Mar 20, 2012
HP held a pre-drupa press and analyst event in Israel last week. InfoTrends was represented by four analysts: Ralf SchlÅ‘zer, Bob Leahey, Lior Meron, and myself. What is particularly interesting about the top stories from this event is that many of HP’s announcements are emblematic of industry trends that we will see playing out at drupa. Here are eight of the top take-aways from that event:
- B2 Digital Takes a Step Forward — There are increasing signs that drupa 2012 could be the “B2 Digital drupa.” Fujifilm, Jadason, and Screen showed B2 Digital products at drupa 2008, but none of those have what I believe to be the key characteristics necessary for a successful digital product at that format size: duplex capability, the ability to draw from multiple drawers, and connection to in-line finishing. HP’s announcement of the Indigo 10000, which I have blogged about separately has all of these. HP, which was lagging behind Kodak and Xerox in format size, has now leapfrogged ahead, but there will be more to come. Cut-sheet inkjet products, including new ones from companies like Delphax, will push the definition of cut-sheet digital print beyond the bounds of a 12” by 18” sheet. The battle moving forward will be about features, acquisition price, and running cost.
- White and Other Colors/Effects — HP expanded the range of colors and special effectsÂ on its Indigo products (we’ll include a definitive list of these and the products they apply to in an analysis for InfoTrends clients). These include UV red (for security applications), clear, raised, and emboss/deboss.Â White is another important one, and though they’ve had this before, I rank it highly because of the range of effects possible in areas such as printing on transparent and colored substrates. Having clear gloss is a great addition. The raised and emboss/deboss effects are also very interesting, but the workflow is multi-step, time-consuming,Â and the expense is yet to be fully determined.
- Moving Beyond Labels — The announcement of the B2-format HP Indigo 20000 and 30000 is huge for the packaging market. Color digital printing in labels and packaging today is over 95% attributable to labels; true packaging printing is most often a side application for label converters, or a main application of some virtuoso specialists. Now the top company supplying color digital devices to the label market has committed to addressing flexible packaging and folding cartons,Â the two biggest applications adjacent to labels. So far, flexible packaging and folding cartons have beenÂ mostly untapped by color digital because of limited web width. HP Indigo in 2013 will bring the image and product quality of its label product line to bear on these other markets, as well as its relationships with software partners such as Esko and finishing equipment suppliers such as AB Graphics. HP Indigo will not be alone in making significant product announcements about package printing at drupa, but its news will inevitably be among the most important.
- Inkjet Web Press Success — HP announced three new faster versions of the Inkjet Web Press: the T230, T360, and T410. It said that 2.5 billion pages had been printed on Inkjet Web Presses in the last quarter. Twenty-four of the total of more than sixty Inkjet Web Press systems are at seven HP customers: O’Neil, CPI, Communisis, Emdeon, Courier, King, and Symeta. Two new customers were announced: Be`eri (Israel) and Kodansha (Japan). What particularly impressed me was the expansion of finishing systems for the T400 series. These include Muller Martini’s SigmaLine, a Weko moisturizer, Videk’s DocuVision, Megtec’s zero-speed splicer & turret rewind, and EMT’s Docu-Perf.
- Wider Swathes for On-Press Inkjet — HP’s Specialty Printing Systems division announced faster inkjet heads for on-press applications. The C800 and M800 inkjet modules both run at 800 feet per minute and can be stitched in five-head configurations to cover 20 inches. An automated stitching function appears to be quite effective in limiting artifacts at the stitch line. This could have important implications for the use of these systems when integrated in hybrid configurations on web offset presses.
- A Focus on Wide Format Folding Carton and Corrugated Board Applications — HP Scitex also had some interesting announcements around white ink and automated loading processes for its FB7500 and FB7600 UV wide format printers (of which they noted that more than 100 are installed worldwide). The key message that I take from this is that HP is indicating that folding carton and corrugated board (whether for packaging, point-of-purchase displays, decoration, or other applications) will take increasing importance in the future for this product line.
- Analyzing Production Data — HP showed SmartStream Production Analyzer for Scitex, a real-time cloud-based production management tool that provides activity reports. This ability to gather data on the production floor is another growing trend that we’ll see much more of at drupa. The only drawback I see with HP’s announcement (and others I have seen so far) is that it only covers their own devices. There needs to be a more vendor-agnostic way of sharing production data for this to be truly valuable on a shop floor where a range of vendors’ products are likely to be in operation.
- High Tech Activity in Israel — There is a huge level of innovation in Israel, some of which HP will be able to leverage very nicely. A good example of this is Highcon, whose digital cutting and creasing device could be an important enabler for folding carton applications on the new HP Indigo 20000. In the days before and after the HP event I was able to visit five very innovative Israeli companies: Highcon, HumanEyes, Kornit, Matan, and Scodix. High levels of venture capital and R&D investment in Israel have contributed to a lively and productive environment, with a lot of it related to printing and imaging. Mazel tov!
There was a lot of other news at this event and this list only scrapes the surface. For the announcements, please see the HP news site. InfoTrends is preparing further analysis on this event for our clients in which we will dive deeper into the announcements from HP’s event. I will also be publishing a video blog shortly with a look at some of the print samples I collected at the HP event.
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