Ricoh Pro Z75 B2 sheetfed inkjet press closer to market

Aqueous ink, perfector could reach India in FY 2024

Global digital print market to grow at 6.45% CAGR to 2026
The Ricoh Pro Z75 iB2 digital inkjet press is said to be more than 12 meters long Image Ricoh

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.

Gavin Jordan-Smith Ricoh USA
Gavin Jordan-Smith, Senior Vice President, Commercial and Industrial Print, Ricoh Americas. From video screengrab

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.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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