Tried & tested: HP Indigo 3500

By Barney Cox, Wednesday 15 September 2010

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It's rare for secondhand digital presses to come up for private sale, but an HP Indigo 3500 is being offered by High Wycombe firm Your Print Solution in our For Sale & Wanted section with an asking price of 90,000 for a 2008 five-colour model.

Director Dave Jackson says the reason for the sale is simple: the digital side of the business is booming and the firm wants to upgrade to HP’s more productive Indigo 7000.

"The 3500 has served us well for two and a half years, we had an HP Indigo 1050 before and the difference was like chalk and cheese," says Jackson. "I’d say the 3500 was a great entry-level digital machine."

Launched in 2007, along with its bigger brother the 5500, the 3500 produces 68 A4 ppm in four-colour (2,000 SRA3 sheets per hour) and is available with up to seven colours enabling special colours to be printed. It’s essentially the 5000 that the 5500 replaced, but it takes a slightly smaller maximum sheet size and is half the speed when producing single-colour work.

Like the 5000 and other recent Indigos, the paper feeders and deliveries are the drawer type, like other digital presses, rather than the offset press feeders and deliveries of the earlier models like the Indigo 3050.

Entry-level option
HP positions the machine as suitable for an average monthly print volume (AMPV) of fewer than 250,000 pages, although it can produce more than a million pages in a month if it’s really called for.

Jerry Widdowson, managing director of secondhand digital press specialist Digital Print Technology, agrees that the 3500 is a good – but hard to find secondhand – entry-level machine, so you’re more likely to find the similar 5000 or earlier 3050.

The impression count is an all-important figure when looking at a secondhand Indigo says Widdowson, who adds: "We won’t deal with machines above 50m-60m impressions." In HP-speak an impression is a single colour, so the page count is likely to be a quarter of that – assuming the majority of work is four-colour.

"That many pages on a machine that’s three years old suggests a machine that has been run 24/7, and is likely to have been run into the ground and gone without maintenance."

Another point to bear in mind is the decommissioning and recommissioning needed.

"You can’t just put a forklift under it. It needs to be correctly dismantled and reassembled – in that way it’s no different to a Speedmaster," says Widdowson.

Just like any bit of secondhand equipment the service history is also crucial. Your Print Solutions’ 3500 has been under maintenance for the duration, and Jackson adds "the engineers have said it’s the cleanest machine they’ve seen".

HP itself offers remanufactured machines along with a six-month warranty. An HP refurbished 3050 starts at £149,000, so buying on the open market looks like a bargain, but it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re getting.

"If you’re buying from HP you get peace of mind, on the open market it’s another matter," says HP Indigo solutions consultant Nick Loh.

Both HP Indigo and Digital Print Technology will audit an open market machine, and advise on the work needed to bring it into tip-top condition and the cost.

SPECIFICATIONS

Printing units four to seven
Colours Black, two-colour, four-colour, six-colour IndiChrome (CMYK plus orange and violet), or CMYK plus up to three specials
Speed CMYK: 68 A4 ppm, two-colour: 136 A4 ppm
Max sheet size 320x475mm
Stock range 65-350gsm
Footprint 4x2.5m
Weight 2.5 tonnes

PRICE
New 3550 (four-colour) £220,000
Two-and-a-half years old (five colour) £90,000 (private sale)
HP refurbished 3050 (four-color) £149,000
Dealer supplied secondhand 3050 (four-colour) £60,000
Dealer supplied secondhand 5000 (four-colour) £75,000

What to look forl

  • Any outstanding finance
  • Service history
  • Impression count
  • Condition of writing head

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