by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
HP's large format printer division is based in Barcelona, but their print heads are made in San Diego. The software may well be written in Oregon, and their PR firm is headquartered in Atlanta -- an arrangement that favors frequent flyer miles for most involved, and jet lag. A large contingent was on hand in San Diego, actually looking none too worse for the wear, to introduce a couple of new large format printers.
The two new large-format printers hulked on the sides of the stage as the Western Hemisphere press filed into the ballroom of the Sheraton Marina Hotel in San Diego. But as the music built up, as the curtains parted, and a spotlight tracked the star of the show: it moved forward by itself to center stage. Enter the pagewide large-format printer! May be not as dramatic an entrance as Gene Simmons at a Kiss concert, but in our world, that's as good as it gets. We applauded.
Plans for Invasion
It is the first large format (40"-wide) printer with PageWide printhead. Whereas a normal printhead goes back and forth across the page, a PageWide printhead is a collection of sideways stackable printheads that cover the whole width of the sheet. (See Figure 1.) All colors are dispensed at once. It's way faster than the back and forth, multiple pass method. Print registration should be spot-on (pun intended) since the paper doesn't have much chance to slip on the rollers.
Figure 1: HP designed its new printhead as a 6" module that can be stacked to create "any" size of printer
While the other two printers had notable improvements (the T3500 can output a D-size print in 21 seconds!), HP has big plans for this battleship-class printer. It intends to displace the current LED technologies in repro houses. HP sees this as a $1.3B market. Same speed or faster... plus color! How could they not love it, HP asks rhetorically. Perhaps because they'll be bound to HP for expensive ink?
Users in Ink Prison?
HP insists that their total cost of ownership is still low, even with their proprietary inks. It's a widely held belief that printer companies lose money on the hardware but profit immensely from ink cartridges. It's certainly true for consumer printers. I have been shocked at paying $40 for probably an ounce of ink.
From the second row of seating, I can see the cartridges of the large-format printers: each looks like it holds a half gallon. While engineering and AEC prints are usually E-size maximum, HP is counting on the creation of huge signs and banners, which are increasing popular.
The page-wide printer will not be available until late 2015, more that a year away. HP says the technology is all there, but they want to do enough testing to ensure that it meets their reliability standards. They are announcing their plans early to send a message to the repro shops, that something better will be coming down down the road eventually, so don't enter into any long-term relationships.
[Reprinted with permission of The CAD Insider.]