Ricoh has been ramping up its presence in production printing since it launched its range of mono production presses in 2004. Its purchase of a significant shareholding in InfoPrint in 2007 (it became a wholly owned subsidiary of the company earlier this year) was a further sign of its intent to go head-to-head with the likes of established production players, such as Canon and Xerox.
But it never really had that standout colour machine to compete with the flagship presses of rival manufacturers. This changed at Drupa 2008, with the launch of the Ricoh Pro C900. The machine quickly found favour with a number of different users, from in-plants to quick printers, and from book publishers through to, of course, commercial printers, says Dave Gully, product group manager Ricoh Australia.
“The C900 provided new levels of consistency and reliability that many of our competitors have struggled to match,” claims Gully. “With an extensive array of finishing equipment – including the world’s first inline ring binder – this device proved that a heightened level of productivity and efficiency is achievable.”
As the C900 rapidly cemented its place as a genuine alternative to other market-leading digital production models, many companies would have been content to rest on their laurels. But not Ricoh. In October this year, the company unveiled the Ricoh Pro C901 at Graph Expo in Chicago, with a local launch following in Sydney in November.
Best in class
Ricoh has christened the C901 a “best in class” system, building on the C900’s established technology but with a number of significant upgrades. One of the key differences is the C901’s new chemical PxP polymerised toner, which replaces the previous fuser oil system. The new toner provides “finer detail in the output, better solid coverage and smoother gradients”, claims Gully.
“In addition to the new toner, there is the new oil-less fusing unit that has been modified from the previous version to enable glass, matt and silk stocks to be run simply and with ease of use. This also provides better fusing on 300gsm media at speeds of 90 prints per minute,” adds Gully.
The C901 offers 90ppm productivity on a vast array of different stock types with a thickness of up to 300gsm (based on A4 size), which Ricoh claims makes it the fastest in its class.
“Most other vendors’ machines either slow down when printing onto thicker media (ie, 300gsm) or require the user to choose a lesser quality mode to maintain speed. The Pro C901 maintains speed and quality on all media,” says Gully.
A further enhancement is the machine’s duty cycle. The C901 is capable of churning out 580,000 pages per month compared with the C900’s 400,000 pages (it makes some rivals look sluggish in comparison).
Key to the digital machine’s high level of productivity is the ease with which repairs can be made. All Ricoh production devices are supported with ‘trained customer replacement units’ (TCRUs). Operators are given training so that they can, for example, replace key imaging components in just 20-30 minutes without waiting for a service engineer.
“The obvious benefits are that the operator can perform standard maintenance tasks instantly and whenever it suits their production schedules, and when TCRUs are used by Ricoh technicians, it minimises downtime because the work is done outside the engine,” says Gully.
In addition to increasing the number of products that the company has to offer, Ricoh has also been working hard to build its expertise and technical capabilities on a national level, according to Kathy Wilson, general manager of business solutions/production at Ricoh Australia.
“There are a team of production solutions consultants who focus on software solutions and pre-sales support, production sales specialists and technical support personnel located within our national state branches,” says Wilson.
“In addition to this, we have a dedicated team of production technicians and specialised trainers to assist our customers with any of their production service, software or maintenance needs.”
In terms of the machine’s target audience, Ricoh believes that the C901, which has been labelled ‘the graphic arts edition’, is a perfect fit for commercial printers, but it hopes that it will also find a home with anyone who is looking to produce “high volumes of consistent colour on an array of media stock”, according to Gully.
“The ease of use of the device, its high-quality finishing, swift productivity and simple media handling means that this machine is well suited to the print-for-pay market as well as the in-plant corporate reprographics department market,” he adds.
The C901’s spec pits it toe-to-toe against the new Konica Minolta C8000, the Canon ImagePress C7000VP and the Fuji Xerox Color 800/1000, which would be a rival based on its top speed. However, Gully says that if you weigh up capability and productivity “we offer a huge cost advantage against the Xerox options and the C901 is far more productive on heavy stock and has a more extensive suite of in-line finishing options than most other devices in the marketplace”.
As Gully’s sentiments suggest, Ricoh is incredibly bullish about the C901. The manufacturer believes the machine is a viable alternative to those offered by other vendors in the market.
“This device will provide high functionality and quality and cost-effective competitiveness in regards to engine and service pricing,” says Gully.
“The C901 provides customers with more choice and additional features to support their business with reliable, consistent production quality at a cost-effective price point.”
As a result, Ricoh has high hopes in terms of the sales performance of the C901, with the company setting itself “aggressive sales targets” for the new machine. Gully is confident that these targets are more than achievable, in light of current high levels of interest and sales. In fact, two sales were secured prior to launch: Printing Creations, based in Sydney’s northern suburbs, and Kwik Kopy Bondi Junction.
“We have devices in Australia already and our next customer installations are scheduled for early 2011 with additional inventory on the way in 2011 for what is shaping up to be a busy year for Ricoh’s production teams,” he explains.
The launch of the Ricoh Pro C901 marks a step up in class for the manufacturer, putting it on a par with rival operators and further cementing its commitment to growing its production print base. But only time will tell if Ricoh’s gamble will pay off.