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Customization of Inkjet Head Technology

(April 2012) posted on Tue Apr 03, 2012

The future for inkjet printhead development in terms of technology and business-management trends


By Rick Mandel

Technology leaps
Vince Cahill, President of VCE Solutions, has a great feel for the jumps in technology within the industrial inkjet sectors. He mentioned many industries taking advantage of the improvements, especially textile and label arenas, as well as 3D prototype applications. Cahill suggests that the speed advances are assisted by single-pass technology and the large array of heads.
The resultant speed is achieved by adding multiple heads in synchrony to create arrays of heads. For example, the HP TJ8600 has 150 heads to produce over 5000 square feet per hour of production with a 42 picoliter drop size. While the Inca Onset S70 is designed to perform at more than 6000 square feet per hour with 576 Dimatix heads (128 nozzles per head, therefore a whopping 73,728 nozzles that fire). The Vutek’s GS3250 press uses a 24 picoliter drop, and a speed of over 2400 square feet per hour.
HP introduced their latex printer a number of years ago and has continued to refine the ink formulation to create the required durable product for POP and outdoor imagery.
“It is the position of HP (Scitex wide format) that the utilization of both piezo and thermal technologies has its place,” says Tomas Martin, Scitex worldwide segment manager, large-format production, HP. Martin said that both technologies have a specific application for usage in large-format printers. The thermal heads fit high quality/high resolution printing with the dye/water-based inks, and stretch to added durability and medium volume printing with the latex technology within the water-based sector. Replacement thermal heads are said to be easily snapped into position by the print operator, though the piezo heads require a service visit for replacements.
In the HP products (and others), piezo is used for fast speed/longer run applications. The UV and solvent systems cannot print through thermal heads; therefore piezo must be used. HP makes their own heads, and focuses their technology for specific print applications. The thermal inkjet printhead for the latex printer contains two colors within one head; therefore three heads are required. The cost for a replacement head would be in the $600 ($1800 for a full complement) range, while the piezo head can run higher than $3000 ($18,000 to replace all six).
Technology keeps on jumping for inkjet heads as Konica Minolta announced recently that it has successfully developed a high-accuracy inkjet head capable of 1-picoliter drop size, the first for printed electronics applications. The new printhead uses the company’s proprietary MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) technologies for the first time.
This development does not affect the classic large-format digital print market, though it shows where the technology can go.


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