21 January 2018 xDigital Printing Technologies

Konica Minolta prepares for the next stage of inkjet

After a year of active marketing, sales of the KM-1 B2 inkjet press are beginning to climb, and Konica Minolta is preparing for the next stage in development.

Konica Minolta has notched up 30 installations of its KM-1 B2 format inkjet press and sales in the pipeline will take that base to 50 machines in the next six months, says head of market development Mark Hinder.

There are none of the UV inkjet presses in the UK, though Komori has installed its IS29, essentially the same machine as the KM-1, at Lexon Group in South Wales. A KM-1 is currently being commissioned in Poland and another is headed to France.

This is on course for sales projections, says Hinder. Consequently the Japanese manufacturer is comfortable with progress so far and is now looking at the possibility of introducing a B1 format press and how it might increase the throughput speed of the machine. “If we could go to B1, it would open new streams and applications for us,” he says. “And we need to consider ways to go faster than 3,000sph.”

The company has taken a measured approach to sales, each taking almost a year to complete. “We are very very controlled in what we do, measuring everything and working with customers on a continuing engagement and working with them afterwards. Trying to increase productivity and automation is the next stage.

“Our customers want to do more: they want to gang jobs and want to use more substrates. They tell us we have created the Swiss Army Knife of print. It provides designers a lot of scope to look at innovation in print because the substrate now becomes a fifth dimension for print.”

The use of UV inkjet opens the way to printing on plastic, either prepared through a corona treatment or left untouched. In the KM-1, the ink is heated to reduce its viscosity and as it travels from head to substrate, cools rapidly so there is no absorption into the substrate as it hits the paper, even before curing.

There is currently no white ink, though this has not prevented some customers producing work on clear films. Otherwise the imaging technology results in a wide colour gamut, close to that of KM’s High Chroma printing, according to Hinder, that for many applications is replacing special colours. The process is also providing consistency and accuracy of printing.

“From what we see from users so far, 40% of output is marketing collateral, which is being transferred from offset or other digital presses. Direct mail accounts for 30%, exploiting the wide pace choice and larger formats than are possible on continuous feed presses. Some of the users have created some unique mail pieces from the KM-1, and because the UV ink is rub and scratch resistant, the output is suitable for direct mail without needing a protective coating.

“Book covers are 15% of output, where the cope on paper handling has proved important. There has been a lot of work on textured and uncoated papers, particularly on porous substrates. 10% of the jobs are business cards, using the ability to print double sided and 5% is currently for carton work.”

This will require further inline operations and at the customer experience centre in Tokyo, KM has fitted the demonstration press with a bridging unit from UK manufacturer Rollem. This will take a finished sheet from the proofing delivery and guide it into one of Rollem’s own slitter cutters or a coating line from Harris & Bruno.

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KM-1 in the field

KM-1 in the field

Konica Minolta has installed 30 of its KM-1 B2 inkjet press and expects to take this total to 50 machines in the next six months. It has also developed a bridge to automate handling of printed sheets in collaboration with Rollem.

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