CPI's enthusiasm for inkjet favours partnerships with major players. CPI, HP and Timsons collaborate on novel book printing concept.
The black and white model of the production inkjet web press from HP has been available since the second quarter of 2009. Previously, the colour version of the newest generation HP Inkjet Web press with a width of 914 mm had already generated much interest at the latest two drupas.
Two technologies are at the heart of the dig¬ital web press: SPT (Scalable Printing Technology) and Edgeline. The SPT technology allows for fast printing of longer runs. It can accommodate bigger print heads with more nozzles. As for the Edgeline technology, it combines the advantages of inkjet and laser printing (electrophotography) in one print engine, allowing for high productivity printing environments. The 10,560 nozzles per printhead and a bonding agent that keeps the pigments on the surface of the substrate contribute to the print quality and productivity of the press.
In the autumn of 2008 another major development was announced: the partnership between HP, CPI and Timsons that will bring monochrome digital print production to the world of book publishing.
The interest of CPI
CPI is a multinational book printing company that produces over 500 million books annually. It provides print services for more than 2,000 publishing companies that are spread over 17 countries. It has facilities in five European countries. Although the company has no facilities in North America, it is prepared to meet any need that may arise.
Bernard Kieffer, Technology and Supply chain Director for CPI Group, explains the thought process that led to the partnership with HP and Timsons. "CPI did some studies to see how the market would develop. It became apparent that all the market segments of monochrome book printing with run lengths from 200 to 3,000 copies were set to undergo major expansion in the future. The other segments were stagnating or decreasing. Moreover, within this range of 200 to 3,000, there were no real tools for production. In fact, nowadays publishers order 5,000 copies instead of the required 2,000 or 3,000, resulting in a return rate and wastage of up to 25 to 30% of a print run.
"Over two years we examined several technologies and created financial models for each technology. In the end, the ink jet model was more robust than the xerography model," declares Mr. Kieffer.
Staggered print head arrangement
Slow inkjet machines were not a via¬ble economic solution, and CPI convinced HP that the monochrome segment was just as important as colour. Already in partnership with HP and Timsons, CPI approached the manufacturers and asked them to adapt the press to its sector. "Thanks to our print volume we were at the crossroads of everyone's requirements, which enabled us to talk to the different players and bring together the technologies to meet the requirements of the publishing environment", adds Bernard Kieffer.
At a crossroads
The meeting point was in Montréal. Robert Legault, based in Quebec, is a consultant to the president of CPI. He has held various positions in information technology and is rec¬ognized in the industry for his expertise in trends and his broad curiosity. He is in some sense a product of the universal workplace. "I have been working with international groups for 15 years and I've noticed that industrial requirements are identical, irrespective of location. The big international challenges are availability, due to time zones, and respect for local values. And a lot of availability was needed with CPI in Paris, HP and Timsons on the west coast of the United States and me in the middle!"
Robert Legault's role was to monitor the technology and bring the right players to CPI. Once he had found out about HP's patented Edgeline technol¬ogy for multifunctional devices, he persuaded HP to adapt it to the book market. As CPI was already Timson's largest client, the company believed that this technology was valid. Robert Legault presented the technology to CPI and brought together the best possible players using his consultancy expertise together with his contacts and knowledge of what's happening all over the world.
Next generation monochrome web press
Robert Legault has declared that this collaboration project between CPI and HP, following its partnership with Timsons, is one of the greatest achievements of his career. "It is true, because this is the result of 15 years of technological convergence. Nowadays, digital is everywhere in our production processes. Efficiency and reliability have finally been combined in a digital web press and it allows CPI to realize its dream of offering short run lengths at an affordable unit price for clients.
"In addition, I had the opportunity of uniting two world leaders, HP and Timsons, the biggest manufacturer of book production presses in the world. These two groups maximize our chances of success."
