Rival suppliers have been quick to dismiss the new features on the Xerox iGen4, with some cheekily describing the machine as “the iGen3.5”. Admittedly, at first glance, the specification of the new machine may not set hearts pumping - the headline speed is, like the iGen3, 110 A4 pages per minute (ppm). So what exactly does the new machine offer over its predecessor?
General manager for Production Systems Group at Xerox Middle East, Chris Govier says that when Xerox set out to design the iGen4, they first surveyed their current iGen3 user base and asked users to highlight their requirements for digital press and - in terms of the iGen3 - what could have been done better.
“Several major themes were consistent in the feedback. Users responded that colour and IQ must be stable without excessive operator involvement, the press must be easier to use, the press must be faster to saleable output and the output must be a closer match to better compliment existing traditional print infrastructure.
“Based on this, our engineers were focused on developing a press that conformed to our customer’s exact requirements,” says Govier.
Xerox claims to have increased productivity by 25-35% by improving the machine’s uptime. While more uptime may not be as headline grabbing as a higher top speed, it delivers more saleable pages in a given time, which, when it comes to improving profitability, is important. In terms of top speed, rivals HP Indigo only overtook the iGen’s 110ppm speed with the 120ppm Indigo 7000 it launched at Drupa. Kodak also announced its 120ppm Nexpress S3600, but has yet to provide a shipping date worldwide.
 No other manufacturer has launched a cut-sheet machine that breaks the 100ppm barrier. (Canon suggests a pair of 70ppm ImagePress 7000VPs as an alternative to an iGen.)

Spot the difference
So what are the major differences between the previous iGen and the latest incarnation? Well, for starters, there are more than 400 new parts inside the iGen4, making it around 30% different to the iGen3.
The majority of the developments have been in three key areas: toner dispensing, density control and inline spectrophotometry.
These all directly relate to image quality and consistency, and provide other benefits, such as lowering costs and turnaround times, as well as increasing the aforementioned uptime. In the iGen3, the metal carrier was supplied mixed in with the toner. In the iGen4, the two consumables have been separated, which Xerox says allows greater colour accuracy and consistency, especially for tints, vignettes and flesh tones.
Elsewhere, Auto Density Control uses a high-resolution sensor to read colour patches laid down on the imaging belt. It operates in a similar way to the closed-loop colour controls on an offset press, controlling ink keys to ensure a stable and level density for each colour, both across the width of the belt to eliminate streaks and banding, and from sheet-to-sheet to improve consistency.
According to Xerox, this is no different from an offset press operator measuring the sheet. “The iGen4 utilises FreeFlow software to automate previously time consuming tasks, such as calibration, thereby reducing the turnaround, improving productivity and maximising the output quality,” Govier explains.
“There is also sophisticated onboard software which facilitates the constant monitoring of colour and IQ at page and job level and even from job to job over time.
“This minimises the need to interrupt the press for adjustments, increases uptime and eliminates the subjective influence of the operator.
“As a result, the iGen4 improves the break even point between digital and traditional offset printing - making it faster and more economical to print jobs on digital,” Govier says.

 Quality and consistency
Govier says by building on the iGen4, the advanced automation functionalities led to more “uptime” for printers. “Some of its features include an inline spectrophotometre which automates colour adjustments and calibrates to consistently deliver superior image quality and spot colour accuracy. Its auto density control also almost eliminates streaking by automatically detecting and eliminating density variations.
“The carrier dispensing system replaces the traditional developer and yields consistent colour uniformity,” he says.
Govier adds that the machine also comes with high definition linearisation, which eliminates the need for grey scale calibration, which results in “better production of neutral greys and highlight shadows, improved photo smoothness and greater colour stability”.
“The advanced colour profiling also enables greater colour consistency and realism in objects such as faces and skies and accurately matches GRACoL and ICC DeviceLink standards.” Inline spectrophotometry is the third key to improved image quality and consistency. Xerox has fitted an X-Rite spectrophotometer to the iGen4, which is positioned after imaging and fusing.
It runs inline inside the machine to enable automated measurement and control of colour. Again, the move is similar to that by offset press vendors such as Heidelberg with its Inpress control.
The benefits for a digital device should be even greater than for an offset press, due to the greater control offered by imaging directly to the paper without an intermediate plate.
At Drupa, Xerox showed a 220ppm, twin-engined duplex machine, the Concept Color 220, which combines two iGen engines, one to print each side of the sheet. For Xerox customers, some of the best news about the inline spectrophotometer is that it can be retrofitted to existing machines in the field.
Other benefits from onboard spectrophotometry include making it much easier to match colour: both spot colours such as Pantones and offset work. Govier is also confident that the press will be able to hit the right flavours of ISO 12647.
“iGen4, both DFE and print engines support and have profiles to produce colour in accordance with ISO process parametres and values.
“Printers who want to print to these metrics of standardisation must set the press to profile for ISO and must ensure that digital files sent to the engine have been prepared in accordance with ISO parametres. iGen4 profiled for ISO will yield output that matches with that printed on a traditional press profiled for ISO,” he says.

US standard
As well as comparing digital print quality against that of offset, it has been common to compare economics and, in particular, the break point between offset and digital production. Xerox says the increased uptime improves the iGen4’s competitiveness.
“The iGen4 improves the break even point between digital and traditional offset printing - making it faster and more economical to print jobs on digital.
“It creates offset and photo-quality images with consistent colour from the first print to the last. The advantages of going digital in this industry are clear - the ability to personalise, faster turnaround times, economical shorter run lengths and more.
“With the high definition quality and productivity of the iGen4, more print jobs can go digital, like photo applications that need to be picture perfect on every page,” he says. While colour and quality control are new to the iGen4, there are other parts of the product that it shares with the iGen3 that are noteworthy, including the maximum sheet size.
The optional 364x571mm sheet, which is longer than the standard 364x521mm, is the biggest of any cut-sheet toner machine available today.
The firm has also recently introduced a new high-capacity stacker for the larger sheets. The feed and delivery options include up to six feed trays and up to 10 stackers. There is the option for a roll feeder, which can offer a 10-15% reduction in paper costs.
As with all Xerox digital presses, the iGen4 has the option of the firm’s own Freeflow Workflow and Creo and EFI Fiery front-ends, although the EFI Fiery won’t be available for the iGen4 until next year.
Xerox claims the iGen4 has strong environmental credentials. Not only is the digital process devoid of solvents or VOCs, more than 97% of the components are recyclable or remanufacturable.
By weight, 80% of the waste can be returned, re-used or recycled, according to the firm. Feedback from early users of the iGen4 and from iGen3 customers who’ve seen the machine suggests that Xerox’s rivals are wrong and the iGen4 offers significant benefits.
Another feather in Xerox’s cap is ensuring existing users can benefit from some of the developments without needing to invest in a totally new machine.