05 April 2020 Digital Printing Technologies

Canon takes aim at litho to digital transition

Having found a niche with its first cutsheet inkjet press, Canon is aiming at a larger market with a more powerful machine.

Canon is introducing a version of its cutsheet inkjet press that it believes can take on all commercial print jobs, up to 10 million A4 pages a month.

The VarioPrint iX320 was due for launch at Drupa, but with the postponement of the show, Canon has pressed ahead with announcing the new model rather than wait nine months to the revised dates for the exhibition. It has already shown the press in late prototype form at an open house in Venlo several weeks ago and has identified the first user, who will receive the press in the next few weeks, coronavirus permitting. First UK installations are anticipated in the second half of the year.

The press follows the same design as the i300 which established a new mark for cutsheet inkjet printing in direct mail, transnational and book printing where ink coverage is limited and the appeal had been to increase output over Canon’s toner machines. The same strategy applies to the next machine in the portfolio, but with the ability to print higher coverage jobs. It will appeal to the existing user base and to new customers, says Canon.

This is the result of a combination of new inks, IQuarius quality monitoring, ColorGrip priming fluid and a new drying system. Much of this has been proven on the ProStream continuous feed inkjet press. The same Kyocera 1200dpi printheads are used along with ColorGrip to provide a consistent surface for the inks to adhere to, expanding the range of substrates that the i300 could address.

Pigment particles are encased in a polymer shell and suspended in water. The inks are dried by passing the sheet around a heated drum to remove water and dry the ink, followed by a hot air section to melt the polymer shell and fix the ink to the surface of the paper. A third step is a cooling section to bring the paper back to ambient temperature. Canon calls this InkFusion, enabling "a giant leap forward in terms of colour and application flexibility".

This allows the press to cope with coated papers to 350gsm at the rated speed of 9,000 sheets an hour simplex, to give a production rate of 5 million sheets a month. In order to achieve this, a printer would need to be operating for more than 20 hours a day during the month.

The press is offered with four paper bins each able to hold 4,500 sheets of 80gsm to give a capacity of 13,500. Each bin has four trays able to hold different substrates and weights with a conditioning unit to ensure paper entering the press is in a consistent condition, flat and with a consistent gap to the sheet ahead. Any sheets that do not conform can be rejected.

The first step is printing the ColorGrip conditioning fluid using a 600dpi printhead to reach only the part of the sheet that will be printed. The print area has three printheads per colour to print across the 350mm sheet. Instead of withdrawing the printheads into a protective capping station when running mono only, the colour inks are in continuous motion, combining with a prefire technology to keep nozzles clear with an automatic clean and purge when switch back to full colour printing6.

It prints with 2pl or 5pl droplets, with quality systems to monitor nozzle performance and make adjustments on the fly, using a neighbouring nozzle when one is blocked for example. Droplet size and position is also checked and adjusted automatically to minimise down time. An automatic cleaning routine every three-and-a-half hours of operation keeps the printheads in top condition without operator intervention.

The company will introduce the new press with options of going to flat sheet delivery or to inline finishing.

Canon hopes to appeal to customers who have reached the production limit of its cut sheet toner presses as well as to printers using other technologies wanting to stay with the SRA3 format with increased capacity and an uptime that Canon says has reached more than 90% on the existing i300.

The company has sold more than 260 of these machines worldwide along with the entry level i200. These will continue as they are targeted at a different sector of the market.

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Canon's iX320 cut sheet inkjet press will enable printers to tackle high coverage commercial print jobs on a wide range of papers and builds on the success of 250 installations worldwide of the i300 presses.

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