Next generation printer technology from HP puts an end to a sliding single print head, meaning faster prints in full colour

Meg Whitman: might HPs CEO announce a move into 3D printing later in the year?

Providing the output speed of a monochrome LED printer and the rich colours of inkjet, HP has launched its large format (LFP) PageWide technology.

We think it could be a game-changing product for large format printing. PageWide has more than 200,000 nozzles on a stationary print head that spans the full width of the page.

It can produce both black-and-white and colour output faster than monochrome light-emitting diode (LED) printers, and could mean users no longer need two separate machines for fast black and white, and detailed colour printing.

The technology uses a scalable number of print heads that nest together in one long line.

The prototype machine has an array of eight, spanning 40 inches — four inches wider than any LED printer on the market. Each print head has 25,344 identical drop generators that enable uniform volume, speed and trajectory of ink distribution.

And the static print head eradicates ‘jogging’ of fine lines for more precise printing. PageWide has been ten years in the making, including in-depth research into the chemical basis of the pigment inks and accurate distribution.

With the production printing market currently dominated by monochrome LED printers, HP is setting out to disrupt what it projects as a $1.3 billion global industry. But for now, the machine’s size and 500kg weight mean that this first generation printer is targeted strictly to large enterprise reprographics departments.

It is available in the second-half 2015.

Future capabilities

PageWide could become a possible entry point for HP into the 3D printing market

Existing SLA 3D printers are widely used to output fine detail scale models, and are a favourite of architectural model makers [see Hobs page 24].

Some SLA 3D printers such as the Stratasys Objet Connex range use similar inkjet technology to put down droplets of resin that is then cured by UV light. Typically, a single moving SLA 3D print head takes multiple passes to cover a single layer of resin.

For instance, an Objet Connex 500 print head takes six passes to cover a full build tray. HP PageWide, in comparison, with a rack of print heads could conceivably make a single pass to create each 3D model. This would slash the time it takes to create architectural models.

A 12-hour, high-resolution print job could theoretically be completed in just two hours. Similarly, this technology could be scaled down, allowing for rapid small model printing that could be done in-house for prototypes. HP has constantly pushed its inkjet technology during its 30-year lifecycle, so we would not be surprised to hear HP CEO Meg Whitman announce a move into 3D printing later in the year

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HP Large Format additions

HP has launched a new Designjet SmartStream software product that, it claims, will streamline print workflow in two key time-loss areas: preparation and errors.

Using PDF processing powered by the Adobe PDF Print Engine 32, it removes the need to convert PDFs into TIFF files for detailed printing. It has a new preview function that shows how documents will be printed.

A ‘pre-flight’ warning system flags up potential trouble spots on the print job such as if the page will be clipped, fonts are missing, or some layers are not printable.

The application can try to fix problems automatically, or corrections can be made from within the print manager. HP claims that, in testing, its SmartStream technology cut job preparation time by up to 50 per cent on multipage jobs.

Alongside this software, HP has also launched two new Large Format Printers.

The HP Designjet T3500 Production eMultifunction Printer (eMFP), is a 36-inch machine that requires no warm-up time and features an ultra-fast processor and a high-productivity scanner with batch-scanning, multipage PDF creation and scan-to-email capabilities.

HP says the device can produce monochrome prints at roughly the same cost per page as LED MFPs. It has a self-encrypting hard drive, secure disk erase and controlled access printing.

The 42-inch HP Designjet T7200 Production Printer, is a full-colour LFP built for high-volume print demands.

Featuring similar performance to the T3500, it is capable of handling up to three media rolls at a time, giving the user the options of gloss, matte or bonded papers. The HP Designjet T3500 Production eMFP and T7200 Production Printer: starting at €11,500 each.