In the constant quest for competitive advantage, increased production efficiencies and lower costs are top priorities in all industries. Inkjet printhead manufacturers are no exception, as microfluidic applications extend to inkjet ink and its delivery. OEMs know that microfabrication can...
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In the constant quest for competitive advantage, increased production efficiencies and lower costs are top priorities in all industries. Inkjet printhead manufacturers are no exception, as microfluidic applications extend to inkjet ink and its delivery. OEMs know that microfabrication can dramatically enhance time to market by shrinking cycle time. Microelectronics has been revolutionized by the advances in manufacturing methods used to make high-performance electronic devices in high volumes and at low cost.
Not only is miniaturization more cost effective from a unit-cost standpoint, but it also yields improved product quality because smaller measuring systems have less impact during the manufacturing process, according to researchers at the University of Illinois Nanotechnology Core Facility in Chicago. In addition, design modification is simpler, making product arrays much more manageable, the engineering faculty there has reported.
Such technological advancements are important as inkjet printing expands its scope in the graphics market from wide format into new market spaces (see sidebar), said Bailey Smith, director of business development for Fujifilm Dimatix. “The Fujifilm technology that has helped create the precision standard in the industry is silicon printhead fabrication,” Smith contended. “The ability to create fine, precise, and repeatable features in silicon enables higher nozzle packing density, compact footprint, excellent nozzle uniformity both in position and size, and world-class drop placement accuracy.”
What does this mean to an end user? “While there are many factors to be considered when analyzing image quality, the use of this [silicon] technology means the printer you are working with has printheads that can enable the highest image quality capability,” Smith noted. Silicon fabrication technology is core to the J Press 720, the high-quality, sheetfed inkjet press offering a half-size solution for print runs of just one or thousands. “It uses Fujifilm Dimatix’s SAMBA single-pass piezo drop-on-demand inkjet head technology to achieve an impressive, true 1200x1200 dpi [dots per inch] resolution with a four-level grayscale—a specification unobtainable from any other inkjet press,” he added.
Drop-on-demand (DOD), piezoelectric technology is featured in the core printheads used in industrial printing, other than continuous inkjet coding heads used for product identification and expiration dates, pointed out Marco Boer, VP/analyst at research firm I.T. Strategies. The term is derived from the Greek piezo or piezein, which means to squeeze or press “Thermal printheads are mostly captive to HP and Canon,” Boer added.
Sizing up the market
Piezo inkjet printhead technology is the heart that makes most industrial inkjet printers (non-consumer) possible, cited an I.T. Strategies study from 2012. “Collectively, inkjet printing system integrators purchased in excess of $600 million worth of piezo printheads from Epson, Fujifilm Dimatix, Konica Minolta, Kyocera, TTEC, Ricoh, SIIP, Xaar, and a handful of smaller providers,” the study reported. “Typically, those heads account for between 5 percent and 15 percent of the value of a printing system, which means that a $100,000 wide-format printer is likely to include at least $10,000 worth of piezo printheads. As a percentage, this means the $600 million in piezo inkjet printhead sales generated in excess of $6 billion in value in 2012.”
Piezo inkjet printhead sales stalled during the 2008-09 economic recession, I.T. Strategies also has reported, as inkjet integrators drew down on their inventories rather than order new printheads. “In 2010 the recovery in demand for printheads was even stronger than most had projected, in part premised upon restocking of inventory and new product sell through,” said Boer. “Most piezo printhead manufacturers were running two to three shifts per day to keep up with demand.”