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HP Scitex LX600, LX800 HP latex ink printer evaluation Print E-mail

The HP Designjet L65500 has been available to study now for almost two years. Previously there has been no FLAAR Report because we were waiting for feedback from end-users. Now we have spoken with printshops who are content and printshop owners who were disappointed and ironically now want to replace it with a Sepiax printer.

Sepiax AquaRes ink was a great innovation starting at its public launch at FESPA 2008. Interest rose quickly, in large part because FLAAR Reports understands that new inks are the key to success to enable advances in wide-format inkjet printing. But when Epson restricted the use of its printheads for Sepiax ink, that was an unfortunate setback (Epson wants its “own” latex or resin-like ink to pay the ink tithe to Epson; so no printer manufacturer who official uses Epson printheads is allowed to use an ink not sanctified by Epson!).

Now that Mimaki has launched its Mimaki JV400-130LX, Mimaki JV400-160LX latex ink printers, this will be increased competition primarily for HP latex ink, and also for the Canon outdoor ink printer (Canon’s version of competition for HP latex ink). But the Mimaki JV400-130LX and Mimaki JV400-160LX latex ink printers will also be competition for Sepiax AquaRes. It will now be all the more essential to get Sepiax ink to work with printheads other than Epson, and to have major manufacturers build specific printers to handle Sepiax inks.

This is now the HP Scitex LX600 and no longer the HP Designjet L65500. With the new information, our evaluations will appear during May.

The HP Scitex LX600 is the 104” replacement for the HP Designjet L65500.

The HP Scitex LX800 is the new 3.2 meter (126 inch) model.

The HP Designjet L25500 are the 42” and 60” versions of latex ink printers.

HP Scitex FB600 and HP Scitex FB800 compared with eco-solvent ink

HP Designjet L65500 latex ink printer reviews
This is the HP Designjet L65500 latex ink printer at DRUPA 2008.

Epson is working hard to attempt to make the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 solvent printer a new competition for the HP Designjet L65500 (HP Scitex LX600). Epson had a huge booth at DRUPA to showcase their GS6000 and two new Epson textile printers. But the Epson GS6000 uses eco-solvent ink and the printer is really a rebranded Mutoh. In distinction the HP Designjet L65500 is completely new as a technology from Scitex and HP and latex ink is unique.

Other printer manufacturers that now have to compete with the HP Scitex LX600 (former HP Designjet L65500) are rolling out their PR to suggest that their own eco- or bio- or lite- solvent inks are improved to the point that you don't need latex ink. And other solvent companies are simply producing their own solvent printers as if latex ink did not exist: Seiko has shown their ColorPainter H-104S already, and now a ColorPainter H-74S and V-64s as well. These are, in effect, significant advances over the ColorPainter 64S and 100S that ended up as HP Designjet 9000s, and HP 10000s. But those are the older designs. The new pure Seiko solvent printers are improved. There is already a FLAAR Report evaluation of the Seiko H-104s, based on a site-visit case study. But there was previously no site-visit case study of any HP latex printer by FLAAR since we have so many other projects in textile printing and UV-curable flatbed printing.

Other competitors are saying that their inks have already had aspects of latex chemistry already for years.

But the main competing printer at DRUPA 2008 was the new Seiko ColorPainter H-104S solvent printer. The Seiko H-104S is fast and has the bright colors that propelled earlier ColorPainter models to rising sales before HP took over these printers under the HP brand. Today, two years later, the main competitor is Sepiax ink: a resin ink that is water-based and prints on thick and rigid materials (quite well actually).

Since DRUPA 2008 was the first time that the HP Designjet L65500 and latex inks were shown to the general public, it is interesting to note the diverse reactions. Epson, Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland, and Seiko already have their varied responses: either why solvent, eco-solvent or mild-solvent is better, or unresolved issues with latex inks. I am taking notes on all the pros and cons of each ink. In the last two years I have received abundant information on what is good, what is iffy, and what is awkward for printshops relative to the 104” HP latex printer. All this information is going into the new FLAAR Report that should be out during May 2010.

