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.

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.


Tablet and printer – a happy marriage?

In a burst of excitement this week HP launched a range of new products, including the Photosmart eStation.  This is seen as a way to get products into the living room, a wireless all-in-one which looks sexy.  Well, I’m afraid glossy black is so 2008 in the UK.  When the first all-in-ones appeared they looked like scanners stuck on top of printers.  This one does too, with a tablet sitting on a shelf at the front as well.

Yes, very convenient if you want to quickly find something on the internet and then print it out.  Maybe I’m missing something here.  But what if you have kids in the house – how are you going to find the tablet?  Ever known a kid to return something to its ‘home’ when they finished using it?  Before you can copy something have you got to hunt down the tablet, as that acts as the control panel too.

It’s also meant to allow you to lay on your couch, browse the internet, and send things to print.  But everyone knows that when you send something to print the printer beeps to tell you it has run out of paper or ink, so you have to get up and go over to it.

So, is the Willis household likely to buy one? Well, I can see it could be useful, although it isn’t cheap.  But the answer is no.  The marriage that concerns me is not that of tablet and printer, but mine to my wife.  I can’t see the boss agreeing to this big glossy black box in the living room.  Sorry HP!

Ink Jet IPEX?

Held half way between Drupa trade shows, IPEX is a big printing industry event that you cannot ignore.  Coming up in just 2 months time 18-25 May 2010 at the NEC, Birmingham, UK the advance of digital printing is going to be very apparent.

I’ve been attending IPEX shows since the early 1980’s when there was almost no digital printing.  Xerox was selling high-speed production copiers and had a printer version.  Delphax was promoting ionography, and Bull magnetography.  In those politically incorrect days I was aghast to see strippers peforming on the Polychrome plate stand – the challenge of attracting an audience to a commodity product hasn’t gone, but the method has changed!

But the most exciting IPEX for me was 1993 when Indigo and Xeikon first showed their products.  Industry pundits were predicting the demise of offset printing by the year 2000.  The buzz about the place was enormous.  As usual the initial growth of new technology was grossly overestimated and it would be around a decade before a significant market penetration for digital colour had been achieved.

So what about ink jet?  Well, the Drupa show in 2008 was tagged ‘Ink Jet Drupa’ and certainly the new technology demonstrated was impressive.  Ink jet had finally shaken off the image of desk-top products – good quality but unreliable.  But with a few exception, the really impressive stuff was there as prototypes.  The expectation for IPEX 2010 is that we will see commercialised products and they will be working.

Kodak will be showing their Stream continuous ink jet technology, now incorporated into the Prosper range of machines.  Printing 200 metres/min. it has a duty cycle of 120 M A4 pages/month!  HP’s web press prints at 122 m/min. but has a wider web width and so similar productivity.

But perhaps the most interesting machines will be ink jet sheet-fed presses.  Fujifilm and Screen showed non-working prototypes at Drupa 2008 and we have been closely monitoring the patents published by both companies to understand better how they work.  At the moment the Fujifilm 720 press looks more interesting from a process point of view.  To enable printing on to a wide range of paper stocks, both machines use a colourless fixer or print improver liquid with is printed before the image.  This reacts with the ink to considerably improve the waterfastness, and the precipitate the colorants on the substrate surface giving brighter images.  The Fujifilm patents describe a further twist.  The ink contains not just coloured pigments but transparent polymer beads.  After printing these are fused on to the substrate in a process similar to the hot roll fusing of toner technology.  The result is likely to be good adhesion and gloss even on smooth coated substrates.

We will be commenting further on technology at IPEX, and of course reviewing it after the event.  And the IMI Europe Ink Jet Conference, to be held this year in Lisbon 27-29 October, will be featuring both the technology and markets for ink jet digital presses.