The installation involves 22 Kodak Prosper S30 heads, which will be used to print unique numeric codes and QR codes in the newspaper.
This will allow purchasers of the printed newspaper to access the same exclusive online, mobile and tablet content available to those who pay a £2 a week online subscription fee for the new Sun+ packages.
News UK (formerly News International) said loyal Sun readers would enjoy Sun+ benefits thanks to the new technology, and described the move as “unlocking this new world of digital entertainment for both our print and digital customers”.
The implementation from conception to go live has taken place in a compressed timeframe of just three months. Newsprinters Broxbourne operations director Steve Whitehead told PrintWeek it was an “outstanding collaboration”.
“Our own local engineering and operations teams, fabrication suppliers, Kodak, and editorial production planning department have all worked together on this,” he said.
“Coordinating such a project on such a scale in the timeframe has been very exciting. It is another clear sign of our commitment to print and digital.”
The Prosper S30 heads have been fitted to the 19 Manroland presses at Newsprinters’ three print sites at Broxbourne, Eurocentral and Knowsley.
A further three heads have been installed on the presses at contract print partners the Belfast Telegraph in Northern Ireland and Kells in the Republic of Ireland.
The total spend on the project has not been disclosed.
The monochrome heads have been fitted onto adjustable rails, giving Newsprinters flexibility about where the variable content can appear on-page. They print at 600x200dpi producing codes and mono halftones at full press speed of 86,000 copies per hour.
Around 2.3m copies of The Sun are sold Monday to Saturday, and 1.9m on Sundays according to the latest ABC circulation figures.
“We’ve created a number of templates where the code position can change, so we have various options in terms of paginations and impositions,” Whitehead added.
Philip Cullimore, Kodak managing director of consumer and commercial businesses in EAMER, described the application as “variable data printing at its very best”.
The Sun officially launched the packages with a special cover wrap on the newspaper today (1 August). Codes will first appear in The Sun on Sunday this weekend, and then every day onwards.
Following an initial promotion period, readers who collect 20 codes each month will receive ongoing access to The Sun‘s digital content and perks package.
A key aspect of the digital entertainment package is Sun+Goals, with ‘near live’ video clips of Barclays Premier League goals, ready for the new season.
Germany’s Axel Springer has already implemented a similar hybrid printing system using Kodak heads across its print sites.