By Melissa Donovan
Wide format printers incorporate cutting edge technology—metals, plastics, and electrical engineering. Printheads are a core component in final output quality. New technology is introduced frequently, providing advancements that enable new applications and promote greater opportunity to print providers and their customers.
On the Wide Side
The technology under the hood of a printer continues to advance. Changes in the physical composition of a printhead have a direct effect on the speeds and feeds of current printers over 24 inches in width.
“All new designs and products are targeted for a market where slow production seems to be a subject of the past,” explains Esteban Marin, project manager for Printek division, Seiko Instruments, Inc.
The printhead manufacturing division of Seiko focuses on productivity, ink recirculation, and compact design. These considerations allow engineers to hone in on lighter carriages and larger fluid compatibility to provide increased speed and productivity for end users.
Bill Milde, wide format product manager, Ricoh Americas, believes that the growing printhead market allows for more media types to be printed on with better quality and at faster speeds.
“New technology has created a new super high-end category of industrial printing solutions. It provides precision control over color and tone for clarity of image detail, and more directly printable colors for fine gamut resolution, producing prints with the highest dynamic range,” agrees Eviatar Halevi, director of technology, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Scitex.
Productivity advancements allow print providers to branch out of their comfort zone and explore new opportunities that were once not possible.
“Productivity is driving down the cost per print and allowing shops to compete in more areas. Also, commercial production shops are finding that adding wide format to their arsenal is allowing the ability to add new offerings to their existing customers,” explains Kelly Gornick, marketing manager, Seiko Instruments U.S.A., Inc.
Reed Hecht, product manager, Epson, says that versatility of today’s printheads—namely Epson’s PrecisionCore printheads—provides the opportunity for more applications produced on inkjet technology than ever before.
“Fifteen years ago, you likely didn’t expect that fine art could be digitally produced on an inkjet printer. In addition, until now folks wouldn’t expect that the world’s best photography could be produced on an inkjet printer, in addition to t-shirts and sublimated swimwear and garments,” continues Hecht.
Advancements in technology also mean that jobs ideally suited for offset or flexography can be run on inkjet because they meet the need for smooth color and tone transitions, sharp edges on text and graphics, and high image smoothness for print quality, according to Halevi.
We reached out to leading printhead manufacturers to learn about the newest technology used in inkjet printers.
Epson PrecisionCore TFP printheads are described as fast and accurate by the company. They are used in direct to garment ink technology to print on cotton; dye-sublimation ink for polyester fabric; aqueous-based ink for photography, proofing, and fine art; and solvent ink devices for signage.
Fujifilm Dimatix, Inc. offers its new Samba printhead, which was developed in conjunction with the Fujifilm Graphic Systems Division. The Samba printhead is used in J Press series printing systems and can be configured into variable length arrays of unlimited lengths for true versatility in single pass printing. The printhead is also developed for use in the textile and label/packaging markets. More focused on wide format, the Fujifilm Dimatix StarFire line of printheads are ideal for use in industrial applications such as textile and ceramics printing.
HP Scitex HDR300 printheads print multiple-size dots of light and dark inks. Dynamic dot size control supported by precision mechanical elements and automatic press calibration place the proper-sized dot of the appropriate color and density in the right place. The result, extended halftone capabilities of stochastic screening by adding the ability to modulate the density of each pixel up to 16 levels.
HP also developed a new thermal inkjet printhead technology designed for large format printing applications in PageWide configuration, HP Large-format PageWide Technology. Each module is 5.08 inches wide and comprised of six dies that support up to four colors at a native resolution of 1,200 nozzles per inch. New drop generators included in this printhead deliver highly reliable drop ejection for image quality, highly sustained drop rates for productivity, and long life for low running costs.
Konica Minolta Inc. launched in 2013 its KM1024i, an on demand piezo industrial inkjet printhead. It features a system for independent nozzle channel drive that enables a drive three times faster than its predecessor, the KM1024. The increased speed is targeted toward industrial applications, such as ceramic and label printing.
The Kyocera Corporation manufactures a number of different inkjet printhead lines. The KJ4A Series is designed for UV-curable inks and other inks with high viscosity. It is optimal for commercial printing on a range of media. The newest member of the portfolio is the KJ4A-RH, which offers a maximum printing speed of 75 meters per minute.
Ricoh’s generation five piezo printhead features four rows with 320 channels, creating 1,280 channels total. This design allows for multiple drop sizes, while simultaneously providing a smaller, more precise drop size. The printheads feature a long life and are found in many wide format printers in the industry.
Seiko utilizes heavy-duty proprietary printheads in its ColorPainter portfolio. The piezo printheads are engineered to jet high-viscosity ink at ultra-fast print speeds. The newest printheads found in the ColorPainter M-64s include a nozzle guard to protect the nozzle surface from scratching while simultaneously prolonging the life of the printhead. The programming of the printhead is also upgraded to improve image quality at lower resolutions.
Xaar announced the Xaar 501 GS8 printhead in July 2014. This new printhead prints in binary mode at up to 1,440 dpi with an eight picoliter drop size or with four grey levels at 360 dpi to deliver high productivity with an effective resolution of over 600 dpi. It is compatible with a range of solvent and UV inks.
Continued dedication to technology provides advancement in more ways than one. “Commercial printers and manufacturers are demanding higher productivity in their technology investments, in all market segments,” concludes Joel Bienvenu, technical marketing manager, Fujifilm Dimatix. New printhead configurations mean faster speeds and higher quality imagery, which allows inkjet to compete with its analog counterparts.
Apr2015, Digital Output