HP Indigo: Gearing Up for LabelExpo

Ralf Schlozer
Jul 21, 2015

In July HP hosted a worldwide HP Indigo VIP event in Israel. More than 250 customers and prospects visited from dozens of countries from all over the world – including USA, about 10 different European countries, China, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, Mexico, USA, Brazil, South Africa, and more. There were dozens of sessions presented in each of the four tracks: Flexible Packaging, Labels, Folding Cartons and Commercial Printing. In addition to visiting HP Indigo labs and manufacturing facilities, attendees also visited local HP Indigo customers according to their tracks.

The event provided a great opportunity to present some news ahead of LabelExpo Europe, which is taking place end of September in Brussels. Packaging, and especially label printing, is now a major business for HP Indigo. According to HP label volumes are growing by 25% every year. With a forecast of more than 600 million square meters of labels to be printed in 2015 HP claims to represent nearly 10% of the global label market value and has established itself as major player not only in digital print, but in the whole label print market.

However HP Indigo is extending its coverage beyond label markets. While the ws 4000 and 6000 series are firmly rooted in the label market with only occasional installs in folding carton, shrink sleeves and in-mould labels, the HP Indigo 20000 marks a distinctive move into adjacent packaging markets. Of the roughly 30 installations of the 20000 so far most are used for flexible packaging, followed by shrink sleeves, with only a minority used purely in label printing. Meanwhile, HP Indigo has 20 or more installations of the 30000, the B2 sheet fed press that mainly prints folding cartons. With drupa a mere 10 months to go, no major product announcements were expected at the VIP event, but HP Indigo did show some improvements that will be especially relevant for LabelExpo visitors:

  • A new white E-ink for shrink sleeves has been launched. Usually shrink sleeves have a solid layer of white as the lowest ink layer. That layer has to have the right slip factor for the machine pulling the sleeve over a bottle – not to cause any interruptions in the converting line. That ink is in addition to the standard white and high density white offered as well.
  • Lightfast inks in yellow and magenta are now launching. Yellow and magenta lightfast inks have been improved to conform to blue wool scale 7, which is the second highest rating available. (HP Indigo says its standard black and cyan E-inks already have a very good lightfastness.) The improved light-fastness is not only important for dedicated outdoor applications, but also for packaging that needs to look uniform even after a while on the shelf.
  • There are some software upgrades, not only in the DFE, but also in pre-press, where a SmartStream designer VDP tool for Adobe Illustrator is now being offered. An optimizer tool is being added to optimize the print queue based on artificial intelligence. The tool is designed to enhance productivity by optimizing the proofs during print jobs, and to improve job queueing in general considering the production workflow and paper loading. Another new tool is the Enhanced Productivity Mode (EPM) pre-flight tool, which tells the user in advance whether a job is suited for EPM. (In EPM, jobs are printed in CMY only, hence increasing speed and lowering running costs.)
  • With the Michelman Digiprime 680 HP Indigo introduced a new primer unit for the ws 6000 Series. The new primer has not only a lower cost, but offers a wider latitude in primer formulations as well. The primer is also well suited for flexible packaging and shrink sleeve applications.
  • HP Indigo now offers a fully automated spot color matching using a built-in spectrophotometer. To achieve the spot color matching the press prints about 100 patches in slight color variations close to the target tone. The in-line spectrophotometer measures and transmits the color values to the DFE. The DFE calculates the closest match taking into account the substrate and current press condition. Previously the patches had to be taken from the delivery and measured manually, while now the operation is fully automated.

The latest additions are certain to strengthen HP’s position in the label and packaging market. HP Indigo promised some more news for disclosure closer to LabelExpo, saying for now that these other developments will also streamline production and increase the application range. With an increased range of applications HP is gearing up to get a larger share in markets where the company is not as dominant as it is now in labels. The trend towards shorter runs and on-demand manufacturing is prevalent in all packaging markets; HP Indigo and other companies are helping digital printing to capitalise on it.

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