HP launched the next generation of its LaserJet printers at the HP Amplify Partner conference held in Chicago this week.
This new line of printers represent more than a simple update with an addition of a few new features or a new look. What was unveiled is a major leap in both design and printing technology, designed to meet two factors that HP sees as driving demand in the coming year – the hybrid work environment and the emergence of sustainability as a key factor in purchasing.
To accommodate the new hybrid office, all of the printers in the series have a much smaller footprint to fit smaller office spaces. HP predicts the corporate office will shrink to 50 per cent of its current size.
To meet the demands for increased productivity in both IT and business, HP has concentrated on preventive maintenance, ease of installation, and features for remote management.
But the core of these new offerings is a new development in LaserJet cartridge technology. The new cartridges are named “TerraJet” in a tribute to what HP has touted as breakthrough reductions in the environmental impact of printing technology.
What makes TerraJet special
There are two major alternatives in printing technology today. There is the inkjet, which sprays microscopic droplets of ink onto a page. Second, there are laser printers, which use powdery toner particles in a process that heats up and melts those particles of toner to create an image on a printed page.
Traditionally, inkjet printers have excelled at lower volumes of print, but excelled in offering a rich colour palette, with vibrant colours for graphics and photos. Laser printers, on the other hand, were considered better for high volume, and because they use particles as opposed to a liquid ink, they were regarded as having a slightly crisper text rendition.
Recent increases in inkjet speed and quality have closed the gap somewhat. But for high volume output, particularly text printing in black and white, laser still has an advantage.
HP believes its new TerraJet cartridge will improve graphics printing performance while increasing speeds, at the same time as having a much smaller environmental impact.
TerraJet employs a much smaller toner particle than past LaserJet technology. HP claims that more particles, more tightly packed, create a crisper print image for type. More particles also offer the potential of a bigger palette for building colour images with more detail and more vibrant colours. Examples shown at the Amplify conference were impressive in terms of both colour rendition and clarity, even at high magnification.
HP claims its new cartridges are also less wasteful. Liquid ink delivery needs constant activity to keep print heads from clogging. A printer is always wasting a certain amount of ink just to keep its heads print ready. Laser printers, which use a dry particulate toner, are activated only when needed.
Laser printers heat the surface they print on, to melt and bind the particles with the paper. Unlike previous LaserJet devices, TerraJet printing only heats the surface exactly where it is printing, reducing energy usage, according to HP, by 27 per cent compared to its older printers.
In addition to addressing energy consumption, HP has totally redesigned the toner cartridge to reduce the use of plastic. The new design, according to HP, means that TerraJet cartridges use 28 per cent less plastic in their internal workings, and over 71 per cent less in their packaging.
Adding another, less publicized aspect, at least some of recycled plastic is sourced via socially responsible methods. We met a representative of a not for profit that is providing jobs in Haiti; HP contracts it to provide recycled plastic.
The sustainability message is regarded as a winner for HP commercially. One speaker noted that the company had tracked more than 7,000 deals in which sustainability was a critical factor in their win.
The right timing from SMB to Enterprise
At a time when PC sales are slumping, HP believes that one bright spot for demand may be in printing and scanning technology.
As companies have moved to hybrid work, HP believes, supported by some strong survey data, that the size of the corporate office will be reduced by as much as 50 per cent. With fewer people in much smaller offices, reducing the size of the office printer is a selling feature, particularly when combined with higher speeds and sustainability in the value proposition.
The SMB market is projected as a growth spot for a newer, high volume, lower cost, easy to maintain and environmentally sustainable print option.
Ease of maintenance and management add to the value proposition
Another factor that HP highlighted was the ease of maintenance and management of this new fleet of printers. While HP has been working on remote and cloud management for some time, they have added predictive maintenance monitoring services.
Analytics based on the data in the cloud, combined with sensors on their hardware, allow for remote monitoring of devices and preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance reduces costs and downtime, and the idea has been used in heavy industry for years.
Monitoring of toner and automatic ordering is another feature that helps to reduce maintenance and eliminate downtime.
When maintenance is required, HP says that over 80 per cent of components are able to be replaced in five minutes or less. A quick review in their innovation showcase demonstrated not only the ease of maintenance, but also some ways obvious errors could be avoided.
