Kodak executives point to the Prosper Press as one of the best examples of its printing technology at work.
Bill Schweinfurth, Kodak's manager for inkjet components, said publishers have favored offset printing over inkjet for years because of its lower per-page cost and superior image quality. Offset printing uses metal plates to create an image, whereas inkjet printing uses tiny nozzles to spray ink. Offset printing is most cost effective for large printing runs, good for things such as newspapers and popular novels. It's also considerably faster.
For smaller runs, publishers were forced to use inkjet printers, which had a much higher per-page cost and didn't offer the same level of quality. Schweinfurth said the Prosper Press, which Kodak launched in 2010, changed all that. It's inkjet technology that offers cost, quality and speed comparable to offset printing.
Kodak's Prosper Presses contain more than 100,000 computer-controlled inkjet nozzles that spray special Kodak-made ink that allows for crisp resolution. Meanwhile, cameras and software monitor the print process, looking for defects. The presses can reach speeds of up to 650 feet of paper per minute.
Kodak won't say how many of the presses it has sold, but said the real money is in the consumable products, like ink, that it sells to go with them.
The presses are also useful when it comes to customizing publications, something offset presses can't do.
Christian Schamberger, president of Mercury Print Productions Inc., said the customization capabilities are a big reason why his company made Prosper Presses a key part of its operations.
Mercury, also based in Rochester, contracts with major educational publishers to print textbooks ranging from the elementary to college level. The company uses Kodak technology for about 75 percent of its production. Schamberger said that because educational requirements vary between states, and in some cases between school districts, textbooks need to be customized. That reduces the number of each version ordered and makes production on the Prosper Press more practical than offset printing.