Dan Maurer, Heidelberg’s Vice President of Digital Print, points out that as a concept, “Fire” is universal: it connotes urgency, intensity, and passion in everything the word can be applied to. This is one of the things, he says, that makes “Fire” an appropriate brand identity for digital printing systems from Heidelberg, a company deeply committed to equipping printers for profitable operation in 170 countries around the world.
The distinctive Fire solutions portfolio – Versafire, Primefire, Labelfire, and Smartfire – is the end-result of an expansion into digital printing technologies that Heidelberg first began making more than 20 years ago. At that time, the market for digital print was very different in size and character from what it is today. Heidelberg realized that while the solutions available then might have been adequate to the existing demand, much more progress would have to be made before the company could offer its customers digital equipment with the capabilities they needed and the ROIs they expected.
Heidelberg’s strategy for digital development had three main objectives: to build digital presses suitable for industrial printing environments; to offer digital print quality fully up to the standard of offset lithography; and to make digital printing capable of the kind of efficiency that customers need in order to survive in their hyper-competitive print markets. These attributes continue to be the hallmarks and the common denominators of everything in the Fire family.
Heidelberg also understood that printers in the commercial, packaging, and label segments would need digital presses customized to their individual requirements. Another fact of life was that shops were finding it harder to serve their customers with only one printing process: print buyers insisted on one-stop sourcing from multi-capable print providers.
This explains why the Fire family is and will remain process-agnostic. Because it isn’t tethered to any single digital printing technology, the Fire product portfolio can span the full range of print application requirements: toner (Versafire) for commercial; production inkjet (Primefire) for packaging; UV inkjet with inline flexo and finishing (Labelfire) for labels; aqueous inkjet with inline finishing (Smartfire) for labels in very short runs.
Toner was the basis of Heidelberg’s first venture into digital printing, and the advancements it would make with this process set the stage for the growth of the Fire portfolio as a whole. Print engines from industry leader Ricoh combined with RIP, workflow, and color management technology from Heidelberg gave rise to the Versafire family: high-speed, high-output cut-sheet printers that let shops of all sizes match offset quality on a broad range of substrates for a fraction of the investment required for other production toner devices.
When inkjet arrived, Heidelberg formed an ongoing partnership with Fujifilm that has produced both the B1-format, seven-color Primefire folding carton digital press – the first of its kind to be installed in North America – as well as the eight-color Gallus Labelfire web press for UV inkjet label applications with complete inline finishing. Aqueous inkjet plus inline finishing define Smartfire, a digital web press for labels in very small quantities.
The special fit of Fire products to their application requirements is what makes each of them unique in its category.
Versafire has no rival among toner devices as the most cost-effective solution for lower-volume, high quality commercial work. The print quality, substrate compatibility, color and registration consistency, and rock-solid reliability of Versafire EP and Versafire EV make them – hands down – the best value for the investment dollar in electrophotographic systems from any supplier.
Primefire is a B1-plus (29.53″ x 41.73″) inkjet press that represents the future of folding carton printing, with the potential to expand to commercial applications. Taking inkjet printing for packaging to levels of quality and productivity that weren’t achievable before, Primefire will change the game with its high-volume capacity, its broad color gamut, and the many high-performance features it borrows from the Speedmaster XL 106. Primefire is built for uptime in excess of 80%, and it doesn’t require advanced skills to operate.
Labelfire, a joint development of Heidelberg, Gallus, and Fujifilm, is the digital hybrid inkjet answer for “classic” label businesses dealing with decreasing run lengths and increasing demands for post-print embellishment, says Chris Brooks, Heidelberg’s Vice President of Label Products. Extended uptime and extreme repeatability are its strong suits, along with an eight-color UV ink set and inline assets for one-pass label production that can include flexo, screen, foiling, laminating, and die cutting.
Smartfire will live up to the promise of its name among commercial printers seeking a low-cost, low-risk pathway into short-run label production. Like Labelfire, Smartfire goes from file to finished label by virtue of its high-quality inkjet imaging and its suite of inline finishing assets. Its compact footprint, VOC-free aqueous inks, and ease of use round out Smartfire’s appeal as a plug-and-print solution for profitable label production in even the smallest quantities.
“This is a customer base that Heidelberg has been serving for more than 160 years,” says Felix Müller, President of Heidelberg Americas. “Heidelberg understands better than any other manufacturer what customers need in order to operate profitably. The Fire product line is the latest example of what we are doing to offer printers everything they need for success: digital and conventional printing systems, software, consumables, tech and parts support, and business services.”
Fire products are evolving printing systems designed for expansion and augmentation as end-users’ requirements change. Because change is constant in the printing business, so is Heidelberg’s mandate to continuously improve the solutions it offers to printing service providers. This assures that the Fire family of products, now glowing with potential, will burn even more brightly in the future.
CUSTOMERS ON “FIRE”
“The quality on the press is absolutely spectacular. While our existing machines were meeting our customers’ expectations of peak quality, the new machine takes that to a whole new level. Flat tints are smooth and halftone images, even with sensitive subjects like facial tones, can print clean and reliably. The new Versafire EP will help us cut costs and shorten turnaround times, without sacrificing quality.” Jeff Main, President of AMP Printing, Dublin, CA
“The print quality of the Primefire is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. (At drupa 2016) I took one look at the sheet and said, ‘This is the one.’ Their quality was just spectacular. They even had a section on one of the sheets that was 2-pt. type. You almost can’t see it with the naked eye, and you have to look at it under a loupe. It was near perfect.” Stacy Warneke, President, Warneke Paper Box, Denver, CO
“This is the first digital press I’ve seen that does what I want. It integrates everything from the roll to finished labels, including flexo, screen, digital and die-cutting, without secondary operations. I was impressed by how much energy and capital has been invested in this system. The most incredible thing that we’re experiencing is the increase in quality. This machine – it’s a game changer from a quality standpoint.” Thomas Dahbura, President, Hub Labels, Hagerstown, MD