Memjet's Eric Owen on First 100 Days Since DuraLink Inkjet Technology Launch
Last September, Memjet announced DuraLink, a printing technology featuring new, long-life printheads, pigment inks and integrated modules that enable OEM partners to create cost-effective, custom printing solutions for high-volume commercial, packaging and industrial print markets.
It’s now been 100 days since the launch of DuraLink, and we were curious to find out how things have progressed since the product’s launch. Printing Impressions Editor-in-Chief Mark Michelson interviewed Memjet's General Manager, Commercial Press, Eric Owen, to learn more.
Printing Impressions: How is DuraLink different from other Memjet technology?
Owen: It's hard to imagine, really, if you think about it from an inkjet perspective, that 15 years ago, Memjet developed a 1,600 dpi technology that still hasn't been met with its equal from a resolution perspective.
Dozens of OEM partners are using this technology, called VersaPass, to power a variety of tabletop and small-format, floor-standing presses. There has been a great deal of success with these solutions. Many of your readers are either using them or have seen them at print, packaging and labeling shows.
But in the commercial press products space, Memjet has had, up to this point, a relatively small set of OEM partners. We’ve had success with companies like SuperWeb, Colordyne, and IPT Digital, which are currently using VersaPass technology to build printing presses or develop retrofit kits that use our print engine.
But there are reasons Memjet has a limited number of commercial printing OEM partners. This market has a notable volume of page throughput and ink consumption, and Memjet insists on relatively high speeds and high quality. Our current technology meets the speed and quality requirements, but its printhead life is better suited for the upper range of the mid-volume market.
PI: So how is DuraLink different from Memjet’s VersaPass technology?
Owen: To get into the commercial space, Memjet needed to develop the next generation of printhead technology and the ancillary components that go along with it. And that’s really what DuraLink is all about.
We made four key areas of improvement in the technology, including the printhead life, ink, modularity, and data path.
The long-life DuraLink printheads require less maintenance and enable longer print runs. With five rows of dedicated nozzles per color within each printhead, printing companies no longer need to take on the cost and complexity of adding additional print bars to achieve nozzle redundancy or implementing costly image-quality monitoring systems.
DuraLink modules provide OEMs with the building blocks to design and create a custom printing solution specific to their applications. These standardized module designs provide the system capabilities of fluidics, maintenance, and data channel management for Memjet printheads and inks, resulting in architectural system stability and design flexibility that enable the fast and cost-efficient development of solutions that meet the demands of specific markets.
And DuraLink’s pigment-based printing platform allows OEMs to develop solutions with the durability level needed for various applications in commercial, packaging and industrial printing.
PI: Memjet launched DuraLink at PRINT 17. What has happened since then?
Owen: Going into PRINT 17, Memjet was proud of the work we put into developing the technology. But, honestly, you don't really know what you have until you put it out in the community and get feedback. And now, 100 days out, I can tell you that the best-of-the-best in the community have put their hands on this technology and really pulled it apart. Throughout the process, the feedback remains positive.
Clearly, DuraLink addresses a need in the marketplace that has not been met. It fits squarely in the midst of commercial requirements, whether it be in general commercial printing or packaging, which includes labels, corrugated board and folding cartons. We even have work underway that is printing can decorations. And we’ve got our eye on other areas of print where we’ve never really played before.
As a result, Memjet has been talking to a wider range of OEM partners in varying segments, including several tier one partners. Since PRINT 17, we’ve had multiple meetings with more than 75 individual potential OEM partners. These meetings go beyond the passing conversation; they are serious discussions taking place at various stages of the OEM recruitment and development process.
PI: What does this process look like?
Owen: Well beyond the initial discussion, we need them to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This can be a very time-consuming process for large companies, so to us, that is a good first step.
The next step requires meetings where we learn what the OEM partner wants to achieve with their solution. We also share our product development roadmap for DuraLink. There’s a lot of discussion at this point, which is good. It’s our chance to hear about their product vision and to share how DuraLink can - or can’t - fit into that vision.
If the OEM partner is actively organized around the project, then the next step is to begin development with Memjet. Now, this doesn't mean they have finalized their choice of technology or that they have spent any money or signed a contract. It means they’ve created a project and assigned people to it. Engineers from both companies are collaborating, sharing technical documentation and beginning application-specific sampling of substrates.
If there’s further progress to be made, we move to the business side of the partnership, drafting agreements and providing quotations on exact configurations for development kits. From there, they move onto taking delivery of our hardware and integrating into a working printing system and creating a prototype device.
Today, out of the pool of companies we talked to 100 days ago, more than 27 companies now have moved into the category where they are actively organized around the product.
All of this activity has taken place in 100 days.
PI: Do you hear any objections from the potential partners you are speaking with?
Owen: I’m not a pessimist by nature, but I always keep a keen eye on the signals and signs that might say that we’ve got a problem or that something is going to become the roadblock. I’ve yet to see it for DuraLink.
There are certain features and technical attributes of the technology that doesn't meet the needs of every application. But we have yet to have somebody say, “This isn't viable; it's the wrong technology." Everybody has said, “You know, you've got something here. It's interesting. It's exciting.” And if they don't incorporate it, they want to know more because they say they know they’ll end up competing with it.
Now, I don’t for a second believe that all the people we talked to will complete a process and build a product. But I’m constantly fascinated by how positive the response is. We are very pleased with the progress we’ve made in such a short period.
PI: When do you think you will announce a partnership?
Owen: Our partners will dictate the timelines for any partnership and product announcements. Many of the partners we talk to say that they will have a solution - or at least an announcement - by the end of the year. Given the pace of the conversations and the development, I believe this is a realistic goal.