HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll UV-cured printer with X2 MEMS piezo printheads Print

At SGIA 2007 the extensive Hewlett-Packard booth exhibited the HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll UV-cured printer with X2 MEMS piezo printheads.

HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll UV-cured printer
HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll printer for billboards and building wrap

There has been almost a year of PR releases on this printer and on its X2 MEMS piezo printhead. This printer was first announced in September 2006. Thus I was curious to see it in action.

The color gamut and speed were impressive. But what was disappointing was the difference between illusion and reality.

The same issue was presented in the Gerber booth: they launched a truly incredible new UV printer (Gerber ion): but what everyone saw was simply nowhere near what we were led to expect by the PR blitz: the Gerber printer was slow, seldom printing. And quality was questionable.

The HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll UV-cured printer was printing most of the day. The quality was handsome. The speed was impressive. The issues are mainly unanswered questions with its X2 MEMS piezo printheads.

Who really makes the printheads? Are they really HP Scitex printheads?

When I first read all the PR releases I assumed that the X2 printhead was originally developed by Scitex Vision. But gradually I am learning about a company named PixDro.

PixDro offers a MEMS printhead with 128 nozzles.

The questions is, what is the relationship between the X2 printhead and the PixDro PL 128 printhead? The X2 printhead itself is no longer shown on the PixDro web site: HP Scitex owns all rights to this head, and it will not be available to any other manufacturer.

Image of HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll UV-cured printer
HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll printer

Do MEMS printheads really function yet?

The information that we are receiving from all sources suggests that manufacturing of the X2 printhead is seriously flawed in that yield per thousand heads is low. The CrystalJet had comparable problems with its breakthrough piezo printhead in the 1990’s.

Everyone feels that if HP pours enough money into this X2 printhead project, it will eventually succeed. But the questions are: once you have an XL2200 printer, how many printheads will fail per month, or even per week? FLAAR provides the answer in our new report on SGIA ’07 (there are two versions, a photo essay that is free; and a full report on UV printer trends that can be purchased via our new Trends publications on www.wide-format-printers.net (UV-Services #9, Trends).

What other factors (besides issues with unproven printheads) have caused the delay of this HP Scitex XL2200 printer?

So far we have not concentrated attention on the HP Scitex XL2200 printer because it is not our policy to write about unfinished printers that have issues. I prefer to concentrate on printers that function already, such as the NUR Expedio Inspiration and NUR Expedio 5000 Revolution. The only reason I even comment on the HP Scitex XL2200 is because two weeks before SGIA I was told that the issues and problems of this printer were still such that it might not even be exhibited. But it was not only put on display, it was presented as though it was a printer that you could buy and use already today. On the subject of new roll-to-roll UV printers, VUTEk has now launched its first dedicated roll-to-roll system, the QS3200r.

Although it is probable that X2 printhead reliability problems and X2 failure rates are the main cause of its continued delay, it is worth asking out loud what other issues may be causing the over 1 year non-appearance of this printer.

Price comparisons, speed comparisons with competing roll-to-roll printers

Photo of HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll UV-cured printer

Comparing price and speed is not realistic if the printer can’t hold up (if the printheads fail quickly). In this case, it does not help much if the printer itself is fast, because downtime will be considerable. The only way to document how long this printer’s heads can hold up is to visit a beta site.

IP&I arranged for me to visit two of their printshop sites; Gandinnovations has arranged for me to visit printshops in several countries that are successfully using their Jeti UV printers. I have done site-visit case studies of many other brands and models: but until the HP Scitex XL2200 is available to study, no site-visit evaluation is possible.

Why don’t you get this kind of information in a trade magazine?

Why don’t you learn of the issues with X2 printheads from trade magazines?

FLAAR is offering personalized consulting at each trade show. You can walk-the-floor with the Senior Editor of FLAAR and get his comments on any and all printers, inks, RIP software, color management, substrates, applications, etc.

So if you wish to learn about the difference between combo, hybrid, and dedicated UV printers, how latex ink compares, about textile printers, etc. contact FLAAR to obtain consulting.

You can also get consulting before ISA or FESPA anywhere in the world: Dubai, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, Korea, London and more.

The only trade magazine that consistently asks (and publishes) pointed questions about the downsides of a printer, ink, media, or RIP is SIP (Verlagshaus Gruber, in Germany). Its editor, Ewe Heinish, is one of the best researchers in the business. I have sat in on some of his interviews with the managers of printer manufacturers: he lists downsides as adeptly as he can discuss the viable benefits of the same product.

Note that I classify him as a researcher. Being a good journalist is a first step; being a PR publicists is also valuable. That’s a great career; they play a useful role. FLAAR lists, reviews, and recommends most trade magazines (in the US primarily the top four: Digital Graphics, The Big Picture, Digital Output and Wide Format Imaging). These are essential publications. Digital Graphics often publishes articles that are not PR releases and I share information at every trade show with Ken Mergentine. I am gradually getting to know the capable editors of the other trade magazines as well. FLAAR has no intention of competing with them because they are a helpful resource for PR releases about new products. FLAAR tends to wait for the products to be available for scrutiny before we look at them.

FLAAR Reports also has a comprehensive listing of trade magazines around the world; this is constantly being updated because we recommend to our readers that they subscribe to these trade magazines.

But printshop owners, printshop managers, printer operators, and investors who are funding major hardware purchases often prefer to have a realistic list of pros and cons. It would be helpful if more information were available about the actual state of technology with the HP Scitex X2 printhead.

This is what you obtain inside the FLAAR Reports (all of which are available from www.wide-format-printers.NET). Comments on the X2 printhead, and its issues, are in the forthcoming FLAAR Report on UV trends at SGIA 2007 (not in the free photo essay version, but only in the full version).

Picture of HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll UV-cured printer
HP Scitex XL2200 roll-to-roll printer for billboards and building wrap.

 

 

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First posted November 2, 2007.