03 April 2020 Business

HP Indigo is ready to rock and roll

HP Indigo has developed new print engines and new presses. These were ready for launch at Drupa 2020 to take the digital presses further into litho print’s heartlands, and will still ship this year.

Part time rock guitarist Alon Bar-Shany introduces one machine as the Born to Run press. Another is unveiled with a snatch of guitars, keyboards and drums. “That’s Highway Star from Deep Purple,” he says for the benefit of those not as well versed in the canon as he is.

For when he doesn’t have a guitar in his hand, Bar-Shany is general manager of HP Indigo. Both tracks predate the introduction of Indigo technology in 1993. Now, he says, Indigo planned to introduce at Drupa “the greatest advance in the technology since 1993.” Those plans are shredded by the postponement of the show. But the presses cannot be stopped.

It will launch two new generations of the core liquid electrophotographic print engine at the show, a Series 5 engine for a number of new B2 presses and a Series 6 engine shown on an early example of a label press. It planned to show this as the Indigo V12 with two machines in operation in Hall 17, even though the press will not be commercially available for another two years, according to Bar-Shany.

The V12 is more than a concept machine, however. It is aimed at consolidating Indigo's position in the label sector where it claims that more than 6% of the word’s labels are printed on Indigos already. This machine will take Indigo into a new section of that market, laying claim to a greater slice of the UV flexo market, and so confining analogue to the longest runs only. Announcing the technology now suggests that the V12 will be a highlight of the next Labelexpo at the end of 2021 and will give those converters looking for a long run digital press to replace flexo, an alternative to inkjet.

It is a 340mm wide roll to roll, or roll to near line finishing, or inline to a Digicon finishing line from AB Graphics. It runs at up to 140 metres a minute and can be loaded with 12 colours, the seven set colours of extended colour gamut printing, plus white, silver, security inks and any spot colours that may be needed in a run of several jobs, changing from one job to the next on the fly.

The press is designed around six Indigo print engines, each with two ink stations. These build the image on a new design of transfer blanket as six colours only single pass or double pass for more colours achieving 70m/min. The finished image is transferred using the established Indigo OneShot process to the substrate.

The V12 is the first time that Indigo has chosen to introduce a new version of the core Indigo technology on the narrow web platform instead of as a sheetfed press. This is a logical move, as existing users of Indigo for label printing want to run longer jobs and to switch more jobs from flexo. The technology will have greater scope beyond label printing. Exactly how and what a new machine may look like will be decided from feedback over the next year.

Printing a smaller image area that will be necessary for a sheetfed press will be easier to balance on the multiple engines and there is more demand for CMYK+ printing in labels than in commercial print. The next generation of Series 5 and Series 4 engine presses will address these needs and will be available this summer.

These cover the B2 format range from flexible packaging, carton printing and commercial print, delivering higher print speeds and faster job processing speeds. There is a 30% increase in print speeds and a 50% increase in processing speeds. There should be no waiting between one job and the next.

The B2 commercial printer can choose between the Indigo 15K alongside the existing Indigo 12000. Both have the option of HD imaging, both using the Series 4 print engine. This has been a success for HP with more than 1,000 installed across 66 countries, making this the leading B2 digital press in the market ahead of the combined population of inkjet machines.

Both are for the value add focused printer, one half of the two segments that HP Indigo focuses on. Thus where the Indigo 12000 has been four-colour only, the upgrade kit expands this to six colours including white and silver, invisible yellow as well as neon and fluorescing inks. These come as standard for the new 15K.

Feedback from the market has underpinned some of the features included in the 15K. It will print on 600 micron materials to enter packaging and higher value direct mail. There are four feed bins plus a pallet feed, FM screening has been added to the 16000dpi HD version and it will Rip at 1600dpi resolution, opening up replication of founts for the Asian market and security applications where micro text and fine lines are essential.

