In December 2020, Ricoh unveiled the Ricoh Pro Z75, to some commercial printers. This is a B2 inkjet sheetfed press that it expects to succeed where the Screen, Fuji, Konica Minolta sheetfed B2 inkjet presses have not significantly displaced B2 multicolor offset presses. The latest press reports say that this machine will come into beta testing, most likely to US customers, in the second half of 2021 – and likely be available for sale in the second quarter of 2022. This fits well with the likely economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, at least in markets like the US and Europe.
The Pro Z75 digital inkjet sheetfed press is said to be competitive to offset in its ability to handle a wide variety of standard uncoated offset papers (hopefully without a primer) – from 60 to 400 gsm and coated stock from 73 to 400 gsm. Ricoh, in its teaser videos, talks about its special drying or curing technology that will immediately allow postpress and finishing operations.
Ricoh also talks about the fact that it works with aqueous inks and that the press contains ‘automatic perfecting.’ Ricoh is a veteran of inkjet technology and an OEM supplier of inkjet printheads. This is apart from its expertise in wide-format inkjet signage output devices and its well-established high throughput web-driven inkjet presses used for transactional, promotional, direct mail, and other high volume variable printing applications. Some of these presses use an in-press primer station, and others which we saw at the last Hunkeler show provide an inline coater.
The Pro 75 sheetfed uses Ricoh’s own multi-drop printheads at a resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi with dynamic droplet sizes at all speeds (and one assumes on all substrates). A newly developed frontend from EFI drives these. The key sentence that keeps popping up in what the company’s spokesmen and even its customers say in its video teasers is that the press will be ‘economically priced’ or will have an appealing ‘cost of ownership.’
COO can, of course, mean a number of things, and by and large, the Indian market tends to discount sales talk and looks for the lowest CAPEX. (Thus far, the sheetfed inkjet presses available have done poorly in the Indian market with only one UV inkjet B2 press.) And by the time this machine is ready for sale in India, which could be as early as the second half of 2023, the pandemic should have pushed the local offset printers further into digital territory. (This is purely my own speculation since I could not reach Ricoh’s distributor on the phone when writing this article.)
Ricoh in India is under a restart since it suffered a substantial setback in the past five years with governance issues and severe losses that Ricoh Japan has made up. Some of its legacy government contract issues in India have been resolved by the Supreme Court recently. At the same time, on the production printer side, Ricoh seems set to restart its supply of digital presses with the appointment of Monotech Systems as its distributor for the country.