At this year's Sign and Digital 2014 Hewlett Packard announced the launch of its new 300 series printers. Taking pride of place on stand D10 exhibited by London based Large Format print solutions reseller Perfect Colours Ltd, the new HP Latex printers were attracting quite some attention, gathering large crowds on each and every day of the exhibition. What were visitors to the show so interested in? The Latex 300 series is the third incarnation in the 60" HP Latex printer story that started in 2008 with the launch of the 60" L25500, which was a successful machine for HP and was replaced in 2011 by the 1" wider L26500, which featured a new ink series boasting more consistent colour quality as well as the ability to do double sided printing. Later on in 2012 the HP Latex L26500 was joined by the 104" L28500 which enjoys similar capabilities to but with a much larger print width. The L28500 remains in the range of HP Latex printers alongside already popular LX820 and L850 3.2M machines. The new 300 series has a three printer line up starting with the entry level 54" HP Latex L310, which retails at an affordable £10,500+VAT and includes a basic RIP from SAI and a colour touch screen, the 64" L330 boasts a larger print width, higher speed and a take up reel as well as the same SAI RIP that is bundled with the HP Latex L310. The flagship Latex L360 has a much higher print speed than either the L10 or L330 and has ability to do double sided printing and includes a special accessory making the printer suitable for printing on to porous martials such as mesh, the from panel has easy to use 8" iPad like touch screen and like the L330 has a take reel, but also an X cutter not featured on any other model. So a great new line of machines, but are these machines good for the environment and could they be described as green?
Firstly it has to said that Latex as technology certainly has some of the right characteristics, right from the first machines back in 2008. The ink is water based so does not contain harmful solvents and has never contained heavy metals like nickel. Unlike solvent and eco-solvent inks, costly ventilation is not required. The ink does not pose health risk to users and saves energy at the same time as there is no need for filtration units that would be required for solvent and eco-solvent printers.
For quite some years there has been some arguments about the power consumption of Latex technology due in part for the need for a 16 amp power supply for the 60" machines, but tests have shown that the draw of power at peak usage is higher than an eco-solvent based printers but power consumption overall is little different due to the peak power only being required for a number of seconds on each print and then dipping to a lower level. The new Latex L300 series has paid attention to these concerns and each model in the new line up uses less power than the outgoing model and this is achieved by the ink curing at a much lower temperature than before. Unlike the L26500 the 300 series does not have a " media heater" and the media is not heated during the printing but only in the curing process which is enabled by a small heater and hot air is distributed in the curing unit by a convection system through which the media passes before exiting the machine. The lower temperatures means not only less power consumption but also the ability to print on a wider range of heat sensitive medias. Linked to this was another concern voiced by the printing community which also has an environmental angle to it and this was the long " warm up" time of the printer, when sending a print some users could wait up to 4 minutes before the printer would start printing, the new machines are recorded as starting to print within 1.5 minutes which again saves valuable energy and time.
The new Latex ink, now its third generation has UL Greenguard Gold certification recognizing its low emission. In addition the new ink achieved UL Ecologo certification which is a multi-attribute criteria, no solvent or eco-sovlent ink are able to meet. For the first time this ink series now incorporates an ink optimiser which speeds the drying process which aids the much higher productivity of the new range. As with all Latex printers that have gone before the prints are odourless making them suitable for odour sensitive environments such as hospitals and schools, something that eco solvent technology struggles to achieve add to this the ability to print onto soft signage and the environmental case for the Latex is starting to add up, as soft signage material is more bio degradable than PVC or vinyl materials and is much lighter, saving fuel during transportation and requiring less space on each delivery vehicle.
From an environmental angle the new Latex 300 series makes a good case for itself, but what about the business case? The two things in many ways are related, as a subject little talked about in print production is material waste. Very few business owners could honestly say they understand exactly how much printed media is thrown away each year, due to inaccurate colour output or the print simply not meeting quality control standards of the business. Not only is this bad news form a business point of view, but not great from the " green " perspective either. Help is at hand with the new HP Latex 300 series as each has tools for profiling different medias to help ensure the first print is colour accurate and costly reprints will not be needed, as colours and profiles are tweaked, the flagship Latex L360 even includes an Eye One photo spectrometer to produce ICC profiles, which using the software provided can produce an accurate profile in less than half an hour. Sometimes it's the little things that overall make a big difference, and the design of each Latex 300 series printer allows the users to see the print just after it passes the print heads during the printing process through the tinted Perspex window on the front of the unit, so a wrong job can be quickly aborted, to further the aid the user there is even a light than can switched on to further illuminate the area behind the window and give the operator further feedback on how the job is progressing. If the window is lifted printing will stop and resume when it is shut, again this all adds up in terms of reducing waste and from a business perspective increasing efficiency and productivity. The 300 series makes its final body blow to eco solvent technology with the fantastic scratch resistance of the new ink formulation, this in itself makes a strong waste reducing argument as less reprints are required due to damaged print or extra prints being required as a result of wear and tear. Lastly in environments where vinyl prints require lamination, the HP Latex from a business perspective is in a class of its own, not requiring the need to " gas off" a 24 hour process required by eco solvent print to prevent laminate from lifting and bubbling. Latex print can be laminated in less than one hour, saving a whole day in most work flows.
The buzz around the new unit at Sign UK is understandable for the reasons above and Jon Telling Sales Director at Perfect Colours on the stand at the show explains. " The response to the new Latex 300 series printers has been very encouraging and the units have sold strongly across the three days of the show, we have orders for over 20 units and expect the sales to grow further over the following weeks and months. These printers make a strong business case for themselves and I am sure they will find many new converts to Latex technology in the near future". Initially 30 units of new HP Latex 300 series were shipped in to the UK in and these sold out in a matter of days. The future certainly looks bright for this new line up of machines, and for the environment in which they print.
Perfect Colours Ltd