|HP Designjet L25500 latex ink printer at 42 inch and 60-inch widths|
At SGIA 2008 (yes, two full ago), I was asked, “Nicholas, did you see the new 40-something inch HP latex ink printer.” This was long before the 42-inch version was launched; I knew the HP Designjet L65500 but not the newer 42” latex ink version.
At ISA 2009, I was told that the price of the new 42” HP latex ink printer would be about $25,000. In other words, details were already in the public domain by Spring 2009. The final actual price is a bit less which certainly is a surprise when you realize the 104" latex ink printer is $100,000.
By the time of FESPA 2009, even more people were discussing the new 42” HP latex ink printer. Almost a month before VISCOM Duesseldorf there was a web site that clearly listed the HP Designjet L25500 by name. A week later there was another entry, and a week later a third web site listed the L25500 latex ink printer by name. All three of these web sites violated the NDA. But since I had signed the NDA several months before, FLAAR was not able to mention this printer (even though, technically, an NDA is null and void once a fact becomes public knowledge).
Then, as of 12:01, ET, October 1 st (so, one minute after midnight of the day before, 30 September), the NDA officially expires. So I can make some initial comments on the new HP latex ink printer, L25500.
Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh reactions
I am writing this page in Kiev, Ukraine, while attending T-Rex printer trade show for three days. I was at VISCOM Paris all three days the week before and will be at the last day of VISCOM Duesseldorf Germany this weekend (before flying to SGIA in New Orleans).
Here in Kiev, Ukraine, solvent ink is still king. The Roland and Mimaki dealers have nice booths at the trade show. I can't yet see Mutoh anywhere (surely they are present, but if so, not visible; same at Sign Africa (only one lonely Mutoh printer in one booth, surrounded by Mimaki and Roland printers everywhere)). But Roland and Mimaki eco-solvent are doing well here, as are HP Scitex solvent printers. Even Flora had a solvent printer at the show here in the shadow of the former Soviet Union.
So the following observations on the gradual demise of solvent printers is primarily based on other continents. Ukraine will continue to do well for Mimaki and Roland for the next year (unless the European football (soccer) cup requires an ecological printing ink; the Europe cup is in a year or so here).
FLAAR will have two separate pages on HP latex ink printer, L25500: this one (on trends) and a separate one that will evaluate the physical printer and its performance (that page will come next week). So the page that follows is for printer manufacturers who wish to understand Trends; the other page (next week) is for end-users (printshop owners, managers, printer operators, and franchise signshops).
If there is no new ink technology in the Roland, Mimaki, or Mutoh booth at ISA 2010 then there is no evidence that these manufacturers of eco-solvent printers realize the impact that HP latex ink and the HP Designjet L25500 latex ink printer is having on market share of eco-solvent, mild-solvent, and full-solvent ink printers.
I say this because the readership of FLAAR has risen 21% this year over the same period last year (so our readership is well over 411,000 readers, more than all trade magazines in USA put together). From this growing readership we have information and documentation on how many people access our comments on HP latex ink (FLAAR is #1 worldwide on Google for HP latex ink, and this is not at the request of HP; we do this because our readers expect FLAAR to have information on innovative new inks).
In other words, FLAAR has information from end-users around the world that not only express interest in HP latex ink, but also tell us precisely why they are interested in this ink.
If Roland, Mutoh, or Mimaki had the new FLAAR Report on HP latex ink that summarizes this worldwide interest, they might have a better business plan for how to handle the tidal wave that is about to hit eco-solvent and mild-solvent ink printers.
It is also noteworthy that neither Roland, Mutoh, or Mimaki have understood the impact that Sepiax ink is about to have on the market place. Clearly they were not at the meeting that I recently had on this subject in Europe. The tidal wave of Sepaix ink is already forming and will hit in a few months (FLAAR spent two days at Sepiax ink world headquarters in May and we are consultants for the first major distributor of that ink that was announced recently by GSW in South Africa). Now Sepiax is being introduced for the USA and Latin America at Graphics of the America. FLAAR has a lecture at GoA on this subject.
Roland has been doing so well worldwide with eco-solvent printers that they have not really bothered to get seriously into UV-cured printers (other than their niche market label printer, the LEC-300, now upgraded to the VersaUV LEC-330). Both HP latex ink and now Sepiax ink will take significant market share from Roland because of them being so slow to move to new ink opportunities.
Mutoh Europe is an experienced company with decades of know-how and success. But eco-solvent, mild-solvent, and full-solvent are as fresh and modern today as Kodachrome and Fujichrome film were in 1997 (the year FLAAR switched from Kodachrome and Fujichrome to digital cameras; we never used darkroom based photography film again). Mutoh is already feeling the loss of market share as HP latex printers become more popular. But Mutoh is totally unprepared for the success of Sepiax ink; Mutoh Europe is convinced that ink does not work adequately (they seem to know only the first formular of several years ago; seemingly Mutoh does not know the rest results that I am now familiar with).
I can't mention, yet, why I know the market shares of eco-solvent ink printers will gradually fade away and be reborn again under several new (non-solvent) inks, because I am either consultant or have working relationship with the companies involved. This is a polite of saying that I look at TRENDS because I am in the middle of the groundswell of these trends.
Yes, of course, thousands of solvent printers will still be sold even in 2010 and 2011 (eco-solvent and mild-solvent and full solvent). I believe Seiko will be successful with their mild-solvent ColorPainter H-104s, H-74s, and V-64s (FLAAR has over 5,000 downloads, PER MONTH, on our evaluation of the Seiko H-104s and we will publish our first edition review of the V-64s within a few weeks).