Cloud based management tools extend the reach of monitoring and management of devices from the corporate to the remote and even the home office. Automatic shipments of ink supplies can be sent to multiple locations. Even printer driver installation is done remotely, no longer requiring access to the employee’s PC. Instead, installation can be done automatically by email.
Noting the growing awareness of security, updates are are configured “out of the box” for SMBs, while still allowing changes to customize for enterprise security policies.
Error free scanning
Increasingly, as companies move to a digital stance, document scanning can be as important as copying. HP states that its new features to check and validate scans will result in 100 per cent accurate unattended scanning each and every time.
Scans can be also be automatically routed and stored in the company’s preferred cloud storage platform.
The hybrid office from SMB to Enterprise
HP’s prediction that the hybrid office is here to stay will mean changes, not only in the size of the office, but also how people work. As the head of print technology noted at the conference, employees will gather at the office to “collaborate not congregate.”
As businesses of all sizes will continue to struggle with both hiring and productivity, the new technology for print has to be not just fast, but also easily operated and easily maintained.
Those challenges affect businesses of all sizes. There are, however, some differences in small and medium sized businesses (SMB) and enterprise customers. The new line of printers offers solutions for both.
SMB offering with the 4000 series – an SMB and remote workhorse
HP is counting on on its 4000 series as both SMB workhorse and a reliable, maintainable and secure device for the remote/home worker. Although these printers have a higher price than inkjet rivals, with toner efficiencies, power savings and the speed and reliability, HP feels they have as an advantage in a small office where the speeds and lower cost per page will make an effective business case.
Laser technology has always had a speed advantage compared to inkjet, but the 4000 series claims a further increase in print speeds of 25 per cent. The new HP Color LaserJet 4200 and 4300 series printers are rated at 35 pages per minute (ppm) for single sided print. More impressively, they offer almost the same speed (31 ppm) for double sided copies. The high speed not only contributes to efficiency, but it offers a way to cut paper use in half on many print jobs.
The 4000 series can be purchased either as just a printer or as a multifunction device with print, scan and copy functions to serve a small business office.
Enterprise level printing with the 5000 and 6000 series
The 5000 and 6000 series aim to capture the larger office and the enterprise. The footprint of all of these devices is also very compact, in line with HP’s prediction that the office footprint will shrink by more than 50 per cent.
There are two offerings. The 5000 series offers a compact footprint and handles up to A4 sized paper (standard 8.5 X 11 sizes). The 6000 series offers a full floor sized printer, and although compact in size it can handle A3 (11 X 17) and A4 with full copying, scanning, and even sorting and stapling.
As with the 4000 series, HP is projecting large energy savings, reduction in toner usage and reductions in and use of recycled plastic.
HP says the Color Laser Jet Enterprise 5700 and MFP 5800 series have an average of 76 per cent energy savings over previous models. The HP Color Laser Jet Enterprise 6700 and 6800 series are said to average 73 per cent energy savings.
The HP Color Laser Jet Enterprise 5700 and MFP 5800 series is noted as using 35 per cent less new plastic in cartridges, 78 per cent less in packaging. HP Color Laser Jet Enterprise 6700 and 6800 series – 35 per cent less new plastic in cartridges, 28 per cent less in packaging.
The message to the channel
The unveiling of this new printer lineup came with a clear message for HP’s channel partners attending the conference. With ease of maintenance, monitoring facilities and automatic ink reordering, opportunities exist for channel partners to offer new services such as device management and monitoring. Analytics and preventive maintenance allow channel partners efficiencies in terms of reducing workload and reducing on-site visits for emergency “break fix” work. Case studies were presented with impressive savings and ROI to make this point.
Even in private conversations, it was clear that this was an inflection point in the development of HP’s laser printers. It is aimed to position HP to exploit an equally large transformation to hybrid work with a desire for environmental sustainability.
We are relying on the claims and data that HP provides, but we will ask the company for demo devices to test out in real world conditions. But even in the absence of these tests, from what we were able to see, we can declare that HP’s new line of printers are an exciting new development that should be considered both the SMB or enterprise level.