Dutch commercial printer Zalsman has doubled on webfed inkjet production just as two years ago the company doubled up on long perfecting Komoris.
However, while the second Komori installed in 2017 was akin to that installed in 2011, the Ricoh inkjet press that arrived last summer is a different beast to that the company installed in 2015. Then the flagship press was the Pro VC60000 with priming and post print coating stations. Last year it became the first in the world with the Pro VC70000 with ink that works directly on standard offset papers and which is three times as productive as the first machine.
It is not so much about replacing litho printing at the family owned business, but about making print technology agnostic. Herman Verlind, CEO of Zalsman, says the company was confident when it took delivery of the first inkjet press, confident that it was the solution the company then needed. “Looking back, I couldn’t help smiling,” he says now. “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Working from reels is quite different to the flexibility we were used to as sheetfed printers. Selling it proved to be more difficult than anticipated.
“There were times we seriously questioned what we had done. We had to tackle quality issues, drying issues, problems in finishing with marking on the papers we were using. When we changed papers it improved and being able to print on gloss coated papers proved the real challenge.”
Four years on, however, the company that started in 1857 has invested in a second machine. This is located alongside the first in what was a new building erected to bring separate operations together on a single site. Its digital arm had grown to be six cut sheet toner machines, so the additional capacity from a web fed press seemed obvious. The goals were simple: “We wanted to offer the same product, the same substrate, regardless of technology,” he says.
It fought through the teething issues with support from Ricoh in Europe, the US and Japan. It was crucial that the installation be a success. And the perseverance has paid off. “Today it is printing two or three shifts and the stability of the press is outstanding,” says Verlind.
He says success factors are a combination of ink film, drying capacity and speed. Each factor can affect the print quality and when Ricoh came up with a new formulation for the inks, there might be a step back in terms of that balance in order to move forwards. The big step forward came with the introduction of an external dryer in 2016 which meant that speed became the key issue to commercial success “more of an issue that quality”, Verlind recalls “as the market for this grew putting lead times under pressure”.
The answer was another press, but not more of the same, but based on a technology that the Zalsman team had glimpsed in Boulder on a trip to Colorado in 2017. That machine had a new design of drying unit that could cope with heavy ink coverage on 250gsm materials.
The new machine is a definite step up again. It is as productive as a 15,000sph B2 sheetfed machine, though not as fast as its B1 presses. It is better able to cope with shorter print runs and according to Verlind “the stability is better than offset”.
“The need to find a compromise between ink, speed and drying capacity is a thing of the past. As far as we are concerned this is the machine to make the breakthrough into commercial printing. We have run gloss and silk coated papers from 90-300gsm. We think that high speed inkjet is the solution for the trends we see in our market: decreasing run lengths, shorter time to market, though it is about the end to end workflow and having a very effective finishing solutions as well as the press.”
By Gareth Ward