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 user 2009-08-11 at 12:43:49 pm Views: 48
  • #22477

    Lexmark celebrates 15 years in the inkjet industry
    Company looks to its past, future as it marks anniversary, prepares to launch new productPreparing for a major launch of new inkjet printers next month, Lexington-based Lexmark International recently took a look back before looking ahead.Later this week marks the 15th anniversary of the company’s first Lexmark inkjet printer, the Lexmark ExecJet 4076 IIc.It arrived in a dot-matrix and laser printer world but would herald a rapidly evolving industry.It’s more clear to us how far we have come,” said Paul Rooke, head of the company’s inkjet division, citing the many functions that are now standard in Lexmark printers.

    Just three years earlier, Lexmark had been spun off from IBM. Its product base included a line of typewriters and monochrome laser and dot-matrix printers. (A bit of trivia: Lexmark still manufactures dot-matrix printers since some companies continue to use multi-part forms.)”Back at the time, the world was a lot of dot matrix: noisy and slow,” Rooke recalled.It was mainly black and white printing, though customers could add color ribbons “if you wanted to struggle with them,” he said.”And then all of a sudden this thing called inkjet came to be,” he said. “We could do color with this small, low-cost platform.”

    It was the company’s first experiment with ink, having been familiar with just toner and ribbons.”You were dealing with a whole new set of materials,” Rooke said. “In contrast to technologies in the day, this offered so much promise. We invested heavily in it, and the rest is history.”One of the people responsible for that history is Vic Hair, who was product program manager at the time. Today, he’s Lexmark’s vice president of research and development strategy for the inkjet division.

    Hair said there were fewer than 100 people who helped develop the Lexmark ExecJet 4076 IIc.Lexmark had some experience in inkjet. It had released an inkjet printer under the IBM brand the previous year, but this was the first truly Lexmark brand.”There was a lot of debate back then on inkjet,” Hair said. “There were a lot of doubters.”The group found its share of problems. One day, it saw that the belt that drove the printhead back and forth was disintegrating.The same belts were used on the monolaser printers, so the group deduced it must be related to the new ink.Sure enough. The ink was interacting with the rubber compound in the belt, and the belt was rusting.”You wouldn’t think a rubber belt would rust, but that’s one of the things you run into,” Hair said.

    The end result was a printer that held one color cartridge that made black ink using the three colors inside. Users could buy a separate black-only cartridge but would have to switch it out, said Mike Smith, who was in technical support at the time and now is in inkjet development.The printer had four buttons to control things like fonts or printing landscape versus portrait, though users could lift the panel and have access to four more functions, Smith said.And while it might seem like a relic from the past, it’s really not. Lexmark built nine printer models that used those ink cartridges, and it continues to receive orders for those cartridges today, even more than a decade since they were introduced.

    And as the company looks back at its past, it also looks forward, continuing to innovate.”Even 15 years later now, inkjet’s not a mature technology,” Rooke said. “There’s still a lot of advancement going on. When we look at a printer 15 years from now, it could be a horse race even as stark. … Some of the features you’re beginning to see emerge right now like being Web-connected will continue to evolve.”


    Printing a history: Lexmark and inkjets
    # 1993

    October 25: Lexmark introduces an IBM ExecJet printer, the first to use its internally developed inkjet engine.


    August 15: Lexmark unveils the ExecJet 4076 IIc, the first inkjet printer marketed under the Lexmark brand. The printer is part of a major push into retail markets by the company, a shift from its past strategy of offering printers primarily through dealers, resellers and Lexmark sales representatives.


    April 24: Lexmark announces the Medley, its first inkjet all-in-one printer offering the capability to print, copy, fax and scan documents.


    Lexmark introduces the Lexmark 1000, its first sub-$100 inkjet printer.


    October 6: Lexmark releases the Photo Jetprinter 5770, which allows users to print digital photos without uploading the images to a PC.


    May 1: Lexmark introduces the Z52 Color Jetprinter, an inkjet printer that is the world’s first to deliver 2,400 x 1,200 dpi in both black and color on all paper types. The printer retails for less than $200.


    March 18: Lexmark announces five new inkjet printers, including the Z65 that offers an industry-first resolution of 4,800 x 1,200 dpi.


    April 29: Lexmark unveils an updated line of inkjet and all-in-one printers that includes the PrinTrio X1150, the company’s first all-in-one priced below $100, and the P700, the first sub-$100 photo printer with camera card reader.


    The company introduced the Lexmark P450 4×6-inch inkjet photo printer, featuring the industry’s first-ever built-in CD photo burner.


    April 17: Lexmark announces that eight of 12 new inkjet printers introduced in the year will offer wireless capability, part of a strategy by the company to become a leader in wireless printing.


    Jan. 7: Lexmark introduces its Professional Series of inkjet all-in-one printers aimed at small office and home office users.


    Jan. 28: Lexmark changes the name of its inkjet division from Consumer Products to Imaging Solutions to reflect a change in its strategy and product offerings to aim more at small and medium businesses.


    ExecJet 4076 llc released 1994Platinum to be released September 2009


    Print quality600 x 300 dpiPrint quality4800 x 1200 dpi

    Speed3 BW pages per minute, 2 colorSpeed33 BW pages per minute, 30 color
    Printer performance: then and now

    TheGhostPony wrote on 08/10/2009
    There are some rather notable events missing from ye olde timeline above, such as the year Lexmark starting sending our printer assembly jobs overseas. Or when they began tearing down those old manufacturing facilities (out of sight, out of mind they say) or when they finally pulled out all the stops and began shipping software development jobs to India and Cebu. I know some folks who recent received their layoff notices and before they’d gone, saw their positions listed as open, overseas in Asia of course.