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 user 2006-08-01 at 11:47:00 am Views: 42
  • #16153

    Epson bares home printing strategy
    as digital cameras have become viable alternatives to film-based
    cameras, home-printed digital photos now rival the quality of
    traditional silver-halide prints that commercial photo labs offer. And
    it is this increasing popularity of home photo printing that Seiko
    Epson Corp. intends to take advantage of with the continuous
    improvements in its ink-jet printing technologies.In a meeting with
    Asian journalists at Epson’s Hirooka plant in Nagano, Takao Mimura,
    chief executive of Epson’s Ink-jet Printer & Photo Product
    Operations Division, said the company will concentrate on the home
    market with its color printing products and will begin to aggressively
    promote color printing in the office.Currently, Epson holds the third
    spot in the Asian multifunction ink-jet printer market with a 22
    percent share, following HP (34 percent) and Canon (24 percent). In
    Japan, however, the company commands more than half (54 percent) of the
    local market, followed by Canon (41 percent) and HP (4 percent). “Our
    target is to eventually be the No. 1 manufacturer of ink-jet printers
    worldwide,” said Mimura.According to the Epson executive, the market
    for multifunction ink-jet printers will continue to grow, fueled by
    their increasing popularity over single-function ink-jet printers. The
    multifunction printer (MFP) market, he said, is expected to grow at a
    compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent from 2002 to
    2007.Meanwhile, the market for traditional digital and analog
    silver-halide printing has declined in the past three years as ink-jet
    photo paper printing gained wide acceptance. Mimura told journalists
    that Epson intends to take advantage of this trend by improving its
    printing technologies which include the Micro Piezo print head,
    high-quality and durable ink, and digital color and image processing.In
    a survey conducted by the Info Trend Pro Photographer in 2003, 43
    percent of the photographers polled preferred printing their digital
    photos with Epson. Fujifilm, with 19 percent, came in a far second.

    Non-PC Printing
    Epson’s home printing strategy, Mimura said the company’s printing
    technology has evolved from PC-centered solutions to non-PC solutions
    such as direct printing from mobile phones and digital cameras that
    have provisions for multimedia memory cards, Bluetooth transmission,
    and Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection.Mimura also boasted of
    Epson’s new product category, the All-in-One Photo Printer that can
    print photos directly from all sources such as film, USB drives, memory
    cards, digital cameras, and mobile phones.Epson is also expanding the
    types of content that can be printed off its printers. After PC-based
    and photo contents, Epson is looking at the printing of public contents
    that do not infringe on intellectual property rights. Public contents,
    Mimura explained, could include TV broadcasts, online newspapers,
    educational materials, Web-based photo albums, online educational
    material, and catalogs. “Epson believes there will be a whole lot of
    opportunities for printing public content,” he said. He added that
    Epson is working with a Japanese TV station to develop printable
    contents off the air such as TV commercials, recipes and other
    pertinent information.Mimura said photo printers will eventually become
    an indispensable appliance in living rooms and will be placed near the
    digital television. “I believe Epson will open up a new era of digital
    imaging,” he predicted.

    Printing Quality
    “Home printing is
    experiencing growing demand,” said Minoru Usui, director and deputy
    chief executive of the I&I products operations division at
    Epson.According to Usui, there are five components that contribute to
    the quality of photo printouts: ink, ink-jet head, paper, printer
    driver, and the ink cartridge.He disclosed that Epson develops and
    manufactures its own ink that works best for Epson printers. The
    company essentially uses two kinds of ink – pigment and dye. Usui said
    pigment ink has excellent durability and produces laser-quality
    printouts on plain paper and silver-halide quality prints on glossy
    paper. Dye ink, on the other hand, is excellent for color reproduction
    and is ideal for low-cost printers.”Using non-genuine ink may not
    produce the best printing results,” said Usui, adding that mixing
    non-genuine ink may cause serious problems such as clogged printer
    nozzles, missing dots, poor colors, and poor durability.On the subject
    of ink-jet heads, Usui said Epson’s Micro Piezo head ejects ink
    droplets in a variety of sizes at high speed and performs exceptionally
    with pigment inks. According to him, the thermal ink-jet head which HP
    uses has a shorter head life and may damage inks.As for paper, Usui
    said media quality greatly affects printing quality, adding that
    Epson’s glossy paper offers much wider color representation than
    ordinary photo paper.The printer driver, meanwhile, sets the size,
    color and pattern of ink droplets for the printed image.Lastly, the ink
    cartridge supplies accurate amounts of ink to the head by constant
    pressure to produce flawless printouts. “The ink cartridge is not just
    a box of ink. In fact, it is a sophisticated ink preservation and
    delivery system,” said Usui. Epson’s ink cartridge, he explained, is
    designed to keep ink uniform and free of contaminants to the last
    drop.During a tour of Epson’s ink factory in Hirooka, Kiyohito Koke,
    manager of the ink-jet printer marketing department, showed members of
    the media the 10 processes in producing an ink cartridge. Journalists
    were shown the “clean room” where the cartridges are assembled in a
    very clean environment to ensure the ink does not get contaminated. The
    ink cartridge also goes through a vacuum packaging process to remove
    traces of dissolved air which could form bubbles in the printer nozzles
    and cause missing dots.