HP Scitex FB7500

Barney Cox
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

HP's big news at Fespa Digital in Amsterdam earlier this month was the European debut of its high-end UV flatbed machine, the HP Scitex FB7500, which was one of a raft of launches and updates in that sector of the market unveiled at the show.

Also launching machines were Durst, Inca and One Solution, while Agfa introduced an enhanced version of the M-Press. Elsewhere, EFI Vutek revealed it wouldn't bring its DS8300 to market, but was instead focusing on the new GS range.

HP believes the rush of high-speed digital machines to the market will push screen printing from a mainstream process into a niche.

"There's a shift in the advertising mix from expensive media such as press and TV to more indoor and outdoor point-of-sale," says HP general manager for LFP industrial solutions Yariv Avisar. "The changes are going further as brand owners check their return on marketing investment."

While that's good news for all large-format printers, HP believes that other drivers mean that it is digital that is in the ascendancy. It is using the results of Fespa's recently published World Wide Survey to back up its claims. The survey found that 65% of firms were seeing an increased demand for personalisation, 70% for shorter runs, 22% in just in time working and 79% shorter turnarounds, all of which play to digital's strengths. Further underlining the argument that digital's time has come was the survey's finding that 37% of respondents reported a decline in their screen print business.

"From the market indicators we are seeing, we may come to look at this Fespa Digital as a turning point," says Avisar.

Other factors that suggest a swing to digital include breaking up long runs into smaller batches of multiple versions, a drive to reduce wastage and lower operator costs. Avisar claims manning on a screen press might run to 10, whereas the FB700 can be run by a single operator.

HP Scitex started development of the FB7500 in 2005 by asking managers and operators from some of the world's leading screen printers what specifications a digital machine would need to supplant screen. From there, it set itself the task of building a machine that would offer significant time and cost savings for a shop running two 200-sheet jobs per shift for 20 days per month. Considering the total production process, HP claims the FB7500 works out twice as fast in this situation, with costs coming in 14% lower.

The FB7500 has a maximum sheet size and printable area of 1.65x3.2m. HP defines the output speed in both square metres per hour and number of full size (1.65x3.2m) sheets per hour that can be produced. The machine has four point-of-purchase (PoP) quality modes ranging from the highest quality PoP 17, which is 17 sheets per hour (90m2 per hour) through to PoP 42, which churns out 42 sheets or 220m2 per hour. In addition, there are two higher speed modes producing 63 sheets per hour (330m2 per hour) and 95 sheets per hour (500m2 per hour) respectively. Productivity figures provided include loading and unloading times, so, according to HP, should reflect actual production speeds rather than theoretical printing only speed.

Flexible and rigid sheets up to 25mm thick can be handled, including paper, card, polypropylene, polystyrene corrugated boards, foam and PVC.

‘Three-quarter' automation
Media handling is what HP Scitex terms ‘three-quarter automation'. The operator loads each sheet onto a feed table, which then registers the job before loading it onto the print table. Printed sheets are automatically transferred to a stacker. The firm argues this arrangement provides the best compromise of productivity and substrate flexibility.

"Loading is manual to keep the material changeover as quick as possible and doesn't lose any time over full automation," says Avisar. "But there is no reason why we couldn't offer a fully automated version in the future."

As the first HP machine to use its own X2 printheads, the FB7500 is a landmark for the firm, being its first industrial wide-format machine that is HP through and through.

Avisar claims this offers cost benefits, which are passed on to customers who will pay "hundreds of dollars for printheads, rather than thousands".

The X2 head is a piezo-electric head. Each head has 128 nozzles within a 32.5mm wide print swathe, producing a native resolution of 100dpi and a maximum ink droplet size of 42 picolitres (pl). There are 312 heads in the 500dpi FB7500, 52 for each of the six colours, CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta. In addition to the six colours fitted, it is possible to fit another two taking the total up to eight. HP says that it chose a 42pl drop size to help achieve strong flat colours typical of screen, with the addition of the two light inks to ensure smooth halftones, particularly flesh tones.

