Yesterday, 8 May 2018, we met with Thijs van Thienen, product manager at Océ/Canon in s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, to discuss aspects of the company’s print offering. As an interesting aside, Océ – a Dutch company – holds the patent for adding colour to margarine, changing its actual grey grey to a more consumable yellow. It was from these origins that the company moved into developing chemical processes for blue printing technology, then into toner based copiers and finally into digital printing technologies using a mix of ink-jet and toner. Océ and Canon joined forces in 2009 to combine their printing activities.
Canon/Océ have broad digital printer offering, catering to different sectors of the market, all of which use inkjet technology, toner printing, or a combination of both. According to Thijs, Océ/Canon sees inkjet technology specifically as the future of digital printing. Inkjet printing originated in the 20th Century and the technology was extensively developed in the 1950s. In simple terms, inkjet is a form of digital printing that reproduces digital artwork by propelling droplets of ink onto a variety of media. Inkjet uses Water-pigment based polymer inks, which sink into the paper as opposed to sitting on the surface, as is the case with toner based printing. This means that inkjet printing on paper more closely represents offset printing and is not subject to the problem of shine that is characteristic of toner based printing.
Thijs introduced us to three principal Canon/Océ inkjet printing product offerings. The first of these is the Océ ProStream™ 1000 Inkjet Press series. The ProStream™ is a WEB fed digital press. WEB refers to the larger paper rolls used in high volume continuous printing applications, like newspapers, that were printed in offset. As a full digital offering, the ProStream™ series replaces a workflow that used to rely on pre-printed offset WEB roles (reproducing the consistent elements of a print job: company, logo, header, footer etc.) which were then loaded onto a digital inkjet press to reproduce the aspects of personalisation (customer name, contact details, direct marketing etc.) for a particular job. This process was slow as it required the different pre-printed roles to be loaded onto the machine between different jobs. As a fully digital WEB press, the ProStream™ allows for blank WEB roles to be loaded onto the machine regardless of the print application. In other words, the ProStream™ is a fully variable, on demand workflow eliminating the need for any pre-printing. To give you a sense of the ProStream™’s productivity, it prints at 80 meters of rolled paper per minute. These printers are aimed at a commercial market producing high volumes (the equivalent of two million A4s per month or more), offering excellent colour reproduction on specific media that is treated with an Océ product called ColorGrip that adheres the ink to the papers surface.
The Canon/Océ VarioPrint i300 is the company’s cut sheet inkjet print offering, focused on short run applications (500 copies or less). Cut sheet means that the printer uses cut paper sheets as opposed to rolls. B3 (353 x 500 mm) is the maximum sheet size used by this printer. Because the machine is sheet fed, it is possible to use a variety of papers on a single print job. While the i300 does print on uncoated paper, colour reproduction is better suited to coated papers, again, like the ProStream™ using Océ ColorGrip. It produces 150 full colour loose sheets per minute in duplex (double-sided printing) making it ideal for the production of short runs of books and magazines. With a binding machine added in line (glue bound and/or stapled) book and magazine production becomes fully automated, with all need for handwork eliminated from the process.
On the showroom floor at the Océ/Canon offices, Thijs showed us the Océ Arizona UV flat bed printer series. Again, these printers use inkjet technology, but are focused on printing display media. Display media covers a wide range of material. We were shown samples that included PVC, glass, concrete, wallpaper, fabric, Plexiglas, polystyrene and wood. The Arizona series are large format printers that work with either roles or cut sheet media. A growth area in this market is personalised interior design applications, printing custom wall coverings and fabrics.
In overview, Océ/Canon printers cover a broad section of applications using ink jet technology. As with all digital printing applications, the focus seems to be on developing technologies that save time without compromising on quality and minimising waste. Because inkjet technology is applicable to such a wide variety of media, which differentiates it from toner based technologies or Electroink technologies used in digital offset, it has a large part to play in the shape of future digital printing applications.