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 user 2005-08-31 at 10:30:00 am Views: 66
  • #12439

    Ink to keep HP in the black

    AUGUST  2005

    AS new Hewlett-Packard
    chief executive Mark Hurd does serious surgery on the company’s costs,
    beginning with a 10 per cent chop in worldwide staff, he will be
    relying on ink, HP’s lifeblood, to keep the company’s vital signs

    To help keep cash flowing in HP’s famously profitable ink business, the
    company has invested in a new line of inkjet printers that it describes
    as “game-changing”.

    These inkjets have been built from the ground up with new print-heads, new inks, new media and a new cartridge system.

    Scalable print technology means the entire print universe, from home
    photos to industrial applications, and everything in between, is in
    HP’s sights, according to Stephen Nigro who heads the company’s
    graphics and imaging business.

    Nigro was evangelising HP’s grand plans for ink at an event in Singapore last week.

    Do you have faith that your new ink and print technology will be able to hold off the competition?

    We’re very confident this new scalable print technology (SPT) gives us the leadership position.

    We’re very bullish about it, and how it positions us relative to Canon, and certainly Epson.

    Epson actually has a real challenge on its hands, because Piezo (its proprietary cold ink print technology) is very slow.

    There’s no doubt Epson’s system can get good quality, but who wants to wait that long?

    The big advantage and breakthrough of SPT is those nozzles being able
    to fire very fast when the print-head goes across the page.

    It’s able to address every pixel because it has the intrinsic density,
    and you see the paper advance very quickly. Older technologies such as
    piezo are far slower because of the sparse nozzle array.

    The print-head will move across, but you’ll see the mechanism working
    very hard and the paper barely moving as it prints line by line.

    In our SPT small-business colour inkjet model (K550) there are 4200
    nozzles in the print-head, and they each fire 36,000 drops per second.
    That means we’re getting 150 million droplets on the page per second.

    Are these new machines the full result of your five-year US$1.4 billion investment?

    Part of that investment is not just the products that were on show at
    the event in Singapore, but the products that are in development that
    will roll out over the next few years. What you have seen is in fact
    the tip of the iceberg. We have strategies based on SPD that could
    revolutionise printing from the home to the industrial level.

    Then why are you still into lasers?

    We are the market leader in laser, and we intend to continue to be.
    What you’re seeing if you look at our portfolio is an integrated
    print-head, which remains the best system for low-cost occasional

    Then you have the new scalable print technology for higher printing
    volumes in the home and in small business. When you get above that,
    when you get a higher duty cycle, lasers are a great solution. It’s
    good to have a little versatility and competition in your portfolio.

    With your new technologies, aren’t there cost issues that make inkjet more attractive to small and medium business?

    When people think about ink, they think it’s expensive to use and
    expensive to print. When they think about lasers they think they are
    economical. That’s really legacy now.

    What is happening in the industry is if you go and buy a high-end laser
    printer, to be sure it is an economical printer to use. Those pages are
    quite low-cost but you must have enough duty cycle to justify the

    Right now, and this is industry-wide, people are bringing lasers to
    lower and lower price points, which is a good deal. But if you buy an
    entry-level laser printer you will find it is pretty expensive to
    operate in terms of the total cost per page. So our strategy is to give
    the customers choice, and let them decide.

    What do you say to people who maintain that ink cartridges are a
    rip-off? That in some cases it’s almost cheaper to buy a whole new
    printer than a set of cartridges?

    It turns out that when you get into the cartridges where they are
    individual ink tanks, where you are not replacing the printhead because
    the printhead is now part of the printer for its lifetime, the
    cartridge itself is actually a very economic, inexpensive system.

    It doesn’t make sense to do refills – we’re actually better off as a
    company and you are better off as a customer to just buy the
    cartridges. We’ve no intention ever to do refills. It won’t work for us
    and it won’t work for the customer.

    Also, with these products, we’re improving the accuracy of the gas
    gauge. They are intelligent in the way they use ink in various ways.

    When you have photo paper in there, the last thing you want is to get
    three quarters of the way through a print and have the colour run out,
    and have to throw the whole thing away.

    These printers will simply not print if there is not enough ink in the
    cartridge. So the cartridges are good to the last drop.