Digital Printing: Digital Meets Demands

Odyssey Digital Printing’s web-fed Xeikon 3500 runs widths from 9.8–20.3 in.

When John Roberds and his partner started Odyssey Digital Printing, Tulsa, OK, in 1996, he says, “We would print anything we could get people to pay us to print.” With a laugh he adds, “Since then, we’ve learned a lot!”

The main thing they’ve learned is what works for them. Today the primary business of the company, which employs 48 and covers 33,000 sq ft, is point-of-purchase materials for convenience stores, wholesale food distributors, restaurants, etc., with labels and cartons in the mix. Helping that business stay successful is a recently installed Xeikon 3500 digital press.

New and Improved
Odyssey was the first North American customer for the 3500, which runs widths from 9.8–20.3 in. The press joins a Xeikon 3300 purchased a few years ago, for which the company was also the first North American customer. Roberds says the 3500 replaces an older 19-in. Xeikon. Both of the newer presses feature higher resolution than that of older models.

“Xeikon doubled the resolution from 600 to 1,200 dpi with the 3300,” Roberds says, “making the machines comparable with good quality offset printing. The images are crisper, and you get more fine details when you need it. This very important for good photographic work. The 3500 also uses Xeikon’s latest toner, and it seems to have improved color reproduction.”

In addition to the 3500, Odyssey is home to a Xeikon 3300 and a 5000.

Another improvement Odyssey is enjoying on both the 3300 and 3500 is built-in automatic densitometers, Roberds reports. “Every 50 sheets the press prints out a color bar and tests itself. It will then make adjustments to the machine on the fly based on that test.”

With much of the traditional sell sheet brochure business moving to in-house print shops, Odyssey concentrates on business to which it can add value beyond printing, including items such as shelf talkers and kits for the point-of-purchase business. Laminating and die-cutting are accomplished on two coater/laminators and a die-cutter from Grafisk Machine Fabrik (a partner of Xeikon) as well as an additional die-cutter from Preco. To keep the workflow smoother, the finishing equipment runs offline.

Odyssey’s entire operation is digital with the exception of a Presstek 52DI offset press with a digital front end. All small-format digital presses are from Xeikon, and large-format inkjet printers are supplied by EFI Vutek, Hewlett-Packard, and Agfa. Inks are from Fuji Sericol and EFI Vutek. Odyssey runs both paper and film, everything from text weight paper to 18-pt board, including synthetic materials from Polyart and Convert-all. FLEXcon is the biggest label supplier; On-Demand supplies digital papers, and paperboard is from Iggesund.

Supporting Startup
When asked about startup issues on the 3500, Roberds acknowledges there were some wrinkles. “Some parts were somewhat experimental and had to be replaced, but we’ve been running Xeikons for years, and our people are experienced, so it was just a matter of shifting gears to understand the quirks of this particular machine. And Xeikon was helpful in resolving the problems. They sent people from Belgium to help with both startup and training. They are always very supportive.”

Samples of Odyssey’s digitally printed packages.

Roberds says the Xeikons are the only web-fed digital presses, and as such they allow Odyssey to print items such as 4-ft pieces. “The Xeikons give us a big competitive edge.”

Looking ahead, Roberds acknowledges, “It’s tough to find carton consumers that fit the digital niche, but we’re going to continue to try and penetrate smaller convenience stores and restaurant chains. We’re also trying to beef up our label business.”

While digital is Odyssey’s bread and butter, Roberds knows the economics will continue to make it hard to compete with higher quantities. “In our carton business, we run 2,000 to 3,000. That threshold may grow a little, but it’s not going to go to 50,000.” He adds, however, that in packaging there are more and more niche markets requiring shorter runs, and that’s where digital can shine.”

Contributing editor Deborah Donberg is the former managing editor of PFFC. She has been covering the converting industry for more than 25 years. Contact her at ddonberg@gmail.com


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