Digital Displacing Flexo: HP Indigo 8000 Update


HP Indigo recently made public six new US installations of the HP Indigo 8000: Innovative Labeling Solutions (ILS), Dion Label Printing, Nosco, Info Label, Quality Tape and Label, as well as Natural State Label. If you’re not familiar with HP Indigo 8000, it is essentially a double version of the company’s flagship label web, HP Indigo 6900. Following a single in-line priming unit and driven by a single digital front end (DFE), the 8000 joins two HP Indigo 6900s in sequence; the first prints images 1 and 3, the second prints 2 and 4. This allows the HP Indigo 8000 to reach 80 mpm/262 fpm speed in “Enhance Productivity Mode” (just CMY colors), twice as fast as a single HP Indigo 6900.

Regarding the purchasers cited by HP Indigo, they include some of the company’s best-known clients, such as ILS and Nosco, and others that are longtime users of HP Indigo 6000 Series printers, such as Dion Label and Info Label. ILS, which was a beta user of HP Indigo 6000 in 2009, was also a beta user in 2014 of the HP Indigo 20000, the company’s 762 mm/30 inch web printer. Nosco, a specialist converter of labels and packaging for the healthcare industry, is also a longtime user of not only HP Indigo 6000 Series webs, but also the HP Indigo 30000—a B2 sheet printer for folding cartons that is also based on HP Indigo liquid EP technology (“HP LEP”).

Just as the productivity of HP Indigo 8000 is based on HP Indigo 6900 specs, so are all other core features of the 8000. Like HP Indigo 6900, the 8000 prints up to seven colors, including a “one-pass” white, and at 812 dpi resolution at 8 bit. It prints pressure sensitive label media and unsupported film, from 0.5 points to 18 points in thickness, a range widened by the system’s in-line priming. Its liquid toners are well documented in terms of safety for indirect food contact applications.

HP Indigo 8000 offers full variable data printing, including variable data design via HP Mosaic software. HP Indigo’s version of EP is also curiously well-suited to shrink sleeve printing. Besides printing on thin film, images are thin (according to the vendor, just 3 microns for CMYKW together) and drying occurs on the blanket before transfer to the media. According to HP Indigo, these factors allow images to shrink or stretch without distortion.

Other aspects of the ecosystem around the HP Indigo 6900 also apply to the 8000. Top examples include HP LEP inks (no UV reactive chemistry, thus easier to meet food safety guidelines); HP’s “Print OS”, the company’s cloud-based remote management tool; and a range finishing options from partners, such as AB Graphics International.

These features and the system’s high productivity have made HP Indigo 8000 successful since its first installations in 2016. It now has many placements worldwide; North America and Europe are the top markets for the system, with smaller placements in Asia Pacific.

Flexo Displacement

Most color digital label and packaging printers operate in tandem with analog presses, complementing them by taking over short runs and allowing flexo and other conventional systems to print the long runs where they are most efficient. While that model holds for most digital label web installations, including those of HP Indigo, HP Indigo 8000 is pushing the role of digital label production upwards.

For the companies that operate it, the Indigo 8000 prints a bigger share of jobs that would normally be printed on flexo webs, such as jobs of 50,000 or more linear feet. While usage will vary by company, country, and other factors, HP Indigo managers estimated in a recent interview that 12 hours of use, 210 days per year would describe a common deployment of the 8000, and that it would yield about 2 million square meters of printed media in a year. They also noted that some installations run the 8000 for two shifts, and that some of these units print 3 million square meters or more annually.

2X the Printers, 3X the Volume

As noted above, HP Indigo 8000 has two 6900s as print engines and thus twice the productivity of one 6900. That said, in discussing the 8000, the HP Indigo managers that we interviewed estimated that actual output is three-times the output of an average HP Indigo 6900. They attribute the extra amount of print to the 8000’s tendency to attract big jobs and have more concentrated use than most 6900s. Meanwhile, they also note that the 8000 does not cost as much as two 6900s, given that the 8000 uses a single digital front end (DFE) and a single in-line priming unit. In the field, the 8000 offers another economy, since it requires just a single operator.

HP Indigo is one of the top companies covered by InfoTrends’ Color Digital Label and Packaging consulting service. Next chance for a good look at HP Indigo and its label webs will be at Labelexpo in Brussels, September  24-27, where HP Indigo will be a big exhibitor.