The build up to drupa continues and in recent weeks some of the major vendors in the industry have introduced their new products. In the meanwhile in Boston we have just had the OnDemand event and this showed how every vendor is keeping their powder dry waiting for digital. In walking the hall I failed to see any significant new digital printing product. I also saw almost no large or super-wide format digital printers. Perhaps only IBM took advantage of the event to showcase their new Infoprint 5000 digital color printer. Their stand was always crowded with customers. The only other new product I saw was the Canon ImagePress 6000. In reality this appears to be an ImagePress 7000 with a slower capacity and I understand it has only one fuser for toner rather than the two in the 7000. This allows Canon to compete better against some of the light production color printers in the market.
In this article I want to cover key announcements from HP in their massive pre-drupa event held in Israel this week.
Consternation in the Suppliers’ Boardrooms!
Up to this time there have been a number of announcements about new high-speed continuous feed inkjet and xerographic presses. Here we have seen announcements from IBM, Kodak, Océ, Screen and Xerox and I fully expect to hear something from Agfa in the next week. Yesterday HP announced their product in this market and this announcement I am sure this will cause huge consternation in the boardrooms of all other suppliers. I have fully expected HP to make a move into the continuous feed inkjet color printing market, but I never expected anything quite like the product they announced. HP’s new Inkjet Web Press that is built around HP’s Edgeline scaleable printing architecture that I have written about a number of times before redefines the market for such continuous feed color digital presses. The following is an outline of the specification of this press.
This twin-engine duplex printing engine press runs at a speed of 122 meters/minute (400 ft/min) and this equates to 2,600 Letter or A4 pages/minute
The press has a 30-inch (762 mm) web width compared with all the competitions’ 20-inch web widths. This twin-engine duplex printing engine press runs at a speed of 122 meters/minute (400 ft/min) and this equates to 2,600 Letter or A4 pages/minute. This press is expected to sell for around $2.5 million. The quality I have seen from output looks very good and certainly equivalent to anything from other suppliers’ products. To put all this into context the fastest printers from other suppliers are the Kodak Versamark VX5000 and Océ’s new Jetstream 2200. These 20-inch wide presses run at a speed of a 500 ft/min (150 meters/min) and up to 2,200 pages/minute and cost in excess of $5 million. Products like the IBM Infoprint 5000 and Xerox 980 Continuous Feed Color Press run at half this speed and cost in the region of $3 million. So HP’s new press is the fastest and cheapest of all these new presses and it also has by far the largest format. In addition to this the cost per print appears to be among the lowest of all these new presses. HP indicates that an A4 color page with 30% coverage will cost $0.01 and a basic monochrome page $0.0015. At these prices this printer appears to set a new competitive price target fro other suppliers.
This product has some innovative technologies. Unlike a number of other inkjet presses it uses pigmented inks for more vibrant color. The press also prints a binder solution on the paper wherever ink is to be printed. This largely eliminates ink show through that one sees on many other printers when low quality lightweight paper are printed. One area where the new press differs from other presses is in the way the Edgeline print heads are used. These are mounted in an array across the width of the press with seven print heads per color. This differs from other implementations of Edgeline technology where each print head would print two colors. An operator can easy replace individual print heads if a head fails, in just the same way print heads can be replaced in HP’s desktop and wide format printers. Ink is channelled to the print heads from large capacity containers on the press. There are no visible ink transfer pipes as seen in most other high performance inkjet printers. Print quality is 600 x 600 dpi and looks very good. However in a similar fashion to other high-speed inkjet printers that are currently available the image looks somewhat flat compared with sheet fed digital printer output.
The new HP printer is not currently available and is planned to go into beta testing before the end of this year. Full availability is expected in the second half of 2009. HP is targeting the printer at a number of markets. These include book printing, newspapers, direct mail and of course, transpromo applications. With its 30-inch web width this fits in well with existing offset printing finishing technologies. HP has already been working with suppliers of print finishing equipment. Hunkeler has announced a new system of 660 mm width for newspaper and book finishing. With its low cost per print this press is likely to have a significant impact in accelerating the transfer of many types of work from offset to digital printing. HP will be supplying a range of different options for driving the press utilizing elements of its SmartStream enabled workflow solutions.
As I stated before I believe this new HP press significantly moves the goal posts in this area. It appears to have far better price performance and output functionality than any other printer. It also puts the future position of Kodak’s STREAM technology that will be demonstrated as a concept at drupa into doubt as it offers what appears to be equivalent or better performance and functionality to what we expect Kodak to offer in 2010 or 2011. At this time, unless another supplier comes with something even more spectacular, this new HP Inkjet Web Press will be the digital printing highlight of drupa.
This press is twice the speed of the current HP Indigo 5500 press for which there are also some significant enhancements
New HP Indigo Presses
In addition to the new HP Inkjet Web Press HP Indigo announced a completely new printing platform. This will first be seen at drupa with the HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press. This press is twice the speed of the current HP Indigo 5500 press for which there are also some significant enhancements. The press makes use of a new imaging technology for this higher performance and to go with this the ElectroInk was been optimized for running on the press. Like the HP Indigo 5500 it is a seven-color press with similar imaging resolution to the 5500. HP Indigo believe the increased performance of this press coupled with low operating costs per page of output will make the 7000 press more competitive against offset for longer run lengths. Their figures show the breakeven against offset comes at a much higher level than the 5500 and should facilitate a greater transfer of offset work to digital.