MuBio ink not a successful competitor against latex ink

One contender for latex ink presently could have been bio-solvent (available for a Mutoh flatbed, for example). When it first came out I found the concept intriguing, and I wrote several articles about it, but then the bio-solvent MuBIO ink printers were not at all the shows for almost a year, so it was confusing as to what had happened. Later the Mutoh Bio-solvent flatbed printer returned, primarily in the US but also in Europe. It appears that the earlier formulas for bio-ink were not adequate. The new formulas of bio-solvent ink are better, but it is unfortunate it took almost two years. When an ink changes formulas it is not easy to evaluate it.

Now, since FESPA Munich 2010, Mutoh is attempting a new bio-solvent ink. To herald it's features Mutoh now lists all the aspects of the original MuBio ink that were inadequate.

It is ironic that the millions of dollars that Mutoh invested to make the new ValueJet hybrid more usable for the requirements of MuBIO bio-solvent ink from maize, that all these improvements now make the same Mutoh ValueJet printer perfect for Sepiax ink. Sepiax ink works in this printer better than even MuBIO ink! If Mutoh could accept an ink from InkWare, why can't they accept an ink that is much better from Sepiax?

To make it more confusing, there are now bio-like inks from several after-market companies. One of these bio-solvent inks has a notable odor (not a good advertisement for bio-solvent inks).

And, since mid-2008, now there are a host of completely new ink chemistries for flatbed printers, two of them from Italian companies: one is alcohol-based from Kiian Manoukian, the other water-based and for flatbed printing up objects to 30 cm high. Alternative inks for innovative flatbed printers are a main focus for many companies in 2009 and 2010. Unfortunately the HP latex ink is not usable in a flatbed system, due to the need for the position of the special heaters to handle their kind of latex ink.

after-market latex ink

Here is the first ever known after-market "latex ink" that attempts to emulate the HP water-based latex ink. The difference is that this third-party latex ink does not require a special printer: it works in a normal Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh, or D.G.I. solvent printer. I did not search out this after-market latex ink: I found it by accident when visiting a printshop to inspect their printer with UV-cured inks. This printshop turned out to be a beta-test site for the new latex ink by the after-market ink company. Since it was not possible to visit a beta-site for the HP latex ink, at least we can continue our research on other brands.

 

The HP Designjet L65500 (and hence the HP Scitex LX600 and LX800) print on diverse range of media, same as solvent ink

  • Permanent gloss adhesive vinyl
  • Permanent matte adhesive vinyl
  • Mesh banner
  • Heavy textile banner
  • Wrinkle free flat, with liner
  • Premium backlit film
  • Blue back billboard paper
  • Tyvek banner
  • Satin canvas
  • HDPE reinforced banner (can be recycled)
  • Backlit scrim banner
  • Outdoor frontlit srim banner
  • Frontlit scrim banner
  • Gloss adhesive vinyl

Colors and gloss vary tremendously depending, naturally, on the surface quality of the material. In general the color is outstanding for gorgeous oranges, reds, blues, pinks. The solid black areas usually have no banding.

But, the downside of HP latex ink is that Seiko ColorPainter black is more brilliant and some latex ink colors are unobtainable. In general latex ink is matte: not with the POP that looks so nice for some signage and display jobs. Nonetheless, colors of latex ink in a few aspects is better than the curious color gamut of UV-cured inks.

HP latex ink occasionally confused with some aspects of Encad's infamous VinylJet

One ink chemist said that the same company that made the ink for the Encad VinylJet also had a latex ink during those same years. In other words, the question was raised, to what degree is the new latex ink, in any way, related to the ink used by Encad in that (unsuccessful) experiment. That Encad system also required substantial heating.

Here it is tough to find an independent ink specialist who will provide both a knowledgeable and an accurate answer on this question, since naturally no one today wants an ink that was in any way related to the ink used by the Encad VinylJet.

But almost every few months another inkjet ink specialist raises this question. If I am going to put this question to rest, I need open access to factual documentation from all sides. Recently it has been suggested which chemical company provides the actual resins for the HP latex ink. This company is listed in the new FLAAR Report on the HP Scitex LX600 (this report should be out by late May).

