What is an Indigo Printer?

Whether you’re an ace graphic designer, printing tycoon or hobbyist, chances are you’ve heard murmurings about an indigo printer – the HP Indigo Printer to be exact!

So why are indigo printers such a hot topic of conversation? Although there are many reasons, chiefly it’s because indigo printing is revolutionizing digital printing as we know it! For a long time, graphic arts practitioners have struggled with showcasing vivid graphic design and elements with traditional printing methods. Designers and printing experts struggle with elements like color depth, clarity, and overall print quality daily.

Well, until this new print technology came on the scene, of course!

Read on to find out why the HP Indigo Printers are such a big deal, what they’re capable of, how they measure up to competitors in the world of digital offset printing, and how they left traditional printing in the dust!

Let’s dive in.

Why is Indigo Printing So Cool?

Benny Landa is the inventor credited with the HP Indigo Printer and ElectroInk

Our story about this super fancy line of printing technology begins in 1971. Benny Landa, a young Israeli inventor had just left the R&D division at CAPS (a micrographics research company in Europe) to found a micrographics company with a buddy called IMTEC. Insert cool montage of a lot of inventing-type stuff. While inventing the company’s core imaging tech and researching liquid toners, Benny also worked on high-speed image development.

That’s nice, but what about the Indigo Printer? You ask. 

Be patient because we’re getting there, we answer.

Benny’s research and tinkering with toners and image development while at IMTEC led to the invention of ElectroInk®. When he moved to Israel in 1974 and founded Indigo in 1977, ElectroInk and high-speed image development were on the basis of his research. 

In 1993, Indigo unveiled the Indigo E-Print 1000, the worlds first digital offset color printing press. The method of printing with rich coloration and high-speed deployment while removing the need for printing plate setups completely revolutionized the printing industry forever. 

Pretty cool, huh?

Q: Where is Benny Landa Now?

Benny Landa, creator of the modern digital printing press and original founder of what is now HP Indigo receives a lifetime achievement award.
Benny Landa receives the Franklin Award for Distinguished Service at the Franklin Luminaire Awards.

A: Living his best life saving the planet with nanotechnology. In 2002, Hewlett-Packard acquired Indigo Digital Press and Landa went on to found The Landa Group, which specializes in nanotech research.

Lets Talk HP Indigo Printing Technology 

Now that you know that the tech behind this line of printers flipped the industry on its head let’s take a closer look at some of the features it’s known for. After all, there are a few reasons that this digital press addresses many pain points common to publishers and printing firms!

1. Electroink

Did you know that the indigo printer is the only digital press that uses liquid ink? 

Or IS it? 

Electroink is not your ordinary ink, and in fact – it sparks (no pun intended) a lot of debate on whether it’s a toner or ink. If you’re not sure the difference or why it even matters, brush up on ink vs. toner here. 

So how does it work?

What is Indigo Printing?
HP ElectroInk

The HP Electroink contains charged particles of color pigments contained in a carrier liquid. This unique mixture was also referred to as liquid toner by one of the earlier employees of Indigo. However, the suspended particles are of a smaller size than dry toners. That’s how the single-micron precision is achievable.

In fact, the term that Indigo used for the product is “liquid ink.” This was done on purpose, as a marketing trick. The term liquid ink subconsciously equated the process with lithography rather than referring to it as a toner (used in standard printers.)

If you have the time to research the official patent for HP Electroink however, you’ll see it is officially worded as ‘liquid toner’ and not ‘liquid ink’.

Whether it’s liquid ink or liquid toner, Electroink is undeniably a vivid and precise substance that produces razor-sharp images and Pantone quality color consistency. It far outperforms dry-toner tech and by default, most traditional offset printing methods. 

2. The Indigo Printer Can Handle a Wide Range Of Media

Say goodbye to technical limitations of print media. With an Indigo printer, you could print on a broad range of media, including recycled paper, labels, paperboard, plastics, and transparent sheets.

Such flexibility is due to its thermal offset mechanism, where the inks are transferred over to a rubber blanket which maps perfectly over the contour of the media. This means you can create and print on just about anything, from regular mailers to flexible packaging options, including folding cartons.

