The Space Between: RISO Nails the “Business InkJet” Niche

by Sean O’Leary

The transition from electrostatic/toner printers to inkjet printing continues apace, with few observers doubting that inkjet platforms will prevail in the long term. The latest generation of production inkjet presses from Xerox, KM, and Ricoh are faster than toner-based (EP) machines and generally cost less per page for the same job. As for the color accuracy question, once the accountants and customers take a good look at total benefits, it turns out that inkjet color quality is pretty much fine at this point in the game.
The problem, of course, is that high volume production inkjet presses are very expensive investments. Relative merits aside, the current selection of high end machines carry price tags from the upper hundreds of thousands to multiple millions of dollars. That’s a lot of money for any commercial print provider. As Editor@Large Noel Ward discussed in his March article, there are any number of parameters that need to be considered before a jump from EP to high volume inkjet. Or, as Captain Obvious might say: not everyone can afford one of these babies or can keep it busy.

As is always the case with disruptive technologies, timing is of the essence. For the past few years and for the foreseeable short-term, this will be one of the essential ongoing conversations for mainstream commercial print providers.

But it isn’t the only conversation.

A Less Expensive Parallel Universe?
Running alongside the toner to inkjet discussion is another track, staked out by RISO, a Burlington, MA –based digital printer manufacturer. Following the release of the ComColor Express RS 1100CRIP for the company’s ComColor FW inkjet printer line, this would seem to be an opportune time to consider this particular path into the digital future.

RISO’s alternative high speed inkjet universe offers the benefits of high speed full color inkjet but the neighborhood is less expensive.
Recall that high speed or “production” inkjet has its roots in transactional printing – black and white business documents such as checks, invoices, financial statements and insurance policies. The emphasis of course was high volume and low cost. With ever more agile VDP driving customization, marketing content such as graphs and advertising was not long in coming.

What RISO has done with its line of ComColor inkjet printers is to expand the ambitions of the transactional printing space with affordable highlight and full color. RISO is clear about the color capabilities on their printers. It’s good. They don’t try and compete with the more expensive machines. And they and they provide a sample booklet so you can see for yourself. In most cases, a civilian would say: “looks fine to me.”

ComColor inkjet printers allow PSPs to move beyond transactional printing into a market space that might be called business inkjet. This space includes material such as direct mail, brochures, handouts, flyers, newsletters and so on. We could say that the impact of this print category is enhanced by spot color or even photographic images, but the color accuracy is not particularly a factor in the perception of the viewer. It is an ideal entry level print technology, for example, for a printer looking to ease into mailing services, but capable of producing booklets and marketing collateral as well. Think political handouts but not necessarily fashion catalogs. Real estate bulletins but not necessarily limited edition prints.

These machines also make sense for in-plant scenarios, universities, banks and other institutions that are unlikely to take on the capital expense of a heavy production inkjet system. In terms of initial investment, some models compare favorably to a black and white toner system. Ultimately, speed, cost and the ability to run variable data remain the key attributes of this printer niche, with the addition of color without breaking the bank is a powerful plus.
According to RISO, this level of performance is very much connected to their proprietary ForceJet inkjet print engine. The printers deploy 24 in-line Piezo drop-on-demand fixed print heads across the paper path. Because piezo heads generate no heat, the ComColor line produces cold flat dry output, ready to go direct to finishing.

The more advanced models are rated to produce up to 160 ppm. In fact, the T2 ComColor printer model is claimed by RISO to be the world’s fastest cut-sheet A3 inkjet printer, outputting 320 A4 sheets per minute in duplex mode. The bottom line, of course, is that the RISO line costs way less to buy and operate than production inkjet models.

A New and Improved Front End
Released in January 2019, The ComColor Express RS1100C RIP was developed to further automate variable data workflow, particularly transactional printing. The new software front end offers functions such as dynamic tray calls, subset finishing, mixed paper types and slip sheet sorting. Form overlay allows variable data to be overlaid over previously registered forms, while color profile registration is designed to streamline workflows and increase overall productivity.

Deployed astutely, RISO’s high speed inkjet printer line would seem to be a solution that transcends labels such as entry level or interim. Or, as RISO Director of Corporate Marketing Andre D'Urbano puts it: “We are not about replacing toner in the sense that high end KM’s, Ricoh’s, Canon and Xerox do. Instead we complement the units currently on the printshop floor and help migrate monochrome jobs into the color arena.”


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