HP Photosmart Pro B9180 photo printer

Designed for photographers who need fast, durable printing up to A3+ and a large variety of media types, the HP Photosmart Pro B9180 promises to be HP’s best photo printer ever. The Photosmart Pro B9180 uses eight large cartridges of specially developed Vivera pigment-based inks, four print heads with over 1800 nozzles per head, a HP densitometric closed loop calibration system, and a drop detection print head management system.

The Photosmart Pro B9180 photo inkjet comes with a special Photoshop plug-in, called the HP ProPrint plug-in for Photoshop, and a software suite called the HP Colour Centre, which will guide users through colour management and printing tasks. The Photosmart B9180 will be compatible with a new version of EFI Best Designer.Expected to ship in September, IT-Enquirer will have the chance to test and review the new HP Photosmart Pro 9180 in April. This new HP photo printer is definitely worth a very careful, and up-close look. It is the first printer HP is releasing which will not be using dye-based inks. Apparently, the HP engineers have found a way to make pigment-based Vivera inks just as brilliant and shiny as dye-based inks, with the added benefit of doubling the longevity of the output.

The Photosmart Pro B9180 has more of a DesignJet than it has from its predecessor, the Photosmart 8750 photo inkjet printer. The first indication that the Photosmart Pro B9180 is a device sitting between professional and prosumer market niches, is its capability in terms of ink capacity. The eight HP38 ink cartridges will print 80 A3+ or 840 15 x 10 centimeter photographs. That is a lot more than the Photosmart 8750’s small cartridges could handle, and it’s on par with the low-end DesignJet range.

The Photosmart Pro B9180 therefore is clearly aimed—in terms of production—at professional photographers and semi-professionals. In terms of productivity, the Photosmart B9180 also aims to satisfy the same group. This photo printer should be incredibly fast, churning out A3 colour prints in approximately 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Furthermore, prints should dry immediately, i.e. while they’re still inside the printer.

The HP engineers have developed special ink / paper combinations for this purpose—we’ll cover the paper types in a few days time.
Photo Media and Fine ArtThe Photosmart Pro B9180 prints on much thicker photo and art paper than any other low-end DesignJet or high-end photo printer by HP so far. The maximum thickness is 1.5 millimeter, which is as thick as what a Dupont Cromalin Blue is capable of.

Also new to the Photosmart Pro B9180 is its calibration technology. Again, this technology has its roots in the DesignJet family of printers. It is a closed loop calibration type, with a built-in HP developed densitometer. The printer will come with a special calibration pack—a pack of paper sheets that must be used before using the printer for the first time.

The ink system for this photo printer has been completely re-developed. The inks are now pigment-based which traditionally implies that you will get clogged print heads, and less brillinace because pigment-based inks tend to clog together on the paper as well. This clogging tendency results in light scattered all over the place, and that in turn results in less brilliance and “shine” than is possible with silver halide prints.

The clogging problem is unknown to the dye-based ink system, but you can’t make dye-inks that cover so well as pigment-based ones. HP seems to have found a way around the pigment problems. We will of course test that aspect of the Photosmart Pro B9180 thoroughly when we get our hands on the test unit, but apparently HP uses an approach which prevents clogging and settling (as clogging on the paper is called) for the greatest part.
Pigment ink clogging goneIn its marketing collateral, HP claims the new Vivera inks therefore are much better than the competition’s. The theory behind it all is called Electrosteric Encapsulation Technology (EET). In combination with HP’s ink vehicles it should result in a smooth film without bumps or irregularities. Gloss uniformity should thus be guaranteed.

EET should maintain particle separation and help provide dispersion stability for reliable, consistent performance without the clogging of inkjet print heads with large printing jobs or in-between printing sessions. Each pigment particle is encapsulated in a resin layer. The layer creates a protective barrier around the particle and keeps it from getting too close or adhering to neighbouring particles. Negative electrostatic charges within the resin layer further enhance the repulsion force between particles.

HP claims that because of the EET technology, the Photosmart B9180’s ink performance should be equal to the previous dye-based system, with little or no ink servicing required. Ink servicing wastes ink, so if it proves to be true, that would be great news.

For the Photosmart Pro B9180, HP has also developed new photo black inks which should produce exceptionally dark, glossy blacks on fast drying paper. HP’s third generation of neutral grey ink should deliver neutral greys across a broad range of media.

Note that everything being said about the inks, their quality, brilliance and neutrality, only goes when the Photosmart Pro B9180 is used with HP-developed paper types.

And in that area, there is some great news as well: there will be seven types to choose from. We’ll be covering these in a few days, as we said earlier.

Judging by the data sheets, the manuals and the press releases, we believe Epson must feel at least a bit uncomfortable. If HP can deliver on the promise of its claims, it has a killer photo printer on its hands with the Photosmart Pro B9180. By the sound of it, the Photosmart B9180 looks better than the previous generation low-end DesignJet, which means the new printer could also be used as a proofing device.

The availability later on of the EFI Best Design RIP seems to be pointing in tha direction as well, although the Best RIP is of course very suitable for photography use. The review of the Photosmart Pro B9180 for photographers and grapic designers continues with a focus on media.

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