New technology a rising star in printing, says Deignan of OKI
Why would we want to print in white? After all, we have been getting on fine with just leaving the paper blank since old Gutenberg’s time? That has certainly been part of the reaction OKI has been getting worldwide since it launched its unique new five-colour printing process earlier this year. The answer is that it will prove highly valuable in the graphic arts market, opening up a huge range of creative design possibilities in printing on coloured surfaces. That fifth colour can also be a clear gloss or white, again opening up print finish combinations that were previously either impossible or involved specialist techniques such as lacquering or silk printing.
The breakthrough technology now comes in the OKI ES9541 digital five-colour printer, which is A3 and uses the LED print technology that has been developed and led by OKI for over two decades. LED has been an alternative to laser in the printheads used in the electrophotographic printing that has come to dominate most business print in that time. That is why this class is more properly described as ‘page printers’ rather than laser. Laser systems rely on elaborate combinations of rotating mirrors and lenses that must remain in alignment through use. The laser scans from one end of a line to another, then zigzags down to the next line.
LED technology uses a Light Emitting Diode (LED) printhead as a light source within the imaging device. Unlike laser systems, the LED printhead is solid-state and has no moving parts. OKI also has a straight-line paper path (Single Pass Colour) that is less susceptible to jams when feeding heavy stock, envelopes or labels. Some other advantages of LED generally include:
- Smaller dot sizes mean highly accurate output
- Multi-level shading for superior print quality and clarity
- LEDs have no moving parts and are ultra-reliable
- LED is smaller and more compact, using fewer material resources and energy
These virtues are particularly important in the high quality graphic arts field, which often involves digital short-run, print-on-demand work. Another feature of this market is the use of unusual or specialised media such as high gloss paper, film, transfer paper and waterproof paper.
The OKI ES9541 also offers high-speed output in A3 or smaller sizes, with 50ppm in CMYK colour or mono. White printing can run at 45ppms or more and clear gloss printing is 18ppm. It can take media from A6 to SRA3 and also, like most OKI printers, it has the option of straight-through printing of banners up to 1.3 metres long. Another important element of versatility is that this printer can take paperboard and other media of up to 320gsm. It can even print duplex with sheets up to 320gsm.
These virtues of LED printheads and SPC are particularly important in the high quality graphic arts field, which often involves digital short-run, print-on-demand work. Another feature of this market is the use of unusual or specialised media such as high gloss paper, film, transfer paper and waterproof paper
Despite all this high performance and versatility, the OKI ES9541 is an affordable solution with low running costs and long life print engine. It also uses separate toners and drums to optimise usage across the many colour combinations that are now possible.
This new A3 printer is aimed at the professional market and a new revenue stream for designers and print shops, replacing the very high cost niche printing solutions that would have been required for similar output in the past. In one sense the range of applications is only as limited as the imagination of the users. But we are already seeing some healthy demand for applications such as high quality proofing for design review and short run jobs such as printing on coloured paper, retail and other signage (on plastic and transparent media as well as paper), T-shirt print with transfer paper and general promotional and merchandising print.
The business use cases for white and clear gloss print are currently in work such as high quality catalogues, manuals and photo books. We are also starting to see graphic designers utilising the unique five-colour capabilities to create stunning, high impact marketing and presentation material.
All in all, we believe this new class of digital five-colour printers is a versatile new output device that will create its own market niche as designers and print shops learn to make use of its unique capabilities. Would it be too mischievous to suggest that we will know for sure when our laser printer competition seeks to follow us? If they can.
Martin Deignan is country manager of OKI Ireland.