23
Fri, Aug

Latex: what’s the big deal?

It’s now more than a decade since HP introduced Latex printing as a water-based alternative to solvent ink technologies, and it continues to grow in popularity. So what’s the big attraction, and is there room for improvement? We asked five PSPs.

What do you consider this technology’s key benefits to be?

Phil Aliphon, Founder, Sign Rite Grafix

Previously we were printing with eco solvent inks and the curing times before laminating often meant an unacceptable delay for customers. With Latex we can print and laminate on the same day - and there are occasions when we do not laminate at all because of the abrasion resistance the ink has. The technology has more than doubled our workflow and we often work remotely with our machine working during the night. The HP365 machine is so precise and quick with minimal down time for maintenance - not having to make that dreaded phone call to an engineer when you know you need a new printhead is such a relief. That cost and time delay is a thing of the past - just being able to pop in a new printhead yourself, almost as if you were putting in a new ink cartridge, is awesome.

Andy Wilson, Joint managing director, PressOn

We have found its ink flexibility and stability to be its main key benefit. 10 years ago when we came away from the solvent printers we really looked at UV as an alternative for printing self adhesive vehicle wraps and window graphics but the UV ink made the vinyl brittle. Latex not only kept the vinyl supple after printing but also removed the gassing off issues that we had with solvent so it was a win win. 

Mandy Roscoe, Managing director, Carrick Signs

For Carrick the ability to produce and ship same day is key to production, so turnaround and speed has to be the main benefit. Other benefits are quality and advanced durability – and a much improved working environment  - one without the need for ventilation - is also high on our list of benefits.

John Mark Watson. Managing director, John Mark

HP Latex is well suited to the interiors industry as it has no odour. We have considered UV alternatives but the smell is too much for domestic interiors. We have worked closely with HP to maximise the flexibility of the technology. Its versatility has allowed product development on various wallcovering bases that have expanded our clients’ collections.

David Halliday, Owner, Signs Express Watford

The key benefits are many but the main one for us is that Latex gives us the ability to produce and deliver on the same day without having to worry about drying time/gassing off. Also, graphics printed with Latex ink are higher in quality than graphics printed with solvent inks and one of my mantra’s is ‘quality, quality, quality’.

What are the key applications do you use it for – and why?

Phil Aliphon, Founder, Sign Rite Grafix

It has meant that we have been able to follow our passion for printing wall murals and specialist wallpapers for schools, hospitals, restaurants and hotels.

Andy Wilson, Joint managing director, PressOn

Vehicle graphics are the main use. However, we do a lot of print, install and remove applications and the Latex ink doesn’t have any negative effects to vinyl so it removes nice and easy on take down. In recent years, with our larger Latex machines, we have had a great deal of success printing fabrics for display - the stretch frame fabric systems we are doing are really starting to make up a significant part of our business. 

Mandy Roscoe, Managing director, Carrick Signs

For us the key application has to be vinyls - both interior and exterior. Colours/skin tone, quality and speed makes the vinyl printing process a winner with both ourselves and our clients.

John Mark Watson. Managing director, John Mark

Wallpaper - at an industrial scale. Digital print/Latex is for us a versatile tool for manufacturing the finest quality wallcoverings. It’s a natural evolution that is being embraced by designers.

David Halliday, Owner, Signs Express Watford

We use it for a variety of work. For instance, we take on a lot of vehicle graphics - including print-and-cut graphics to full wraps - so having the ability to print large clear images is very important to us. We also print banners, point-of-sale and textiles - a market that keeps increasing.

Latex was initially sold on the back of environmental credentials – is that a key reason to buy into the technology?

Phil Aliphon, Founder, Sign Rite Grafix

There are of course environmental reasons for using water-based inks. Latex has given us the opportunity to work in new environments with confidence, knowing we are doing what we can to not only improve the look of places where people work, rest and play, but that the materials used will have minimal impact on people’s health.

Andy Wilson, Joint managing director, PressOn

It’s a bonus. We often get asked about the credentials and it’s great being able to offer a product with FSA approval. HP also offers a ‘take back’ scheme on many of its materials -  another useful string to our bow. And it’s worth noting that the ink, being water-based, makes disposal easier and there are much less toxins for the staff to be exposed to. Apparently the entire machine can go back to HP at end of life for recycling as well, I haven’t tested this yet though!

Mandy Roscoe, Managing director, Carrick Signs

The environment isn’t a key reason for buying into Latex. However, for us it’s a great bonus to be able to print at a speed and quality we can trust and at the same time be able to sell a product that, paired with the correct material, can be safe for the environment and be used in areas such as schools and hospitals, whereas previous to latex (solvent) this was always an area for concern with certain clients.

John Mark Watson. Managing director, John Mark

Its eco credentials are even more important today. Public awareness of undesirable and unsustainable products is heightened. We are working with our non-woven materials manufacturers to create an even more environmentally sensitive base product - this has been client driven at the highest level.

David Halliday, Owner, Signs Express Watford

Environmental credentials are hugely important now for most organisations and Latex inks are eco-friendly and less harmful to the environment. There is no need for special ventilation with a Latex printer as the ink has no dangerous air pollutants. Therefore, an added benefit is having my staff working in an environment much better than was with printing methods of the past. 

Do you think the technology has got as far as it can go?

Phil Aliphon, Founder, Sign Rite Grafix

I think it will become even more robust than it already is, last longer than it already does, and will print faster than ever thought possible and at half the cost.

Andy Wilson, Joint managing director, PressOn

In a word ‘no’. We have a range of Latex printers ranging from 1600 to 3200 wide.  We have just invested in the R2000 Latex flatbed printer, which has just come on line, and have been bowled over by the quality of the white ink on the machine. For us this machine will complete the final part of the jigsaw that sees PressOn converting completely over to Latex in the next few months as we phase out the last of our UV machines.

Mandy Roscoe, Managing director, Carrick Signs

We still think there are areas for improvement and progression - a roll-to-roll Latex printer capable of printing white ink seems like an obvious development given the capabilities of white ink on the new R series. That would definitely be next on our shopping list.

John Mark Watson. Managing director, John Mark

No. There are new exciting developments on the horizon. Metallics of course are on the wish lists of our clients. And speed is an issue - until it is overcome the technology will only be suitable for the upper end of the wallpaper market due to cost.

David Halliday, Owner, Signs Express Watford

I look forward to a future where I can print directly onto more substrates and am looking forward to improvements in Latex inks. I have seen massive improvements in print technology and the quality and number of applications has increased dramatically for Latex machines. I can only see this trend continuing.