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Latex and Toner Taking on Wide-Format Imaging

(July 2008) posted on Thu Jul 03, 2008

Greene discusses two new technologies that might be emerging at just the right time for you to secure a better place in the market for your graphics business.

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By Tim Greene

The new HP Latex ink printer will use the same printhead that already powers two of HP’s commercially available solutions. One is a light-production, color, narrow-format printer. The other is a photo kiosk type of device. So the print-technology part of HP’s solution is worked out. Few would argue that water-based inkjet printers provide the best image quality available in wide-format digital printing systems today, and certainly HP has a mountain of intellectual property in the thermal-inkjet business. Therefore, any question about the viability of HP’s Latex ink printers must be about the inks, not the printheads.

One of the things I find particularly interesting is that HP’s Latex ink technology could breathe life back into the wide-format aqueous-inkjet-printer market in the production-graphics segment. At InfoTrends, we’ve been saying that there are limited growth opportunities in the production-graphics business for water-based inkjet because the running costs are too high compared to wide-format solvent and UV-curable inkjet. Additionally, wide-format aqueous inkjet printing requires coated media and, for outdoor graphics, requires lamination for durability. Latex ink appears to address many of these drawbacks and improve matters concerning sustainability as well.


What is ColorWave?

In basic terms, ColorWave technology is a wide-format color laser printer. There’s much more behind the technology, but essentially it’s a toner-based system instead of an inkjet system. Océ is a leader in the wide-format LED printer market. LED printers are nearly all monochrome devices intended for use by architects, engineers, and construction companies, as well as reprographics shops on the print-for-pay side. Océ has conceptualized and developed ColorWave for approximately ten years, with an objective to incorporate the best characteristics of both LED and inkjet technologies.

LED printers are very reliable and inexpensive to operate on a cost-per-square-foot basis, but offer very few options for color printing. Inkjet printers can do a fantastic job of color printing, and can print onto a variety of substrates, but operate at relatively high running costs. ColorWave is a color printing technology that works well with uncoated bond papers typically used in the engineering environment, and, because it is a toner-based technology, the print media can be recycled. Océ has been installing ColorWave printers in Europe since late 2007, so this technology is way beyond the beta testing period.


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