Yolanda Simonsis is a 38-year veteran of the packaging and converting industries. She has held past editorial positions with two former publications of Delta Communications and Cahners...more

It’s All About the Ink

In the beginning, Benny Landa created Indigo ink, then came the digital offset press. After our first day at Hilton base camp (see my previous blog entries), HP saw all that we had learned, and said that it was good. So we were off to Rehovot, Israel–the second day–to learn still more about new software support, to see how HP assembles its digital presses, and a tour of its Kiryat Gat facilities where HP Indigo ink is manufactured.

After we were divided into groups, my mini-tour caravan was introduced to features provided by the LabelTraxx MIS solution for label web-to-print applications. Ken Meinhardt shared with us how using jdf to automate prepress, the user can manage orders with multiple SKUs, perform estimating, order processing, and accounting for both analog and digital processes. The system certainly had a “wow” factor when Ken explained the system could provide 92% reduction in time to process an order “automatically.” HP worked diligently with LabelTraxx to design an MIS solution that was tailored to meet HP Indigo needs, helping the user to determine when analog or digital makes sense to run a particular job. We were all dually impressed.

But then came our chance to witness how HP’s new SmartPlanner operates for customers already in possession of an HP digital press. Pretty much, we were significantly awed by the demo Brian Weinman (aka the “numbers man”) gave us.

So basicaly, here’s what it does: The HP SmartPlanner 3.0 is a newly enhanced job estimator and business planning tool. It’s supposed to increase revenue for HP customers and grow their businesses by calculating job costs for digital and conventional presses to aid production decisions and maximize profitability. Using this tool, printers reportedly can remove the guesswork out of estimating and use job data to gain maximum profitability on their HP Indigo presses. Oh, and it’s FREE to HP customers. Someone asked why there wasn’t a version for prospective customers, and Brian said they were working on developing a version for them too. Good idea. Right now, it’s pretty much an unscientific process for deciding whether to print digital or analog. For the process to prove its total value, this tool sure will help the user to arrive at the right decision a lot faster and more efficiently.

Our caravan then took a tour of the press assembly process. It takes 20 hrs to assemble an HP digital press, moving through a series of stations (see the photo below). All I could think of was how Henry Ford perfected the assembly process of his Model T back in 1908; now I was looking at a comparable approach for high tech press assembly with each station or cell contributing to the final press manufacture. While 20 hours is a far cry from the 12 hours it took to assemble a Model T, then eventually down to six hours, HP’s approach seems to be achieving highly desirable efficient and quality results.

Our little caravan then took a brief ride to Kiryat Gat where we witnessed the manufacture of the famous HP Indigo ink. Ink, someone once told me, is what the success of digital presses is all about. The press is secondary, or as I was told: A press is nothing more than a vending machine for ink. I must admit, the process for manufacturing the ink–while the explanation was simplified for a lay person like me–was not as complicated as I had anticipated. But what impressed me most was how clean the process was, with each color manufactured in its own “room” (see photo) behind closed glass doors. The process is so clean and automated that the facility only requires seven people per shift to output product. While can recycling for the finished and packaged ink distributed in Israel is standard, the company is looking into possibly developing a pouch for inks distributed elsewhere to make the digital process that much “greener.”

Yes, there’s still more to share with you, but you’ll have to wait until Monday!

Left: At HP Indigo’s Rohovat, Israel, facility, it takes 20 hrs to assemble an HP digital press, moving through a series of stations.

Right: Each HP Indigo ink is isolated in a glass enclosed room at the Kiryat Gat plant where manufacture is completely automated.

Rahovat assembly lineHP Indigo Ink Manufacture

Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter