HP bolsters emerging markets' ink tech

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The worldwide hardcopy peripherals market decreased 9.7% year-on-year, with 25.6 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2013, and the shipment value experienced a decline of 5.7% year-on-year to $14.8 billion, according to global IT and engineering company HCL Tech's report.

The research further states the laser multifunctional print market saw a decline of 4% in developed nations while observing a double-digit growth of 13% in developing countries. While there is a positive growth trend in emerging markets, it says, the projected growth does not help the substantial shrinking printing market in developed countries.

In order to improve their market potential, it is imperative for the printing and imaging majors to increase their market potential in emerging markets, says HCL.

On the back of this, Hewlett-Packard (HP) is looking at presenting more choices for affordable and reliable printing in emerging markets.

"Emerging markets are still unexplored. There is a huge clustering in the industry we operate in and customers see little differentiation," explains Thomas Brown, inkologist at HP. "A marginal differentiation in terms of a handy feature specific to the end-user's market does impact the decision-making factor and in HP's case, we are enhancing the company's ink quality offering."

Brown states HP's ink chemists and scientists, with a combined total of more than 500 years of experience, have introduced over 100 new inks during the past 20 years. That figure, he says, becomes impressive when you consider it takes three to five years and up to 1 000 prototype formulas to perfect each new ink.

"With this knowledge and the resources at our disposal, the company has developed an understanding that ink is the hardest working part of inkjet print cartridge, which itself is a hi-tech product. The microscopic nozzles across the print head fire millions of ink drops per second; we have to produce products where colours can resist fading for generations with this process in mind."

This is where factors such as print materials compatibility, environmental performance, colour maps, drop generator design and print modes come into play, according to Brown.

"If an ink is of lower quality, purity and incompatible with the print head or cartridge, it will cause build-up over time," remarks Brown. "This will result in it deflecting the ink drop and changing the ink drop weight, affecting the print quality and causing the page to yield. HP is therefore continuously engaging its customer base in emerging markets to also educate them about the pros and cons of some of the ink technologies used in those regions."

Brown states tests are conducted in customers' presence, illustrating how to get the best performance from their ink.

"Dye ink, for example, is more suited to high-gloss, typically brighter solutions and requires less maintenance, whereas pigment ink is formed from 10 000s of dye molecules, has excellent fade-resistance on many papers, and is water-resistant on many papers. Refill inks, on the other hand, may cut out some ingredients, use different proportions and a different quality of ingredients."

These initiatives are focused on existing product engagement and innovation for the emerging market, adds Brown. They are also aimed at accelerating the growth in emerging markets and increasing market share in developed markets.

"From these interactions, the company receives first-hand feedback, enabling it to look into re-engineering products to suit the emerging market usage environment," concludes Brown.

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