Hewlett Packard has made significant strides with its Latex technology since it first introduced the technology in 2008 as an alternative to solvent based inkjet printing systems. It has launched the new 3000 series of Latex printers at the recent FESPA exhibition and this product line is certain to attract considerable attention. While a little short of betting the company on the success of these new machines, HP is laying down a marker that demonstrates it believes that ending of the use of solvent based inks in inkjet applications is nigh.
In an exclusive interview with ME Printer, Abdallah Aoude, HP’s PSP Business development manager for the Middle East said: “Large format printing is evolving. People are now asking for more environmentally friendly products. Solvent is still popular, especially in our region but HP is committed to environment and does not invest in solvent anymore.” He is very upbeat about the long term prospects for Latex: “Our global installed base for this range now exceeds 15000 units. In Middle East we have more than 1000 Latex printers already running in print houses across the region.”
He recognises the importance of emerging markets such as the Middle East and there is no doubt it is a viable market for HP and he claims: “Since HP introduced Latex technology 5 years ago over 100 million square meters of different media have been printed with HP Latex inks and we now have over 150 media vendors offering products compatible with Latex inks.”
Is Mr Aoude being simplistic in under estimating the challenges HP face with the wider format machines? The HP Latex 3000 is not cheap; each machine costs around 363,000 dollars list price but the price does include on-site Uptime Parts Kits, HP Ramp-up Service and HP Customer Care Programs. Double sided printing is not supported at present with these recently launched versions, but this feature will be included in the future upgraded models.
One of the challenges HP is going to have to overcome is the way the Middle East could become a dumping ground for solvent based printers from Europe and the US as new environmental laws and practices take effect. A refurbished wide format machine could retail for around half the price of a new HP 3000. Mr Aoude sees the advantages of solvent free printing is greater than just health and environmental issues and believes the 3000 series is more than up for the challenge: “The HP Latex 3000 is much more versatile machine. Since the curing is now done at much lower temperatures, heat-sensitive substrates can be used. One particular feature that I believe can help printers achieve stunning quality is the Latex ink Optimizer. This new ink solution instantly pins pigments to produce sharp text and details, consistent image quality at high speeds as well as efficient curing at lower temperatures and with less energy than previous HP Latex solutions.”
The new printer uses third-generation HP 881 Latex Inks and is very resistant to scratches. While the printhead with its 7x 10,000 nozzles is capable of creating 12 picolitre drop sizes and uses 5 litre ink cartridges coming in non refillable cartons. The printer’s speed and productivity has been increased dramatically over the existing Latex models with a top speed for indoor application of 77 m2/hr and for outdoor is 120 m2/hr.
The challenge of non proprietary inks is one Aoude is quite comfortable with thanks to the faith he has in HP’s reputation for quality and consistency. He says: “There are Latex after market inks available from other vendors. This is a natural development and certainly there will always be companies offering third party inks, it is something we cannot stop. However when dealing with HP a customer is dealing with a proven technology leader having worldwide acceptance. Others have to yet prove the efficiency of their products.”
Is HP likely to stop at three metre machines or are there larger ones say one of five metres in the pipeline? Aoude ends on a very positive note: “The fact is HP will continue to invest in its proprietary HP Latex printing technology platform. This is certain to further drive industry innovation and continue meet customer needs.”
HP REBRANDS PRINTERS
In order to avoid confusion and to help customers pinpoint the best Latex solution HP has created a sub-brand. The HP latex series now include:
The HP Latex 260 Printer, formerly the HP Designjet L26500 Printer
The HP Latex 280 Printer, formerly the HP Designjet L28500 Printer
The HP Latex 600 Printer, formerly the HP Scitex LX600 Industrial Printer
The HP Latex 820 Printer, formerly the HP Scitex LX820 Industrial Printer
The HP Latex 850 Printer, formerly the HP Scitex LX850 Industrial Printer
The HP Latex 3000 Printer
HP Latex inks and supplies also will be rebranded to reflect the updated product naming