3. Superior Color Performance

You can’t deny that prints need to be more visually engaging than ever. The HP Indigo boats a single engine for color separation. It can reliably produce a full-color range from a CMY set with precise color switching and create special effects with multiple hits. A more recent development is superior quality white ink that resists fading- a common issue in print jobs coming from conventional presses. 

Indigo Printing And A Greener Earth

Another thing that the entire printing line and original company embraced was eco-friendly products. In fact, you may recall from earlier in the article that Landa went on from his successful sale of Indigo Digital Press into the eco-conservation field using nanotechnology. 

Traditional printing processes are notorious for pollutants and toxic elements, but Indigo’s entire manufacturing and supply chain is designed with sustainability in mind. This means that you’ll enjoy a reduced carbon footprint, minimal waste and nontoxic inks whether you purchase one of these digital printing presses yourself or work with a professional printing service with an HP Indigo Printer on the floor. 

Popular HP Indigo Printer Models

You’ll be spoilt for choices when choosing an HP Indigo printer for your business. Using the same cutting-edge technology, HP has developed printers specialized sheet-fed, web-fed, and labels and packaging requirements.

This high powered HP Indigo Printer prints on almost any material.
The HP Indigo 12000 Digital Press

Sheet-fed models, such as the HP Indigo 12000 HD, is great for producing short-run high-quality prints fit for an art gallery.

The HP Indigo Printing Press  is designed for mass production, quick optimization and exquisite detail.
The HP Indigo 50000 Digital Press is one of the most productive printers in the world.

HP Indigo 50000, a popular web-fed variant, makes printing in large volumes a breeze. You’ll find it a capable printer in producing high-quality magazines, cards or other publications needs.

The HP Indigo 30000 Digital Press

First impression matters and you could rely on HP Indigo 30000, a labels and packaging press to impress with stunning visuals that make every brand proud.

HP Indigo Compared

HP Indigo printers may be the cream of the crop where digital printing is concerned. But that doesn’t mean that other printing giants are staying idle. Xerox and Kodak are giving HP a run for its money, with the iGen and Nexpress digital presses respectively.

Xerox Igen

If you’re looking for a short run high-quality print presses beyond HP Indigo, you could bank on the Xerox Igen. It uses dry ink to produce an exceptional color performance from the CMYK and has an additional print station that adds extra gamut to the finish.

The Xerox Igen is excellent for printing direct-mails and photos, making it a decent alternative for HP Indigo sheet-fed presses.

Kodak Nexpress

When the name Kodak triggers memories of conventional cameras and films, you know that age is catching up. But Kodak has taken a huge leap into the future where digital printing is concerned. Its top-of-the-line presses that goes by the brand Nexpress offers a remarkable print quality that equals conventional offset method.

The Kodak Nexpress is built to print with dry inks, that transfers over to a rubber blanket before applying on the substrate. With a matte fuse roller, UV coater and glossing unit, photography professionals will be impressed with the wide range of surface finishes.

HP Indigo Innovations

The printing industry never sleeps and so does the engineers at HP. Just when you thought that the HP Indigo had reached a new height, HP surprises you with exciting innovations.

1. HP Indigo 12000 HDFM

If you’re running a print business and owned an HP Indigo 12000HD, you’ll love the latest development from HP. The HP Indigo HDFM, a new screening technology, increases the accuracy of ink dot placement.

In other words, you’ll have an increased sharpness in highly-detailed prints and halftone fonts. Good news when you’re printing photos, posters, brochures or wedding invites. 

2. HP Indigo Electroink Silver

Still debating if the HP Electroink is ink or toner?

Give it a break as HP Indigo has complicates the matter with the introduction of the HP Electroink Silver. Now, you can print colors with a metallic appearance, giving an edge to companies printing labels and packaging materials.

Final Thoughts

The HP Indigo is probably not the cheapest printer around when the price is concerned. But its exceptional quality that rivals traditional offset printing, minus the print plates setup make it a worthwhile choice if nothing short of perfection could satisfy your clients.

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