HP Showcases PageWide Web Press HD in Corvallis, Oregon
Earlier this month, HP invited a group of customers and prospects to its Corvallis, Oregon, facility to show them the latest developments in the newly renamed PageWide web press (formerly known as the Inkjet web press) product line. The facility tour began with a visit to HP’s Corvallis "Fab" lab, the fabrication laboratory where the silicon wafers used in inkjet print heads are made using micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) manufacturing techniques.
The latest models use the new high-definition nozzle architecture (HDNA) and are 2,400 nozzle-per-inch, dual channel, thermal inkjet (TIJ) print heads capable of speeds up to 800 ft./min. in Performance Mode on the T480 HD (a 33 percent increase from the T410’s 600 fpm of the previous HP TIJ heads).
The minute details of the microscopic thermal inkjet nozzles are absolutely mind-boggling. An excellent visual tour of how these nozzles operate can be seen in the video below/or by clicking here: computer-animated video that HP recently produced. Also on the tour was a visit to HP’s ink lab, and finally a view of several HP PageWide web presses including a T230, a T410 running a corrugated cardboard application, a T300 series product, a 110˝ print bar from a T1100S, and a T480 HD.
It is the “HD” versions of the PageWide web press family that will use the HDNA heads. The first HD versions will be rolled out in HP’s PageWide web press T400 line, specifically with the 42˝ wide T470 HD and T480 HD models. The beta testing of the first HDNA model will take place at Rotomail in Italy. HP expects product availability for the T470/480 HD to begin sometime around drupa (May 2016). The T200 series and T300 series will also benefit from HDNA, with availability starting in late 2016.
Existing units in the field will be able to be upgraded. For example, the base model 600-fpm T400 can be upgraded to a T410 model, which adds 200 fpm to its monochrome speed (its color speed remains at 600 fpm). Each of these models can then be upgraded to higher quality with HDNA. In the case of the 600-fpm T400, adding HDNA brings higher quality levels overall, either at 400 fpm (the T470 HD’s “Quality mode”) or 600 fpm (in “Performance mode”). In the case of the T410, adding HDNA produces the ability to print at 800 fpm (the T480 HD’s “Performance mode”) or 400 fpm (in “Quality mode”).
At the event HP showed samples comparing the output of the Quality and Performance modes. The quality difference is noticeable, but not jarring. For example, in one portrait print sample, the difference is most visible in subtle gradations of lighter shades or mid-tones. Ultimately it will be HP’s T470 HD and T480 HD users and end customers who will determine which application is appropriate for either mode, but the quality levels have increased with the introduction of the HDNA heads and will certainly enlarge the application set achievable, particularly as expanded use of offset coated papers come into the picture.
In regard to strategies for printing on a range of substrates, HP has multiple approaches:
- Printing on commodity sheets without any bonding agent—This tends to be most suitable for uncoated stocks and fairly light coverage
- Printing on commodity sheets with bonding agent applied only where needed—Higher coverage levels and reduced show-through can be achieved in this fashion
- Printing on inkjet-treated papers (no bonding agent)—Inkjet-treated papers, including coated stocks, provide the performance level for higher quality and higher coverage applications
- Printing on untreated coated or uncoated stocks using an in-line or off-line flood coating—Such priming units have the potential to open up a variety of broadly available offset substrates, including coated ones
HP reports that it has over 300 qualified substrates in ColorPRO and certified media programs. In regard to HP’s priming solution strategy, HP is offering two options: a 42˝ EPIC unit that runs at 600 fpm (183 m/min.) and a 22˝ HP-branded unit that runs at 400 fpm (122 mpm). Both units are duplex, can be run in an in-line or near-line configuration, and are upgradable to existing configurations. The 42˝ unit is intended for use with the T400 and T300 series products while the 22˝ unit is intended for the T200 series.
HP also noted that it had added three new partners to its SmartStream partners program: ColorGATE, Contiweb, and manrolandweb systems. These three join CMC, Compart, Eltex, EMT, Enfocus, Epic, GMC, Hunkeler, Kolbus, Magnum, MBO, Muller Martini, Tecnau, Ultimate TechnoGraphics, ViDEK, and VITS, WEKO among HP’s SmartStream partners.
During the opening presentation, Eric Wiesner, vice president and general manager of the PageWide web press division (formerly known as IHPS, Inkjet High-speed Production Solutions), told the assembled group that since the introduction of the product line the cumulative print volume in equivalent letter-sized images for HP’s T series products had amounted to 120 billion pages worldwide as of September 2015. He said that the current volume level is about 4 billion pages/month and that HP believes it is the volume leader among its competitors with about 50 billion of the total 200 billion pages printed annually.
Though such numbers are hard to confirm because vendors tend to be quite secretive about their installed base and print volume specifics, the estimate is within reason. InfoTrends’ global forecast for the continuous-feed color inkjet segment puts the 2015 total page volume number at 208 billion. In addition, given HP’s market share position and the volume capabilities of the high end of the product line, its volume claim of about a quarter of the global pages is plausible. Whether that figure leads all other vendors is also conceivable, yet other system providers, specifically Canon Océ and Ricoh InfoPrint, are both probably very close to that total.
By any measure, production inkjet volume has grown dramatically since 2008. This growth will continue. Improvements in inks, printheads, and substrates for the high-speed continuous-feed inkjet market, like those demonstrated by HP at this event, are making it possible for these devices to address higher quality applications on coated papers. This will help production inkjet to expand its impact in promotional and publishing applications like brochures, direct mail, catalogs, and magazines.
Direct marketing is one application area where these new inkjet systems will have a big impact. InfoTrends currently has a study in the field called "Direct Marketing Production Printing and Value-Added Services: A Strategy for Growth" that will assess new opportunities for direct mail and catalogs. For more information on this and other InfoTrends studies in progress, please click here.