WHAT IS …….. INKJET 2.0 ?
WHAT IS …….. INKJET 2.0 ?
2009-11-10 at 10:46:26 am #22899
WHAT IS …….. INKJET 2.0 ?
Inkjet printing is moving quickly into mainstream roles for
professional print projects, but it hasn’t been an easy road, as Frank
Romano explains.Inkjet printing is the overnight sensation that took
almost 40 years. Inkjet printing is a form of digital printing. Digital
printing involves any reproduction process that does not use a static
image carrier (such as a plate). Every page impression is regenerated,
even if they are the same. Digital printing can use any method that
places spots of coloured particles on substrates, with toner and inkjet
being most common.
Inkjet technology is either thermal (heat
makes a bubble), piezo (pressure makes a bubble), or continuous
(pressure makes a flow). Inkjet printing can be sheetfed, rollfed,
flatbed, or combinations. They can use inks that are aqueous
(water-based), solvent (petro-chemical-based), eco-solvent, and UV using
either dyes or pigments.
All digital printing systems are
perfect for short runs and the only way to do variable and versioned
jobs. The Holy Grail has been to apply digital printing as a plateless
printing process for offset litho and flexo printing.Considering that
toner-based digital printing dominates, why is inkjet generating
• Less complexity. Almost everything about inkjet is in
the heads. There are less electronics, heating units, and drums/belts
to deal with.
• Potential for spot colours. The single impediment to
toner printing is its inability to print all the Pantone (and now Goe)
• Like toner, there is no makeready so there is instant
changeover of jobs with no waste.
• Inkjet is scalable from the
desktop to the plant floor. Thus, proofers could use exactly the same
technology to allow for proofing in customer offices.
toner-based systems have high power requirements with equally larger
power units and severe environmental requirements. Inkjet requires much
less of all that.
• Inkjet ink is usually less costly than toner, but
new toner manufacturing techniques my narrow that gap.
still issues with substrate availability, nozzle clogging and head
width. A lot will depend on ink formulations in terms of substrates and
quality. Heads must be self-recovering to avoid clogs and missed spots.
applications will include the so-called transpromo market for bills and
statements that incorporate ads. Then, retail promotions that
incorporate coupons. UV flatbed printers can print on thick board,
plastic, metal and glass in addition to vinyl and fabric, and this opens
many new industrial printing markets.
Toner and inkjet printing
are competing with offset litho and print buyers should investigate all
processes for the applicability to specific projects. For both, there is
no image carrier, no makeready, instant drying and integrated
finishing. Today, quality and production speed are coming into alignment
with industry needs.
The professional inkjet market consists of
photo labs, service bureaus, sign shops and quick printers, and
represents a fast growing segment of the graphic arts industry. From its
birth as an extension of the pen plotter business, wide-format product
development has exploded.
In the early 1990s, Encad was the first
to show the concept of wide-format inkjet printing, with technology
consisting of four thermal HP print heads using dye-based inks. Other
companies followed, and wide-format graphics soon emerged as the next
step in the evolution of inkjet printing. These printers started rather
small at 36 inches, but quickly expanded in size as the needs of the
Today, printers as wide as 16 feet are printing
everything from point-of-purchase displays to fine-art reproduction.
Ongoing research and development continues to improve and expand on the
uses for wide-format inkjet printing. This is now an area where key
desktop printer OEMs are focusing, and represents a possible growth
opportunity for the inkjet aftermarket.
Within a decade,
wide-format inkjet printing has cut screen printing volumes by almost
half. The market began by applying roll-fed printers and advanced to
flatbed printers. Everything about the inkjet market is changing almost
daily. Over 1,000 companies worldwide are working on some aspect of
There are many approaches to segmenting the
inkjet printer market. The most basic categorisation is by the size of
the image that can be produced:
• specialty inkjet printers for
mailing, marking, coding, etc (less than 6 inches wide);
inkjet printers for home and business use (less than 18 inches wide);
office printers and multi-function devices (less than 18 inches wide);
Narrow format inkjet printers for the label market (less 24 inches
• Wide format graphics inkjet printers (roll and flatbed)
(greater than 24 inches wide);
• Super wide or grand format inkjet
printers (greater than 48 inches wide).
The inkjet head is
that element of a printer that applies ink onto a substrate. Printheads
• shuttle (moving)
• page width array
disposable: inkjet head is bonded on ink cartridges
inkjet head and ink cartridges are separate devices
(replaceable or disposable heads)
The consumer market represents
95 per cent of global sales for inkjet heads. The industrial and large
format market represents about five per cent. Inkjet printing is digital
printing. Over half of the volume printed digitally today is
advertising collateral and direct mail – flyers, brochures, folders,
booklets, postcards and self mailers. This promotional material has seen
a shift in the last decade from 20,000 runs to multiple 2,000 runs, for
example. Thus, even static material, if it meets the design and
production criteria, is going digital.
Offset litho, toner and
inkjet printing will all co-exist because there are good reasons to use
all of them. The digital printing wars are upon us: toner vs inkjet, and
within inkjet, CIJ vs DOD, solvents vs aqueous, roll vs sheet, and
greyscale vs binary.Welcome to Inkjet 2.0.