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 user 2007-06-11 at 9:56:00 am Views: 36
  • #17959

    Epson’s Next-Generation Micro Piezo Print Head Boasts Macro Potential
    capitalizing on its semiconductor expertise, Epson has engineered an
    inkjet print head capable of producing 360 dots per inch–the industry’s
    highest for a print head based on piezoelectric technology–doubling the
    density of its current print head. This ramp-up in ink placement will
    result in much speedier printers, usher in original compact designs for
    printers, and expand the range of inkjet printing applications.

    describing the innovations that make the new Micro Piezo print head
    possible, first a recap of how piezoelectric technology works. The word
    “piezo” is derived from the Greek “piezein,” meaning to squeeze or
    push. Essentially, when a voltage is applied to piezo material (e.g.
    ceramics or quartz) it causes the material to change dimension. By
    controlling the amount and type of movement, ink in a surrounding
    chamber can be jetted out through an orifice or nozzle in precisely
    measured droplets at great speeds.Epson’s current Micro Piezo head has
    a nozzle count of 180 per row, producing a print density of 180
    dots-per-inch or dpi. The obvious way to increase print density and
    therefore speed, then, would be to increase the number of print nozzles
    in each row.”But the present print head is engineered using machine
    tools and has reached the maximum density possible using this
    production method,” says Tomoaki Takahashi, manager of the Epson group
    of researchers that developed the new version of the Micro Piezo print
    head.Consequently, the researchers not only had to rethink the design
    of the print head but also needed to find a different way to
    manufacture it. The answer to the challenge was found in
    photolithography, the same production process used to create the
    infinitely small patterns that make up the circuits crammed into
    semiconductor chips.

    Applying photolithographic techniques to a
    thin film of piezo material, Epson has created a microscopically small
    piezo element just 1 micron in thickness. Yet despite its minuteness,
    the new element has been designed to produce an even greater change of
    dimensions or distortion in the piezo material than the current print
    element. The greater the distortion produced in the material-and here
    Epson has achieved the industry’s highest level-the greater the
    displacement of ink in the chamber, which in turn creates larger ink
    droplets.The result is that with a piezo unit measuring almost half the
    effective area of the current unit, Epson has been able to double the
    number of nozzles on the print head, all while maintaining the same
    size of ink droplet. This advancement can be used either to accelerate
    print speed or to make smaller print heads for smaller printers that
    will deliver the same output as current models.Despite the microscopic
    size of the elements, the next-generation Micro Piezo head retains all
    the advantages of the current print head, including the ability to
    produce variable sized droplets. “This is because we’ve designed the
    piezo unit to give us control over both the piezo vibration and the
    motion of the ink’s surface,” explains Takahashi. “Technically this is
    called meniscus control, and it differentiates our technology from that
    of our competitors.”Meniscus control helps to produce perfectly
    spherical dots and manages the degree of droplet impact. It also
    improves the speed of jetting. According to Takahashi, the Micro Piezo
    head can produce an astonishing 40,000 droplets a second. “This is
    something that our competitors using thermal inkjet printing cannot
    match outside of the laboratory,” he says. “With the thermal approach,
    ink must be heated or boiled in order to jet it. This limits the
    printing speed and also makes for a less durable head.”

    another advantage stemming from meniscus control is that it enables the
    Micro Piezo head to employ a range of inks, including dye and pigment
    types, solvent inks, and ultraviolet cure inks used in industry.Epson
    is the leading company employing the piezoelectric approach in printing
    in the worldwide consumer market. At the same time, the flexibility of
    its Micro Piezo technology makes it suitable for use in commercial and
    industrial fields in such applications as photolab printing, textile
    printing, and the manufacture of color filters used in the production
    of liquid crystal displays.