HP revamps Indigo line-up

Earlier this week I wrote about two new Indigo presses, the series 5 100K sheetfed and the series 6 V12 label press. But HP has also announced eight other new presses, though these are updates to existing models, and in most cases, relatively minor updates. I’ll cover the new machines first before turning to the significance of these announcements. 

This HP Indigo 15K is the latest in the series 4 B2 sheetfed presses.

The Indigo portfolio spans three main segments – document sheetfed, flexible packaging and labels, and folding carton packaging. There are new models in all of these, which I’ll go through one at a time. In addition, HP says that it will offer value packs with upgrade options to allow existing customers to benefit from some of the new features and capabilities though in most cases this seems to be compatibility with newer electroinks, updates to the spot colour management, and possibly minor improvements to the virtual imaging resolution to allow for newer line screens.

Starting with the sheetfed presses, there’s a second B2 model, the Indigo 15K, alongside the 100K that I’ve already covered, plus two new SRA3+ sheetfed models, the Indigo 7K and entry-level Indigo 7eco, which both build upon the series 3 engines that were introduced in 2008.

The 15K appears to be an updated series 4 machine. Regular readers will recall that the series 4 was introduced at Drupa in 2012 with the 10000 platform, and then upgraded to the 12000 with its higher resolution print engine for Drupa 2016. The Indigo 15K takes this a step further with an optional kit to accept thinker substrates up to 600 microns or 24 pt. According to Indigo, it can also use the Premium white and Invisible yellow electroinks, which is hardly a surprise since these were first introduced back in 2018. It can run at 4600 sph using Indigo’s CMY enhanced productivity mode, or EPM in simplex. For standard 4/4 colours this drops to 1725 sph or 3450 for 4/0. These are the same speeds as the Indigo 12000. HP says that the current Indigo 12000 can be upgraded to the new 15K spec.

The 7K takes a 33x48cm sheet and can produce 120sph, A4 four-colour, or 160sph in the three-colour EPM mode, which is the same as the existing Indigo 7900. Indeed, apart from the change of name it’s not clear what else HP has done to this. It has the same 812 dpi imaging system and takes same media from 3-16pt in thickness. 

The 7eco is a stripped-down entry-level version that comes with just four colours though customers can add a fifth colour unit. It’s also missing the one-stop technology and support for thicker substrates. 

Flexible packaging/ labels

HP has updated its narrow web label press portfolio with this Indigo 6K.

We’ve already dealt with the V12 but there are three further models for label and packaging, the 6K, 8K and 25K. The 6K is an updated version of the existing 6000 series, which HP says is able to cope with more applications using higher opacity white for shrink sleeves, new electroinks including silver, fluorescents, invisible red and green for brand protection applications and new varnishes from leading partners for higher durability. I can’t think of any good technical reason why you could not use these colours with the existing machine. It takes a 340mm wide web and can handle pressure-sensitive label stocks, paper, unsupported films and paperboard from 12 to 450 microns thick. It runs at 30mpm in four colour mode, or 40mpm in three colour EPM mode, the same as the older machine.

The new 8K is a faster twin-engined version of the 6K, though it loses some of the substrate flexibility taking only pressure-sensitive labels and shrink sleeves. This can run at 60mpm in four colour mode, or 80 mpm in three colour EPM mode. is said to offer increased productivity, reduced waste and easier transitioning between media types and jobs, though I’m not sure how since it too appears to offer the same productivity as the older machines. 

The 25K is basically a wider version of the 6K, taking a 762mm web so it’s an update to the B2-sized Indigo 20000. This runs at 31mpm in four colour mode, or 42mpm in three colour EPM mode, which is the same as for the Indigo 20000, as well as the same 812dpi resolution. It will print a range of films, PET, BOPP, PE plus Shrink film, label stock and paper. It takes substrates from 10 to 400 microns. It has gained a new slitter for labels, presumably because HP noticed that many of its Indigo 20000 customers were using it for label rather than packaging production. It also gains two white ink stations.

HP has also updated its pouch-making solution, which now includes a new 800 mm wide solventless laminator, the SuperSimplex e800 from Nordmeccanica. This offers low waste and reduced energy consumption for on-demand pouch production. HP says that the existing Karlville Pack Ready thermal laminator and Karlvile KS-DSUP-400 pouch maker combination that it offers are actually optimized for shorter runs. 

Carton board packaging

HP has improved its approach to the B2 folding carton market with this Indigo 35K press.

There are two new presses for the carton board market, in the shape of the B2 sheetfed 35K and the B1 rollfed 90K. 

