Mark Hinder is head of Market Development for Konica Minolta and for those who follow him on LinkedIn and other channels you find a professional with a great passion for the inkjet machine he represents. Konica Minolta introduced their AccurioJet KM-1 at DRUPA, and since then numerous installations have been installed globally.

At the recent Print Next 18 event in Stockholm, we got the chance to talk with Mark Hinder about KM-1, Dot Freeze Technology, Market and more – watch and enjoy these 10 minutes of knowledge and pure passion!

The AccurioJet KM-1. It’s now been a couple of years since DRUPA. We’ve moved on. We’ve got numbers of installations worldwide. Customers are really enjoying the exciting thing that UV inkjet can deliver. And I think where we found our ability to work with customers is proving dividends for them because they’re seeing good healthy returns. And that’s coming not only from the quality, because we are matching that offset quality. The sheet handling because it’s offset. The sheet size because we’ve got that larger than B2 sheet, which is allowing people to gang more jobs up, be highly efficient. Much more optimized to cope with the demands that businesses like theirs are feeling now in this changing economy and changing market that we’re in.

And that also is allowing them to push the boundaries because of the technology that we’ve got to move into new substrates. That’s things like plastics, oils, etc. And develop new market opportunity, so we’re into now things like loyalty cards, gifting cards, RFID is being inserted into them and all of this exciting new stuff that’s taking place.

So yes we’re experts at printing onto paper and onto standard traditional stocks, but we’re now experts now moving into those new substrates as well.

Interesting, well this is the difference between water-based technology, and I guess UV. The benefit of UV and what we’re doing where we now have this terminology called Dot Freeze. And Dot Freeze technology allows us to take that inkjet droplet, control the movement of the drop, so you’re not finding that you’re getting excessive doc gain. You’re not having to use expensive coatings or primers or anything like this. And that you’re in a situation where you can hold that dot exactly where you need it to be.

Clearly, drying is a big area that a lot of people talk to us about drying. What happens? What happens with the sheet? Do we have problems? Can we take the sheet straight off the machine and put it into our finishing devices? And that’s clearly … the R&D teams who have set this challenge not only come up with a fantastic technology when it comes to print quality, but also think about the complete end-to-end process. And drying, clearly, it gives its challenges, just be open with you. You’ve got paper, which is hydroscopic. You put too much fluid onto that paper, you’re going to have difficulties trying to control it. And that was one of the things that the team looked at, and a big consideration that they looked at when they developed Dot Freeze technology.

Well, Dot Freeze technology is unique. It’s patented to Konica Minolta and there’s three essential parts to that. You’ve clearly got the ink, which is our high viscosity HSUV ink. You’ve got the LED drying system, which comes in within the technology as well. You’ve got the inkjet heads, which are Konica Minolta’s and then you’ve got the whole process, which uses the IJ manager to control everything.

Those three components are essential to making sure that you not only get good quality out of the machine, but you get it reliably. We’ve been doing some tests recently as regards to run lengths and we’re seeing [inaudible 00:03:20] color shift across the page, and sheet to sheet, over run length of over 1,000, less than the one. Which is unheard of. This is new boundaries for inkjet technology and something which our customers are clearly benefiting from.

Clearly, plastics is slightly different, because you’ve got the dye level, so we have to make sure that the ink adhesion and that, so we’re using [inaudible 00:03:45] and we’re using primers in that area. But when it comes to the traditional offset, when you’re printing onto coated, uncoated, carton board, or whatever, we can do those without the challenge that perhaps some other people have where they need to control dot gain and they’re using primers or an expensive coating. So, we have the ability to print onto any standard offset material that’s out there, which means that when you go to change your process, perhaps you’re an offset printer today where you’re seeing run lengths come down, jobs increasing, and how’re you going to cope with that in a traditional, perhaps analog process, we can just move straightforwardly from your traditional move the analog out, put the inkjet in, with no then specialist concerns around, perhaps, the paper or substrate handling.

