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 user 2007-03-27 at 10:39:00 am Views: 53
  • #17419

    Stealth Inkjet Printer Startup Could Rock Industry
    Australian entrepreneur betting his company on a nanotech-fueled,
    consumer inkjet printer that can print sixty pages a minute for under
    $200 has successfully demonstrated the technology.Silverbrook Research
    has spent the last ten years developing Memjet, a printer that uses an
    array of ink jet nozzles that spans the width of the paper. Company
    executives have said they feel that they can ship an 8×10 color inkjet
    by the end of 2008 that will cost less than $200 and print 60 pages a
    minute.Whether or not the company will be able to deliver on its
    promises is the question that plagues any startup. But one leading
    printer analyst said he’s witnessed the demonstration personally, and
    that he’s been briefed on the company’s plans to manufacture components
    and license the technology to interested parties.”I’ve seen it with my
    own eyes,” said Charlie LeCompte, president of Lyra Research, which
    tracks the printer market. “They’ve been showing several models since
    January. I’ve seen the photo printer running; I haven’t seen the letter
    printer running, but other people [at Lyra] have.”"I’ve been following
    this industry for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything of this scale:
    10 times faster, 20 times cheaper, all at once,” LeCompte
    added.Silverbrook plans to offer the Memjet technology as part of
    several products: a photo printer, which the company hopes to sell for
    less than $150; the 8×10 color inkjet, due to arrive at the end of 2008
    for under $200; a label printer; and a large-format photo printer,
    expected to cost about $5,000, and capable of printing poster-sized
    prints “twenty times faster than anything I’ve ever seen,” LeCompte
    said.”Conventional wisdom is that you cannot have high speed, quality
    color and low cost all at once,” said Bill McGlynn, chief executive of
    Memjet’s home and office business, in a statement. “This technology
    turns that notion on its head, making page-wide color printing
    practical and cost-effective. We believe this breakthrough technology
    will change the printing industry by eliminating the cost and
    performance barriers of color, and by allowing both incumbents and
    non-incumbents to compete on a new playing field.”

    executives could not be reached by post time, although a spokeswoman
    for the company said that they were in Prague for an international
    inkjet conference.

    The maximum resolution achievable is
    1600×1600, according to Silverbrook. Photo-quality printing on the 8×10
    printer can be achieved at 30 pages per minute; standard office-quality
    color prints are printed at 60 pages per minute, and draft mode prints
    90 pages per minute.Typical inkjet printers, known as “serial
    printers,” use an inkjet nozzle that passes back and forth along a
    horizontal axis, spraying ink along the surface of the paper. The
    Memjet technology uses a series of individual MEMS-based inkjet
    nozzles, fabricated using conventional semiconductor manufacturing
    techniques. Each chip measures 20 millimeters across and contains 6,400
    nozzles, with five color channels, the company said. A separate driver
    chip calculates 900 million picoliter-sized drops per second. For a
    standard A4 letter printer, the result is a total of 70,400
    nozzles.Silverbrook has already signed deals with third-party
    manufacturers to actually manufacture the components, using the
    company’s intellectual property, a key requirement if the company is
    going to be able to scale up production to compete with the millions of
    printers HP, Epson, and others sell each year. TSMC will make the print
    heads, LeCompte said. Right now, Silverbrook itself is manufacturing
    the machine that butts, or assembles, the print heads next to one
    another, although LeCompte reported that Silverbrook management didn’t
    believe that to be a problem.
    The ink that the Memjet printers are currently using is dye-based, similar to that used by the rest of the industry.

    Silverbrook executives believe that they can design a printer that
    holds five times as much ink – 50 ml – as a conventional print
    cartridge, and sell for about $20 or less.
    How the company will
    solve clogging problems – the bane of inkjet printers – hasn’t been
    fully disclosed, LeCompte said.According to LeCompte, the technology
    could be licensed to a struggling competitor in the inkjet arena,
    allowing it to take on companies like Hewlett-Packard through
    established sales channels. Silverbrook itself has filed 1,500 patents,
    with 2,000 more pending.The first thing HP will do is look at all their
    patents,” LeCompte said. “With 1,500 patents and 2,000 pending, they’re
    going to be praying that they’re going to find some overlap. And there
    probably will be areas in which they overlap one another. So there
    probably will be some sort of cross-license…with some wheeling and
    dealing going on.”Silverbrook Research is owned by Kai Silverbrook, who
    runs a secretive research facility in Australia. About 300 employees
    are focused on this one product alone. Like Bill Gates and other
    technology entrepreneurs, Silverbrook is supposedly self-taught, and
    never finished college.”[Silverbrook] has been focusing on this thing
    for ten years,” LeCompte said. “My gut says this is going to work.”