HP updates Indigos and inkjet

HP has used its DScoop users event in Indianapolis, USA, to preview its Drupa offerings, with three new Indigo variants and  updates to the PageWide Advantage 2200 inkjet press as well as to the PrintOS workflow.

Norm Zilbershtain, general manager of Indigo, Scitex and Industrial print, says: “We want to accelerate labels, we want to expand in commercial printing. In packaging we want to disrupt the market and the growth to be exponential. And we want to unlock new markets.

The biggest of the new Indigos is the 120K, which is a straightforward evolution of the B2 100K, which takes sheets up to 740 x 510mm and up to 400gsm. It’s a series 5 print engine, which means that the standard model only takes CMYK and there’s an optional fifth colour channel. There’s a choice between the standard 120K and a version with High Definition HD imaging. This HD system still uses an 8-bit 812dpi writing system but this is addressable up to 1624 dpi, which produces better line screens up from 200 to 250 lpi. In practical terms, this should deliver slightly better colour gradients, which will mostly be of use in certain applications such as photobooks. 

Zilbershtain says that the Indigo 120K will have 30 percent more productivity, mostly due to improvements to processes around the press that reduce the need to stop printing, as well as updating many of the sub-assemblies within the press, mainly around paper handling. 

However, Indigo is quoting speeds of up to 6,000 sheets per hour but only in the three-colour EPM mode. For four colour double sided printing this speed drops to 2250 sheets per hour or 4500 sph 4/0. These are the same figures as the existing 100K model so it’s not clear where the return on the extra productivity lies.  

That said, there is a very high level of automation. HP has also tried to deskill the press operations so that one operator can run several presses and should only need one week’s worth of training.

There’s a new Eco mode that has a 15 percent lower click charge and should lead to service costs of 20 percent lower. This is partly down to using less electro-ink and is essentially a compliment to the EPM mode. But whereas the EPM mode only uses CMY, creating the black from these colours, and cutting down the number of chargeable clicks, the Eco Mode instead reduces the amount of the CMY colours for a thinner ink layer. Zilbershtain adds: “We have a lot of confidence that this press will require less service costs.”

Noam Zilbershtain, VP & General Manager of HP Indigo & Scitex

There’s also a new Indigo 18K, which is the next step up from the existing 15K and is expected to take on the 15K’s role of a multi-discipline workhorse press. As with the 15K, it’s a B2 model, taking sheets up to 750 x 530mm, coated and uncoated up to 400gsm/ 450 microns. There’s the same optional thick substrate kit a for the 15K that will extend this to substrates up to 600 microns thick. 

It uses a series 4 imaging engine, meaning that although the standard configuration is for CMYK, it can take up to seven colours. The print speed remains the same as the 15K, producing 1725 sph four colour double sided or 4600 sph in the three colour EPM, single sided. Again, there is a lot of AI-based automation and the option for the HD Imaging unit.  

The third new Indigo is the 7K Secure Digital, which Indigo claims is its first fully secure digital sheetfed solution and is based on the 7K model. The concept builds on the existing 6K Secure, which is a web-fed device for labels and packaging. As with the 6K Secure, HP has worked with Jura JSP, which specialises in developing solutions, particularly around software, for security printing. Essentially the idea is that it retains most of the flexibility of the Indigo platform whilst coping with the demands of security printing. Thus it comes with SecureDFE plus additional security printing software from Jura. There are also certain inks that are only available for this press, such as an invisible red as well as inks that contain taggants to stop counterfeiting.

HP also took the opportunity to announce the commercial availability of the HP Indigo V12 Digital Press. I’ve lost track of the number of times this press has been announced. The most interesting thing to note here is that Indigo is working on developing the same series 6 engine for other markets including commercial printing as well as folding carton though of course there is no timeline on when we might see such devices. 

Indigo is also adding the HD option to its existing 35K press for folding carton. This should allow it to produce smoother tints and micro text that will be useful in some application such as cosmetics packaging and for reproducing some of the security features required in pharma applications.

Inkjet

As well as the new Indigos, HP announced a number of improvements for its PageWide Advantage 2200 inkjet press. Perhaps the most significant of these is that it will now take heavier substrates, up to 16-point coated media for double-sided printing and 18-point or 320gsm coated for simplex work, though you will need to have all three drying zones to handle these weights. This answers a customer demand for printing postcards, tip-on cards and shelf talkers or edge tags. 

