Production Takes Center Stage at Konica Minolta Technology Showcase

By George Mikolay, Senior Product Editor, A3/Copier MFPs, July 30, 2014

BLI recently attended a technology showcase at Konica Minolta’s New York City Customer Engagement Center. While much of the event was geared to the launch of the company’s new production hardware devices, the company also provided the latest on the earnings front and shared the latest developments on the software and solutions side. Attendees also got a first look at the 3D printers Konica Minolta will be carrying as part of its new partnership with 3D Systems.

It’s clear that Konica Minolta continues to reap the benefits of its continued investment in the production space. The company’s global production revenue grew 39 percent in 2013, according to Rick Taylor, president and chief operating office for Konica Minolta’s US operations.  Taylor also made mention of Konica Minolta’s 22 percent global revenue growth in the office space and 25 percent total MFP growth.

“In our space, with the market not growing substantially, this kind of growth only happens by taking share from competitors and expanding our business domain,” Taylor said.

Taylor also noted a number of recent acquisitions by Konica Minolta, including Pitney Bowes’s Document Imaging Solutions business in Canada; Copytronics Information Systems; CopySource Incorporated; AMS Imaging; and KnowledgeCentrix. And with $800 million in sales growth over the past six years, it’s readily evident that the company’s strategy of acquisitions along with organic growth is working, and working well.

The Latest in Production

As Taylor explained, while no one knows the actual print volume for the next five years, he knows print volume will continue to grow for Konica Minolta. “Our print volumes have grown in the past five years, and it’s been quality growth, and we’ll continue to be there to catch the pages as the transition to digital output continues in the production space,” Taylor said. “And the fact that we’ve been selling a lot of product with five-year leases tells us that our customers think they’ll be printing a great deal for the next five years, and higher print volumes will be a key growth driver for the company in 2014.” 

At the forefront of this print volume growth will be the company’s newest production models, which launched this month. Bringing Konica Minolta’s production line more upstream into the commercial print space, the bizhub PRESS C1100 and C1085, with rated speeds of 100 ppm and 85 ppm, respectively, are able to maintain rated speeds with all substrates regardless of type or weight with their new fuser design. According to Mike Fego, product marketing manager for Konica Minolta, whereas in the past Konica Minolta required the use of dual fusers in order to maintain rated speed regardless of paper type or weight, the C1100 and C1085 are now able to achieve rated speed with a single fuser. This is made possible by their larger upper roller, the greater distance between the upper and lower rollers plus the wider array of heating lamps that have been integrated into the system, along with the devices’ use of  the latest iteration of Konica Minolta’s  Simitri toner—Simitri HDE—which allows for a lower melting point.

The devices offer a maximum paper capacity of 13,900 sheets from nine trays, and a maximum unattended stacking capacity of 10,000 sheets. An array of finishing options are available, such as a finisher that staples up to 100 sheets and a saddle-stitcher that can face trim and V fold up to 50 pages to produce 200-page booklets. Additional fold types available include half fold, Z fold, gate fold, letter fold in, letter fold out, and double parallel fold. A perfect binder with a hot-melt glue binding system allows for the creation of bound booklets of up to 600 pages. In addition to Konica Minolta’s own print controller, EFI Fiery and Creo controllers are available.

According to Konica Minolta Director of Product Marketing Dino Pagliarello, in addition to the lower melting point of the new HDE toner, which lends to reduced energy usage, the toner’s improved granularity improves the quality of halftones and flesh tones compared to previous toner iterations. The magenta color gamut has also been extended, for improved color reproducibility in the red region. The toner is also more resistant to fading.

