Observations from Day 2 of the HP T400 Inkjet Web Press Launch Event

Jim Hamilton
Mar 18, 2011

As a follow-up to Wednesday’s blog, here are some observations collected over the two days of this event:

Announcements: Three major announcements came out of this event: (1) HP’s T400 Inkjet Web press (for more on this, see the InfoTrends white paper), (2) Pitney Bowes simultaneous announcement of the IntelliJet 20, and (3) HP’s partnership with Compart for an AFP solution for the Inkjet Web Press.

It’s not a document until it’s finished: ONeil’s T300 was in their main production area along with offset presses, monochrome roll-fed digital printers, Indigos, paper storage, binding & finishing, and mail lines. The most illuminating part about the tour of this facility was the extent and sophistication of O’Neil’s various binding, finishing, insertion, and mail operations. It becomes obvious how critical these functions are to O’Neil and its clients. O’Neil has found that a roll-to-roll workflow is best for them given the range of finishing requirements (perfect bound, saddle-stitch, and transactional mail)

More than seven million impressions in a day: O’Neil said that they had one day (3-shifts, 24 hours) in which they printed 7,619,883 impressions on their Inkjet Web Presses. This was on multiple 20-inch webs and they calculated that this was at 80% uptime). Note: 7,619,883 impressions over 24 hours equates to 5,292 impressions per minute.

The heads are lasting a long time: After a year of operating their T300, 71 of the individual heads were still in the unit and operational. This is about 50% of the total number of heads. After a year and a half of operation there were 44 original heads left, and there were 41 left after a year and three quarters.

Next stop, Texas: O’Neil is constructing a 218,000 square foot facility in Plano, Texas (near Dallas) that it expects to be operational in August. It will be a fully digital center (likely with multiple Inkjet Web Presses) that will include a 6,000 square foot data center. The central location gives O’Neill enhanced distribution opportunities.

Think of it as not one, but multiple printers: High speed imposition provided by Ultimate and powerful front end systems are key to the productivity of the T400. If you think of the paper web as being made up of multiple zones or “ribbons’ across the web, each one can be seen as a separate printer. At the end of the process, the web is slit into separate strips. Careful planning through the front end process is required to make this workflow productive through finishing.

It’s four-across letter, but five-across A4: What a difference an inch makes! Kevin Marks of Pitney Bowes pointed out that the 42-inch width of the T400/IntelliJet 42 allows five-across imposition of A4 pages. That’s good news for those countries that use the A4 standard, but tough from a letter format perspective since 5 times 8½ and a half is 42½. Now the challenge for the A4 world is to figure out how to create useful impositions that take advantage of this (or maybe you should just think of it as five A4 ribbons…).

How do you handle seasonality? The ups and downs of print volume based on the timing of its customers’ print requirements are a primary reason why O’Neil has diversified to multiple vertical markets: healthcare, financial, publishing, and marketing.

What they like: Here’s what O’Neil’s customers care most about in the move to high-volume digital. For healthcare the high level of throughput is most important. For financial there are multiple reasons: reducing page counts, eliminating static and inventoried items, and allowing more personalization. For publishing it’s largely the supply chain efficiencies that help avoid obsolescence and excess inventory while also limiting translation costs. For marketers the lower pricing and increased responses are important, as is the ability to output in postal order for the efficiencies that provides.

Words from a futurist: Andrew Zolli of PopTech, (poptech.org) has the admirable title of “Futurist” and is also an “Exploration Fellow” at National Geographic. He’s writing a book on resilience and was invited by HP to keynote the second day’s proceedings. On innovation he said that the most innovative leaders make the top accountable, make lots of small bets, invest in employees close to the customer, leverage innovations outside the organization, copy (sparingly) existing best practices, actively cultivate internal and external networks, embrace a “cognitive” portfolio, scan for weak signals (little trends that could be important later), and create highly differentiated partnerships.

The elbow of the long tail: Zolli sees three big information society revolutions: (1) choice (filtering out), (2) control, and (3) authorship. He characterized the familiar “long tail” as being made up of the spike (i.e., broadcast, high-end, global, market-driven content) and the tail (i.e., community, conversation, pro-am, local, search-driven). The “elbow” part is in the middle. He believes that tying together the spike and the tail is the next big thing.

Scalability is the key: Ross Allen, HP’s R&D guru, spoke about the inherent scalability in the Inkjet Web Press family across printheads, inks, media, and processing. Many of the components of the T300 are leveraged in the other products. For example, he said the T350 leverages 80% of the T300 including the web transport, digital front end, raster image processor, press controller, electronics & cabling, printbar electronics, ink delivery system, printhead servicing, in-line process monitors, and aerosol control systems. The T200 (60% leverage) and T400 (70% leverage) also take advantage of the T300 components and help to make it clear why the Inkjet Web Press family has been able to achieve such a rapid rollout since the drupa 2008 technology demonstration.

What happens to duty cycle when you improve the software or add automated splicing capability? Interestingly enough according to Allen, the print engine’s duty cycle improves because there is less unnecessary downtime.

Not because we have to, but because we can: This is HP’s explanation for its logic in building in nozzle redundancy into the Inkjet Web Press. This redundancy has a lot of advantages in assuring high quality even when individual jets have failed.

A higher drop rate: The new print heads in the T350 and T400 have a 50% higher drop rate than those used in the T300. They will be rolled out across the entire product line later this year along with the new inks.

Some thermal inkjet “fun facts”: HP’s thermal inkjet heads can shoot 190 million drops per second at 1.7 billion picoliters per second at a data rate of 8.9 gigabits per second. HP has shipped more than three million of its scalable printing technology (SPT) print heads since 2005.

Deinkability: HP Inkjet Web Press inks are fundamentally deinkable according to Nils Miller of HP’s deinking performance and research program. Miller has been spearheading HP’s involvement in the Digital Print Deinking Alliance (DPDA), which also includes representatives from Kodak, Océ, and Ricoh InfoPrint. Probably most impressive is that it appears he has brokered a ceasefire with the folks at INGEDE, the European deinking association. Miller says that the new version of INGEDE method 11 is much more positive about inkjet. For additional information, see www.hp.com/go/deinking.

Who’s doing the pulping? Guess which companies are most heavily involved in pulping recycled print? It’s paper manufacturers, who not surprisingly are very committed to finding effective ways to deink all types of recycled print.

HP’s Eric Hanson wrapped up the last session with an overview of HP Lab initiatives related to print, publishing, documents, and content. He noted that HP is making a major commitment in people and resources to digital commercial print through technology innovations that can accelerate the analog to digital transformation. It’s certainly true, but that point had already been made abundantly clear through what we had seen at O’Neil the previous day.

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