Yale Goldis, Director Strategy, Commercial Products and Solutions at HP PageWide Industrial

HP has also been able to improve the colour profiling. Yale Goldis. Head of commercial printing for HP PageWide, points out that there are a lot of steps to make a colour profile for a modern inkjet press, adding: “Our customers are able to do this in one pass in five minutes, which used to take an hour with a colour management expert.”

The press also gains a speed bump, with its maximum speed up from 152mpm to 244mpm, which is down to a new Performance Economy print mode. This reduces the amount of CMY ink that is laid down but leaves customers with an option to have full density black, or to reduce the black level slightly as well. The results are quite good; it’s not suitable for every application but in many cases the differences are almost negligible, judging from the samples that HP showed. HP has also now added support for MICR inks for security printing. 

HP is looking at adding more intelligent automation. Goldis says: “We have a workflow tool that will allow our customers to print 15x more than without that tool.” It’s currently running at a pilot site. 

Goldis continues: “Run lengths are getting shorter so you have more jobs and that means that you need more tools to be more efficient.”

Thus theres a new Smart work cell controller, which looks at the jobs coming into the print queue and batches similar jobs together and automatically configures the press for those jobs before sending them on complete with imposition. HP defines a work cell as the press plus its associated ancillaries such as winder and rewinder or whatever is included inline. 

Goldis says that HP has installed more than 20 of the Advantage 2200 since this press was first launched, which was at the Printing United show in September 2022 for the US market, and Hunkeler Innovation Days in February 2023 for Europe. He adds: “These customers are all printing at twice the speed of the T250 and with 60 percent less energy. This press is doing what we designed it to do, which is to give our customers an advantage.”

Workflow

Gershon Alon, head of software for indigo and industrial printing, defines standard automation as using a machine or a computer to replace some human action, adding: “But for intelligent automation we mean to collect data, analyse that data and reach a conclusion and then taking an action.”

He then went on to describe a number of new features for HP’s PrintOS. The first of these, SpotMaster, can automatically match spot colours. He explains: “It can take 10 to 30 minutes per colour at the moment. But our technology identifies the spot colour in the file, prints a job and measures it and then prints another iteration until it reaches the right colour.” He says this is faster, and does not need an experienced operator with expensive colour management training. 

HP has developed a new of optional Packs to enhance its PrintOS workflow

Then there is Colour Beat, which measures the colour calibration of a press and eliminates the need for experts to visit a site and measure the colour output and give a certification to a print company. Instead this system simply analyses the data and gives a score to the printer and their customers. The idea is to ensure that the brands are confident in the print provider and their equipment. 

Theres a new option, Production Beat, for monitoring the activity of your equipment. In the past this was just for that equipment that HP manufactured and supplied but HP is now starting to reach out to other suppliers to work with their equipment.

At Drupa, HP will show eight production lines, including one with a Horizontal binder that will be linked through Horizon’s IceLink.

Alon points out that you need a cloud-level system to collect and store print data as well as to analyse it. He adds: “It’s about workflow but also every aspect including servicing and training.”

Alon says that brands are not aware of what they can do with digital printing, adding: “And even if they are aware, it’s a difficult process.” For this reason, HP has teamed up with Esko to make versioned and customised jobs as easy as static ones using Esko’s WebCentre and Automation Centre. He explains: “Customers can use the same tools. And the goal is that the converter will see this job as a standard job and not as something different.”

HP also introduced a new Autonomous Mobile Robot or AMR as part of its vision for more automation throughout a print factory. I’ll come back to this in a later story.

So, what everybody wants to know is, are these new presses any good, do all the numbers add up, are they worth buying? Well, the very first thing that HP indicated to me, and it seems also to many other journalists, before even saying anything about these presses, was that they weren’t worth seeing and that we should fly home straightaway. I like to think that I have more confidence in my work than HP seems to have in its efforts. 

Actually, HP does have a good story to tell, but is not very good at telling it. There’s a lot of – let’s call it treacle – to deal with, which is nice on pancakes, but not so much fun if you’re trying to climb out of a vat full of the stuff.

Fortunately, I managed to find a more sensible flight home so that I could take the tour with a closer look at the presses, but even so, the answers to these questions will have to wait till the next part of this story. In the meantime, you can find further details from hp.com.


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