The second market segment is the printer looking for productivity to take on litho printing. This is where the Series 5 engine strikes. It is introduced on the Indigo 100K, a press intended to make decisions between litho and digital even more difficult. On the one hand it is aimed at existing Indigo users coming up against production limitations with the existing fleet, and on the other at commercial printers who are moving into digital print for the first time. This is the profile of the beta site users that have been ironing out reliability issues since the summer last year. For success in this part of the market, Indigo has to deliver litho levels of reliability.

This is a press that will process work at 180m/min and run at 6,000sph in EPM mode. It has a new infeed with offset style grippers and pneumatics to control the sheet on to the impression drum at higher speeds. Crucially the design of the print engine has been simplified. “Everything has been included on this press to enable non stop production,” says Bar-Shany, “switching between different jobs and substrates is possible without makeready. One operator can run two presses. It is for companies that wish to penetrate further into the offset world and where they need to run thousands of jobs a week.”
And the guitarist adds: “This the Born to Run press.”

Closed loop calibration with on board spectrophotometer using an Xrite ILS18 sensor automates colour measurement and delivers consistency across different presses as well as for jobs that are reprinted. HP rates this as a press capable of 1 million double sided B2 sheets a month, four times the volume of the 15K and 12000s. It will add sales of €6 million a year at a better margin than offset, though precise pricing is left to individual negotiations, trade in deals and will vary in different parts of the world.

The Indigo 7x family of presses continues in the SRA3 sector. This format remains important to HP, even though the flush of new toner presses running at 100ppm and with additional colours makes this a crowded part of the market.

Indigo has some advantages, Bar-Shany explains: the Indigo is a more robust machine than presses that have a three-year lifespan. “Some customers reach 100 million impressions, some have reached 200 million, even 300 million impressions,” he says.

The new machine is the 7K offering print on 550 micron calliper materials, and the printing of heat transfer materials, while an Eco version is the entry level press with a fifth colour for silver and without OneShot capability. Below this is the option of a refurbished 7R, without white or silver options, suited to those prospects that might otherwise buy dry toner.

There is less competition in the packaging sector where HP Indigo has sold more than 200 of its 20000 machines for flexible packaging, around 25% of these going to EPac Holdings for pouch production. HP will now offer a pouch production package combining the Indigo 25K press, matched Karville or Nordmeccanica laminator and Karville pouch maker. “We are seeing more going to label converters, start ups and existing flexible packaging converters wanting a short run unit,” says Bar-Shany.

As with commercial printing, presses with Series 3 and Series 4 engines receive upgrades and a shift in positioning. Thus the Indigo 6900 becomes the 6K, the Indigo 8000 twin engine machine is now the 8K.With a different cost base, this shifts the breakeven point for label printing, he adds.

The backlash against plastic translates into rising interest in the Indigo 30000 carton press. As with flexible packaging, HP will create a production ready package including coating, die cutting a folder gluer.

There have been further lessons from the market that have been included in the new Indigo 35K. “It was very much back to the drawing board,” he says. The changes include a smoother paper path, new style of Tresu coater, Spot Master and HD imaging aimed at achieving improvements in colour consistency and reliability.

The Indigo 90K is a more intriguing proposition. It is a single sided press, printing from the reel for either sheeting or rereeling. It delivers a B1 image area so will print posters and, with the appropriate material, a sheet of carton blanks. Inline coating can deliver an aqueous or UV coater. It is not intended to replace the smaller sheetfed carton press. Most carton jobs are suited to the B2 format, says Bar-Shany.

Outside B1 cartons, there are options for printing posters, perhaps hooked up to an online ordering system, and for printing a continuous image with opportunities in wallpapers, for example.

With advances to PrintOS cloud based workflows and some as yet unnamed partnerships in finishing, HP Indigo is continuing to prove its relevance in the industry. The presentation to the media was opened by Sandy Morera, VP of HP’s Graphic Systems Business, who called Indigo “one of the growth engines for the company”. At Drupa the was to bring all this together supported by 1,000 personnel across 30 machines with wide format and the PageWide inkjet presses in Hall 17 under the theme of ‘Possibility City’, “where the future gets real”. Unfortunately an unexpected virus made the future into an unwanted take on reality.

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