ has a lot of market share in electrophotographic printing, with some very fast machines. Even so, you’ve been adding inkjet systems over the past year and half. Why add inkjet to the mix?

MB: It’s good to talk with you, Noel. Toner-based printing can do a great many things and do them really well and we’ve been very pleased with the leadership we’ve shown in that market. However, as the market continues to evolve, our customers are asking for ways to deliver more performance in both speed and color at a reasonable cost. While we intend to continue providing leadership in continuous feed toner based printing, we believe the next evolutionary step in meeting the needs of high-speed, high-volume digital printing will be inkjet. Inkjet allows for much faster printing while reducing the operational cost per page for both color and monochrome printing. Over the past two years, we have expanding our inkjet product line into the broadest in the industry, including offerings from the new Océ JetStream 500/1000 with the industry’s smallest foot print up to the JetStream 2800 printing at 426 ft. per minute with a 30” print width. At Print 09, we’ll be adding some new and exciting JetStream models to the family, so stay tuned!

NW: I agree that inkjet will be playing an increasing role. What does that mean for Océ as a leader in electrophotographic printing? How do you see the mix of presses in the market changing?

MB: Print providers have always invested in equipment that fits the needs of their customers. At Océ we think of toner and inkjet as complimentary technologies which can be selected based largely on the application and run length. Inkjet is a great fit for longer runs and for capturing offset transfer for applications such as statements, books, newspapers, catalogs and many types of direct mail. Toner, both cut-sheet and continuous-feed, fit some of the same markets at lower print volumes. High speed inkjet for the production print market is still a relatively new technology, and as printers and their customers become accustomed to it, we envision successful shops will use both inkjet and electrophotographic presses to meet their customers’ needs. Our intention is to provide ongoing innovation in both markets and capture a leadership share in inkjet as we’ve done successfully in continuous feed. Inkjet also offers now some new functionality at a very high volume. For example, with inkjet customers can now print applications in a single pass, eliminating preprinted forms and with Océ’s integrated MICR, eliminate separate check runs.

NW: The new Jet Stream 1000 and other JetStream models also offer MICR printing capability, making them the only inkjet presses to use MICR ink integrated into the engine. While some analysts say MICR is a dying technology, at least two of your competitors have stated that MICR capability is being developed for their inkjet systems. Why does this technology remain so important, and how do you see your customers using it?

MB: This is a great question. When we introduced the first JetStream press in 2008 customers were very interested in the speed and color capability but one of the first things they asked was, “Will it print MICR?” So we knew there was demand, but of course conventional wisdom said that MICR inkjet wasn’t possible. But our R&D teams were able to develop it as an integrated part of the system, and we’ve also added a sixth color to the JetStream 1000. So the new JetStream 1000 can now print CMYK, MICR and a spot color, significantly opening up the color gamut print providers can choose from. We were very proud to be recognized by Xplor as the 2009 Innovator of the Year for our MICR solution. In fact, the MICR technology we’ve incorporated into the JetStream has helped one of our customers, Direct Group, earn CPSA [Check Payment Systems Association] certification, meaning the output meets all recognized security standards. That’s a first in the industry.

I think the fact that some of our competitors are attempting to develop MICR ink actually validates the importance MICR has in the transactional printing market. Because so many of our customers require MICR in their key applications we believe it will be an important requirement for years to come. When you think of all the different types of checks that are printed as well as other transactional documents that require additional security, MICR is still the proven and trusted technology. What makes our solution even more unique and valuable is the ability to integrate MICR into a regular print run, not as an afterthought. Some of our newer customers believe this capability will revolutionize their business model and dramatically change their print cost structures.

Baboyian’s comments give some insights into the thinking going on in Boca, as well as at Océ headquarters in Venlo, The Netherlands and Poing, Germany. But as Océ brings its newest inkjet system to market, what sets it apart from the rest of the JetStream family and competing machines? Stay tuned for the next part of this interview coming up in a day or so.

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2 thoughts on “Océ’s Inkjet Evolution, Part 1

  1. Marc

    Great news about Oce’s foray into inkjet printers. However, HP, Xerox, Oce & other manufacturers have all missed the boat on the lower end of the market. For example, there is a huge market for an A2-cut sheet inkjet printer for around $250,000 or less. But all these huge printers they come out with are $1million plus, and most printers will continue to stick to Offset. Inkjet Digital is great, but it has to be affordable.

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