Maiden printhead
The X2 is HP's first piezo electric head. It was developed at its Corvallis, Oregon site, which also developed HP's thermal printheads. The firm invested $20m (£12.8m) in the X2, but the printhead has also benefited from the firm's total investment of more than $1bn in developing inkjet technology.

The good news is that the printheads can be replaced by the user without the need for an engineer. HP says less than two heads per month need changing and the replacement head costs are included in the first-year maintenance contract.

It's not only the printheads that leverage existing HP technology. The printhead carriage is taken from the firm's long established Turbojet machine. So, although the FB7500 is HP's first moving-bed flatbed, the imaging technology is proven in the field in high-speed production. The FB7500's flatbed traversing under the printhead can be seen as being an unwrapped version of the Turbojet's drum architecture, to make it capable of handling rigid and thick materials.

UV curing of the inks is provided by a cold mirror shuttered lamp system. HP offers two RIP options with the machine, either Caldera's GrandRip+ or Onyx ProductionHouse, depending on the user's preference.
The machine will cost £784,000 in the UK, which sits near the top end of the market. Ink costs, although dependent on contract and volumes, will be around £48 (€55) per litre, cheaper than HP's inks for its lower volume machines. Figures depend on the actual ink coverage of your job mix, but HP estimates ink consumption averages out at 100m2 per litre.
The FB7500 is a well-thought out package and, while it may not offer headline-grabbing speeds, it has a sensible specification that delivers versatility and productivity.



SPECIFICATIONS
Type
UV-cured moving-bed flatbed printer
Format 1.65x3.2m
Materials handling ‘three-quarter' automation
Max speed 500sqm per hour (95 sheets)
Max resolution 500dpi
Workflow Caldera GrandRip+ or Onyx ProductionHouse
Price £784,000
Contact HP 0800 520 0431/www.hp.com/uk/portfolio



THE ALTERNATIVES
Agfa M-Press Tiger
Agfa announced an upgrade to the M-Press at Fespa, the Tiger, which offers higher speeds and quality thanks to new printhead technology. Agfa says it can combine screen print with digital print to maximise the strengths of both.
Type UV-cured flatbed
Format 1.66x2.66m
Materials handling automatic
Max speed 777sqm per hour
Price £1.19m (€1.3m)
Contact Agfa UK 020 8231 4929/www.agfa.com

Durst Rho 800 HS
The Rho 800 HS is a faster version of its Presto. The unique continuous board printing feature makes the most of the print speed, reducing loading time to 1% of production time, compared to up to 40% for some flatbeds.
Type UV-cured hybrid
Format 2.5m wide
Materials handling 3/4 automation
Max speed 225sqm per hour
Price £440,000 (€500,000)
Contact Durst UK 01372 388540/www.durst-online.co.uk

EFI Vutek GS3200
The GS packs versatility into a single machine, handling rolls, sheets and both photo-real and high-speed work in a single machine, plus white ink.
Type UV-cured hybrid
Format 3.2m wide
Materials handling manual
Max speed 223sqm per hour
Price £400,000 (€451,000)
Contact EFI 07887 842786/www.efi.com

Inca Onset S20
Its faster sibling, the Onset S70, is the machine that defined the high end of the market, now Inca has introduced a ‘baby' with automation options and optional six colours.
Type UV-cured flatbed
Format 3.1x1.5m
Materials handling manual, 1/2 or 3/4 automation
Max speed 250sqm per hour
Price £700,000
Contact Fujifilm Sericol 01843 866668/www.onseteffect.com

One Solution Vega 32000
While the top end machine boasts full automation and blistering speed, there are more modest machines starting at a lower price point, with a roll-to-roll option to come.
Type UV-cured flatbed
Format 3.2x2m
Materials handling automatic feeder and stacker
Max speed 720sqm per hour
Price £571,000 (€650,000)
Contact One Solution +32 1040 0609/www.auniquepartner.com

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