The new web press uses a print engine that is based on HP Edgeline technology. Thanks to this technology the price per page and production cost make digital printing competitive compared to an offset web press on print runs of up to 3,000 copies. "We also needed to be able to rely on a partner who could guarantee a reliable finish, as the secret lies also in the ability to create a well-finished product, and in this sense, Timsons is the undisputed leader in publishing circles", comments Mr. Legault. He points out that the HP Inkjet Web Press offers variable cutting and collating on the fly. "The very design of the press means that it can be upgraded, as the Edgeline technology will allow for higher speeds to be reached and for wider web widths. In addition, with Timsons, the press has gained more versatility and flexibility in terms of development, ensuring the quality of the outgoing product", adds Mr. Legault.
He says that Timsons, which has adapted over the years to changing technolo¬gies and has specialized in the publishing segment, saw the emergence of inkjet as unavoidable. "Timsons therefore said that it would prefer to be part of tech¬nological evolution rather than suffer as a result of it", observes Mr. Legault. "CPI is likewise an expert on the requirements of publishing houses (papers, bindings, various consumables, etc.) on a global scale who can ensure the optimization of the quality of books", interjects Bernard Kieffer.
The machine is currently under production and CPI will be the first company in Europe to buy the press. It will be the first in the world to have a monochrome version of the HP Inkjet Web Press, which was originally designed by HP for the colour transpromotional segment. This new web press, accompanied by a set of parts and peripherals, has benefited from the expertise of CPI, which stated its speci¬fications given that it has clear knowledge of the requirements. "We guided Timsons during the production of the specifications in order to optimize the configuration of 200 to 3,000 copy run lengths and ensure a high level of industrial performance. This was important, as CPI will be moving offset print runs over to digital and anticipates annual volumes of a million copies," says Robert Legault.
"At the moment, the workflows are not entirely digital and the anticipated increase in the number of small print runs also involves an increase in production. It is therefore important to automate the prepress workflow as much as possible", feels Mr. Legault. "HP's new web technology eliminates makeready and the variable cutoff length eliminates the need to control the format. Collating will take place electronically at industrial rates. Output is currently much lower than in offset, but in 2 to 5 or 10 years' time, the speed will increase and the press will be able to run 24 hours a day. A bit like the world, offset has seen a power build-up over the last 30 years", he predicts.
The future of inkjet
According to Bernard Kieffer and Robert Legault, the power of digital (inkjet or xerography) lies in the possibility of obtaining a variable image in contrast to digital technologies that produce a fixed image. "The option of imaging on fixed plates or cylinders was not viable as the problem in the world of book printing is reducing the length of generations. If, for example, there are 18 signatures, which require 18 different makereadies and 18 collating processes, the process is cumbersome.
The digital book finishing equipment from Timsons will be installed in line with the stitcher or heat sealing machine, or quasi in line, depending on local requirements. Mr. Legault points out that there are other so-called "short run length" finishing solutions but their output is currently too low. "Many people feel that it is easy to put several finishing devices in line, but putting machines of the current and future power of the HP press in line with existing finishing equipment would create a bottleneck as their output will be too low. It is important to ensure that the different components do match," he says.
According to Bernard Kieffer, CPI will not revolutionize prices, but will allow publishing houses to decrease their risk. "A publisher can split his order in half to limit his risk, so a normal order for 5,000 can be done in two stages, if necessary. If the book sells well, the publisher can reprint very quickly. On the other hand, if the book doesn't do as well as anticipated, the publisher has reduced storage and cash flow problems. This allows for enormous economies of scale", he explains.
"We know that the HP Timsons financing model will stay the course today, and later on with larger run lengths. Digital technology greatly reduces fixed costs and replaces them with a form of variable costs, as digital ink is more expensive, but the break-even point is higher in comparison with the other financial models we looked at", comments Mr. Legault.
CPI has great confidence in inkjet given the hundreds of patents filed in the last two or three years. The group believes that this technology will move the boundaries of offset on the basis of quality, production cost and robustness. "The addition of the Timsons equipment will make our HP web press an industrial model that is equal to our current web presses", claims Mr. Legault.