Recently, HP introduced their new "game changer" inkjet machine, PageWide Advantage 2200. As expected, a fantastic machine, already well described by our colleagues - but I will also try to dig into the machine from an INKISH perspective!
By Editor Morten B. Reitoft
The HP PageWide Advantage 2200
The HP PageWide Advantage 2200 is a member of the HP PageWide T-series. Though it has an entirely new look with a way smaller footprint and height, it, in many ways, shares technology with the T-series. The T-Series was first introduced in 2008 but has constantly been upgraded since. One of the most significant upgrades is the Brilliant Ink, which has given the T-250 a higher print quality and wider media diversity. The HP Optimizer and Bonding Agent, which is part of the printing system, enable the T-250 and now the Advantage 2200 to print on a wider media range and doesn't require pre-treated paper. So the current PageWide offering from HP consists of the T-250, T-400, and Advantage 2200. HP also offers corrugated solutions like the new T-700i and the T1195i.
Please see the public presentation to learn more about Advantage 2200. Here you can also hear Vice President Marco Boer from IT Strategies talking about the more general considerations he sees with Inkjet.
The print heads are the same HDNA (High Definition Nozzle Architecture) Thermo Print Heads HP use in all their T-Series printers, and if you want to know about the print heads, HP has a GREAT presentation of the technology here.
New to the HP PageWide Advantage 2200 is its modularity. You can add up to three dryers, which the PSP can configure to the applications the PSP produce. Generally, better quality, coated papers or heavy stock requires more drying power. Commercial printers seeking alternatives to their existing offset machines will most likely need three dryers. These can, however, be added to the machine as the need changes - so that is a huge advantage!
With the additional drying capabilities, the Advantage 2200 can run faster with consistently high quality on more 'difficult' substrates!
New to Advantage 2200 is the paper path. With the ability to print on substrates from 40 GSM to 300 GSM, the range is vast, and with only one print arch, the Advantage 2200 has an entirely new paper path. Looking at the film and photos released by HP, you can see the paper is unwound and led into the machine on the one half of the print bar. The front and back pages are printed side by side. When the front page has been printed, the paper continues through the number of dryers installed on the machine, exits almost the same place as it entered, and is here turned to be fed into the machine side by side with the front page. The longer paper path ensures the drying, and by using the entire width of the print bar for front and back, print HP half the number of needed print heads - reducing cost. The ability to add dryers based on the PSP's need is smart. The printer that prints applications with lower ink coverage can speed up the machine, and with more dryers, the PSP can keep speed and high quality, as I understand!
And talking about speed, Advantage 2200 can run up to 152 meters per minute in color and 244 in monochrome. The speed depends on what quality the printer is set to print. With 2400 nozzles per inch, 8 x nozzle redundancy, and brilliant ink, the machine will probably deliver stunning results.
The Advantage 2200 is fast - 85 million A4 pages per month in B&W or 42/58 million A4 pages in color. This, of course, indicates who the machine is developed for. The Advantage 2200 is developed for PSPs with high volume jobs or a wealth of small jobs where web-based printing makes sense. Though changing paper is getting easier and easier and faster and faster, a web-based machine doesn't have the media flexibility of a cut sheet device.
Talking about speed, HP has in their brochures given examples of various types of jobs, so you can see how long time a finished job will take (with the applicable binding, of course!). Quite impressive, to be honest. A digital Inkjet printer capable of printing up to 9,000 12 pages of magazines in color per hour, or about 2,000 160 pages of book blocks - the machines are fast but see for yourself by following this link to the PDF mentioned.
The Inkjet market is crowded. The Commercial Print Offset market has been dominated by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, Koenig & Bauer, Man Roland, Komori, and RGMT for decades. An offset machine is an advanced machine, but it has been used for a long time, and the cost model using offset is well-known to every commercial printer. You buy a machine. You have a service contract and consumables you negotiate with a wealth of suppliers, from plates, chemicals, inks, and paper to almost everything around the machine. This model has given PSPs enormous leverage in picking suppliers that match service, prices, and proximity. This has given the PSPs the freedom to choose the best option and has kept competition alive with aligned prices.
Digital is different. When you invest in a digital machine - toner or Inkjet - you buy into the entire eco-system and rely on fair pricing of consumables, service, spare parts, etc. You don't have the same shopping options for consumables when buying digital equipment!
