2014: The Year of the Print Head
Happy New Year everyone and thank you for your continued interest in my blog posts. I hope I can be a source of information this year that can help drive your productivity and profits.
2014 should be a year of innovation. I am calling it “The Year of the Print Head.” As we have seen in 2013, there are many new uses for print heads that we could never have imagined just a few years back. As I have had my head engulfed in new chemistries and technology for the 2D printing markets, 3D has quickly risen with a WOW factor. From printing icing, sugars, various food products, ceramic, glass, human tissue, plastic and bio for medical and dental, to building materials such as concrete and metals for the aerospace, architectural and automotive industries, if you can melt or dissolve it, you can jet it.
There is a lot of synergy between the 2D and 3D markets. A “version” of 3D printing has been part of 2D inkjet printing for some time now with the fun patterns and effects that can be done jetting UV-curable varnishes. This, though, is used on single pass or flatbed machines that use UV-cured inks.
This effect works well if you want to create a “touch and feel” for the book covers or packaging.
But the 3D market, which is all the buzz, is different...it does not create effects, but builds “working things.”
As the 2D printing market is creating print heads with higher and higher resolutions and with smaller jet sizes, the 3D market is utilizing print heads made up of varied-sized nozzles, in which the chosen material is jetted from. 3D’s resolution, which is measured in microns, does not determine the detail per x/y coordinate, but in the Z direction or thickness. This Z direction is the factor that determines how smooth the product looks and feels. The drop sizes, which are variable in some cases, can be much larger than 2D print heads and based on the material to be jetted. The lower the micron thickness of the layer resolution in combination with drop size, the smoother and more detailed the part is.
I recently came across a good 3D printing 101 video that really simplifies the technology:
HP announced late in 2013 that it will be a 3D products player by this summer. We will see how smoothly this development goes.
It makes sense that 2D inkjet printing developers are gaining interest in producing products for the 3D industry, as they have been jetting chemistry out of print heads now for decades. Just like 2D printing, the long-term money for 3D is in the print heads and the consumables.
I am curious if inkjet production printing and 3D somehow merge to create very innovative publications, products and mailers. Ok, flying cars may be first, but a girl can still dream.
What are your thoughts on this new technology and how it will impact us during our lifetime?