Larry Hunt’s High Speed Copy News — April 2001
The Heidelberg Digimaster 9110 Network Imaging System
By Bob Bergey
The Heidelberg Digimaster 9110 is a high speed, high-quality network imaging system originally developed by Kodak as the Kodak DigiSource 9110. The Digimaster is also marketed by Canon under its own brand as the Canon imageRUNNER 110. The Heidelberg Digimaster 9110 is an all-digital design built to withstand the rigors of on-demand printing applications with very high image quality and paper handling performance.
With rapid image processing and a fast 110-page per minute print engine, the Digimaster 9110 can be used for duplication, network publication printing, and variable data. Up to six paper supplies, a maximum page size of 11” x 17” (A3) and finishing options that include booklet making are designed to reduce operator involvement and post-processing to save time and labor.
The print engine is a 600-dpi laser printer capable of handling paper weights from 16-lb bond to 110-lb index and boasts a duty cycle of up to one million impressions per month (although, as you’ll read later in this report, printers are exceeding that amount already). It competes with Xerox’s DocuTech series in quick print shops and corporate repro departments.
The Digimaster 9110 takes input either from a connected 600-dpi scanner for copier jobs or from a network interface, utilizing one of several front ends available for it. Compatible digital file formats include Adobe PostScript 3, Adobe PDF, TIFF, and PCL formats. Connectivity options include TCP/IP, EtherTalk®, SPX/IPX, and NetBEU. Supported environments include Microsoft® Windows® (95, 98), Microsoft Windows NT™ (4.x), Macintosh, 9110 Imaging System Software, Novell® Software (3.12 and 4.x), and Sun Solaris.
Three paper drawers are included in the base configuration, holding a total of 4,000 sheets (1,000 in each of two drawers, 2,000 in the third). An optional set of three drawers is available, doubling the paper capacity. Each of the four printing businesses profiled in this report have the extra set of drawers — they are highly recommended. An option should be available shortly to convert one of the drawers to deliver 12×18 stock.
Paper can be loaded continuously while the machine is running. The machine idles, however, while finished copies are unloaded from the delivery area. The paper path is short and quite straight, especially when compared to the DocuTech series, and utilizes a trayless duplexing system. As a result, jams are rare, but easily cleared when they do occur.
The standard finisher has a top exit for proof sets of up to 500 sheets and holds up to 3,000 sheets in its main delivery area. The standard finisher also includes a stapler for measured stitches of 2 to 100 sheets, in either corner or booklet mode. Unlike the Xerox DocuTech series, it does not offer tape binding.
Optional accessories, in addition to the set of three paper drawers mentioned above, include a stacker with a capacity of up to 5,000 sheets. The stacker also includes a wheeled tote tray receiver, making it very easy to quickly unload while the machine is operating, and the machine continues to print while documents are offloaded. An in-line booklet maker is also available, capable of folding, saddle stitching, and edge trimming up to 22 sheets. All four shops profiled in this report elected to do finishing off-line and did not purchase the stacker or booklet maker options.
If you’re easily impressed by the outward appearance of good equipment, you’ll like the 9110. I’ve always thought the DocuTech series was rather utilitarian in appearance; not so the 9110. Your clients will be impressed just by the appearance of this machine.
What really counts, however, is the image quality produced on the Digimaster 9110. Even to an untrained eye, the image quality immediately stands out. The trained eye of the educated print buyer will notice the smooth, consistent screens, deep rich blacks, sharp, crisp lines and text, and the smooth gradations in photographs and illustrations. This is digital printing at its best.
In the Field
Andy LeWinter and his partner David Hananel, of Draber Document Services in Long Island City, New York, have two Heidelberg Digimaster 9110’s, both acquired in January this year. Walking into their digital imaging area is impressive — two 9110’s end to end on the right side of the room, and end to end on the left are a Xerox DocuTech 135 and a Xerox 5090. At the near end of the room are the front ends (scanner, computers) for the 9110’s and the DocuTech; at the far end is a Canon CLC3100 color copier.
Andy’s intention was that the two 9110’s would replace the Xerox machines, but it hasn’t worked out quite that way just yet. Because of installation delays and initial setup problems, especially in the front end system, in the first full month of operation 700,000 impressions had to be run on the DocuTech that would have run on the 9110’s, with another 2.4 million on the two 9110’s. Andy is quite confident, however, that as the bugs are worked out, the new machines will match their promise. He expects to average a combined total of 3.5 to 4 million pages per month on the two 9110’s, running two shifts.
The purchase price for the two 9110’s and the Velocity front end (more on that below) was $429,000, including a $101,000 buyout on the DocuTech (which he kept). In addition, a Canon CLC3100 was purchased at the same time for another $98,000. He has leased the machines on a 60-month lease. He put together a deal for the two 9110’s, the Velocity front, and the Canon CLC3100 for a total lease payment of $11,150, plus monthly service and supplies cost of $14,000 for the 9110’s. The service and supplies figure includes 2.8 million clicks at $.0015 for supplies and $.0035 for service (total of $.005 per click). The service click charge drops to $.0021 over the 2.8 million clicks. Andy figures the 9110’s should save him somewhere around $.0005 per click over the DocuTech and 5090 — at 4 million clicks that adds up to about $2,000 per month.