Digital has been an essential asset for PSPs for years, and side by side with the offset machines, you see departments with, in particular, toner-based equipment. The toner vendors have a good share of the market, and as I have written earlier, vendors thought that higher prices would be justified by higher value = read personalization. Most PSPs have, however, used their toner devices for short runs complementing the undeniable trend of shorter and shorter print runs. The expensive, slow, and lower-quality inkjet printers found their niche in the Direct Mail segment, the transactional and transpromo market, and the typically B&W book market.
But, Houston, we've got a problem or an opportunity if you like. The market continues to decrease with lower and lower print runs, and the inkjet devices are now better, cheaper, and WAY more flexible than an offset machine. OR, that is at least what vendors tell us, through media, specialists, and maybe the story you tell yourself as well? When reading reports from research companies like Keypoint Intelligence, and others, it seems inevitable that Inkjet is not only the future, but it's the only sound investment you can make NOW.
And it is, but the only reason it makes more sense now is that many PSPs don't utilize their offset presses to their max. Offset presses today are fast, have almost zero setup time, and can produce so much print that the biggest issue is filling up the machines. If you don't have customers demanding products of one, extreme short runs, or jobs using variable data. In that case, the offset machine is still worth considering - and many PSPs continue to do so!
Offset machines are still WAY faster than any inkjet device on the market. When investing in an offset press, the business case is whether you can sell the needed volume or have a business model where you can sell the added value of an offset machine. The added value with offset is still price and time to market on longer print runs, but it's also media diversity and colors. Though modern digital printers have become better at simulating PMS colors, they can still not simulate all colors. Even the colors outside the standard CMYK gamut would likely come at the cost of extra ink or a slower print speed!
So why look into digital?
The future of Commercial Print
Before predicting the impossible, let's start somewhere else. Too many people in the industry look at technology first. You can visit as many PSP websites as you like and see that many PSPs continue to identify themselves with the printing machine they have - and, of course, technology is essential. However, most end customers don't care what equipment produces their applications. They care about quality, time, price, sustainability, and maybe even more important, the relationship they have with their PSP. So when some claim to love specific print technologies, I realize the fascination with the technology. Still, for a PSP investing in equipment, the motivation for the investment should be based on what serves the business objective. And you the most critical criterion is profitability.
When I give speeches about pricing, this continues to be one of the fundamental challenges PSPs have. Of course, a PSP can calculate a price, but is the price aligned with what the market will pay? Is the price reflecting the actual cost of production? And what is essential when considering a new investment? How will the market develop in two, five, or ten years?
These are essential questions to ask, and maybe you should start evaluating the current market situation and consider where you think the market will develop.
The current situation
For decades, end customers have bought print products in bulk. We get RFQs from customers asking for a price of 100, 500, 5,000, or whatever quantity they need, and primarily the quantity reflects an expectation of what they need. When a book publisher asks for a quote, the publisher often judges the offer on the price per piece. The publisher uses the price per piece in pricing the book to the distributor, the reseller, and the end customer. He knows that if he asks for 10,000 copies, the price per piece will decrease, but he also knows that the book only sells 500 copies; the 500 copies need to cover his total investment. So he will never invest in any number of books because he likes to tie money in warehousing, unsold books, etc.
He knows he pays a higher price per book with digital equipment, but he has no risk as it's being produced on demand. That changes his entire business model, as well as yours.
I once had a boss (a PSP) who suggested that we buy non-current stock of printed products from our customers to turn the non-current print into something current. I think it was a great idea, and though we didn't execute it (for several reasons), we started looking into what our clients had in stock. At the time, an enormous amount of paper ended up being non-current. There were manuals on obsolete products, brochures on products no longer sold, and endless non-current products.
With offset machines, the incentive to sell bulk is higher, as startup cost needs to be covered, so the first ten, fifty, thousand copies need to cover plates, setup time, maculation, etc.
Will customers continue to accept this way of buying more than what is needed? NO, and the evidence is the shorter and shorter print runs. The technological advances in offset have allowed customers to buy shorter runs at a more reasonable cost, but there will 'always' be a setup cost to be covered!
In 1992 I worked for a music magazine and managed our print. In the beginning, we printed 3,000 copies, A4, 32 pages, 130g Matt Coated paper, 1+1, saddle stitched. The price for the same magazine today, but in 4+4, is one-third of the cost back then. This is an example of how we, as an industry, have given our customers a fantastic opportunity to produce shorter print runs. Still, as an industry, we have forgotten to substitute the lost volume with new and more work as the price has fallen more than 60% because of higher efficiency!
