HP’s Inkjet Web Press Business Demonstrates Thought Leadership at Transform Event

Posted on by Dave Erlandson | No Comments »

Transform was the theme of the recent HP Inkjet Web Press event in Dallas (May 2014).  The event was designed to show customers and prospects how they can transform their business using digital printing technology.  It was one of the most impressive events I’ve attended as it showcased customers, technology, innovation and strategy.

HP brought in customers from the US, Canada and Europe to tell how they have transformed their businesses in applications that include book publishing, direct marketing and other data driven applications. 

While customers flew in from all over the world, the event was held at HPVITS customer – O’Neil Data Systems’ (ODS), super pristine plant just outside of Dallas.  This production plant has four HP T410’s and a HP T230 running and another HP T410 that just arrived and was still in the crate.  (All told ODS has 10 HP inkjet presses across two plants.) On the back end of these presses were a wide array of finishing equipment all designed to produce perfect bound books, saddle stitch books, and letters.  The finishing equipment included CMC inserters, a new sheeter/stacker from Magnum that can plow through 14,440 pages per hour and sheet in variable configurations, and a multi-web finishing system from VITS that combines output from multiple rolls into signatures and book blocks and then feeds a Kolbus binder.  The key to success of the near-line multi-web finisher and book binder is the ability of HP to accurately control the page size within each roll to ensure the pages all come together properly and a smart conveyor from Shuttleworth that manages the connection between the VITS and Kolbus hardware.

The Dallas plant and the original plant in Los Angeles are a testament to what can be done with data driven applications and digital printing.  ODS has completely transformed their business with digital printing.

In addition to customer presentations and a tour of the ODS plant, HP executives were on hand to talk about HP’s strategy going forward.  Presentations by Stephen Nigro, SVP of the HP’s inkjet and graphic’s business and Aurelio Maruggi, VP and GM of the IHPS business, laid out the strategy for why a prospect should choose HP.  Three planks form the core of the strategy: satisfied customers, technology leadership, and upgradeable systems.

At HP events there is never a shortage of satisfied customers and this is just good marketing on their part.  HP has a knack of creating a great vibe among their customers (think Dscoop).  In the inkjet business some of the credit has to go to Pat McGrew, Digital Printing Evangelist, as she works tirelessly with new customers to educate them on the possibilities and to help them create new applications.

Technology leadership is centered squarely on two technologies: thermal inkjet and liquid toner electrophotography (Indigo technology).  HP believes these two technologies provide the basis of what is needed to drive the conversion of printing from analog to digital.  One of the key advantages HP has with regard to inkjet is that they manufacture all the elements of a printing press including the heads and inks, which means they can ensure they work together in an optimal way.

Dr. Ross Allen of HP R&D gave a terrific presentation on the HP’s track record of innovation in thermal inkjet and ink technologies.   Dr. Allen pointed out that the performance of HP thermal inkjet technology has been following Moore’s Law (doubling every 18 months) since its invention in 1979.  And he eluded that there is strong reason to believe that this trend will continue over the next five years.

EPIC Priming system

Simultaneously HP has dedicated vast sums to R&D on inks, bonding agents, and now primers.  One of the big innovations at the event is the development of a paper priming system that will enable HP inkjet presses to run standard coated offset papers with offset or near offset image quality.  Although today they have 118 papers certified for their presses, and their ability to run Appleton Utopia has been a key advantage, the ultimate in flexibility for print service providers is to offer their  customers the choice of using standard coated offset papers.  What HP didn’t say was how much the primer costs; they just said they know it has to be economical.  We’ll find in by the end of the year as that is when the priming system is scheduled for release.  If priced right, this will enable of new wave of offset to digital conversion.

The third plank of the strategy is not so obvious, but just as critical.  HP calls it upgradeability.  The idea is to protect the investment of customers over time by enabling them to incorporate the latest HP innovations without having to replace their press(es).   Stephen Nigro noted that customers who invest in HP inkjet presses need to know that they won’t be at a competitive disadvantage when the latest new innovations come along.  Having this plank as part of HP’s strategy is something they had to factor into the design at the beginning of platform development, costs more, and is something that customers won’t see immediately and so requires some faith.  However, some customers are seeing benefits already.  Dr. Allen showed how a customer can upgrade from a mono T300 to a color T360 by adding hardware (dryer additions, splicer, turret rewinder, servers), new inks, and software components without ever changing the basic press frame and footprint.

Another aspect of HP strategy is to grow the market by transforming vertical markets with digital printing to create new value.  This concept has been demonstrated with personalization in direct mail and is playing out in the book publishing industry as the supply chain is re-engineered. HP has their sights set on transforming two more markets: education publishing and packaging. They have a vision for how print and electronic formats can work together in the education market.  And they just announced how their inkjet technology can be used to change the way corrugated is printed.

HP’s objective of transforming the printing industry from analog to digital technologies remains laser beam sharp and moves closer to reality with each new innovation.

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