Inkjet Printing Technology: Getting a Head in the Game

This conceptual diagram shows the basic process, in order, of a thermal, piezoelectric and continuous inkjet head.

Steady Stream of Dots

Continuous inkjet (CIJ) models produce a steady stream of ink drops, with only those drops needed for printing directed to the substrate, and the rest diverted into a capture system. Kodak originally brought this technology to the production printing category with the Versamark VX5000 press, which it continues to offer, but positions differently from Prosper because of the older technology’s 300×600 dpi maximum resolution.

Xerox’s generically named “Production Inkjet System” is said to build on its existing solid ink technology, which extends back to Tektronix color printers and is now used in the Xerox ColorCube office line. The granulated, resin-based ink is liquified for jetting through the piezoelectric heads and then immediately re-hardens around the fibers on the surface of the paper. The company is stressing the 
”waterless” aspect of the printing process and says it produces 
vibrant, consistent color on untreated offset paper with no curling or ink soak-through.

Pigment inks have been introduced for most inkjet systems as an alternative to dye-based formulations as a way to boost color saturation and density. The diffusion of dye inks into the paper fibers contributed to the washed-out look that had hindered broader adoption of inkjet printing.

Since stitching together multiple heads is the basic design concept of every inkjet press, the imaging technology employed, theoretically, doesn’t limit press width. Relative costs and other factors do impact the decision to go wider, however.

Piezoelectric models and now Xerox’s solid ink product cluster around the 201⁄2˝ width size. HP was able to capitalize on its thermal technology to establish a point of difference in the market by first introducing a 30˝ model, but has since announced the T200 with a 20-1/2˝ width. Kodak split the difference with the 24-1/2˝ width 
of its Prosper line.

Related story: The Paper Chase for Inkjet

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