HP launches low-cost ink jet page array to compete with Memjet

We’ve already had one big new technology launch with Landa Digital, but 2013 looks like it goes down with 2.  Today HP has announced their latest ink jet technology development – a page-array printhead – together with the first printers and multi-function machines that will use them.  These machines are designed to be very competitive to  colour laser printers – twice the speed at half the cost.

9_printer
The spec. is 70 pages per minute in “General Office quality mode”.  The printhead resolution across the page is 1,200 dpi and there are 42,240 nozzles.  HP’s pigmented inks are used which in conjunction with Colorlok paper should produce strong colours by “crashing” the colorant on the paper surface.

The printhead uses the HP SPT thermal ink jet technology with surface heaters, and generates 6 pl drops at 10 m/s.  If the printer is printing at 1,200 dpi along the page at 1,200 dpi then the drop frequency  is around 16 kHz.  The printhead is intended to last the life of the machine.  The printhead is made from 10 dies in a staggered overlapping architecture.

A big issue with page arrays is nozzle failures.  The new machines have a scanning optical drop detection system which uses a back scatter technique.  This operates while a test pattern is being ejected by the nozzles.  If nozzles have failed then other nozzles are substituted to hide the defect as much as possible and avoid visible banding.  Nozzle maintenance is via a cleaning web wrapped around a wiping roller.

So, a big surprise?  Well, not to the companies who subscribe to our Directions ink jet patent review service.  We’ve been reviewing patents relating to this technology over the past year so we could see what might be coming.  To find out more about Directions you can visit our new web site www.inkjetpatents.com.

You can find out more about HP’s technology from their White Paper.

 

Memjet’s new pricing model

Years ago I worked for an IT consultancy.  I had an ink jet background, which led to me being continuously baited by almost everyone else that laser printers were for businesses and ink jet was for kids to use at home.  Unfortunately some of that attitude still prevails with IT staff in many companies, both large and small.  Even today ink jet is still perceived as blocked nozzles, paper feeding problems, and continuously changing ink tanks.  As if!

Many vendors have tried to enter the networked printer market with ink jet devices.  True, sales of scanning head printers into businesses is growing, but they are increasingly competing against colour laser printers which are still getting cheaper each year.  Colour laser tends to be faster than ink jet, or it was until Memjet came along.

We’ve talked about Memjet’s 60 page per minute desk-top printer before.  It is actually a fairly simple device, particularly compared to colour laser printers, and much faster.  There is a single page-wide printhead, simple paper feed, four ink tanks and that’s it.  No need for the complexities and multiple consumables of colour laser printers.  The current generation of Memjet printers use aqueous dye-based inks, which means there is some sensitivity of image quality and optical density to the paper used.  But what so many people seem to forget is that to get the best out of any printer – including colour laser printers – you should choose an appropriate paper type.  It’s not like there is no choice!

So how will Memjet get their printers into the market? Retail outlets attract customers who print 6 pages per month, not 60 pages per minute.  The Memjet printer is well suited to SMEs who use dealers for business equipment.  In what Memjet hope is a “win-win” offering, customers will be offered an “all-in” pricing model.  For a fixed monthly payment ranging from £49-£149 per month you get all of your printing costs paid for – machine, inks – everything except the paper.  It doesn’t matter whether you print in black and white or colour, or what the area coverage is, the cost is the same.  What happens if you exceed your monthly page allowance?  Just like a mobile phone contract you are charged for the extra pages.  The printer hooks up to a phone line, so tells the dealer how many pages you have printed, and when the ink is running out.  For the customer they have fixed printing costs, for the dealer a regular income with consumables supply.

I’m the one on the right!

At the Memjet UK launch last week, slogan “Speed Wins”, guests could have their photo taken with Olympic Gold Medal cyclist Victoria Pendleton.  The photos were of course printed out on a Memjet printer, and I attach a print sample.  Thankfully there was a suitable delay between the camera flash and the print coming out so we could have a little chat.  Evidently the weight of carrying the medals around is taking it’s toll on her handbag.  The downside of being an Olympic athlete!

Where Have All the Printers Gone?

I write the news section of Pivotal Resources’ “Directions” ink jet patent review publication. I just completed the March-April edition. If this hardly seems like news, bear in mind that it is meant to reflect the industry news at the time that the patents issued. The patents can’t be viewed and reviewed in real time, so to speak, so everything is a couple of months in arrears.

It has become more and more difficult to fill the allotted two pages with meaningful news. When I took on this task in 2002, the problem lay in describing the crowd of new desktop printers and MFPs briefly enough to allow room for anything else. Desktop announcements have slowed to a trickle, and now I must do far more research!

In the first four months of 2007, there were nineteen new desktop models. This rose to twenty-five in the corresponding months of 2008, but fell to fourteen last year and just ten this year. Of the ten, only one new print engine was represented, and most were barely noticeable revisions of earlier products.

The desktop market is obviously mature, both in terms of technology and of shipments. In fact, worldwide shipments of desktop ink jet devices fell by 15 percent, from more than 27 million in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 23 million in the corresponding quarter of 2009.

Though the desktop market is mature, IT Strategies estimate that 85% of the revenue generated by ink jet technology is still derived from desktop devices. Investment enabled and justified by this sector is a major feature of the ink jet landscape. This investment allowed the various suppliers to enter other markets, ranging from large-format printing to photo kiosks to commercial printing. Investment in ink jet by the market leaders is clearly falling rapidly.

Memjet-based desktop products are expected to join the entrenched competitors within the next few quarters. The arrival of those products will generate new buzz around home printing. It will be interesting to see whether the arrival of Memjet can help to revitalize the market and kindle new investment.