HP shows off future printing technologies

Hewlett-Packard's Inkjet Web Press printer can print up to 2,600 color pages a minute, and the new Latex Ink can withstand snow and rain

Hewlett-Packard Monday offered a peek into future printing technologies, introducing a new inkjet printer that prints thousands of pages per minute and ink that retains its shine even when exposed to extreme elements.

HP's water-based Latex Ink is specially formulated to embed in a surface and become part of a media print, said Stephen Nigro, senior vice president of HP's graphics and imaging business. HP's Latex Ink can withstand snow and rain and is useful for large-format media used on billboards and outdoor signs.

The company also launched the Inkjet Web Press printer, which can print up to 2,600 A4-sized color pages a minute at a cost of less than $0.01 per color page, Nigro said.

The products were introduced at an event in Tel Aviv.

The Latex Ink includes a specially created formula, called latex polymer, that provides the print surface its durability and color, according to HP. Water-based ink ejected carries the latex polymer and pigment particles to the surface. The inks are 70 percent water and 30 percent additives and other inks, HP said. The ink was developed by HP and HP Labs.

Unlaminated outdoor displays using the ink can last up to three years, while unlaminated in-window displays can last up to five years.

The printer cartridge uses recyclable material, and the company has developed new recyclable substrates for the ink to make printing environmentally friendly, HP said. Other printing technology for large-format media include UV (ultraviolet) curable ink, which interacts with an ultraviolet light source to create a print.

Avoiding speculation, Nigro said Latex Ink may or may not reach consumers in the future. For now, the ink is targeted at enterprises, including companies creating billboards, Nigro said. HP is expected to announce products using the ink technology later this year.

HP on Monday also showed the Inkjet Web Press, a printer that prints up to 2,600 A4-sized color pages a minute. The printer will be able to print on pages up to 30 inches (76.2 centimeters) wide, Nigro said. It is targeted at replacing the printed pages coming from traditional offset presses.

A printing job with a traditional offset press takes hours, and it's not possible to print on demand. With a traditional offset press, a machine first creates a physical plate with the image etched on it, which is then sent to print. With the Inkjet Web Press platform, hitting the print button sends the image directly to a printer, making high-volume printing more productive by eliminating analog elements like a plate, Nigro said.

The printer is capable of printing broadsheet newspapers and other documents, he said.

The Inkjet Web Press is a breakthrough product as it is 20 percent faster than any other inkjet printer on the market, said Gilles Biscos, president of Interquest, an analysis firm. The speed and width makes it flexible for many different marketplaces including direct mail and books, he said. HP has been in the inkjet business and its research is trickling into many consumer and enterprise spaces.

The printer is built around the Scalable Printing Technology (SPT) platform, which improves the quality of prints by spraying more ink on pages using thousands of nozzles on a single printhead. SPT is already in use on printers like HP's Photosmart, Nigro said. HP introduced the Photosmart Minilab ml1000 inkjet printer earlier this year, which can print 4-by-6-inch photos as fast as 1,500 prints per hour.

Both announcements are part of HP's attempt to create a revenue stream by offering more printer supplies, management tools and services. As printer prices decline, customers will continue to pay for supplies such as cartridges and services such as digital photo prints, which will ultimately generate larger revenues than printer units shipped, HP executives have said.

HP has about a 1.8 percent share in the pages printed segment, and doubling that will double HP's printing revenue, Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of HP's Imaging and Printing Group, said in an speech last week.

In 2009, 53 trillion documents will be printed, of which 9 percent will be digital, Nigro said. Creating digital pages such as image files creates new printing opportunities, such as ordering bound specialty photobooks online. That is not possible with an analog press, as setup costs could be high, he said.

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