Since launching its HP Latex 300 series, HP has risen to the number one market share position worldwide in the low volume POS/sign market category, according to IDC.

Paul Lawrence, product manager at Jenrite, says, “When you are comparing HP Latex to eco-solvent printers, consider these five critical areas before you buy.”

Value for money

IN relation to price, many evaluations compare apples to oranges. He says, “Look at the different print modes and speeds that actually give similar print quality. This will help you to compare apples to apples and evaluate prices for similar printer performance.

“Consider warranties and what they really cover, especially when related to printheads, supplies, and other services included. For instance, the HP Latex 360 comes with a three year warranty and includes a spectrophotometer; and HP offers free services like the HP Latex Mobile application, and the HP WallArt solution – both across the HP Latex portfolio.”

Ink and running costs

WHILE ink price per litre matters, you should consider the ink wasted in printhead cleaning and other maintenance routines. He says, “For HP Latex this ink waste is negligible but, for many eco-solvent printers, this waste can easily add five or 10 per cent to your total ink usage, especially if your printer usage is low.”

Also, include printheads and cleaning consumables when calculating running costs. He adds, “HP Latex uses thermal inkjet technology – these are user replaceable consumables, and on average add an extra 50 cents per square metre. The big advantage is that your image quality will be always be to the level of a brand new printer.

“Eco-solvent printers use piezo technology printheads. These do last much longer but are much more expensive; also, print quality degrades over time – piezo heads use a mechanical pulse and wear out. And, if you have a paper crash and damage several heads (usually the main reason for a printhead change), it could cost you thousands of dollars plus a service intervention that is not covered by the warranty. So, a fair cost comparison should take into account that you may need to change one or two print heads per year on an eco-solvent printer in order to keep the original print quality during its life.

“Cleaning consumables are different by technology but, in general, they have hidden costs that need to be calculated. HP Latex 300 printers will typically cost you less than $4.00 per square metre to run – all things included; very competitive to most eco-solvent printers using original inks.”

Substrates and applications

“CONSIDER media breadth and application coverage, one of the most important benefits of HP Latex compared to solvent, due to the huge range of flexible materials you can print with HP Latex. It’s not only about doing vinyl and banners, but expanding to films, papers, textiles, canvas, wall paper, and many more.

“Solvent-based inks work well on banners and vinyl, but need special coating in porous materials like papers, textiles or canvas – otherwise the pigments penetrate into the media and you get a dull image. A big benefit of HP Latex technology is that the pigments stay on the surface, so you can print with high quality even on inexpensive uncoated substrates.”

Quality and durability

IMAGE quality involves a plethora of technical considerations. He says, “Both eco-solvent and HP Latex give excellent image quality and colour gamut, almost photo-realistic. The big advantage of HP Latex is how easy it is to get this quality and sustain it print after print across a wide range of media and applications.

“The HP Thermal printheads are high resolution printheads with 1200 nozzles per inch, compared to the 180 nozzles per inch that current piezo printheads have.

After print quality, comes print durability. He says, “Let’s consider two aspects of durability – light fade and scratch resistance. Regarding light fade, both eco-solvent and HP Latex use pigmented inks, and as a result give similar light fade performance. As a general rule, you should expect up to three years un-laminated outdoor life and up to five years laminated.

“Specific to the third generation of HP Latex Inks is their scratch resistance. Eco-solvent prints are easy to scratch – just try it with your finger nail – so most of the time, you will need to laminate them. Third generation HP Latex inks have an anti-scratch agent that protects the print – this is most noticeable on smooth surfaces such as vinyl or PVC banner. This considerably reduces the risk of accidental damage during finishing, installation and display, so you can avoid lamination for short term applications.”

Same day delivery

“PRINT speed is important but not enough. Most of the applications produced with eco-solvent are laminated and, before applying the lamination, you must de-gas the print by leaving 24-48 hours for the solvents in the print to evaporate. Even with the fastest eco-solvent printer, you will still need to wait 24-48 hours to finish and deliver it.

“HP Latex inks do not have this problem; they are completely dried inside the printer, and prints are ready to finish and ship as soon as they come out of the printer as there are no solvents to evaporate. This is a huge business advantage and surely one of the main reasons why eco-solvent users are converting to HP Latex.  Don’t take our word for it – ask around, try it yourself.

He recommends you that never rely only on what a manufacturer says, even if it’s HP. He says, “You should talk to some current HP Latex users you may know, or ask Jenrite for reference customers. Make sure you try it yourself – talk to Jenrite and ask for a demo, get some print samples, bring your own files and substrates and test it yourself.”

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