Ricoh last week opened its Customer Experience Centre at its factory in Telford, representing the next phase in the company’s drive to be the dominant player in production digital printing.
The 4,000sq m facility will offer training and proof of concept testing for customers and distributors and houses the full range of cutsheet and continuous feed digital presses. This includes the new VC60000 inkjet press which has been in beta and is now open for orders, the Infoprint 5000 inkjet press and both new sheetfed devises, the Pro C 9110 and Pro C7110. It also includes wide format inkjet presses that Ricoh has started to produce at a rate of 120 a month.
“This is the next phase in the development of the Ricoh Production Printing Group,” Peter Williams, executive vice president of Ricoh Europe declared at the opening. “This shows the breadth and depth of our capacity worldwide.”
Previously European customers would have had to travel to Boulder in the US to see the continuous feed machines in a neutral setting while cutsheet presses might be seen in the Feltham location, this office is moving to Staines.
Tadashi Furushima, corporate vice president, Ricoh Company Ltd, performs the official ribbon cutting.
The Telford factory was started in the mid 1980s as a plant to assemble presses for European customers from components shipped from Japan. It began with office products, but since 2008 has been building the production print machines, gradually pushing the office equipment to Ricoh’s French factory. The plant now employs 700, includes a toner production operation, full remanufacturing capability – including for the InfoPrint 4100 web presses – and an inkjet lab. It is also the media testing and profiling location for Europe. All customer presses are tested before shipping, reducing installation times on site.
It is the combination of manufacturing and demonstration facilities that Ricoh believes delivers the powerful message. It certainly allows customers to configure workflows and run jobs on the presses and finishing equipment using their papers and files and to test these configurations. “This is not a showroom, it is a shared manufacturing facility,” says Williams.
But the company’s plans are built on more than this. “We believe we can tackle the barriers to growth in digital printing, whether quality, capital cost, running costs or applications,” says Williams. “We believe that with the new products and solutions will significantly reduce the barriers to entry for digital.
“We are on the cusp of a new dawn in growth for digital and we have the people, the skills and the desire to grow.
“The cost performance of the VC60000 will have a significant impact. Having listened to our customers, we believe our system has the correct balance between high level image quality and afford price in capital and per image cost.”
Ricoh’s production print operation has been growing at a compound rate of 40% since the entry into the production print sector in 2008 and achieved a 50% share of the colour print markets it operates in in the first half of this year according to Infosource figures.
The technology is backed up by a suite of workflow tools, including a digital to offset price comparator to calculate the switch point between the technologies, Avanti’s Slingshot MIS into Europe and PTI’s Marcom Central to drive digital pages to the presses.
These are headed by the VC60000, a two across inkjet web press running at 160metres a minute at a resolution of 12000dpi and using Ricoh stainless steel piezo heads and Ricoh ink. Cost per equivalent page will be lower than with the IP5000, though the capital cost is higher. While the new press comes with an IPDS driver, this is a machine for the commercial print market not for transactional or transpromo printing.
An undercoating device which applies a water based coating to the web before printing enables the VC60000 to print on conventional offset papers, included coated materials. Testing is underway to establish profiles for the papers it works with with a target of ten complete papers by the time of commercial availability next spring. A post print inkjet applied coating offers a scratch and scuff resistant layer.
A graphic arts interface and software to optimise the use of paper by batching similar jobs in one production file, underlines the way that Ricoh is positioning the press. “We are convinced we are able to do much more to help the shift from offset and deliver applications for inkjet,” says Benoit Chatelard, head of marketing for the continuous feed sector.
The Pro C9110 offers 110ppm or 130ppm throughput of paper to 400gsm using a split image and fusing engine with a lower fusing temperature and so able to run a wider range of material types. Packaging as well as direct mail, books and other commercial applications are the target.
The Pro C7100 is configured at 80 or 90ppm and has a five toner station to be used for clear toner or white, a first in this class of machine. It will print in textured media up to 360gsm, and also on synthetics thanks to the toner which fuses at 20ºC lower than current toners.
This press is undergoing beta testing at Easibind in Heanor ahead of the commercial introduction in the first part of next year.