There are at least four front end document management systems available for the 9110’s: Velocity, Alto Imaging Technologies, Heidelberg, and new software called Elan. Andy has the Velocity front end, noted for its strong distribution capabilities. The Velocity distributes documents in PDF format to each of the 9110’s as well as color pages to the Canon CLC3100. Danka has since added Quite Imposing and the Elan software at no additional charge; Andy considers them absolute necessities when using the Velocity front end.
Derek, Andy’s digital guru, is not completely comfortable yet with the new systems. He knew the DocuTech system and software inside out, even doing nearly all the maintenance on the DocuTech in addition to running it. But the new systems, especially the Velocity front end, have many more options for operation and consequently a steeper learning curve. In addition, Danka (through whom Andy purchased the 9110’s) does training only on location. Andy felt that was a bit of a disadvantage, in that training wasn’t as concentrated as, for instance, Xerox did in their separate training facilities.
Training manuals, including tabs, make up a large percentage of the jobs Draber Document Services runs on the 9110’s; also newsletters, invoices, forms, brochures, and fliers are frequently reproduced. Andy anticipates doing some variable data printing, also, although he’s doing almost no variable data now.
Strengths of the 9110’s, in comparison to the DocuTech, include a much straighter and shorter paper path for more reliable paper transport, better image quality, and the Velocity front end for file distribution to multiple machines. I also observed how much cooler the 9110’s ran compared to the Xerox machines: while the DocuTech and 5090 had exhaust vents through the ceiling, the air blowing gently out the back of the 9110’s was cool to the touch and no external venting was necessary. Come summer, the 9110’s will almost certainly be less of a burden on the air conditioning system in the shop.
Weaknesses of the 9110’s? There’s just one source for toner — Heidelberg; and the lack of outside training facilities. Andy is fairly optimistic, however, that despite a few early setbacks, the 9110’s will turn out to be a good investment.
Ray Gendreau, of Apex Press in Boston, Massachusetts, has had a Heidelberg Digimaster 9110 for eight months. In comparison to Andy’s spacious shop, Ray squeezes every inch out of his space, and the significantly shorter length of the 9110, about half the length of a DocuTech (depending on configuration), is important. He describes his overall experience with the 9110, so far, as very positive; it replaced a six-year-old Xerox 5090.
Ray evaluated everything Xerox offered before settling on the Digimaster 9110. He states three reasons for deciding against going with a Xerox product: 1) Xerox has a bad reputation for placing equipment that exceeds a customer’s ability to pay; 2) File management in the DocuTech line is difficult and not user friendly; and 3) Xerox sales staff was unprofessional and uninterested in his needs. Ray went with a 60-month lease with a $1 buyout.
For a front end, Ray selected the only one his vendor felt comfortable with, which is the one from Alto Imaging Technologies. And that’s probably best for Ray’s shop — Alto’s strength is its document editing capabilities, as opposed to the document distribution capabilities Andy needed with multiple machines. Ray ordered the Alto with one gigabyte of RAM (standard was 500MB) but found even that wasn’t enough so upgraded to two gigabytes. He also finds the 10-gigabyte hard drive to be inadequate, as they must constantly burn CDs to store artwork.
Apex Press was averaging 300,000 clicks per month on their 5090 and wanted to simply replace that volume on the 9110. The cost of a click on the Xerox 5090 had risen to about a penny and the quality was deteriorating. In eight months, however, the lowest monthly volume on the 9110 was over 544,000, and the highest almost 1.4 million. So Ray is quite happy with the volume on the 9110. He estimates it is possible to do about 850,000 clicks per month in one shift (5,000 clicks per working hour) and is now working on extending working hours to handle more clicks per month on the 9110.
Their typical job is a training manual with lots of tabs. The ability of the 9110 to handle tabs so well has eliminated a lot of what used to be manual labor, plus the digital quality compared to the older 5090 is so superior he believes the machine “steals work” from his competitors. Ray cites the image quality of the 9110, along with its productivity (no jams, ability to print and insert tabs, etc.) as its most important assets.
When asked about the 9110’s greatest weakness, he cites its speed; his shop has already oversold its capacity. Ray says that if he had it to do over again, he would have negotiated for two machines right from the start.
Service is handled through Danka, with whom he is extraordinarily pleased. Danka service technicians have been at his shop as late as 2 AM, “with a smile on their face,” Ray reports, and without any premium charge for this commitment to full service. He had a choice of acquiring the machine through five different vendors: Danka, Heidelberg, Ikon, Canon, or DM Products (a local distributor), but went with Danka because they had more experience — and more service people — on the 9110. Service is averaging 225,000 clicks between calls.
