Will large format Memjet printers carve out new markets for Print Providers?

There’s been much talk about these new, superfast Memjet-type printers making a big stir in the marketplace and some have even called it “disruptive technology”. But let’s examine if these new LF printers will help print providers capture new revenue.

One thing we can say is that the arrival of Memjet single pass inkjet printheads in the wide format marketplace has certainly caused a stir. Many people are intrigued with this technology, but can a business case be made for these new printers and what is the reliability of these products.

What is Memjet Technology?

Memjet is an inkjet technology that uses a single-pass, page-wide inkjet printhead to print color CAD and graphics documents at remarkable speed. As the paper travels underneath it, 70,000 microscopic nozzles spurt ink all at the same time. The engine can print in two modes: 6 inches per second or 12 inches per second. That means it can output a D-size document (24”x36”) in full color in 2 or 4 seconds, depending on the mode.

Four manufacturers well known in the print industry offer versions of this Memjet-driven technology:  Canon/OCE, Xerox, RTI, and Xante. So let’s have a brief look at their offerings. All of the wide format Memjet devices use the same basic technology, a five-head array of Memjet printheads, but differ mainly in the number and type of media feeds, plus software offered.

CANON OCE ColorWave 900

The Océ ColorWave 900 large format color printer is ideal for a vast range of display graphics applications including: point-of-sale posters; exhibition and trade show materials; counter and floor displays; and technical drawings and maps. It is an attractive proposition for wide format print service providers looking to increase print production capacity and for commercial printers looking for a powerful – yet economical – way to explore new revenue channels.

This printer has a maximum print speed of 12,000 square feet per hour and has a 42-inch print width and the capacity for six 200 metre media rolls. Canon estimates that the running costs are less than 14 cents per square foot for ink, heads, and service, based on full coverage. The Océ ColorWave 900 lists for $160,000 US, and that includes the stacker and the RIP.

RTI Vortex 4200

This wide format printer targets several print applications, including CAD, AEC, GIS and point-of-sale graphics. Compared to traditional inkjet, the Vortex 4200 prints up to eight times faster for incredible job turnaround times and attractive total cost of ownership. Coupled with some of the most environmentally friendly inks available and very low power consumption, the Vortex 4200 wide format printer is not only fast, flexible and of premium quality, but also a friendly product for our environment. The MSRP of the RTI Vortex is $110,000 US; the RIP and optional stacker cost an additional $4,000 each.

XANTÉ Excelagraphix 4200 P Series

Xante has developed its Excelagraphix 4200 with a substantially different sheet-fed configuration for corrugated and carton board, and is pitching it at the short run and personalized packaging market. This 42-inch wide digital printing system brings speed, performance and affordability for short-run and variable data colour printing. The substrate support gives customers the ability to print indoor signage and design graphics through a simple print path height adjustment on the Excelagraphix 4200. The print speed, small footprint and price point of the Excelagraphix 4200 opens new business opportunities and markets previously unserviced by the packaging industry.

 

XEROX IJP 2000

The Xerox IJP 2000 is set permanently at the 6 ips mode because Xerox believes the market for output from the IJP 2000 is graphics applications, not CAD, and that the slower speed offers a better resolution. With the growing demand for large indoor posters, signs, point-of-purchase graphics and banners, Xerox’s new wide format IJP 2000 gives printers the extra speed needed to produce more jobs faster. The Xerox IJP 2000 lists at $143,000 US, and that includes the stacker and the RIP. Xerox estimates a cost of 16.5 cents per square foot at 100 percent area coverage. This cost includes consumables (printheads, ink, waste cartridge) and a service charge, but not media cost or hardware amortization.

Conclusion

While these printers have their limitations, there are no other digital print systems that even approach their speeds. These Memjet printers can do the work of ten typical inkjet printers, for approximately ten times the cost. This rapid printing comes at a cost because the high firing rate of these heads also wears them out quickly, so they need replacing often. The Memjet thermal heads are mainly limited to indoor print applications unless you laminate, which adds time and cost. Is a Memjet printer right for you?  It depends on the type of work that you do.  Investigate carefully since it’s a significant investment to make.

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