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Everything that can go digital

May 1, 2008 12:00 AM


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In keeping with its goal to become the leader in digital graphic arts, HP (Palo Alto, CA) has taken on the largest digital printing technology exhibit space at Drupa (Hall 8A), which is the third largest stand overall.

“Digital pages yield more value than analog pages,” Stephen Nigro, HP's senior vice president, Graphics and Imaging Business, told the media and analysts gathered for HP's pre-Drupa summit in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 10, 2008. He emphasized the company's focus on analog to digital conversion and its “Print 2.0” strategy, citing the adaptability of digital as a fundamental advantage over offset.

Print 2.0, announced in May 2007, aims to make the Internet more print-friendly via HP technology. Additionally, it involves extending the company's digital content creation and publishing platforms while delivering products to improve throughput speed and reduce costs for high-volume commercial printing.

Indigo founder Benny Landa made an appearance and reiterated his belief, “Everything that can go digital, will.” HP's executives are quick to point out that not every print product can be produced digitally — for many print runs, digital would not be cost-effective. “Movement in the breakeven cost enables digital to gain market share vs. offset,” said Manny Kostas, HP's vice president of worldwide marketing, graphic arts, who noted digital currently is at 12 to 15 percent of the industry's volume. Nigro also discussed the importance of creating new digital pages to drive growth, as well as deconstruction/reconstruction of the value chain to streamline production, and environmental considerations to reduce waste.

Color is HP's main focus in the digital printing arena. Indigo division vice president and general manager Alon Bar-Shany said, “It is not our intent to compete with [production monochrome devices], because black-and-white is not a high-growth market.” In addition to digital color, he said UV inks currently are experiencing the highest growth. Since HP's recent acquisitions of ColorSpan and NUR Macroprinters, the company has become the top global provider of UV-curable large-format printing. While HP Indigo press page volume has grown in excess of 40 percent each quarter since 2003, HP large-format printers have increased in annual print volume by 25 percent, with 1.8 billion sq. ft. (549 million sq. m) printed on HP equipment worldwide in 2007.

HP offers an “agility assessment” that analyzes a firm's current breakeven costs, software and hardware needs before a technology recommendation is made. Kostas cited HP's commitment to customers, innovation, broad portfolio of digital color and global responsibility as keys to “[HP's] promise: progressive, profitable printing.”

A raft of new technologies

According to the Print 2.0 plan, HP launched several new products built to improve speeds and reduce costs for digital print providers. The company's Drupa exhibit will feature a new inkjet web press, an expanded portfolio of Indigo digital presses, a new workflow and a new ink line.

“Today's announcements further cement HP's leadership in the graphic arts market, accelerate the analog-to-digital conversion and propel digital technology as a mainstream product offering,” said Nigro. “These new technologies and products will change the digital printing industry in terms of value, volume and environmental footprint.”

A new inkjet web press

Touted as “the industry's widest-format digital press,” the HP Inkjet Web Press is a high-speed, 30-inch-wide (762-mm), 4-color duplex inkjet platform. Expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2009, the press was designed to capture analog pages for high-volume production of books, transactional/transpromotional mail, direct marketing materials and newspapers. It prints a 29.1-inch print width (30-inch rolls) at 400 fpm and is compatible with a wide range of uncoated media from 40 to 200 gsm.

Aurelio Maruggi, HP's vice president and general manager, inkjet high-speed production solutions, said the HP pigment and bonding agent used on the new inkjet press “enable a kind of media independence.” The bonding agent allows the ink to fix on the surface of uncoated stock rather than soak in and cause problems such as feathering.

Maruggi announced a finishing partnership with Hunkeler on the HP Inkjet Web Press. At Drupa, he said, the press will include Hunkeler's 660-mm newspaper/book signature line to produce an A4-size book with 3-up folding. It also prints newspapers from tabloid to full broadsheet with no size reduction.

In a follow-up interview, Francis McMahon, HP's director of marketing for its U.S. graphic arts business imaging and printing group, indicated the new machine will cost around $2.5 million. “It puts us in a whole new realm,” he said. “We previously didn't have a product to address [mainframe] high-volume users. It's very compatible to our portfolio.” McMahon called inkjet “a disruptive technology” with more platforms to be built.

More inkjet news to come

New HP Wide Scan Printing Technology was designed for industrial and commercial printing solutions using HP Latex Inks. HP Scalable Printing Technology (SPT) is a key component, with on-chip electronic circuits that provide printhead control, signal processing and monitoring functions. SPT allows thousands of identical drop generators to be produced on a single chip, ensuring high print quality with consistent drop weights, speeds and trajectories. The first HP printers using HP Latex Printing Technologies will be announced at Drupa.