UPDATE: As this report is going to press, Ray reports they have just placed an order for a second 9110, this one to include the stacker option, making it possible to offload the machine while it continues to print.
Mitch Evans, of Print Tech in Westfield, New Jersey, has also had a Heidelberg Digimaster 9110 for eight months. He reports it did take a while to learn to run different types of jobs and the use of the scanner, but rates his experience overall as very good. The 9110 was an addition to their “fleet” of copiers, which includes two Kodak 3100’s and a Kodak 110. Through Danka, they have put all four machines under one service policy.
Xerox didn’t play a significant role in Mitch’s decision (it would be safe to say he’s not a Xerox fan). He has always had a good working relationship with Kodak and now Danka; and since he wanted to combine all machines under one service plan, it was much easier to work with Danka.
Print Tech purchased the 9110 for $189,000 off the floor at an On-Demand trade show, which technically made it a demo unit. Service and supplies are at $.0063 per click with no minimum or monthly charge — and that applies to all four machines under the service contract, so they don’t have to worry about which machine a particular job runs on.
They also have the Alto Imaging Technologies front end; Mitch says they’re happy with it, although they really don’t know it as well as they could — it has more capabilities than they’re currently using. The features they use most often are its imposition capabilities for multiple-up and anti-skewing on the scanner.
Volume-wise they had hoped to average 1 million clicks a month, but are averaging only about 700,000 to date. They run just one shift. Primary applications include short-run books, financial documents, training manuals, price lists, newsletters, forms, and tabs. One of the jobs they’re doing on the 9110, that they couldn’t do on the copiers previously, is NCR forms, which have tag as the last part.
Mitch states that among the best features of the 9110 are the ease of outputting, using the scanner, and running 11” x 17” sheets. Its greatest weakness has been handling different software applications efficiently without having to purchase additional software for the front end. If he had it to do over again, Mitch says they would have paid more attention to the software and the front end when they were making buying decisions.
Ed Guile, of ASAP Printing in Okemos, Michigan, acquired a Heidelberg Digimaster 9110 about two months ago. He reports they got off to a slow start, not running for the first two weeks they had the machine. Most of the initial problems were with the scanner, and with their PDF workflow. Danka continued to work out software issues for about a month after that. However, once the bugs were worked out, Ed reports the machine is a great unit. They put about 1 million clicks on it the first month, a number he hopes will be their average.
Ed considered getting a “cluster” system, using two or three 60-CPM machines such as Canon imageRUNNERs or Minolta Di620’s. He also looked at DocuTechs but says he decided against any Xerox machines because of Xerox billing problems, questionable business practices, and proprietary software issues.
Price was also a factor. ASAP Printing paid $202,000, which included taking care of a fair market buyout on a Kodak IS85 that the 9110 replaced. The new agreement is a fair market buyout 60-month lease. Click charges for service and supplies are $.007 for the first 300,000 copies and $.004 for overages.
Ed purchased the standard Heidelberg front end and has added Quite Imposing and Pit Stop to handle additional PDF issues. He is very happy with those choices, now that things are running well.
The majority of jobs he runs on the 9110 are training manuals. They are also running some simple variable data. Having the ability to impose PDF files for booklets, flip charts, newsletters, and other related jobs and print them at better resolution than they had previously is a real plus with this machine.
Regarding favorite features of the 9110, Ed says the image quality is fantastic, and the ability to insert tabs has been very helpful. He also notes that they’ve had just one service call so far on the hardware. Its relatively slow speed at 110-CPM is its greatest weakness; Ed feels that’s a little slow for a box this size. He also has a concern that the machine may be obsolete before its lease is up. But overall he is thrilled with the 9110.
Without exception, everyone I spoke to is very pleased with the image quality produced by the Heidelberg Digimaster 9110. The samples I saw of real jobs in progress corroborated their statements. Image quality is clearly one of its strengths — and an important one in the print-for-pay market.
On the negative side, nearly everyone had a bumpy start getting the machine installed and the bugs worked out. But once the machine was installed and running, it appears to easily handle the volumes it’s rated for — and possibly much more.
The machine — the hardware, that is — seems pretty basic in the sense that there aren’t difficult decisions to make if your volume needs fit into the range handled by the 9110; for most that range will be somewhere around 600,000 to 1 million clicks per month per shift. Where you will need to put in some extra effort is in determining which front end will fit your shop’s needs best, what (if any) other equipment to network with the front end, and what expansion you’re likely to see in this market, especially for variable data, in the near future.
Bob Bergey is President of Design & Print, Inc., a quick printing business in Telford, Pennsylvania. He is also List Manager and founder of the PrintWeb Group of discussion lists, including PrintOwners, PrintSales, PrintShare, and PrintSwap.
Copyright 2001 by Larry Hunt Publications. No part of this report may be copied or reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of Larry Hunt Publications. Material presented in this publication is based on the best information available, but cannot be guaranteed for completeness or accuracy.