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 user 2005-06-12 at 12:11:00 pm Views: 44
  • #29300

    Inkjets gain speed and power

    Laser technology is set to revolutionise

    May’s announcement by the UK Film Council that 209 cinemas around the country
    are turning digital is welcome news for the low-budget film industry. It makes
    obvious sense, after all: many of these films are shot and edited digitally, so
    the final transfer to 35mm film reel for conventional analogue projection seems
    as unnecessary as it is expensive.

    This is clearly a case of existing technology staring an industry in the face
    - digital video – but the industry taking its time to realise what else to do
    with it – digital projection.

    Now a somewhat similar situation has arisen with laser imaging in printers,
    but not quite in the way you might expect.

    The lasers in laser printers do not actually print anything. Rather, the
    laser draws the image onto a photoconductive drum. The charged areas of the drum
    surface then attract toner particles which are duly transferred onto a sheet of
    paper and heat-bonded into place. The same trick can be done with an array of
    LEDs or, in the case of a photocopier, a bright lamp.

    Intense, a Glasgow-based company specialising in opto-electronics, has come
    up with a different approach to using lasers for printing. It has developed a
    system of putting several lasers on a single chip, sitting side by side in
    parallel. Sorry, did I say several? I meant to say somewhere in the region of
    one hundred.

    Once you have built up an array of these multi-laser chips, a platform that
    Intense calls INSlam, the potential for high resolution and precision is almost
    unimaginable by today’s standards.

    However, Intense does not envisage the chips being used as lasers in printers
    like those of today. Instead, it is looking at thermal print technology. Thermal
    printing typically uses a heated element that presses against special sheets of
    film impregnated with coloured wax or dyes, literally melting or evaporating the
    colours onto the paper.

    Another type of thermal printing presses the metal element against
    heat-sensitive paper, effectively “burning” the image onto it, as seen in older
    fax machines and more recent portable printers. But in both of these techniques,
    the heating and cooling of the metal elements as the paper passes through is a
    dreadfully slow business. Switching lasers on and off, however, can be done at
    ultra high speed. As a result, INSlam could revive and re-invent thermal
    printing systems, which have long lingered in the “where-are-they-now” category
    of office peripherals.

    If you replace the element with an array of INSlam lasers, the potential is
    for a printer that is not only faster but one that offers a significantly higher
    output resolution too.

    Because of the usual economies of scale with developing technologies, it may
    take time for INSlam to get established. But if the technology takes off and can
    be produced cheaply enough, it could rival both inkjet and colour laser

    All it takes is for one manufacturer to give it a try and we could have a new
    printing revolution on our desktops – or in our briefcases.