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thumb_hpLast week media were invited to Barcelona, Spain for the HP ‘Behind the Scenes’ event – A Celebration of 20 Years of Innovation and Leadership for Large Format in Barcelona. This was a unique event because it also included a tour of the HP facilities together with stops at other interesting locations in the City of Barcelona. It is in Barcelona where HP began in 1988, setting up large format printing operations.

The company now claims 75% of the large format print market – the next competitor 67% behind HP. As Francois Martin, HP’s EMEA graphics arts marketing manager points out, “people don’t just ask if something can be printed, they often say – send it to the Designjet,” – a reference to HP’s popular line of large format (LFP) printers.

{sidebar id=106 align=left} Martin indicated several key points:

— HP has 400,000 digital print customers in Europe, Middle East and Asia

— Printed 46 trillion pages in 2005 – 52 trillion by 2010

— HP technical market is worth Euro 700 million

— Announced HP will now print Web-to-Print PDF files

There has been much growth over this time for HP in Barcelona. Most people are familiar with HP’s printers for consumer use, but GIS, CAD and large format printing professionals who are involved in cartography, architecture and utilities will often mention the company’s products, being most familiar with them.

This was my first time inside HP’s facility in Barcelona. And this event involved many of the staff at that facility, including the people who design, build and maintain the printers. This resulted in a sense of closeness as well as interaction, and put a face on HP that has been missing in large measure, over the years. I had mostly experienced HP as a big company that makes printers prior to this visit. But now I can share with you some of the thoughts, passions and people behind them.

But the facility tour was planned for the second of the two day event, and much more was to be experienced on the first day.

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Torre Agbar
The Torre Agbar was the first stop on the tour. This new building, designed by Jean Nouvel was inspired by Montserrat Mountain landscape. The parabolic shape is designed to provide the effect of a geyser from the earth as light streaks to the heavens. The buildings color changes, with specially designed windows and 4500 lights over its 142 m height. The windows of this building are small strategically placed pixels, each causing the colors to change as light reflects. Visitor’s can overlook at the city by travelling to the top where the offset center is visible. Initial construction began in 1999 and was completed six years later.

Institut D’Arquitectura Avancada De Catalunya (IaaC)
This institute, situated in the heart of the city, is a well known international center for architecture education and research. Vicente Gullart is both an architect and educator, serving as the Director of the IaaC. In collaboration with Media Lab Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he {sidebar id=108 align=left}coordinated the Media House Project, the prototype of an intelligent house which was based on distributed computation. At IaaC he guides students to understand new concepts in urbanism involving territorial analysis, urban development, architectural projects and the fabrication of materials and environments.

During our visit we had the opportunity to visit with students and learn some of the techniques they are applying to materials for use in design. Many of these involve 3D models, surfaces and types of construction materials and methodologies.

The Institute promotes sustainability – “The Self-sufficiency Agenda establishes the responsibility for confronting the process of global urbanization from multi-scalar operations and through prototypes that promote environmental, economic and social sustainability.”

Digital Impact Customer Panel
The Digital Impact Customer Panel included four presentations by individuals familiar with the benefits and usefulness of HP products, particularly with a view to work processes and improved efficiency.

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Roger K. Yager, P.Eng. vice president, Knappett Projects Inc., British Columbia, Canada spoke about distributing documents within his organization and the need to increase efficiency. The shift from paper documentation to digital documentation distribution has meant improvements in planning. His organization has spearheaded improvements through the use of web-based interfaces, such as those being developed by HP. Projects are now on electronic planners and individual documents are easily located in the organization – a major change over local printers, previously. Benefits included savings in cost as well as time and he also pointed to the fact that people could be anywhere and receive the information they need.

Nina Stern, Director of Creative Services, Rockwell Group – is the driving force behind the 250 person company based in New York and Madrid who is responsible for the use, implementation, and accessibility of new technology to further the creative process. Nina has managed to establish new networked technologies, including large format printing, across the organization in support of complex drawings and visualisation. In her words, “people could not see the importance of computers in the largely hand drawing environment until the connection to design processes were made.” Currently Rockwell Group is working on new interiors for John F. Kennedy airport in New York. She see’s constant evolution in technology and the need for increased speed in the design process for work in her company.