But getting back to eco-solvent printer sales, Kodak was still selling Kodachrome and Ektachrome film after the first digital cameras were launched. Kodak convinced themselves that they could ignore digital cameras because the first generation of digital cameras (by Apple) did not work well. Kodak was sadly mistaken.
Soon Agfachrome (camera film) collapsed; Kodak does not even make cameras any more (not even their own digital cameras!); and Fujifilm's film revenues shrink monthly. Ilford (darkroom chemicals, black-and-white photography film, and photo paper for darkroom enlargements) evaporated (Ilford in effect went bankrupt).
Does this sound familiar for eco-solvent, mild-solvent, and full solvent inkjet printers?
But, it is so easy for manufacturers of eco-solvent printers to list all the disadvantages of latex ink chemistry. It is so easy for competing manufacturers to list all the disadvantages of latex ink printers. It is so easy to say that "Sepiax will fail as did Kiian and Staedtler Lumocolor." But Sepiax is not failing, and it has only just begun. HP latex ink is not failing yet either, though frankly Sepiax ink has more potential for market share because it can also print on thick rigid materials (not yet possible for latex ink).
Indeed I just got a specific e-mail on why none of the new inks (inks other than latex ink) would succeed (from an eco-solvent ink printer manufacturer). It was so easy in 1997 to list all the disadvantages of digital photography….
Thus I hope that any company who is manufacturing eco-solvent printers for the US and Western European market has a totally new printer technology under development for years and years that they can launch by ISA 2010. Otherwise by FESPA 2010 and SGIA 2010, the history books of wide-format inkjet printer manufacturers will see several major brand names gone the way of Encad.
If I was about to invest in stock shares of a technology and ink chemistry company, I sure would not invest in any company that made photographic film and darkroom chemistry. So why is eco-solvent ink going to be different?
It is not that I wish that eco-solvent ink disappear (although claims that it requires no ventilation and prints on all uncoated substrates borders on misleading advertising). Actually I hope every single printer manufacturer today succeeds, prospers, and raises their market share.
But, sorry, it is not my fault if they can't launch new ink chemistry by SGIA 2009 and have substantial new inks by ISA 2010 and FESPA 2010. And I do not mean frills such as silver metallic ink… Smoke and mirrors such as silver metallic ink (that no one can afford) merely obscures the agony of the downturn of eco-solvent chemistry.
If Mimaki, Mutoh, and Roland have only more different models of their nice eco-solvent printers at SGIA 2009, that is too-little-too-late. If they don't get Sepiax ink inside their printers by ISA 2010 (yes, this year, in a few months) they will miss the boat and never catch up. Ps: FLAAR does not work for Sepiax ink; they are not a Sponsor even, and I do not hold shares in their company.
One thing that has postponed the eventual downslide of eco-solvent ink is the poor results of Staedtler Lumocolor ink (starting at Photokina 2004) and the recent evaporation of Kiian ink. It is tough to tell what happened to the alcohol-based ink of Kiian (Manoukian, Tricksy; it has disappeared totally from their web sites), but surely there are other inks out there that can be shown as “concept cars” at ISA 2010 to help shore up the fragile market share of eco-solvent ink.
There was not one single viable competing ink shown at SGIA 2009…. But, walking the floor were the two key managers of Sepiax ink. The Kiian Manoukian Tricksy ink seemingly has failed totally; it has disappeared even from their own booth. Sad, but this is typical: not all inks that show initial promise make it to an actual functioning product.
Summary on the HP Designjet L25500 latex ink printer replacement for eco-solvent ink
HP had the moxie to put their money where their mouth was and they took latex ink and developed it into a real product. Yes, I have tested it myself, and sorry everyone who wishes it would disappear, it works very nicely. I have even tested after-market third-part latex ink (already TWO years ago). Why couldn't Mutoh, Mimaki, and Roland get this same ink into their printers at least six months ago? Surely if FLAAR can find aftermarket latex ink they can too.
I have been told several times that “……. printer manufacturing company has already gotten HP latex ink to work in their current solvent printers without needing modification.” If this is true, they better have a concept car of latex ink at VISCOM Italy 2009 and functioning beta versions by ISA 2010. And frankly, they would do better to skip latex ink all together and jump ahead to Sepiax or Kiian's ink (or any of the other inks out there that are comparably innovative). I don't say to skip latex ink because it is not a good ink, but why merely play catch-up with HP. Why not be innovative.
In the meantime, the HP Designjet L25500 latex ink printer is now available. It is already replacing eco-solvent printers (yes, already, even before it was shown to the public; it has been shown under NDA for months and months).
We have received e-mails and phone calls from around the world listing every possible disfunction, problem, lack of features, or issue of the HP latex printers (of course all this simply proves that the HP L25500 latex ink printer is gradually becoming a major topic of conversation). But today in 2010 the question is not whether HP latex ink functions, but whether any printer manufacturer has enough innovative spirit to launch a printer tweaked to handle Sepiax ink or any of the several other comparable inks. The true competition of HP latex ink is not any more solvent ink, but the three different new chemistries out there, of which Sepiax is only one.
As you can anticipate, FLAAR is provided with tips on new inks and new technology around the world. Equally as you can understand, when we are under NDA we can't mention the other ink companies by name. But the fact remains, we know the potential of these inks, and we know which printer manufacturers are testing them.
Most recently updated Feb. 23, 2010 after I received information on remarkable rest results from Sepiax ink in USA (more updates to come).
First posted after NDA expired, October 1, 2009. Updated, October 12, 2009, after SGIA.
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