HP PageWide C500 – Digital Corrugated Goes Mainstream


HP Inc. addresses the dynamic corrugated packaging market with the new HP PageWide C500.

From 19 to 22 February 2018, 700 print industry people from all the over the world gathered in Tel Aviv, Israel for HP’s VIP Experience event.

As members of the international media, we were amongst the first in the world to have an exclusive first-look live demo of the new HP PageWide C500 Press at the company’s R&D lab in Netanya, Israel.

A large percentage of today’s consumers are the millenials, characterised as being a discerning group who crave individualism and uniqueness. David Tomer, general manager at HP Scitex, described millenials in an interesting way – an attitude.

“Millenialism is all about carrying a message, and purchasing that message. They are the consumers of today who look beyond functionality,” said Tomer.

Millenials seek to have an emotional relationship with brands. He brought up the Share-a-Coke campaign that is now synonymous to HP’s enabling technologies to illustrate this point. The campaign ignited 18.3 million media impressions largely through consumers sharing their personalised bottles and resulted in a 7% consumption increase. There was no change in the actual product, simply the packaging that was able to engage.

The campaign is just one of the reasons why brand owners are seeking more mediums to deliver their messages. There is higher demand for customisation and versioning, as brands pull out more campaigns and dedicated marketing. Corrugated packaging, a largely brown-box industry, is presenting itself as a new opportunity to deliver marketing messages.

“The corrugated market is projected to grow to $5.5 billion in 2022. There is no question that digital is in the future of corrugated - it’s simply a matter of how fast,” said Tomer. “With the HP PageWide C500, we hope to address the corrugated packaging market. The digital press delivers offset print quality with postprint simplicity.”

The HP PageWide C500 is a postprint corrugated packaging digital press. As a digital press, the C500 is able to deliver value in a few layers. It can help save costs by reducing setup times and makeready. The overall efficiency of the plant can also be increased. Digital applications can now be implemented, such as security and tracking features. In addition, the press can speed up time to market significantly, allowing users to offer their customers better service.

Tomer then announced that the first unit the first shipment of the HP PageWide C500 press will be installed within Israel at local convertor, Carmel Frenkel. Next month, the second press will be the first shipment out to a customer in Europe.

Five customers in Europe and the US have already purchased the PageWide C500 Press for direct-to-board post-print corrugated production. HP added that there has been interest within the APJ region, namely Japan, Australia and China.

As part of the journalist programme, we were shuttled to HP’s facility in nearby Caesarea for a walkthrough of the press production process. At the time of the visit, eight machines were being built. At the moment, each HP PageWide C500 takes six months to build, though eventually this is expected to shorten to a mere two months per machine.

HP PageWide C500 – The True Solution

The HP PageWide C500 aims to provide a real solution to the challenges of converters today by enabling digital flexibility in mainstream production volume.

The 32-metre press offers direct-to-board printing to delivers offset quality prints on both coated and uncoated media. It has the linear speed of 75m/min to ramp up industrial production. “There is only one speed on the machine, and it is a top speed. This way, all of the offset work can be shifted to digital,” said Niv Ishay, product manager for the HP PageWide C500.

The HP PageWide C500 was designed to be able to withstand harsh flexo and offset environments. Ishay emphasised that HP is determined to not make the inkjet press a “silo machine. We wanted the press to be running alongside the mainstream flexo offset machines, which is why we made the C500 very robust.”

The C500 utilises single-pass HP Thermal Inkjet printheads with one million nozzles at 6 picoliters per drop. It is equipped with x6 redundancy feature, that will further make it a suitable fixture in mainstream corrugated production.

“You only have one shot to print with a single pass machine. To have even one redundant printhead, you can have a single missing streak on the board,” said Ishay. “With the x6 nozzle redundancy feature, that can be easily compensated. This is a huge benefit and a tool to provide print quality and robustness in the harsh corrugated environment.”

With digital non-contact printing, industry grade boards need to be held down flat as sometimes it can tend to warp. To address this, the C500 uses ‘corrugated grip’ technology. The rubber panels that the board is ferried upon have holes to let a strong vacuum suction through. This vacuum suction is what held the board down flat. Simple, yet effective. During the demo walkthrough, I attempted to lift the board from the rubber panels, and it stayed firmly put.

For accurate dot placement, the C500 has a virtual belt feature which moves in 10 microns accuracy. This feature is able to produce sharp results even for small barcodes. On top of that, it can increase gamut and ink efficiency.

True Water-Based Food Inks

A standout feature of the press is its use of true water-based inks that are food-safe. Food safety is fundamental in the creation of the ink for the press, as more than 50% of corrugated packaging is food-related.

Food brands are rigorous when it comes to protecting brand value and business, as product recalls can trigger over $100 million in costs. NGOs and social media are also constantly raising concerns about certain chemicals. It is not common in fact for food brands to guide and lead regulation.

The HP PageWide C500 uses the HP CV150 Water-Based Inks, which was formulated specifically for the press. The pigment-based ink contains no UV-reactive chemistries and is safe for both primary and secondary food packaging, without no additional barriers.

It complies with the most stringent global food safety regulations such as US FDA and EU Framework regulations. It also complies with food brand guidelines including Nestle.

This article was first published in the March 2018 issue of Labels and Packaging Innovation Asia.

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