HP Stitch a stitch in time

Laurel Brunner's picture
Laurel Brunner

HP has finally made its move into textile printing with the announcement of its Stitch S series dye sublimation printers, with the company’s Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) technology. Textile printing is pretty much the only segment of the graphics industry where HP has not had a toehold.

Stitch is the umbrella classification for HP’S textile engine and we expect to see more in the S series lineup before long, plus other machines printing larger formats. The digitally printed textile market is growing handily and despite its environmentally unfriendly nature and is projected to keep growing. HP has also introduced its own dye sub paper with HP inks, especially for the Stitch line.

Stitch S Series
There are three 1200 dpi machines in the initial S series line up, all of which print on polyester blends as well as 100% polyester. Target markets are anywhere that digitally printed textile post processing is simple, including soft signage, sportswear and home decor, a market for which polyester is well suited. Fast fashion based on blended polyester fabrics is also in HP’s sights although this doesn’t resonate particularly well with the company’s environmentally sustainable aspirations.

The HP Stitch S500.

The S Series is due to be launched today at ISA in Las Vegas. The S300 (print width 64 inches), the S500 (print width 64 inches and with a double CMYK printhead arrangement) and the S1000 (print width 126 inches) are all designed for ease of use, including colour control.

The entry level S300 is for short runs, the S500 has a larger capacity ink supply unit and can hold larger rolls of media so it’s considered to be suitable for more applications. It includes a Tension Sensing Winder for unattended operation, and with more speed and designed for higher volumes is the workhorse in the line-up. The S1000 is a doubly wide version of the S500, but is not being shown publically until FESPA in May. All three models have built-in spectrophotometers and user replaceable TIJs. These are single pass machines which print at up to 110 m2 per hour. Pricing will be announced shortly and will vary depending on where the S series printers are sold.

According to HP, having user replaceable heads makes for average downtimes of about twenty minutes and contributes to a claimed four fold increase in overall lifespan for the printers. Inline drying makes the S Series very productive and these machines can print direct to fabric too for greater colour depth and vibrancy and applications where printing on both sides of the material is required.

It’s a late move but one for which HP has long been preparing. Expect a blitz from the HP marketing people and lots of data on what makes Stitch textile printers superior to devices from competitors, especially Mimaki, currently the market leader. On spec Mimaki’s JV300 series has Stitch beat for now. These printers print up to ten colours 53 to 64 inches at up to 106m2 per hour. At the moment HP has a long way to go to catch Mimaki, but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t prepared to fight long and hard to make its mark in textile printing.

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The Verdigris Project investigates the environmental impact of print media and provides information about sustainability initiatives for the international printing community. Keep up to date with the weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner.