GI Solutions has more experience of inkjet than most, starting out with Scitex heads inline on its web offset presses. Then four years ago it invested in the Screen Truepress Jet 520 as one of the first generation inkjet presses for colour printing. It bought two of what was at the time the standard bearer for inkjet quality.
This was adequate for transactional work, replacing the need to print with litho and overprint to add variable data. However, despite testing various papers as they became available, offset quality has remained elusive.
Investment in two HP T230 webs did not readily alter this balance, but now the Leicester company has installed the latest PageWide T490 with HDNA (high definition nozzle architecture) print heads and chief executive Patrick Headley believes that now GI Solutions can achieve the dream of replacing litho work with inkjet print.
The new machine is 100cm wide, double the width of previous inkjet presses and as wide as a 16pp web press. The HDNA print head adds a row of ultra fine nozzles between the staggered line of standard nozzles makes the difference. By firing much smaller droplets in combination with the standard sized inkjet droplets, print quality is improved by making colour transitions smoother and subtle colours more accurate.
It is HP’s latest update to a technology that has been around for almost six years. The HDNA heads were first discussed two years ago and were trialled at Rotomail in Italy beginning 12 months ago.
“This is a press that is double the width, double the speed,” says chief executive Patrick Headley. “We now have a full variable press with a fully variable finishing line. We no longer need to fit the product to the press, we can make the press suit the product.”
The finishing equipment is coming from Vits and will arrive in February. This is akin to a special products inline finishing system used on a web press with the key proviso that imagination is not limited by the cut off length of the press. It will open a new range of possibilities for GI Solutions designers and its customers once the line is up and running.
It has been installed as the marketing pendulum swings back in favour of print, the result of falling response rates to email and other digital messaging. Print has gained new traction as a medium that achieves the responses needed. “Print is almost the new digital,” he says.
In the meantime the company is getting used to the new press, understanding the papers it suits and how to gain the best from it. Headley says: “This is for litho applications. We have two T230s which are superb for transactional and data driven mail which can be combined into the same envelopes. The new press takes us into litho replacement work even if we are not planning to replace the web offset capacity at the current time. It will be about selecting the right technology for the job.”
Equally the company is not planning to update its current litho capacity. Growth in acquisitive direct mail is going to come from the new wider, higher quality inkjet press and through the ability to personalise and customise direct mail applications. This is a market which is growing for the business, buoyed by a growing volume of evidence that by addressing the right offer to the right person at the right time “the propensity to buy goes through the roof” says Headley.
That message can include variable content in the form of images changing for each addressee, response coupons, web addresses and so on as well as the invitation letter.
“Previously personalisation was only about the letter which didn’t always work for people. Now we can vary all kinds of artwork and images in any style. It gives us the ability to do anything we want to do,” says Headley. “Because we have the fully variable finishing line, we no longer have to fit the product to the press.”
That includes printing on coated papers, litho stocks included, making the inkjet press ideal for taking on work that would normally be produced with plates and blankets. In the period before signing for the press, GI Solutions ran extensive tests on different papers, adding coatings to augment the image quality where needed. It means that the applications continue to be refined, Headley is happy that GI Solutions is working with what he calls “a proven mature technology”.
“We can run litho stocks at full speed,” he says. “And that is more than a little exciting.”
It will be fitted inline to a fully comprehensive Vits finishing system which enables the company to break with the constraints of design around a fixed cut off.