HP’s Latex technology in a hybrid roll/flatbed model.
What does the machine do?
HP’s Latex technology was launched a decade ago at Drupa 2008. The R2000 takes the same core printhead and ink technologies from the roll-to-roll (R2R) market and introduces them for the first time into a hybrid printer capable of printing on rigid and flexible materials.
When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?
Fespa 2018, which was held in Berlin, Germany, in May, was the launch event for the R2000. The targets are the mid-volume markets currently served by UV-cured flatbed and hybrid machines.
“Customers have got used to the high quality and wider colour gamut of Latex and have asked us if we could offer it for rigid materials,” says Javier Larraz, HP Europe director of LFP. “Printers using Latex and UV were finding it hard to get consistent colour between the two technologies. Some green, orange and red brand colours are particularly tricky for UV and have had to be compromised.”
How does it work?
At the heart of the machine are HP’s thermal inkjet heads, which although originally developed for desktop printers, have been well proven in industrial applications, both in wide-format Latex and in high-speed web presses, where other vendors use piezo inkjet technology. The inks themselves are water-based and heat cured. HP calls this technology Latex, but there’s no natural rubber in there; they use thermosetting polymers, not a million miles in basic principle from the inks Landa uses in its Nanography process.
HP has adapted its OMAS vision system used on the roll-fed Latex machines for ensuring accurate registration of the print and adapted it to a belt-driven hybrid, which it claims ensures dot placement and image quality comparable to true flatbeds.
How does it differ from previous products?
Compared with HP’s other Latex printers the addition of a white ink and the ability to handle sheets and rigid boards is the key difference. “The Latex R uses a new generation of Latex inks that have been developed to improve quality, speed and adhesion,” says Larraz.
Getting a white ink to work in a thermal printhead is quite a challenge and HP has come up with a number of ways to make it work including a store for when the white heads are not being used for an extended period to prevent clogging, and constant recirculating of the white ink to prevent the pigments settling. The firm claims its white is glossier, non-yellowing and comparable to or better than UV white opacity. However, it doesn’t quantify that.
How fast is it?
HP claims typical production would be 46m²/hr for interior and 88m²/hr for exterior graphics. Like most machines, if white is used speed drops, with spot white throughput of 35m²/hr and flood white (for under or overprinting) of 17m²/hr.
What is the USP?
Compared with other flatbed and hybrid printers it is the use of Latex inks rather than UV, which HP claims are better environmentally as they are water-based and are low odour – this can be an issue with some UV formulations.
“Compared with UV, Latex is such a thin ink layer that it lets you get the best out of materials by showing more of their texture,” says Larraz. “This opens up new applications not possible with UV.”
How easy is it to use?
“We’ve done a lot to make it easy for customers to try new materials and to create a media profile as the substrate options in rigid are endless,” says Larraz. “We’ve developed a process so they can go from a generic to a customised profile through control of ink limits, number of print passes and curing temperature.”
What training and support is on offer?
Included in the price of the machine is a three-year warranty and operator training.
How much does it cost?
UK price is £242,000. In terms of operating costs, HP is a little coy about the cost per litre of ink and its coverage, although Larraz states that the company aims to be “cost competitive with UV”.
HP has worked on the ink formulation to reduce print cost when possible by separating out the anti-scratch/overcoat component of the ink and applying it as a separate channel, that can be turned off when not needed, for example if the job is going to be laminated.
What is the sales target?
HP declined to say how many Latex R machines it expects to sell. The first units are in the field and the firm says demand is already outstripping its forecasts and manufacturing capacity.
If Latex is as successful in the rigid market as it has been in the roll-fed sector over the last decade it will be a significant and disruptive development.
Imaging tech Latex (water-based) ink, thermal printheads, heat-cured
Colours CMYK, light cyan, light magenta, white, optimiser, overcoat/anti scratch
Max media size Board: 2.5x1.2m (2.5x3.1m with two sets of extension tables) Roll: 2.49m wide.
Throughput Indoor high-quality: 20m2/hr; Indoor production: 46m2/hr; Outdoor: 88m2/hr; White spot: 35m2/hr; White overflood: 17m2/hr
EFI Vutek H2000 Pro
This is a 2m wide hybrid using conventional UV offered as CMYK with the option for single- or double-channel white. Throughput is up to 98m2/hr.
Price £151,829 ($199,000)
Contact EFI 0808 101 3484 www.efi.com
Fujifilm Acuity Select HS X2
The Acuity is a true flatbed with 3.1x2.5m maximum bed size and roll-fed option. Options include six- or eight-channel versions with white, clear, light cyan and light magenta available in addition to CMYK. Three inks are available to suit different applications and materials, including one for thermoforming. Throughput is up to 64m2/hr.
Price From £190,000
Contact Fujifilm UK 0345 0060065 www.fujifilm.eu
Inktec Jetrix LX i8
A big 3.2x2m bed, this UV LED piezo printer offers six channels plus white, clear and primer and up to 206m2/hr.
Price From £185,000
Contact Inktec Europe 01993 862 770 www.inktec-europe.com
SwissQPrint Impala 3
A flexible true flatbed based on piezo heads with UV LED inks. The base CMYK inks can be supplemented with up to five additional channels including white, primer and clear. Throughout is up to 180m2/hr with an option for robotic load and unload.
Price From £169,000
Contact Spandex UK 0800 77 26 33 www.spandex.com