Customers don't want to bind capital in products not being used. That makes sense from a financial perspective, but maybe even more from a sustainability perspective!
The now and the future
As Negroponte once said, everything that can be digital will be digital, so the question is, maybe more importantly, how fast will this transformation happen?
For some segments in the market, like packaging, the transformation can take a long time, but then again. If you look at labels, the transformation came fast. I wouldn't be surprised if Inkjet technology IS the game changer that will make folding cartons and corrugated digital. Companies like BHS already have beta sites with corrugated machines with built-in high-quality inkjet capabilities. HP and Koenig & Bauer offer corrugated printing solutions. Xeikon and EFI provide packaging solutions, and these are just a few out of many. The Koenig & Bauer / Durst Varijet promises an Inkjet solution that targets the folding-carton market.
What is interesting is, however, that the Inkjet market is so diverse. We tend in most media to focus on packaging, labels, commercial, and textile. Still, when INKISH covered the Seiko Open Week event earlier this year, it surprised me that so many machine builders were developing and producing machines intended to be built in only one. These can be large machines for printing on large PP boxes, tiles, wood printing, and so many things that it's almost unbelievable.
This is interesting in relation to the commercial print space, packaging, etc., because the print head development is significant to both increased productivity and bringing the cost down.
Cost is maybe the biggest concern for both printing companies and customers. I read some time ago that some African printing companies were not happy with the pricing of Inkjet. When comparing digital vs. offset or flexo prices, the prices were too high on digital. If you compare it like that, you are probably right. The digital mindset is also about selling the value that digital production can provide. You may lose a huge opportunity if you substitute analog equipment with digital equipment, so here is what you must focus on.
Digital production offers customers just-in-time production, shorter print runs, variable data, no or limited warehousing, and a better color gamut on some products. Your job is to sell those values to your customers. If your customers can't see your value, they will not buy. This isn't different from today's situation, but in digital, you have better options to offer customers what they need, which has value.
We need to discuss where HP PageWide Advantage 2200 finds itself when considering the above.
You could argue that the PageWide Advantage 2200 should be compared to other Inkjet devices, but as I have written so often, I don't care much about Inkjet. I care about digital vs. analog, so we also HAVE to look into the toner options in the market.
HP has a broad portfolio of printing devices ranging from the smallest Indigos to the T490. I believe it was Alon Bar-Shany who once said that HP has a machine for almost every size company and if HP hasn't, then the competition in the digital printing space is so vast that you can always find a great machine that serves your needs!
When you start researching future investments, you'll need to understand where your business is and where you want your business to be. All the technologies in the market serve a purpose and fulfill a niche. You may see the competition moving from an SRA3 toner-based device to a B2 toner-based device to an SRA3 inkjet device to a web-based Inkjet device. Still, the real question is what customers you serve, and how will you differentiate yourself in the future to stay relevant as a supplier?
With this in mind, you should look at the HP PageWide Advantage 2200. Advantage 2200 competes with other web-based printing presses, and we can quickly mention Canon and Ricoh as two serious contestants in this race. Canon and Ricoh offer web-based Inkjet, but they ALSO deliver cut sheet Inkjet. With the focus on lower operational cost, Inkjet cut sheet is something I still don't understand HP isn't offering. Of course, I know that they believe in the Indigo platform as their cut sheet option. Still, if the Ricoh Z-75 takes off or Canon continue what looks like a success with the iX3200, HP will either have to lower their cost on electro ink OR offer an Inkjet cut sheet device. Of course, this is pure speculation from my side, but I believe the logic is there.
Regardless of the above, HP competes not only with itself in some product variations but also with strong competitors.
Now HP delivers an entirely new generation to the market, and I wondered why it was announced just a few weeks before Printing United takes place in October? Vendors often announce new product releases at an event, but the announcement may draw people to Las Vegas to see the machine themselves. Or, can we expect that the competition is soon announcing something and HP wants to be the first to announce a "game changer?" I am convinced that Ricoh and Canon have something up-their-sleeve and will not give away the market to HP without a fight. Competition is great, and you can see customers always win!
However! I have been with many outstanding printing companies since INKISH was established in 2014. The HP T-Series has become a standard, just like you see Heidelberg everywhere. I am confident that HP will be successful with the Advantage 2200, and I can't wait to see one in action. It could be fun to test it with Eddy Hagen and a printer. HP, if you read this, shouldn't we test the beast?