Also exhibited at the event was the bizhub PRESS 2250P. “The bizhub PRESS 2250P builds on the proven bizhub PRESS design and bizhub PRESS interface by featuring tandem bizhub PRESS 1250P engines,” said Fego. In simplex mode, the first engine is engaged; and in duplex mode, the first engine's output is transferred to the second engine with a relay unit inverting the media for imaging on the second side, resulting in printed output of up to 250 duplexed impressions per minute. The device features a maximum monthly duty cycle of 6 million impressions, and supports a bevy of substrates ranging from 40 gsm to 350 gsm. Maximum paper capacity is 18,000 sheets from up to 11 sources. Other than an 80-page booklet maker and PI-502 Post sheet inserter, the finishing options are identical to those of the bizhub PRESS C1100 and C1085.

Software and Solutions

While production hardware took the lead at the event, Konica Minolta continues to preach a holistic approach to business, believing that while there continues to be money to be made in hardware, tying hardware into software and services, and becoming an expert on the customer, versus an expert on the product, will be a driving force in future growth. While much of what was shared on software and solutions was covered at the company’s 2013 Dealer Meeting, the launch of FileAssist, a cloud-based document management solution for the graphic communications industry, was a highlight.

Powered and hosted by All Covered Cloud Services, FileAssist for Graphic Communications combines file sharing, data storage, back-up and sync capabilities to allow for more efficient collaboration with print shop customers on the proofing, approvals and secure handling of all print jobs, according to Sam Errigo, senior vice president of for Konica Minolta Business Intelligence Services. Documents are securely stored in the cloud and can be accessed from any device, including smartphones and tablets. “We have to set the bar, and with FileAssist, we have moved to the next level of document management,” Errigo said. “FileAssist offers unlimited data storage, and is a convenient and scalable solution for file collaboration and job proofing.”

3D Printers Bring the “Sexy” to the Showcase

Konica Minolta also became the latest of the OEMs to announce a partnership with 3D Systems, one of the leading providers of 3D printing technology. While the OEMs have yet to see a substantial financial impact from 3D printing technology, analysts are estimating 3D Systems’ 2014 total revenue to approach $713.8 million, which would represent a year-over-year growth rate of 39 percent.

3D printing is the process of manufacturing physical objects layer by layer using additive manufacturing techniques, including selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM) and stereolithography (SLA), out of materials such as plastics, metal, ceramic or even edible substances. The technology, which allows users to print three-dimensional objects directly from digital input, is already paying dividends in the manufacturing sector. For example, a new sneaker prototype can now be ready within 8 to 12 hours, which allows the designer to fine-tune the prototype any number of times prior to signing off on further development.

Konica Minolta will be reselling 3D Systems’ ProJet X60 Series and 3500 Series. According to Russell Doucette, assistant product marketing manager at Konica Minolta, the X60 Series are full-color devices that target consumer products, healthcare and other vertical market customers that are interested in printing photo-realistic models for product design, prototypes and color concept models. The 3500 Series, on the other hand, are targeted at engineering, manufacturing and mechanical environments, and are said to be ideal for functional testing. As with copier MFPs, there are several different speed bands, with speeds expressed in inches per hour, versus pages per minute. And instead of charging by the click, customers are charged by per cubic inch, i.e., how much material is used. SRP for the X60 Series ranges from $30,000 to $80,000; SRP for the 3500 Series ranges from $60,000 to $90,000.

Konica Minolta will be selling these devices directly and through its dealer channel. “We’re close to getting some orders through the direct channel, and we hope to launch the sale of these devices through our dealer channel by mid-August,” said Doucette, adding that dealers will need to invest in a demo model and have their techs trained for service and support.

“These devices open up the possibility of an entirely new audience for the Konica Minolta brand,” Doucette said. “We’re using our strong relationships with the in-plants to open the doors to these companies’ engineering and marketing teams.”

Stressing a “let’s learn for now” approach, Doucette said Konica Minolta believes that 3D printing is here for the long haul, and if financials dictate, the company would like to eventually develop its own 3D printers in conjunction with 3D Systems.

Republished with permission from Buyers Laboratory LLC ( ©2013 Buyers Laboratory LLC