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HP Indigo Warms Up for drupa

I was among several dozen trade journalists and analysts from around the world who arrived last Monday in Tel Aviv, Israel for HP Pre-Drupa 2012. Despite varying degrees of jet lag, most of us were keen on finding out just what HP had up its sleeve for Dusseldorf. There was great interest in seeing the HP Indigo manufacturing facilities at Kiryat Gat, which was scheduled for the first day of the event, but we were destined to be disappointed. The tour was cancelled due to several Gaza rocket strikes near the facility. The idea of putting the world's printing industry trade press in harm's way prompted the tour cancellation—although a cease-fire later that day temporarily cleared the way for an optional visit later in the tour.

After an on-the-fly reorganization, day one started with series of presentations outlining the major announcements and details of what HP Indigo and Scitex had in store for Drupa 2012. Among the highlights outlined by Alon Bar-Shany, VP and general manager of the Indigo Digital Press Division, Chris Morgan, senior VP of HP's Graphic Solutions Business in the Imaging and Printing Group, Xavier Garcia, VP and general manager of HP Scitex, and other senior HP officials were:

  • Three next generation 29-inch format HP Indigo presses capable of producing almost any commercial print job and a much broader range of packaging applications.
  • Three updated models of the current HP Indigo portfolio with higher speeds in Enhanced Productivity Mode (EPM).
  • Three higher-speed HP Inkjet Web Press models featuring advanced ink and print head technology.
  • New HP high-speed imprinting solution for adding monochrome or full-color content to preprinted offset materials.
  • A white ink kit, automatic loader and HP SmartStream Production Analyzer monitoring solution for HP Scitex industrial presses.
  • A range of new HP SmartStream workflow and finishing solutions, HP Hiflex management information systems (MIS) and web-to-print solutions, and an expanded services organization.
  • New media for the HP Inkjet Web Press systems, including the first coated glossy paper with ColorPRO technology available from Appleton Coated.
  • New HP Indigo preferred media partner agreements with Sappi, Avery Dennison, Mitsubishi and ArjoWiggins Graphics.

Getting Faster

After the morning presentations, attendees were driven to the HP Indigo labs at Ness Ziona to see the new equipment in person. Among the new introductions demonstrated were the new HP Indigo 7600 and the new HP Indigo 5600. Both boast 33 percent faster speeds using the new Enhanced Productivity Mode (EPM) that uses three colors to simulate black, thus eliminating the use of black ink. While EMP is not appropriate for all jobs, it can be used in most.

The 7600 was developed out of the HP Indigo 7000 and 7500 models and not only offers faster speeds but also has increased automation and can simulate special effects such as raised print, textured effect embossing, and digital watermarking. HP says that "nearly all" of the new features of the 7600 will be available as field upgrades for existing 7000 and 7500 HP Indigo presses.

The new HP Indigo 5600 was developed out of the HP Indgo 5500, the most popular press in Indigo's history with more than 1,500 produced since 2007. It offers a white ink option which will enable the production of metallic effects and an optional "one shot" printing mode for printing on synthetic substrates such as PVC and PET. These new features will also be available as field upgrades for owners of HP Indo 5500 presses beginning in the summer of 2012. Both the HP Indigo 7600 and 5600 will be available for order at drupa 2012.

At drupa, HP will also showcase the T360 and T410 color inkjet web presses with faster monochrome speeds and an HP T230 color inkjet web press with faster color speeds—all aimed at the higher-volume book manufacturing market. Also on display will be the HP Indigo W7250 high-volume, roll-fed device for one-off and short-to medium-run production of high-end color textbooks, manuals, and trade books.

Going Big

It's been a long time since I've heard spontaneous applause from a group of analysts and journalists, but I heard it with the long-awaited announcement of the new seven-color B2-size HP Indigo press. It's not that the news was unexpected. Word had been out that it was on its way since the last drupa, but now it is a reality and will be available to ship in 2013. Aimed at "the heart of the offset market", the 20x20.9-inch HP Indigo 10000 will fit into existing offset operations allowing printers to impose four-up A4 sizes. That will enable them to produce pocket folders, posters, brochures, book covers and jackets, and any number of other jobs. The HP Indigo 10000 features an automatic blanket change system and can be ganged with a Horizon Smart Stacker and an MBO Signature Folder. It is compatible with other standard finishing equipment found in commercial printing operations. The HP Indigo 10000 will be available commercially in 2013.

Soon to follow the HP Indigo 10000 will be the HP Indigo 20000 roll-fed version for flexible packaging and labels and the sheet-fed HP Indigo 30000 for folding cartons, both based on the HP Indigo 10000 platform, both of which were demonstrated during the press tour.

Taking Time

Following a Wednesday morning return the the HP Indigo labs for a more detailed look at the new offerings, attendees were driven to Jerusalem for an optional tours of either holy sites in the old city or a visit to the historic village of Ein Kaeem and the Machane Yehuda open air market. The day ended with a reception and dinner in King Solomon's Quarries, a 1,000-foot long cavern underneath the wall of the Old City that covers some 2.5 acres and is the longest man-made cave in Israel.

Seeing Scitex

Thursday began with a visit to HP Scitex in Natanya. During the initial briefing we had been told that HP Scitex was determined to make inroads into the screen printing, XXL offset, and packaging arenas. It also has moved from solvent to latex in order to penetrate the textile, traffic signage, decoration, and corrugated packaging markets.

The highlight of the visit was the new HP Scitex FB7600 flatbed industrial press, which won a 2012 Wide-Format Imaging Top Product Award. The 7600 is a follow on from the HP Scitex 7500 and offers a white ink kit, Hostert automatic loader, and a new version of HP SmartStream Production Analyzer for automatic monitoring of HP Scitex industrial wide-format presses. With some 57 percent of new 7500/7600 installations in screen printing operations, the presses are part of the HP effort to move wide-format from analog to digital. With six colors plus white, the FB 7600 upgrades can be retrofitted to the installed base.

From Natanya, the tour moved on to the Scitex manufacturing facility in Caesarea, where the HP Scitex 7600, the TJ8600, the TJ835, the XP 2500, the XP5100, and the XP550 industrial presses are built. All the units due to be on display at drupa were being broken down and crated for shipment to Dusseldorf.

Winding Up

With so much information to absorb in such a short time, it is difficult to wrap everything up into a tidy little package. The Indigo upgrades and new introductions are certainly significant and the idea of getting faster production speeds by simulating black is interesting. The white ink option is a very good addition and the fact that most HP Indigo improvements are available as field upgrades is important. For my money, the new HP Indigo 10000 B2-size press can be a game changer since it is a comfortable fit in many print service provider (PSP) operations. The roll-fed and sheet-fed presses based on the 10000 platform also should allow PSPs to move into more folding carton and flexible packaging areas. As far as Scitex, the FB7600 is a major step forward with the white ink option, autoloader, and SmartStreamr but I think the real takeaway here is the effort to move wide-format from analog to digital and the transition to latex in order to penetrate the textile, decorative, and corrugated markets. We'll just have to wait and see how all of this is received in Dusseldorf.

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