American Printer – Interview with Randy Vandagriff, Senior VP of Print on the brand new KODAK PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press

1. Kodak describes PROSPER ULTRA 520 as “the press that closes the gap with an offset”. What do you mean by that and what were your main goals in developing the press?

The offset printing volume is declining, but offset printing remains the benchmark for quality, speed, paper selection and long runs. However, offset cannot print variable content and has difficulty printing small quantities economically as the runs have become shorter and more targeted.

Many inkjet printers with competitive DOD printheads allow for variable printing of transactional documents and some simple direct mail and books. However, they are not of offset quality and cannot print on glossy paper – or, if they can, very expensive inks at slower speeds. Therefore, they are too expensive to be used for many short and medium term applications. This is what we identified as an offset gap.

To fill this gap, we designed and built a revolutionary new inkjet printing machine that offers offset quality at a speed of 150 mpm (500 fpm), can print on glossy papers with high ink coverage at top speed, and has a longer run. Crossing the length with offset for cost-effective production.

2. How does PROSPER ULTRA 520 fit into Kodak’s existing range of PROSPER inkjet printers?

The existing PROSPER press series is based on the proven high-speed KODAK Stream Inkjet technology. These presses have moved the high-speed commercial production market to digital and are focused on higher volume applications of up to 20 million A4 images per month and more.
The PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press is powered by KODAK ULTRASTREAM Inkjet Technology, Kodak’s fourth generation of continuous inkjet technology. With this latest addition to Kodak’s inkjet printer portfolio, we are targeting printers with a print volume of around 10 million A4 images per month.

ULTRA 5203. For what type of application is the PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press an ideal choice?

PROSPER ULTRA 520 is ideal for a wide range of static and variable content printing applications. The press is available in two versions: PROSPER ULTRA P520 is designed for transactional and transpro printing, publishing applications and commercial printing up to moderate ink coverage. The P520 has two dryers on each side of the web. PROSPER ULTRA C520 is the perfect choice for the production of direct mailers, inserts, catalogs, advertising brochures and books – also for those with high ink coverage on coated papers. That’s why the C520 has four dryers on each side of the web.

4. The web digital press category is the busiest inkjet market. What makes you so confident that Kodak can win here?

The special thing about PROSPER ULTRA 520 is the ability to use ULTRASTREAM inkjet technology to achieve the highest image quality, comparable to 200 lpi offset screening, but at affordable costs. Additionally, in a production environment, the press can do this at speeds of 150 fpm (500 fpm) or more than 2,000 A4 pages per minute with high ink coverage on glossy substrates. No one else on the market can offer this, so PROSPER ULTRA 520 has excellent prospects in the competitive environment.

5. How can you compare the achievable overall quality and the color gamut that can be reproduced with your inks on the PROSPER ULTRA 520 with the offset?

PROSPER ULTRA 520 uses an inexpensive CMYK ink set for all papers, including glossy papers. Kodak’s proprietary ink pigment milling process means the press delivers 95% more color gamut than SWOP offset and can match 93% of Pantone colors (within 4dE). This enables PROSPER ULTRA 520 to print vivid images with vivid colors, reliably render the CMYK offset gamut, match brand colors and exceed customer expectations.

ULTRASTREAM6. PROSPER ULTRA 520 is the first Kodak digital press to use ULTRASTREAM inkjet technology. What specific advantages does ULTRASTREAM have for customers?

ULTRASTREAM takes our core technology for continuous inkjet printers to the next level and improves quality by increasing the resolution to 600 x 1800 dpi, but also reducing the ink drop size. The result is an image quality that corresponds to the offset, is 100% digital, but runs at production speed. Added to this is the performance of Kodak inks. Our water-based nanoparticulate inks offer printers an exceptionally large color gamut and optimum drying efficiency.

7. How is ULTRASTREAM superior to other inkjet technologies such as DOD in high speed production printing applications?

KODAK ULTRASTREAM delivers the ultimate in straight lines, highlights, details and color fidelity, as well as consistency over long distances. Ink drops are generated faster than DOD. This way, only one row of printheads can print the full 520mm width at 500 fpm or 150 mpm, unlike DOD systems which slow down and / or need to add additional printheads.

Drops get on the paper faster than DOD and this is precisely aimed at them for better quality. Additionally, drops are round and precise, unlike DOD, which creates misshapen drops and additional satellite drops, resulting in jagged edges on text and lines and less sharp images. And unlike a number of competing presses, the PROSPER ULTRA 520 does not have to print spit bars and color lines between jobs to avoid clogging the nozzles.

8. Why are your inkjet solutions based on water-based inks? Don’t they make drying more difficult, especially with high ink coverage on coated papers?

Kodak inks contain fewer humectants than the competition. This means faster drying, even with high ink coverage on coated and glossy paper substrates.

Accordingly, PROSPER ULTRA 520 has a proprietary intelligent drying system with near-infrared technology. This drying solution, combined with our low humectant inks, is key to printing a strong ink coverage on glossy papers at the fastest speed of the press.

9. Why did you develop PROSPER ULTRA 520 for a maximum print width of 520 mm? Ultimately, larger widths would also be possible with ULTRASTREAM.

The maximum print width of 520 mm (20.5 inches) enables a variety of imposition formats that are consistent with conventional offset presses. This ensures seamless compatibility with sheet-fed offset printing machines in B2 and B1 format, as well as with all post-processing devices that have already been installed by printers. This print width also plays a role in the compact design and small footprint of PROSPER ULTRA 520 and, not least, contributes to the competitive investment costs.

10. Paper is the largest variable cost in a print job. How does PROSPER ULTRA 520 help customers keep their paper costs under control?

PROSPER ULTRA 520 offers several features that printers can use to keep their paper costs down. The press can print on inkjet compatible substrates at full speed. Inexpensive standard offset papers can also be produced with PROSPER ULTRA 520 with an optional inline precoater.
Since the press does not have to print spit bars and colored lines between jobs to train the printheads, there is no waste of paper and ink when maintaining the printhead. The press also uses Kodak’s Intelligent Print System, which continuously monitors and optimizes sewing, color-to-color and front-to-back registration. This also helps avoid costly paper waste.

11. High speed digital presses, which are normally expected to produce a large number of relatively small, segmented, or VDP jobs, place special demands on the performance of the digital front end. What does PROSPER ULTRA 520 offer in this regard?

Press control and job management are handled by the KODAK 900 Print Manager, which is based on extremely efficient hardware. The digital front end uses the state-of-the-art ADOBE APPE 5 RIP and runs the press at maximum performance, easy setup, preparation and a sophisticated queuing system. The system accepts all leading file formats such as PDF, PDF / VT and AFP and supports connectivity to JDF / JMF-compatible prepress and finishing systems. In addition, an optimized interface to the KODAK PRINERGY workflow maximizes production efficiency and data security. These functions ensure optimal integration of PROSPER ULTRA 520 into today’s production environments.