Konica Minolta Announces Next Generation MEMS Print Heads
Konica Minolta, a long-time innovator in inkjet technology with over 30 years of experience, has released information on a new generation of print heads aimed at the evolving graphic arts, industrial, and functional printing markets. These print heads have a resolution as high as 1,200 nozzles per inch (npi), drop size as low as 3 picoliters, a jetting frequency of up to 100 kHz, and a physical size that is significantly smaller than the previous generation of Konica Minolta heads. As with many print head manufacturers, Konica Minolta is manufacturing these print heads using Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) fabrication. Konica Minolta’s high precision print head is capable of jetting a range of inks and functional materials such as resins. These new capabilities will enable innovative new products in a range of industries. Konica Minolta expects to begin mass production of these heads in the spring of 2016.
Main features of the new heads include:
High-density nozzle array—The new print head design includes 1,024 nozzles arrayed in three rows that are offset slightly from each other to enable high print resolution and high nozzle density. This compact and multi-row design is key to enabling high-resolution printing. Typically, to get similar print resolution with single channel print heads, you must array multiple print heads in a staggered formation to achieve the same result. This is costly and technically challenging. This new compact design enables the use of these print heads in small systems targeted at high-precision manufacturing such as printed electronics, as well as a wide-array systems where less print heads are required to achieve wide print widths while still maintaining high-print resolution and strong output quality.
Improved ink resistance and viscosity range—The new heads have improved resistance to corrosion and any adverse impact from the ink or materials chemistry. Konica Minolta believes that these heads are capable of reliably jetting materials and inks ranging from low-viscosity inks (aqueous inks) to high-viscosity inks (including UV and solvent inks). This is a critical element for the reliability and productivity of systems enabled by these print heads.
This new print head platform will help Konica Minolta to grow its position in existing and emerging digitally-enabled applications. With high resolution, small drop size, and greater nozzle density, these heads will enable a range of new applications in commercial printing, packaging, textile printing, and functional material deposition. In the past few years Konica Minolta and its partners have developed a range of products using Konica Minolta heads. These include, for example, the MGI JetVarnish 3D for adding value to printed pages through dimensional printing; the Anderson COJET aimed at UV printing on industrial surfaces such as wood and laminates; Konica Minolta’s own Nassanger textile printers, and the B2-format KM-1 for cut-sheet commercial and folding carton packaging printing.
For several decades now, inkjet technology has been considered a change agent with the potential to revolutionize a broad range of industries across graphic arts, industrial, and functional printing markets and having an impact on applications such as documents, packaging, ceramic tiles, flat glass, laminates, textiles, printed electronics, and 3D-printing. At the center of this trend is the ability to precisely deposit material in a manner that yields consistent output over a range of applications.
Konica Minolta has been a manufacturer of these piezo electric print heads for decades and, with this new platform, they join other manufacturers (such as Epson, Fujifilm-Dimatix, HP, Kodak, and Memjet) that are manufacturing inkjet heads using MEMS techniques. MEMS manufacturing processes, as well as robotic-aided assembly, enable Konica Minolta to produce smaller, faster, reliable, and higher resolution print heads more cost effectively. These are the key building blocks needed to transform the print market from a mass production model to mass customization of digitally enabled products.
InfoTrends estimates that the markets and applications that can benefit from this transformation are greater than $1.5 trillion in value (of which print, decoration, or functional deposition plays a crucial role). This announcement by Konica Minolta provides additional evidence inkjet technologies are transforming the printing and deposition markets.
Ron Gilboa is a director of InfoTrends’ Functional Printing and Packaging, and is responsible for conducting graphic communications market research, market forecasting, custom consulting projects, strategy and planning engagements, and creating editorial content for product and market analysis reports. Gilboa has been involved in the graphic arts and publishing industries since 1980. He rejoined InfoTrends in 2013 after the better part of a decade with Eastman Kodak, where he served in executive marketing roles in the Commercial Imaging group. Gilboa's roles at Kodak included vice president of marketing at Kodak’s Production Inkjet group, director of worldwide current marketing and operation, and director of worldwide communications. In these roles Gilboa managed a cross functional team responsible for overall go-to-market including strategy development, marketing operations, and in market execution across the individual regional strategic product groups. Prior to Kodak, he held senior positions as director of the Print On Demand and Publishing Service at InfoTrends (formerly CAP Ventures) and product management at Scitex Corp. Gilboa brings skills and experience in key print industries such as commercial, publishing, packaging, transaction, enterprise, as well as direct customer knowledge in vertical markets. Contact him at (781) 616-2108.