Though it has become the talk of the industry only fairly recently, single-pass inkjet printing goes back 20 years to a system that demonstrated the enormous potential of the technology.
“I think we were all quite naïve and had expectations of how it was all going to come together quickly. We wildly underestimated how hard it would be. And that’s just as well,” Eve says, laughing, “because we never would have started if we had known.”
Then, just weeks before the show, the team learned that the printheads it had planned to use in the system would not be available in time. “The drupa timeline was under severe pressure, so we decided to combine two Xaar 500 binary heads together in one cartridge,” Haak explains. “After initial testing with one color, we moved on to a CMYK version that was narrower than we had planned because we wanted to be ready for the drupa 2000 technology demonstration.”
Eve remembers preparations going literally down to the wire. “The machines were delivered to drupa without the printheads – and that wasn’t a precaution of any kind. It was because we didn’t have the printheads,” he says. “We only got delivery of the printheads during the [setup] of the show, so that was fairly panicky. When they finally did arrive, we put them in and got things working. It was miraculous, really.”
Just under the wire, the.factory was demonstrated at drupa 2000 with a commercial launch two years later.
The printer, renamed the Dot Factory (quirkily spelled “the.factory”), was one of the most talked-about technologies at the show, even though the demonstration fell short of Haak’s expectations. The speed and width were just fractions of what he had hoped. “Finally, we were jetting UV inks on different industrial substrates in a single pass, but the speed was limited. Due to inkflow issues, we could only run between 5 to 10 meters a minute at 14 centimeters wide.”
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