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|eXpert Row Commentary - Tribute Tuesdays|
Commentary by Andrew Tribute
September 19, 2006 -- Historically Scitex always presented the best press events in the industry. Those of us who are long in the tooth fondly remember wonderful trips to Israel to see the latest and greatest in Scitex technology. This was then followed by a day or more of visits to locations around Israel and of course a big party to celebrate anything and everything.
Last week HP showed it had picked up the Scitex baton when HP Scitex and the HP Wide Format division hosted an event in Barcelona to launch next-generation products. At this event HP hosted over 1,000 customers and prospects from 54 countries around the world. In addition to this there were more than 200 people from HP’s sales and distribution channels, HP’s own staff, and a significant number of the world’s graphic arts press and industry analysts.
In addition to the event to launch the products, naturally there were a number of evening parties, the principal one being in the great oval hall of the Palau Nacional de Montjuïc, seat of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. This is a beautiful location and is one of the finest buildings in Barcelona. While it was a fantastic party location it would also make the world’s finest basketball stadium. At this party food and wine flowed until early morning, and one’s ears were blasted with digital music. One amusing fact I found that while this was an HP event, and HP is the No.1 supplier of Windows PCs in the world, the music was being generated from a Macintosh.
To get to the point of this article, this event was predominantly to set the scene for the next generation of products coming from HP Scitex. It was also an event for HP’s Graphic Arts business unit, which comprises HP Scitex, HP Wide Format Division and HP Indigo. HP Scitex aims at print service providers and the creative community in the high-performance, superwide-format print market—in particular, the screen-printing market. HP Scitex claims to be the largest supplier to the screen printing segment with a market share in the mid-30% range and over 2,300 installations. EFI’s VUTEk division claims roughly the same market share as HP Scitex.
Debut for X2
The key announcement from HP Scitex was the new X2 inkjet printhead. HP Scitex claims to be the only supplier in the market that makes its printheads, equipment and ink; in the past, as Scitex Vision, it developed its piezo Aprion printhead. This is used in one of its products, but HP Scitex also uses Xaar heads in other products. Scitex Vision had been developing the second generation of Aprion head before being acquired by HP, but the funding and expertise provided by HP allowed HP Scitex to bring the new printhead to market more quickly.
The key elements of this printhead are that it is very small and fires ink at a very high rate of 30 KHz (30,000 drops per second). It speed terms, this can also be expressed as 2 meters per second. The head is designed to be stacked together to build a high-resolution printhead of up to 800 dpi. A key factor of the head is its simple precision mechanical alignment that allows adjustment to within 10 microns. This allows very rapid fitting or replacement, ensuring exact registration.
The printhead is assembled using semiconductor manufacturing technology and is constructed using only silicon, glass, epoxy, and liquid crystal polymers. This allows the piezo activator and electronics to be totally isolated from the ink. Ink also has no effect on the properties of silicon, glass or epoxy. The printhead is specifically designed to use the latest UV curable inks from HP Scitex. This means that products using the X2 printheads and UV curable inks can double productivity over solvent inks, and the inks don’t dry in the printhead or crust in the nozzles.
XL, FB, and TJ
HP Scitex has restructured its products into three families. The XL family is the superwide roll-fed product line up to 5 meters in width. The new product for release in 2007 is the XL 2200, which uses X2 printheads. It operates at twice the speed of the XL 1500 and has new media loading and management systems, plus improved control and diagnostics for enhanced levels of automation.
The FB family are the flatbed systems for printing on rigid substrates. In this group the main product is the FB6700 (previously known as the CorrJet), which has been enhanced with a new inline lamination option. The new product to be released in 2007 is the FB6500, a UV ink system using the X2 printheads. This product is aimed at the middle of the flatbed market, where HP Scitex sees a great opportunity for taking work from the screen-printing companies.
The third family is the TJ product line. This is a drum-based system and is the fastest wide-format inkjet printer today. The TJ8300 is the system currently in the market that uses solvent inks. The new product, the TJ8500, has the same speed of up to 400 square meters per hour, but it prints with UV curable inks that allow easier drying. The TJ8500 also has a small system footprint and the ability to print on uncoated substrates.
HP’s Wide Format division announced an addition to the Designjet range, the Designjet 10000s. This is a product from the division’s OEM agreement with SII Seiko and is a 104" (264 cm) wide printer that uses low solvent inks and prints at a resolution of up to 720 dpi. It can print either a single roll or dual rolls at one time and can also print on both sides of the material.
Overall HP Scitex is really well set up for future expansion. What I found particularly interesting however was to look at where HP is going in the inkjet market. After Graph Expo I will write a detailed article on HP’s overall inkjet printing strategy, looking at its range of printheads for different applications. In this article I will project where I see HP's direction going in graphic arts, office, and transactional applications. HP is most certainly one of the major companies to watch in 2007.
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Attributes Associates is an internationally oriented consulting company specializing in marketing and technology issues for the printing, publishing and media markets. The Managing Partner of Attributes Associates is Andrew Tribute, who is recognized internationally as one of the world's leading authorities on these industries and subjects.
Attributes' client base comprises a large number of publishers and printers as well as a significant number of industry vendors. In most cases consulting is carried out at high level to assist such organizations in the selection and adoption of technology, or to define ongoing business strategies covering the likely future directions of the markets.
Attributes have been in the forefront of technology changes and market developments from the time it started in 1984. It has been involved in assisting both users and vendors through the changes in these industries since then. This has included desktop publishing; PostScript imaging; changes in working practices in newspaper and magazine publishing; adoption of digital printing and computer to plate imaging in commercial printing; and more recently the impact of the Internet on publishing and printing markets.
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