William A. Mano is a large format imaging consultant based out of Paris, France – shared details from his many years of experience in the print- imaging industry. He pointed out the importance of consistent workflows and the fact that printing is only part of the larger process involved. Most projects involve a design, bid, build and maintain phase as well. “The future is about involving people from the design through to the operation phases,” he said. He mentioned the increase of worldwide projects, necessitating wider collaboration and document sharing across great distances – again pointing to the need for internet print capability. “Printing is becoming more decentralized and people are connecting from wherever they are inside buildings, or between them.” It was interesting to learn, as he pointed out, that web-based printing has the capability to level the playing field with many smaller firms being able to compete with higher professional print quality due to the decentralized functionality of large format printing over the web. Consequently, Mano said, “there are trends around software and higher levels of management in color reproduction.”

Vicente Gullart, Director of the IaaC – mentioned 3 primary areas where he saw new developments originating on architecture. First, the trend toward Web 2.0 and the idea of citizen participation, allowing more people to share information and thoughts. He see’s the internet as providing the impetus to share more information through print using web-based technologies to further citizen participation. Secondly, the need to save and manage energy is impacting where energy sources will originate. Gullart said, “we are seeing the beginning of buildings that create energy and then connect together to supply energy to other buildings and needs.” Thirdly, the internet is providing a way to connect to share resources – into neighbourhoods. This sharing of resources is directly related to shared printing, not only local printing, but more fully enabled through the internet.

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Barcelona Forum Zone
The Barcelona Forum is one of the most interesting new building in the City of Barcelona. Designed by architect Herzog deMeuron the building is triangular in shape and appears to float in space with a large protruding overhang. The textures of the building are interesting, reflective and spreading light through out the area. An auditorium is inside and seats about 3500 people and a magnificent museum on the theme of transportation and urban development is present. A large 3D topography has been constructed and is augmented with a light show which displays thematic information about the development of the Barcelona strategic plan is shown.

HP Site – Sant Cugat
The main HP site is located to the north of Barcelona near San Cugat. It is here where the company began in the mid-1980’s in Spain. While manufacturing was conducted on these premises, it has sinced moved offshore. However, the administrative, design and planning remains on the campus.

{sidebar id=112} Guayente Sanmartin was recently appointed as the world wide large format marketing director, which includes products for Creative & Technical customers. She is responsible for defining the long term business strategy and solutions roadmap. She welcomed us to the HP campus. I should point out that each person speaking was also asked to provide a few short details about themselves. In Ms. Sanmartin’s case she began in 1992 and was originally involved in the Draftmaster printer. A telecommunication engineer by profession, she has worked in research among other tasks. “About 73% of our staff is Spanish here and about 23% are European,” she said. She explained that LFP has grown from a Euro 50 million business to about a Euro 1800 million business since beginning in Barcelona.

“We are currently moving to include Graphic Arts into the LFP solutions business.” She explained that HP operates facilities in San Diego as well, and that operation is primarily print head focused with color reproduction and the highspeed digital pipeline work being conducted there.

Manel Martinez, general manager for LFP printing in EMEA offered up some interesting slides about the division growth. But not before explaining that he started with HP by working on research and development for the Draftmaster pen plotter. “We also started with 3 in marketing and 12 in the lab,” he said. He outlined the changes over time since 1988, including the switch from monochrome to color, decreases in price, improvements in photo-quality, greater speed followed by production quality with speed and finally to the current focus on end-to-end solutions. “We experienced 9% growth in 2007 and currently hold 65% of the active market share in LFP,” Martinez said. “Our technical market grew by 9% and maintains 75% market share with 27,000 units sold to date (T610, T1100, Z6100). These are significant numbers and attest to the market demand, particularly for CAD and GIS users who are a large part of that technical group.

