|HP Scitex FB500 combo flatbed is replacement for HP Designjet H35100, HP Designjet H45100, H45500|
oday, in 2010, the world of UV-curable printers is very different than when the MacDermid ColorSpan 5400uv series was born in early 2008. Hybrid style UV flatbed printers are no longer considered acceptable; minimum acceptable today is a moving transport belt. Hence even HP has cleverly stopped attempting to make grit rollers and pinch rollers work on thick flat material and have wisely switched to a moving combo transport belt technology.
So today in summer 2010, the HP Scitex FB500 combo flatbed is the replacement for HP Designjet H35100, HP Designjet H45100, H45500.
HP Designjet H35100, HP Designjet H45100, H45500, replace ColorSpan 5400uv
The ColorSpan 5440uv, 5445uv, 5460uv, and 5465uv were a heritage of the #1 best-selling MacDermid ColorSpan 72UVR and ColorSpan 72UVX. The ColorSpan 72UVR and X out-sold the Zund 215 and outsold the Gerber Solara.
But now since summer 2009, this is the time of post-DRUPA 2008, when the outburst of technology has been continuing all year. The RasterPrinters T600uv received well deserved attention at DRUPA (in the EFI booth for the first time), and the entry-level EFI Rastek H650 looked better than I expected at FESPA 2009. Mutoh Zephyr and Mimaki LED-cured 1.6 meter printers are also displayed at every trade show. Each one of these printers has several good features and a few weaknesses (being slow, or not handling thick or heavy material). So no one single printer is perfect, yet each brand and model may have the features that will be a good fit for you and your clients. FLAAR works to assist you to learn the facts on each UV-cured printer.
It is rare for a new UV-curable platform to be without a few issues, and the ColorSpan 5440uv, 5445uv, 5460uv, and 5465uv had several design quirks. But the difference between how HP handles this now that they have taken over ColorSpan completely, and how companies handle problems such as on Infiniti UV printers is completely different.
One distributor with Chinese printers was completely in denial about the issues that everyone who owned their printers complained about. But gradually other Chinese manufacturers have improved their quality control at their factories. I inspected the Teckwin factory for a few hours in 2007 and for two days during 2008. The improvement in the Teckwin UV printers is noticeable; their TeckStorm UV printers has fewer issues than the Mimaki JF-1631. However having fewer issues than that one model of Mimaki unfortunately did not mean the Teckwin was without issues, as we learned later. Reportedly weak electrical wiring plagued several Teckwin printers. Hopefully this has been remedied. In the meantime we inspected additional Chinese flatbed printer manufacturers, such as SkyAir Ship. Just realize that most factories make two models: for local sales (meaning with Chinese parts) and for export (meaning that some components and some motors are from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Europe, or America). The question is which version is the one that you actually receive.
In 2010 FLAAR will inspect additional Chinese factories, since one by one the Chinease manufacturers gradually improve. But other Chinese printers from other manufacturers continue to have deficiencies from the use of low-bid parts, lack of quality control, and sticking to a failed philosophy that selling cheap is what everyone wants. That philosophy of cheap cheap cheap worked in their own country and a few places outside, but is not what makes a printer company successful in Western Europe and North America.
In distinction HP is resolving this situation by redesigning the pertinent aspects of the former ColorSpan printer in order to eliminate as many of the issues as possible. Unfortunately, as I found out over the past five months, the retrofitting of the HP Designjet H45500 during summer 2008 was not as successful as I had hoped for. The two biggest issues were the faulty ink pumping system and the center row(s) of nozzles of the Ricoh printheads. Plus the Ricoh printheads may not hold up as well to purging and wiper blades. And the hard-nozzle issue is discussed by most people who tried these printers still in summer and early autumn 2008. So now that it is 2009, we are trying to find time to update our reports to document all the improvments in the last several months.
The rebranding of the ColorSpan into HP Designjet H35100 and HP Designjet H45100 is a good time to re-evaluate this family of entry-level printers. Our evaluations have been revised and updated to list the issues and to detail the work-around, replacements, and improvements that have been undertaken already. You need the full-color FLAAR Reports PDF for this information. Full evaluations are in PDF format, not in our web page comments.
We will also need to seek out printshops where we can undertake a site-visit case study to see how these printers are doing in the real world. Indeed recently we just received an e-mail from a printshop that had repeated issues with one specific material. What helps is when (like this printshop owner), they detail (in diary form, month by month the issues). It also assists us if in addition to reporting what is not working, if they can indicate precisely what kinds of materials the issues occur with, and equally important, what aspects of the printer is doing okay and what kinds of materials work okay.
Plus, to what degree is it a flatbed issue, and to what degree a roll-fed issue; and/or an ink delivery issue? The general consensus is that it's a feeding issue; too many different kinds of rigid material don't feed as well as would be desired. So I need to make time to do a site-visit case study and make lists of what materials feed okay, and which materials feed poorly, skew, or skip. In the meantime I asked for, and received, a detailed specific list of the earlier issues, and how HP is providing improved parts, better software, or at least a frank description of how to handle the situation. It would be nice to see this kind of positive attitude elsewhere. Plus they discuss frankly the issues in the past and list precisely how they handle each aspect.
