Alternative sources of thermal ink jet technology

With the apparent demise of Olivetti in Italy as a source of thermal ink jet heads, it was very interesting to learn of developments from Taiwan at the recent 21st European Ink Jet Conference run by IMI Europe in Lisbon, Portugal.  One of the speakers, Dr Daniel Lan, Managing Director of IUT, described their experience in developing thermal ink jet technology.  This began at ITRI in 1993 and R&D led to the formation of three manufacturing spin-offs.  IUT has manufactured 11 million ink jet printhead cartridges over 13 years, and since 2004 a major shareholder has been Asus.

4inch_array

Dr Lan explained that what they have been able to offer in the past has been restricted by patents, particularly those from HP.  Although they were convinced their technology worked around IP restrictions, the cost and timescales of challenging any legal action was prohibitive. But that may change next year when in late 2014 a significant number of fundamental patents, including matrix addressing, over-edge ink supply and nozzle densities greater than 300 dpi expire.

In addition IUT is developing some new printheads.  Special materials are being evaluated to allow solvent inks to be used.  And 2 and 4 inch wide heads are being developed.  These are intended for fixed array single pass applications.