The release of HP’s rigid latex printing technology, the Latex R Series, this week at FESPA Global Print Expo in Berlin will undoubtedly have those in the graphics world swooning. Not only does it offer extreme flexibility — with the ability to print on both rigid and flexible surfaces such as plastic, wood and metal — but it also serves up the holy grail of latex-based printing: gorgeous white ink. But each lusciously laid pixel of pigment represents major breakthroughs for the engineers at HP’s printing lab facilities in Barcelona, Spain and San Diego, Calif.
“HP’s combined expertise in physics, chemistry and engineering training comes in, which is how we think of new approaches to industry-wide problems,” explains Thom Brown, HP’s chief inkologist. “All of the scientists and engineers at HP look around at other things in their lives and see if they could apply it to printing.”
Development of HP’s first white latex ink presents a technical challenge on its own. If you want it to look good on almost any surface and be easy for printer operators to manage, it’s an engineering puzzle that required HP’s scientists to draw upon multiple disciplines to crack the code. For the Latex R Series to come to market, three big engineering feats had to happen.
First, HP engineers had to redesign the ink to melt at a lower temperature while keeping the same high level of durability that latex is known for. Second, they had to figure out how to keep the inkjet nozzles from getting clogged. Third, they had to change up the print path for applying ink to the printing substrate — since materials that aren’t flexible can’t zip through the interior of a large-format printer — while making sure flexible materials still could.