The 35K is an updated Indigo 30000, with the same specifications. Thus it prints 3450 sph in standard 4/0 or 4600 sph in 3/0 EPM mode. It’s possible that this has gained the 1600 dpi HD imaging engine from the 12000HD, at least according to the press release but not the specification sheet. 

It takes 750 x 530mm sheets but it appears that HP has improved the substrate range so that it will take both thinner and thicker materials, with the ability to print to paperboard and metalized boards from 150 to 450 gsm, as well as PVC up to 880gsm, polypropylene up to 630 gsm and PET up to 550 gsm. 

Naturally it will take the newer electroinks, including the Premium White for higher opacity, as well as the Invisible Yellow, track-and-trace solutions and security elements for multi-layered brand protection applications on one press, in one pass. HP also says that it has improved the job changeovers with new drawers and a pallet feeder. 

Finally, there is the Indigo 90K, for which there is almost no information at all. This is a B1-sized web-fed press that’s been designed for simplex applications including banners, oversized B1 posters and wallpaper, which does seem like a really interesting mix. It’s said to have new and patented algorithms for continuous print and HP also says that it will offer a roll-to-sheet solution with an inline water-based/UV coater and sheeter. This looks as if HP is attempting to target the more industrial market so hopefully there will be more information on this before the end of the year.

It’s difficult to know exactly what HP’s intentions are with these machines since the press releases appear to have been written by someone unburdened by any actual knowledge of the new machines. Nonetheless, taken together, these eight new presses plus the 100K and V12 represent a fundamental shift in Indigo’s place in the print market. Up until now, the sheetfed Indigos have mostly competed against dry toner presses such as the Nexpress and iGen, while in the labels market they started off running against the Xeikon label presses but in recent years have also successfully taken on the growing number of inkjet label presses. 

HP seems to understand that inkjet presses, including HP’s own PageWide machines, will take a lot of the market currently using dry toner and so the 100K and 15K machines are clearly aimed at keeping Indigo in the game. So far HP has shared very little information and none of the pricing of these presses. But one of the reasons why inkjet devices are becoming more popular is precisely because they offer lower running costs that can cope with a wider range of jobs. HP would have had to significantly rethink the maintenance of these machines to allow for a lower click charge, but since most of these new presses just involve minor tweaks to the existing print engines, it’s unlikely that the running costs will be much lower. Instead, HP will probably argue that the costs are justified because the machines can run more substrates and use the newer inks but it remains to be seen if the market ultimately agrees with this.

At the same time, the digital label printing market is changing. At the upper end, the inkjet devices are getting faster, with better resolution and able to handle a wider range of substrates without the running costs of an Indigo. At the lower end, there are several credible industrial label presses that Indigo is struggling to compete against, which strongly suggests that a part of the market is more interested in lower costs and will accept good enough rather than premium print quality. And it has to be said that the print quality coming off machines like the Memjet-powered Gallus Smartfire is more than good enough.

Also, flexo presses have gained more automation with faster makereadies for shorter job lengths, and there are many flexo/ inkjet hybrid machines around. Indigo does offer quite a flexible solution for the low to mid-volume label and packaging market but at a cost and it will become increasingly hard to justify this as volumes and run lengths go up. Of course, it also depends on whether or not the competitors can catch up in terms of workflow and particularly integrated web to print, which HP excels at. 

Alon Bar-Shany, general manager of HP Indigo, commented: “Our philosophy for success is grounded in two key principles – innovation and automation – and how they play together to build a profitable business for customers. All this is underpinned by a view towards reducing waste with a genuine concern for the environment. As we develop our product repertoire, we keep these guiding principles in mind. Our new portfolio reflects a range of products that offer unprecedented productivity, as well as new levels of quality and versatility, to inspire the unbounded creativity of our customers and the brands they serve.”

HP has 3D-printed several parts for its Indigo printers, such as this lamp floating connector, using its own 3D printers.

One further thing worth noting is that HP has printed over 100 parts from all these printers on its Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers. Now, that’s not very many parts when we consider just how printers HP has thrown at this announcement, and how many parts each of these presses have. But it is still a sign that HP is taking 3D printing seriously. The significance of this is that as the CoVid-19 outbreak continues to spread and shows every sign of disrupting supply chains, including spare parts, it’s encouraging to think that some of those parts can simply be printed off as needed. I remain convinced that this is a business model that more vendors in the graphic arts space should consider.

In the meantime, all of these presses should be available later in the year. You can find more details from hp.com.

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