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Product Development
Josep Tarradas is large format commercial PSP Lab Manager for the Barcelona Division. His responsibilities include worldwide new product development. “Everything started with a pen,” he says. “I began with HP by working on the Draftmaster and designed a hard drive for the printer – to make it more useful for our customers and my first product was the InkJet 250 – made in Barcelona for under 2000 USD at that time.” Tarradas {sidebar id=114 align=left} pointed to the need to constantly improve quality of the products with greater cost efficiency. He could point to reduced pricing over time as quality improved. It was particularly interesting to learn that early printers required special papers, but that has changed over time and now HP printers can accept more papers types then ever before. Also mentioned were issues with the color system and density of print, something HP puts a lot of attention in.

“We are beating Moore’s Law,” Tarradas said. That in reference to the fact that print heads now combine more nozzles, leading to more pixels, than first thought possible. It is worth noting that a single print chip contains the equivalent of 12 Pentium processing chips in terms of capability, at Euro 1200 each, which HP has reduced to about twelve Euro. The HP GL/2 high output plot driver was invented here – and was developed by Dr. Ross Allen’s team in San Diego whom we met last year. HP has also had about 1500 patent disclosures in 12 years. While InkJet technology is developed in Barcelona, the laser print technologies originate in Boise, Idaho.

Erin Rae Hoffer, from Autodesk gave a presentation entitled ‘A Vision for Design and Construction: Opportunities for Industry Change with Building Information Modeling. Her presentation pointed to the widening gap between technology and productivity in the construction industry – construction is losing ground. “A need exists to develop relationships with clients, attract talented individuals and improve coordination in the design/build process,” she said. “We need to decrease operating costs while reducing liability issues.” This theme is one that has been growing over time and many professionals point to a need for major changes in how design and construction is accomplished.

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“BIM is an integrated process built on coordinated, reliable information about a project from design through construction and operation,” Hoffer indicated. Digital design tools and technologies figure prominently into BIM and therefore HP print functionality – particularly the new Web-to-Print PDF capabilities. Admittedly, one was left wondering if this means Autodesk is slowly moving away from their DWF file format to embrace the new PDF initiatives announced here today from HP and Adobe, initiatives that are also supported by other BIM player’s in the marketplace like Bentley Systems. Too, the underlying concepts of parametric change management, model versatility and computability all figure into BIM, again, something Bentley Systems at least is involved in as well, particularly with their recent SmartGeometry product.

“The relationship between architecture and sustainable design is changing rapidly and the processes are particularly influenced. Construction needs to take advantage of these technologies into what we refer to as Integrated Project Delivery,” she said. Hoffer discussed issues of interoperability and labelled HP technology as a ‘Tool of Imagination’ – supporting the BIM transformation.

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Marc Jongen, strategic marketing, large format printing for HP shared information about the web-to-print solutions. “Today we are interested in moving data and documents to wherever people are,” he said. There is a growing need to collaborate and share documents and, once again, the web is seen as the route to enable that. The new HP ‘Instant Printing Toolkit 2.0’ is now available and enables online planroom developers to begin building print networks that can operate to enhance print tasks. A key point is that Adobe is working with HP to bring the Toolkit with PDF functionality.

{sidebar id=117} Summary: This tour was one of the most informative tours I have been on. It was particularly helpful that the key HP personnel participated and shared some of their perspectives. This supported the theme ’20 Years in Barcelona’ and also provided background into the evolution of HP products in a way that they could be appreciated through time.

There is a shift in print toward solutions based on the web. The technical market, estimated at Euro 700 million to HP, is poised to build on these changes – we see this also supported on the design software, GIS software and geospatial technology side – all supporting BIM, GIS, sustainability issues and improved efficiency. HP is capitalizing on the shift to digital environments at a time when the wider geospatial community is interested in and pursuing integrated management, coordinated approaches and collaborative technologies.

The company does not stop there though. HP owns fibre network and is building collaborative communication rooms to further enhance working together. It might be worth suggesting that HP is not just inventing, but “inventing the technology to support the work processes of tomorrow.”

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