You’re raising a really good point and this comes down, again, to focus on the business. So, in the studies that we’ve done and the clients we’ve worked with, some of them are quite surprised where savings can be made. And if you look at it from the beginning, so you’ve got a job, I don’t know, the jobs are changing. Whereas before you may be printing 1,000, 1,500, 2,000, you may be shipping some surplus stock, which would be warehouser stored. Those days are long gone. Now, what’s happening is the run lengths are dropping, so that’s putting demands on how do you gang jobs up onto plates. How do you get your process server and your plate setter to produce enough plates to then feed onto your offset presses? All of those things need to be considered and the cost impact.

Then you go into the next bit, which is how do you take a job and optimize that job for inkjet? And that’s where we’ve got some clever software, which is looking at UCR, GCR, but also maintaining the standards, because the pigments and our ink itself is very, very stable, so we use that. So whilst the cost for the ink might be slightly higher, by using some clever technology, the actual cost per page is reduced.

Absolutely, we’re doing that, but also we’re looking at the value of the document. Because we’re looking at this in conjunction with other technologies that we’ve got, like MGI for instance, our strong partnership with MGI. We’re looking at how can we add digital foiling, digital varnishing, etc., on top of the KM-1 print. But also the value itself comes in what you actually want to achieve from the substrate. Because we have the ability to move onto heavy textures, calendered substrates, we’re now giving design advice as well. Why did you produce the brochure this way, when perhaps if the brochure could be slightly changed, use of different medias, then you have a more impactful brochure, which, by the way, you’re having to compete with digital, online mediums as well. So the more you can attract, the more you can encourage people to read your documentation, and some of that is round the tactile, the feel of the actual document as well. You get better results with your marketing. That’s something that we’re very focused on.

Okay, so we have a number of initiatives. We’ll start, first of all, we launched PROKOM two, two-and-a-bit years ago, that’s building more and more members. We’re up to our second annual conference this year that’s going to take place in Budapest. That’s about education, and we have a number of programs in that area.

The second thing, then, is looking at what’s happening within the marketing services sector. So Konica Minolta, for its acquisitions and everything else, developed a whole division, Konica Minolta Marketing Services. And we’re supplying advice and services to the top larger companies in that area. That’s giving us, then, that ability to take what’s happening within the digital area, and then adapt that to support our customers. We’re finding that, actually, print digital has got a quite exciting future if you focus, again, on what the end-client wants.

So there’s a number of initiatives where it comes to education, design services, we’re looking at working with a lot of the paper and media supplies out there on what we can deliver, so we’re always getting new stocks into our showroom and our testing areas where people say “I’ve developed this new coating, developed this new product, developed this [inaudible 00:08:01] inkjet coat with it.” Yeah, no problem. In fairness, that’s how we’ve developed some of the things for plastics, printing onto PET, polyester, PVC, etc. And then we’ve got our partners, and that’s people like Harris & Bruno and others that work with us extensively to help us then develop those new market opportunities. It’s always about education.

This is really interesting. This is something [crosstalk 00:08:31], well it’s been surprising to us as well. We’ve got companies that are book printers, that are producing book jackets, high-quality books. Some of these books are retailing for 800 to 1,000 dollars. It’s that high-quality end of the market that we’ve been successful in. We’ve got online printers, quite a number of online printers now, because the challenge there is they’ve got lots of jobs, but they’re small job lots. And then how do you impose them onto the sheet, etc., to move it forward. We’ve got people now in the plastic card industry producing on our technology. We’ve got, clearly, the commercial printer who’s moving his processes, and complimenting.

And we’ve now, which will be here at Grafkom with Alex from RIM-STRO. He’ll be talking about hybrid printing. So how can you still use your offset press and inkjet in a combination, which manages that cost-space but increases the run length, but then you have personalization and everything else taking place at the same time. The key, really, is focusing on what’s your objective that your customer wants. We call that the purchasing triangle, always focus on the end user of the application, on what their wants and needs are, and then how can we deliver an exceptional product to that person that has impact and can clearly show a return on their investment.