HP Designjet L65500, latex printer evaluations
Samples printed by the HP Designjet L65500.

 

HP Designjet L65500 is part of Hewlett-Packard’s green initiative

It is popular for corporations to be green, and to sponsor ecologically environmentally friendly products and procedures. So the HP Scitex LX600, HP Scitex LX800, and HP Designjet L65500 are part of Hewlett-Packard's broader green initiative. HP has some helpful PowerPoint presentations on this subject. I have now three times had an opportunity to learn about this, and the HP Designjet L65500 latex printer, once in impressive hi-tech HP Scitex facilities Israel and a twice in Barcelona (world headquarters of HP Designjet wide format inkjet printers).

It was also possible to inspect a beta test site for the HP Designjet L65500 latex printer. But we quickly learned that some beta test sites are merely “Success Stories” that are simply PR releases. FLAAR seeks the realistic facts so we can produce a reliable evaluation of the actual pros and cons of HP latex ink and the entire printing workflow. We now have more information during 2010 and this is why the report was delayed two years (so we could have better knowledge).

A crucial part of FLAAR evaluations is site-visit case studies and factory visits. Then a year later I did a second independent visit elsewhere. In the full-length FLAAR evaluation you will quickly note that appropriately this FAQs evaluation is not funded by HP. Our preference is not a packaged PR success story style.

Factory visits were the main feature of FLAAR studies since 2007, starting with a week at the Mutoh Europe headquarters in Belgium. Site-visit case studies are even more crucial. We do this since naturally people will want to know “does the HP latex printer really function” Yes, HP latex ink works.

But FLAAR is still neutral RE: any recommendation for latex ink. One cause of the two year delay was because we needed to spend more time in beta test sites and until we can learn more about the printer during a factory visit. So far the visits that were kindly arranged by HP were in large groups. We prefer to have an intense one on one session with the printer, and to learn what it does well and what can be improved in it's updates. So originally FLAAR only listed the HP Designjet L65500 as existing, and HP latex ink as having possible potential. One cause of the delay of our report is because I was told visits would be arranged, but then nothing happened. So I had to arrange visits myself.

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Applications for HP latex ink

There are some applications which we would be interested in covering in more detail because what we are finding is that the latex ink system is very good for some applications but (like any other printer) is not ideal for everything.

Early PR did not distinguish adequately between what the printer does well, what it does sort of okay, and what is simply not what this chemistry is capable of. Too much overemphasis was on the green eco-aspect rather than reality of actual performance out in the real world. So the FLAAR Reports (the full-color PDF that will be out in two weeks; not this one-page web comment) is among the first independent in-depth evaluations that looks at all aspects of this remarkable engineering and ink chemistry project.

Alternatives to HP latex ink printers

In the meantime, while visiting a printshop elsewhere in the world, I learned that other companies were preparing latex ink that you simply use with your regular Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh or D.G.I. printer. No need to buy a $120,000 printer if you already have any other brand of solvent printer: just pour in the after-market latex ink.

Of course this is not HP latex ink, and probably lacks some of the more refined features of the HP latex inks, but all this remains to be tested. And that's precisely the point why no review of HP latex ink is finished until I can better understand why this might be better than an after-market ink. Because after visiting InkWin in China, and seeing their ink testing labs at a nearby university, I begin to realize that some third-party ink is reasonable if you are a small printshop in Latin America or Asia and simply can't afford the official OEM inks. But I also understand the politics and naturally HP labs are even more sophisticated. So we are neutral on this aspect, but I noticed that most US trade magazines were openly touting after-market inks. After all, Triangle started as an after-market ink and now is mainstream OEM ink, and Sun and even HP itself via Tech Ink sells to the after-market now, as does Sericol.

In the meantime, while visiting a printshop elsewhere in the world, I learned that other companies were preparing latex ink that you simply use with your regular Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh or D.G.I. printer. No need to buy a $120,000 printer if you already have any other brand of solvent printer: just pour in the after-market latex ink.

Of course this is not HP latex ink, and probably lacks some of the more refined features of the HP latex inks, but all this remains to be tested.

After-market third-party latex ink for HP latex printers

By the time of SGIA there should be several more after-market third-party latex ink sources.