This is a tough year for any printer to have issues now that Mutoh has come out with a new hybrid-format UV flatbed printer (Mutoh Zephyr). IP&I Cube 260 and Cube 1606 continue to receive high ratings and had a growing dealer network (until they went bankrupt in 2010). Plus a host of additional new UV printers have been launched at DRUPA 2008, a few more were at SGIA '08, then several at ISA '09 and more at FESPA '09 and even more now in 2010. Indeed now Mimaki is showing an entry-level hybrid UV printer (Mimaki UJV-160uv), that uses LED UV lamps, that is much lower than the price of the Mutoh Zephyr.
So it is a good year to re-inspect the venerable ColorSpan UV printers and to document to what degree it has been possible for HP to retrofit them with better features to improve the ink delivery and media feeding/handling system.
But what has happened in the meantime is that because no entry-level printer worked adequately, over 1000 printshop owners and managers voted with their checkbooks for the Oce Arizona 250 GT and this because the #1 best-seller worldwide. Yes, the Oce Arizona 250, albeit itself by no means a perfect printer with delicate printheads and an ink with known issues, but irrespective (because there was not much which was better), Oce has sold over one thousand of their flatbed printers.
By the end of May 2009 I estimate that the Gerber ion will have sold more printers in six months than the ColorSpan+HP have sold in 15 months. The reason is that Gerber was able to fix their ink problems, fix the electronics, and improve the manufacturing. I have visited a screen printing company in Chicago which is content with their cationic ink Gerber ion. No printer is perfect, and every printer has a few downsides, but once Gerber got their cationic ink to actually function, they arranged for Nicholas Hellmuth to visit their factory, to speak in depth with their lead ink chemist, and then FLAAR inspected a Gerber printer out in the real world. In early 2009 Nicholas spoke with four more owners of a Gerber ion at the FastSigns convention in Florida. Every person who had a Gerber ion that I spoke with was content.
There are over a thousand franchise sign shop owners in North America who would like a reliable UV printer at less than $70,000. There are more thousands of screen printing companies and companies that have offset and flexo machines, that want to add at least one UV printer (one screen printing company that I visited in Germany added two, a Grapo Manta and a Grapo Octopus II). So there is a potential market of thousands upon thousands of UV printers at a reasonable price. Gerber lost that market in 2008 because of serious issues (that were widely reported in the FLAAR Reports and web site). But with an improved ink formula, with better electronics, with improved components, and with a more rigorous manufacturing system the Gerber Solara ionX became improved enough that FLAAR was interested in updating its evaluations.
2009 will be an interesting year. Other manufacturers (not HP) have already told me about their new printers in order that we can evaluate them early. So it will be a busy year reviewing the new and improved UV-cured hybrid, combo (transport belt), dedicated flatbed, and dedicated roll-to-roll UV printers that appear at Print ‘09 trade show and then at SGIA '09 this autumn.
HP Designjet H45500 and it’s other new names
ColorSpan 9840uv is now HP Scitex FB910 and the HP Scitex FB950 is already being shown and other models are in preparation. The ColorSpan 9840uv had issues but nowhere near as many as the 5400uv and the FB950 was able to address most of those issues better than the retrofit upgrade to the 5400uv.
Why was the HP Designjet H45500 not shown promimently at FESPA Digital Europe in May 2009?
At FESPA '09 in May it was noticeable that the former entry-level ColorSpan was no longer prominently exhibited. So I asked this question directly to HP large-format printer world headquarters in Barcelona, and learned that all HP Designjet H-35100 and H45100 series printers are actively being manufactured and will be visible at Print '09, SGIA '09, and pertinent VISCOM shows. Since some of the HP Scitex printers are rather large, such as the FB 7500, there simply was not space at FESPA to exhibit the hybrid.
HP has considerable experience, and has results of over several hundred people who bought the ColorSpan 5440uv and a larger number that purchased its HP version. So HP has input from over X-hundred end-users. This knowledge, and more importantly, acceptance of the reality of the situation, has resulted in redesigning a significantly improved printer. As a result of the improved firmware (software), better components, and a skillfully improved supplement to the HP uv printer User's Guide, I have updated this page. But until there is a site-visit case study, a follow-up factory inspection, and all the aspects of a full-scale re-evaluation, the comprehensive evaluation (the separate FLAAR Report) is cautious. I have not seen many other manufacturers devote as much effort to improve a model once it was launched.
Used models of HP Designjet H35500 and HP H45500 hybrid flatbed UV-curing inkjet printers
It is common to want to consider the tempting low price of a used printer. So a used HP Designjet H35100, HP Designjet H45100, or H45500 hybrid flatbed UV-curing inkjet printer is a naturally question.
It would not be recommended to buy any used model HP Designjet H35500 and HP H45500 hybrid flatbed UV-curing inkjet printers. Even in China, most of these printers that were sold to Chinese printshops were returned.
And one HP distributor (not in China) told me that he literally junked his two unsold models. He said “the repair costs of this printer are not worth losing customers.”
But, we have seen even worse printers in print shops that are happy with them, so if a used HP Designjet H35100, HP Designjet H45100, or H45500 hybrid flatbed UV is what you, and your clients, need, then consider one.
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