There are other cost savings to consider with new technology, HP's DuPaul noted. "Today's heads are smarter and less ink is used," he pointed out. "There are ways to [better] control the media through the printer versus eight or 10 years ago." Plus, image quality is higher, he added, with sharper lines and the ability to read 4-point text. Older technology does not have a lot of built-in security features, either.
DuPaul added that HP LF printers manufactured within the past 10 years, including the Designjet 4000 series, also feature embedded web servers that can track job data and export it to cost-analysis programs. This technology also monitors supplies, including ink and media usage statistics for operations and accounting purposes. "We can send automatic SMS text messages or emails regarding [device] status and problems," he said. Such built-in notifications even can alert owner/operators as to when printheads are close to the end of their warranties.
Even newer is HP's ePrint & Share technology. Rolled out about 18 months ago, the Cloud-based application expedites job submissions and changes. Ideally suited for the architectural/engineering/construction (AEC) vertical market, it is compatible with Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch mobile devices, making alterations on the go a virtual breeze.
Printheads in many large-format printers remain in peak condition for only about a year of heavy use. Under normal usage, say 200 jobs per week, HP's heads are warranted for the amount of ink that runs through the printer—from 500 ml to 3,000 ml depending on the model, explained Eric DePaul, who oversees the Designjet line. Printheads are user-replaceable and relatively easy to switch out. While replacing them is not considered part of standard preventative maintenance (PM) procedures, these five key components should be changed out on a regular schedule, depending on device usage:
- High-pressure pumps for inks and solvents
- Ink dampers (change yearly or when repeated cleaning cannot improve intermittent gaps and lines in prints)
- Ink filters
- Capping/maintenance stations or individual caps
- Drive belts
Calibration also is important. "You want to align the jets so they fire at the right place and at the right time," emphasized Bob Flipse of Georgia-based service repair firm Grafx Network. As he reported in the SGIA Journal 11 months ago, "the cost of standard PM can run from $1,000 to $2,000 for time and materials, plus the technician's travel ...."
Drive motors are another important consideration, said HP's DuPaul, and their durability and performance are affected by humidity and temperature levels as well as usage demands. He added that it can be difficult to find replacements for servo-driven formatter boards.
But there comes a time when buying a new printer simply makes sense—and cents. "Often times, owners can reduce the overall cost of their contract by buying new," pointed out DuPaul. "They won't need to send out a [service] tech two or three times a year like they may for a 10-year-old machine."