After visiting InkWin in China, and seeing their ink testing labs at a nearby university, I begin to realize that some third-party ink is reasonable if you are a small printshop in Latin America or Asia and simply can't afford the official OEM inks. But I also understand the politics and naturally HP labs are even more sophisticated. So we are neutral on this aspect, but I noticed that most US trade magazines have been openly touting after-market inks for several years. After all, Triangle started as an after-market ink and now is mainstream OEM ink, and Sun and even HP itself via Tech Ink sells to the after-market now, as does Sericol.

The advantage of after-market latex inks is that some print shops would not buy the printer unless there is third-party ink available. So as the new after-market latex ink comes out, this should actually help increase the sames of the HP printers.

Uncertainties about HP latex ink

Another question about HP latex ink (and really a question to ask about other solvent inks, including bio-solvent, and even UV-cured inks) is how long does it really take to cure. For example, can you easily scratch the HP latex ink when it comes out of the printer. A colleague mentioned to me that the ink appeared to scratch too easily when coming out of the printer. But this may have been an every version of the ink or a beta version of the printer.

Some of the pseudo-review reports that I see published on office copiers are pathetic. I don't know whether to use the word “obviously paid PR.” Most of the “lab” reports on wide-format printing are also a bit too much sucking up to the manufacturer who so obviously paid for the white paper.

You will find our evaluations of HP latex ink distinctive.

One positive feature of the latex ink is the dedication of the HP corporation to the potential future of this latex ink. HP has really put tons of money into this venture.

How green and eco-friendly is it (especially printing on vinyl?)

Other people have asked, relative to its rating as “green,” how you support a claim for green with a printer that requires so much electricity to heat the ink and/or substrates before during and after printing? These are not questions of mine; these are questions that other industry leaders are asking.

My goal as an evaluator is to test the HP latex printer to find out which of these statements is valid, and which statement is obsolete. But until a beta test and demo room test is arranged, I can only keep track of the lists of unanswered questions. Since there are over seventy other interesting printers from other brands, I am fully occupied testing other inks and different technologies. I am not exactly twiddling my toes simply waiting for access to a latex printer beta site. Already in 2009 and 2010 I have been testing other printers around the world, including evaluating a GCC StellarJET 183UVK in Germany. That FLAAR Report came out after two weeks.

So my present comments on two years of keeping track of the ups and downs of printshop experiences with latex ink are now in our new FLAAR Reports. We are proud that there are no alternative sources of information that really give both sides of the latex ink legend. But many end-users are writing FLAAR asking about this latex ink and we are working to update this page.

How will latex ink compare with the remarkable features of resin ink such as Sepiax?

The advent of Sepiax ink about the same time as the HP latex ink L65500 was coincidental. The difference is that Sepiax ink did not have the millions of dollars of PR releases. But this resin ink is remarkable and our readers are already switching from asking for help understanding other inks, to now asking “which should we consider, latex ink or Sepiax resin ink?”

Our Sepiax ink printer report is now out (today, mid-May). The advent of these new FLAAR Reports is because of the increased number of printshop owners who are writing asking for consulting services to assist them to decide which ink chemistry and which substrates to use.

Summary: Latex printer names change to HP Scitex LX600 and HP Scitex LX800

It is a good move to switch the name of an 104" production printer to Scitex rather than Designjet: HP Scitex LX600 and HP Scitex LX800.

 

FLAAR Reports on mild & lite-solvent printers
Already available
Seiko I Infotech Color Painter V 64-s
Seiko I Infotech ColorPainter H-74s and H-104s
Get Started: Solvent & Eco-Solvent Ink Printers from A to Z
Seiko Infotech Teriostar LP1020MF

 

Most recently updated July 15, 2010.

First posted on May 29, 2008. Updated May 30, 2008. Updated after seeing after-market latex ink elsewhere, and after seeing several new ink and flatbed technologies in 2008. Updated Jan 29, 2009 and April 22, 2010 after speaking with the owner of an HP Designjet L65500 at ISA sign expo and after learning more about Sepiax ink also. Updated May 19, 2010.

 

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