Many companies will play their cards close their chests over months heading into Drupa, which is now less than a year away. Not so Riso. The Japanese company is quietly moving to mainstream applications thanks to inkjet.
The company is still best known for Risograph duplicator technology that offers a simple and low cost replicating system. However, the company is quickly climbing the ladder with a printing technology that retains the simple and low cost approach but which is productive and while not threatening high quality production, is acceptable in an increasing number of markets, books as well as transactional.
At Hunkeler Innovation Days in 2017, Riso introduced the T2 inkjet press. This raised eyeballs because few would have anticipated Riso sitting in exalted company alongside the likes of Canon, HP, Ricoh and Kodak. This year Kodak was missing, but Riso was back. This time it had the T1, a 520mm wide web press, to show.
This is aimed at transactional applications, printing with water based ink on uncoated stocks and at a price point of €500,000. At the point that some of the larger inkjet press providers are chasing commercial print, Riso is planning to nibble at their transactional print lunch.
The press attracted plenty of attention and that was the intention. The comments and feedback from visitors were gathered and will be fed back to Japan so that when the machine is unveiled at Drupa, it will be very interesting indeed. “This is still under development. We are hoping to learn what customers and other printers think about the product. And it seems that many of them like the small footprint,” says overseas marketing manager Yasuo Sangawa.
There is no pretence that Riso will be matching the larger companies. The press is pitched at companies that are already running a white paper transactional print room and which need a back up machine, or are taking a first step from mono overprint to a standalone colour press. It is pleasing colour that is very much fit for purpose, rather than litho matching quality, which these applications do not need. The web press will be suited to short run book printing.
Quality is not poor. It is a 600dpi machine running at 42m/min so nor is it slow. It is going to be for short to medium print runs, printing books as well as transactional documents. And at a low total cost of ownership.
The company has been heading in this direction in recent years. Riso can track its history to 2 September 1946. It can be dated with this precision because the date happens to the birthday of company founder Noboru Hayama. He started work on a duplicator that quickly became such a success that it is one of the few businesses to give its name to the segment of technology it works in: Risography.
The Risograph was launched in 1958, two years after introducing the emulsion ink that is key to the machine.”These were two of the foundation stones for our growth and success as a print technology provider,” says Tatsuo Murakami, UK managing director.
“Today we are a global company with systems that have broken new ground when it comes to harnessing the speed, economy and flexibility of inkjet printing. Our UK operation opened in 1992, and the newly opened Centre of Excellence is yet another milestone for us in our ‘ideal’ journey as we can support our customers through training, product application testing, and of course ROI on their technology investment.”
The duplicators find their way into all manner of places with a requirement for simplicity and robustness. Forty years ago the Print Gocco became a hit as an in-home printer and nine years later the Risograph 007 reached the market. This was a self contained unit for making the master stencil as well as printing from it. This became Riso's “printing robot”, a hands off, low cost and simple to operate system which was shipped around the world.
The same year, 1986, Riso started its first overseas operation in the US. Other locations followed and the company is now present in 26 countries. And the developments have continued to come: the V8000, the first two-colour duplicator and three years later in 2003 the HC, its first high speed colour ink printer.
Ten years ago the company came up with the first ComColor cutsheet inkjet press. This has made commercial printers sit up, releasing Riso from the basement, the supplies room and school administrator’s office, applications which have not been overly demanding and lower cost than photocopying.
Today ComColors can be found alongside heavyweight inkjet presses especially in transactional and direct mail printers where the Risos are used for ultra short runs and to print the envelopes, letters and packs that have been rejected earlier in the run. Users can opt for the 120ppm FW ComColour or the 160ppm GD 9630. And now there is the twin-engine duplex T2 model producing 320ppm.
The quality is good enough and the reliability of the inkjet technology means that in many places operators prefer to run the ComColor than a toner device. Spectrum Graphics, on the Kent/London border, has invested in the 120ppm FW5230 ComColor, where Dave Norris says: “The Riso is an incredibly reliable printer that gets on with the job. That’s exactly what you need in this business, because deadlines have to be met and your customers have to have confidence in what you can do.
“Print is a low margin business, so it is all about speed of turnaround and quality of service. We have to be able to respond, and the Riso enables us to do that. It has opened up new markets and revenue streams for us.”
Spectrum bought the press to produce some of the low value work that the company handles as it is cheaper to run that its more conventional digital presses. And it quickly found that the inkjet machine was ideally suited to printing four-colour envelopes and NCR sets, neither of which are suited to other types of digital printing. “And we certainly can’t print window envelopes on our other digital presses, so we had to put this work out.
“We will also use the Riso for some simple products where we do not need the highest quality. This would include some straightforward forms where quality is not needed nor paid for. We find there’s no point in typing up another digital press. What we get from the Riso is fit for purpose.”
The simplicity of the ComColor makes it a very reliable machine with almost no engineer call outs. It is a case of an operator pressing a button and, other than checking it has paper and that sheets are removed, it will run unattended. “It just doesn’t go wrong,” says Norris.