Inside Hewlett-Packard’s Vancouver-grown tech

HP’s Officejet Pro X can produce 500 sheets of paper in less than 7-and-a-half minutes

Printer

It’s one for the record books, and it came out of Vancouver. Hewlett-Packard’s HP Officejet Pro has officially won a spot in the Guinness World Records for being the fastest printer in its category.

HP’s new printing technology is just the latest innovation to come from the company’s Vancouver workforce. Researchers in Clark County have been making printer history for decades. The company began developing some of the world’s first inkjet printers in Vancouver in the late 1970s. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, HP had a large printer manufacturer here, making it one of the county’s largest employers.

Today HP’s entire global printer business employs fewer people than in its heyday, and the company’s Vancouver operations are down to a fraction of the 1,800 employees who reported to a 174-acre campus back in 2005. HP declined to disclose how many people report to its downsized operations at Columbia Tech Center.

Instead, officials prefer to discuss the present and future status of the company’s Vancouver research.

For the present, that involves the Guinness record. HP’s Officejet Pro X551dw printer spit out 500 sheets in 7 minutes, 18 seconds. That’s faster than any other office color desktop printer, according to independently verified tests. The next fastest non-HP printer in the same category hits the 500-sheet mark two-and-a-half minutes slower.

Technology called “Page-wide” allows HP’s printers to reach those high speeds. Page-wide allows the Officejet Pro to print a page in a single pass, rather than going back and forth for every line.

Stephen Nigro, senior VP of inkjet and printing solutions at Hewlett-Packard, based out of both Vancouver and Corvallis, said speed records are just one selling point for the Officejet; it also cuts down on waste and expenses.

“Small and medium-sized business customers constantly look for ways to save money and do more with less,” he said.

That’s not just marketing speak, according to Terry Wirth of Wirth Consulting, an expert in printers who worked with Guinness World Records to verify printing speeds. After completing the record book testing, Wirth obtained his own HP Officejet pro and conducted a series of tests on the printer.

His conclusion: The printer is “blazing fast.”

The end of toner?

The Officejet Pro X line is part of a broader push by HP to replace toner with ink in office printers, Scott Dunsire, HP printing and personal services chief, recently told TechTarget, an online magazine.

That suggests that while printers may play a smaller role at HP than they once did, the company still recognizes the business line as important to its financial health. The printer division brought in $5.8 billion of the company’s $27.2 billion in second-quarter revenue, after all. And that represents a decline from the second quarter of 2012, when the printer division contributed $6 billion of the company’s $30.5 billion revenue.

Dunsire also noted that the Officejet Pro X and related ink-based printers are a potential growth area for the company.

“We think that there’s a significant opportunity in the marketplace to drive Officejet Pro X into the commercial space, (small and medium-sized businesses) in particular,” Dunsire said. “We’re going to put a lot more emphasis on it in FY14.”

As for what that new emphasis might mean for HP’s Vancouver operations, the company has been mum about its future Clark County plans for years. That said, Hewlett-Packard has been actively sending interviewers to area employment fairs, and in an online job advertisement the company made one thing clear: “HP Vancouver is hiring mechanical design engineers to develop our award-winning Officejet Pro X.”

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