For more details on HP's new water-based Latex Inks, see pg. 55.

New Indigos, more capabilities

HP has expanded its portfolio of HP Indigo presses with additional capabilities and three brand new models. HP Indigo presses now offer a choice of more than 1,300 off-the-shelf certified substrates for 7-color printing.

Slightly larger and reportedly twice as fast as the HP Indigo 5000, the HP Indigo 7000 offers “breakthrough cost of ownership” to increase the Indigo's break-even cost point vs. offset. It will be the first new Indigo available, in June 2008. Built for high-volume print service providers, it can produce large numbers of static jobs with run lengths ranging from one into the thousands, as well as variable data. In 4-color mode, the press runs at 120 letter-size pages/min. Its monthly rated volume is 3.5 million 4-color pages; 5 million 1- or 2-color pages.

The HP Indigo WS6000 and W7200 web-fed digital presses were designed for industrial and commercial applications, respectively.

The WS6000 is a label and packaging press expected to be available in early 2009. It offers twice the productivity of the HP Indigo ws4500 (which now offers an EskoArtwork digital front end) and is targeted toward label and packaging converters with significant volumes of medium- and short-run jobs. It produces jobs up to approximately 4,000 linear meters (13,000 linear ft.) for converters producing more than 300,000 linear meters per month. The WS6000 runs at 30 m/min. in 4-color mode, and can print up to seven colors on 12- to 450-micron (0.5 to 18-pt.) media. Its repeat length is 980 mm (38.58 in.).

Designed for high-quality publishing, direct mail and transactional/transpromotional printing, the W7200 high-volume commercial press is expected to be available in the second half of 2009. It produces up to 7.5 million letter-size color pages per month (30 million monochrome), running at 240 letter-size, 4-color pgs./min. (480 2-color or 960 monochrome), regardless of media type. It accepts substrates from 40 to 350 gsm and has a larger image format size, 317 × 980 mm (12.5 × 38.6 in.), which enhances imposition for 6 × 9-inch formats. The press supports AFP/IPDS content used in transactional and transpromotional printing.

In addition, the HP Indigo press 5500, rated for 300,000 to 1 million pages per month, has been enhanced with options allowing greater productivity with an additional feeder, an inline connection to the HP Indigo UV Coater and a kit for enabling printing on thicker media (up to 18-pt. board).

HP's first graphic arts Workflow Portfolio

HP Indigo presses will be the first hardware devices to employ the HP SmartStream Digital Workflow Portfolio for job creation through fulfillment. It combines HP SmartStream and partner components for solutions that are customizable and scalable to key market segments, such as general commercial printing, direct marketing, publications printing, photo merchandise, and labels and packaging. Future additions to the portfolio will offer workflow components for other HP Graphics Arts businesses, including HP Scitex, HP Inkjet High-Speed Production Solutions and HP Designjet.

HP SmartStream components shown for the first time at HP's pre-Drupa summit in Tel Aviv include the HP SmartStream Production Pro Print Server and the HP SmartStream Production Plus Print Server.

The Production Pro server is the next-generation RIP and press controller designed to drive large volumes of jobs, including variable-data printing. The Production Plus server, powered by Creo, includes a graphic arts feature set for “out-of-the-box” job control.

Both next-generation servers support standard formats — including PPML, Optimized PDF and PostScript — and are now scalable to drive multiple presses from a single server rack. They also support hybrid offset/digital production, including Prinergy, and are compatible with all HP Indigo commercial sheetfed presses.

Association accolades

While HP was hosting its pre-Drupa event, NAPL (Paramus, NJ) held its Top Management Conference in Orlando, where it honored HP with the 2007 Industry Award. Matt Bruns, HP North American business development, accepted.

“HP has become a key contributor to the advancement of the graphic arts industry and has shown great dedication to delivering quality goods and services,” said Joseph Truncale, president and CEO, NAPL.

With a new workflow suite, a broader range of digital presses and leading-edge innovations in inkjet, HP is preparing to cut a wider swath in the print industry.

Has it been 15 years already?

Indigo, now called HP Indigo, launchedthe Eprint 1000 in 1993. It was the firstmultipass full-color digital printer basedon liquid-toner technology (“ElectroInk”).


Denise Kapel is managing editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at dkapel@americanprinter.com.