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What’s Next for Single-Pass Inkjets?

(June/July 2016) posted on Tue Jul 05, 2016

High-speed inkjet systems – including brand new lines launched at drupa – are becoming more practical for a huge range of products and creative applications.

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By Eileen Fritsch

When HP worked with Coca-Cola to print different names and messages on millions of cans and bottles of Diet Coke, it was a brilliant demonstration of how far digital printing technology has come. The remarkable ability to custom decorate a mass-market product captured the attention of consumers, brands, marketing agencies, and manufacturers.

This heightened awareness of mass customization is likely to accelerate the adoption of all types of high-speed digital printers. In addition to enabling the customization of many different types of products, high-speed inkjet printing can help innovators create new types of products, enable product manufacturers to reduce inventory and shipping costs, and bring more manufacturing back to the US.

The trend will accelerate due in part to the continuing refinement of single-pass inkjet technology. Eagerly anticipated in many of the markets served by screen printers, single-pass technology is already used in many print sectors. The first single-pass inkjet systems used aqueous inks to print on paper, photo stock, labels, and paperboard packaging. The next wave of single-pass systems used textile inks for high-speed fabric printing, or UV-curable or specialty inks for ceramics, decorative laminates, glass, and manufactured parts.

Developments at drupa 2016 made it clear that a third wave of single-pass inkjet printing systems is on the way. Single-pass inkjet printers will be used to print a wider range of papers, packaging materials, bottles, three-dimensional objects, wallcoverings, and decorative laminates for walls, floors, and furnishings. The long-range implications of this technology are enormous, both inside and outside applications that have traditionally been served by the readers of Screen Printing.

It’s Not Just About Throughput Speed
Before looking at some of the innovations shown at drupa, it’s worth understanding how single-pass inkjet printing has evolved to this point. If you are accustomed to working with large-format inkjet printers with traversing printhead carriages, a single-pass inkjet system seems incredibly fast. It’s stunning to see a full-color poster roll off a unit like an Océ ColorWave 900 or HP PageWide XL 8000 in seconds. Single-pass systems use a fixed array of inkjet heads to print the full width of the media at once, which is clearly more efficient than waiting for printheads to travel back and forth across the image area in swaths.


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