LOS ANGELES - Hewlett-Packard last month formally rolled out its Inkjet Web Press digital press aimed at newspaper publishers.

The machine, unveiled at last year's drupa, has been undergoing testing and evaluation by O'Neil Data Systems, which publishes Investor's Business Daily (see News & Tech, July 2008).

At an open house sponsored by HP at O'Neil's facility here, a special May 5 edition of IBD was produced on the digital press and handed out to people attending the event.

But, Jim Lucanish, president of ODS, told News & Tech, "IBD is still just a proof of concept. We have no intention to print that on this press at this point."

Complicating such a move: IBD's national footprint, which would require all of the paper's production sites to migrate to digital production.

"We are working to make this a better fit for newspapers," said Aurelio Maruggi, HP's vice president of inkjet high-speed production solutions, the division of the company now branded as IHPS. Those plans, he said, could include the creation of a network of newspaper print service providers, perhaps similar to what competitor Océ has done with its Digital Newspaper Network.

Fully scalable

At the special event, attendees saw the press in action, the HP SmartStream Ultra Print Server digital front end driving the machine and Hunkeler's finishing equipment.

The front-end software is fully scalable and can produce 100 percent variable content at press speed, HP said (see box, page 12).

The press boasts speeds of 400 feet per minute at resolutions up to 1,200-by-600 dpi, and can print on a variety of stock and media, HP said. ODS said it used the same newsprint to produce the digitally printed IBD as it does on its legacy Goss International Corp. Urbanite press.

ODS said paper changes on the HP press usually take between three and five minutes.

William O'Neil, chairman and founder of ODS, IBD and the company that bears his name, delivered the keynote address, in which he praised HP as a company that's stayed on top of cycles governing the market and economy, and as a vendor that's remained on the leading edge of graphic arts technologies.

Thermal DOD

HP engineered the Inkjet Web press with its proprietary thermal drop-on-demand inkjet heads.

Dr. Ross Allen, who has been part of an HP research team investigating thermal inkjet technology in web press applications since the early 1990s, said the design of the thermal heads allows "nothing to move but the ink itself."

"I want to make sure no one leaves here thinking we use piezo heads," he told attendees, citing the technology in which an ink droplet is ejected after an electrical current is applied; by contrast, thermal drop-on-demand relies on heating the ink to a high temperature before a droplet is generated.

Each printing head is made up of two columns of 5,280 nozzles apiece, for a total of 10,560 nozzles on each print bar. The web size of the press can be adjusted by assembling the appropriate number of print heads across the web. ODS' press features seven print heads - C,M,Y,K and three heads that can deliver a bonding agent to print stock.

Digital saves space

ODS is the first newspaper publishing company to install HP's press, putting it into operation late last year. The company said that converting customer jobs to digital - via the new machine as well as existing HP Indigo presses it already operates - allowed it to reallocate 20,000 square feet of its 40,000-square-foot warehouse.

"We're helping customers transition from offset to an on-demand, digital model," said Robert DeMarco, senior account executive for ODS.