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HP Thomas Valjak LFR

In June 2014, HP announced it would ‘disrupt’ the US$1.3 billion production print market – previously dominated by monochrome light-emitting diode (LED) printers – with its PageWide technology; its existing small format inkjet-based PageWide Technology would be scaled up for the large format print sector thereby enabling the delivery of high-quality wide format prints at faster speeds and lower per-page costs.  

In order to find out more about HP’s plans, LFR recently interviewed Thomas Valjak, General Manager and Vice President for HP Large Format Design Business EMEA.

What is PageWide technology?

The technology is not new per se: it has been available within the SOHO and enterprise space (widths of up to A4) for a while – hence the name PageWide.  What is new is the fact that HP is scaling up its PageWide technology to meet the needs of the large format market.

Firstly, we asked Thomas Valjak to explain PageWide technology in layman’s terms.  He said: “PageWide technology for large format will enable our customers to print a wide variety of documents – including technical documents and drawings and simple posters – in a quicker, more cost-effective manner and – crucially – in colour, should they wish.

“Simply put, HP’s PageWide technology replaces traditional left-to-right printing printheads with a stationary printbar spanning the width of the printer and housing more than 200,000 ink nozzles.  It is akin to offset printing methods inasmuch as only the media – rather than the printhead – moves, and this then enables users to very quickly produce a variety of black-and-white and colour output, such as drawings, maps and posters.”

The result of this new technology is that with HP PageWide printer, customers will be able to print a wider variety of large format documentation at higher speeds, thereby saving valuable time and money.

New inks

Key to the success of the HP large format PageWide technology was the development of a new generation of water-based pigment inks that enable high black and full colour densities to be produced in a single pass with lower ink loadings compared to scanning print head printers.

All the ink drops are printed in a single pass and within approximately 5 milliseconds – hence all ink interactions are wet-on-wet.  The ink designers had to come up with unique ways of controlling colour-bleed, feathering and mottling in area-fills and images.

Additionally, according to Thomas Valjak: “The scaling up of PageWide technology required much research and development into the formulation of a water-based pigment CMYK ink from HP which prevents nozzle clogging – which would ultimately lead to banding – in order to maintain print quality at super-fast speeds.

“Without the correct ink, the printers would need frequent printhead cleaning cycles – as is the case with competitive solutions – which would slow the whole process down.  “HP’s bespoke ink formulation enables continuous high speed colour printing – irrespective of the page coverage.  This ultimately leads to a lower cost of ownership and a more profitable, productive solution.”

What are the key benefits?

Thomas Valjak explained that the primary benefits of HP’s large format PageWide technology were twofold: “Firstly, it means a significant increase in print speeds.  Because the only moving part within the print process is the media, it enables the print process to be massively boosted and media is virtually ‘fast-forwarded’ through the print engine.”

Secondly, it enables the printing of wide format documents in full colour at high speeds.  Thomas continues: “High speed wide format print has been available courtesy of LED technology from other vendors for a while.  However, this is only for black and white applications.  What HP has achieved with the new wide format PageWide technology is a significant increase in speed for printing colour wide format documents.”

For which applications?

At present, HP is primarily looking to target the technical documentation market: Central Reproduction Departments; architectural, engineering, construction (AEC) and design firms; public sector agencies; quick printers and small- to medium-sized reprographic houses.

HP is also targeting enterprise production departments with teams of designers, architects and teams working on technical documents – any type of business that needs high volumes of printed documentation – either black and white or colour – and fast.

Colour prints are becoming more and more important within these businesses as Thomas Valjak explains: “We are seeing an increasing adoption of colour to differentiate things – even in documentation such as construction diagrams.  People want the ability to print different colours signalling different items – such as wiring, water, gas and walls of different construction.

“At present, it is very difficult to produce a high volume of coloured documents quickly and cost-effectively.  The new PageWide technology combines speed and colour in a cost-effective manner as it has been designed so that colour output is the same cost as LED black and white; black and white and colour production cost the same on HP’s PageWide solutions.”

As well as being used for technical production and technical drawings, HP’s PageWide technology printers will be suitable for use as a general purpose poster printing for the reprographics market.  As an example within the reprographics market, Thomas Valjak cited that by deploying a new PageWide printer to take over some of the more straightforward poster applications, PSPs would be able to free up capacity in higher specification machines to focus on higher level applications.

How does PageWide technology sit alongside HP’s existing portfolio? 

Thomas Valjak explained that – in essence – this is a new market sector for HP:  “With PageWide technology, we are now able to challenge existing manufacturers in an arena we’d previously not really targeted.”

PageWide solutions will co-exist with and complement HP’s other product and technology portfolios and the key will be picking the right printer for the right applications. 

Alongside the planned new PageWide printers, water-based pigment inks, software and accessories, HP will also introduce a range of HP complementary media which will enable users to print general purpose posters – for purposes such as price promotion – on glossy and durable media.

Availability?

The wide format PageWide printers will be commercially available in Q3, 2015, but HP plans to showcase the technology at Sign and Digital UK in March this year – as well as at FESPA in Germany.  HP said that models will be priced competitively in comparison to other wide format production devices currently available on the market.

Summary

In summary, HP’s PageWide technology seems to differ from any other solutions currently available in the market.  Namely:

  • It is well suited to both low print coverage documents as well as medium to high print coverage applications.
  • It can produce black and white and colour documentation, cost-effectively and at fast speeds
  • It will achieve productivity significantly higher than that which can be obtained with traditional scanning print head solutions.

According to HP: “The new family of HP Large Format PageWide Technology Printers will be the first implementation of a third-generation HP Thermal Inkjet printing platform that will form the foundation of HP solutions – now and in the future – offering high speed, robust and economical printing on a wide range of media.  These solutions are scalable and versatile in design and performance to meet the needs of a broad range of applications in the office, commercial and industrial printing sectors.”

With the first HP large format PageWide technology printers set to roll out later this year, only time will tell whether HP truly manages to disrupt the production print marketplace.

[Image shows Thomas Valjak.]

About Thomas Valjak:  Thomas Valjak was appointed General Manager and Vice President for HP Large Format Design Business EMEA in 2011.  The organisation focuses on solutions addressing the printing needs of customers working in architecture, engineering, construction, GIS and graphics industry segments as well as related print service providers.
Thomas has more than 20 years of HP expertise in business management, channel and end-user sales and has worked in a variety of international domains including Germany, the Middle East, Spain and Austria.