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 user 2006-08-01 at 11:46:00 am Views: 56
  • #16139

    Epson bares home printing strategy
    Just as digital cameras have become viable alternatives to film-based cameras, home-printed digital photos now rival the quality of traditional silver-halide prints that commercial photo labs offer. And it is this increasing popularity of home photo printing that Seiko Epson Corp. intends to take advantage of with the continuous improvements in its ink-jet printing technologies.In a meeting with Asian journalists at Epson’s Hirooka plant in Nagano, Takao Mimura, chief executive of Epson’s Ink-jet Printer & Photo Product Operations Division, said the company will concentrate on the home market with its color printing products and will begin to aggressively promote color printing in the office.Currently, Epson holds the third spot in the Asian multifunction ink-jet printer market with a 22 percent share, following HP (34 percent) and Canon (24 percent). In Japan, however, the company commands more than half (54 percent) of the local market, followed by Canon (41 percent) and HP (4 percent). “Our target is to eventually be the No. 1 manufacturer of ink-jet printers worldwide,” said Mimura.According to the Epson executive, the market for multifunction ink-jet printers will continue to grow, fueled by their increasing popularity over single-function ink-jet printers. The multifunction printer (MFP) market, he said, is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 percent from 2002 to 2007.Meanwhile, the market for traditional digital and analog silver-halide printing has declined in the past three years as ink-jet photo paper printing gained wide acceptance. Mimura told journalists that Epson intends to take advantage of this trend by improving its printing technologies which include the Micro Piezo print head, high-quality and durable ink, and digital color and image processing.In a survey conducted by the Info Trend Pro Photographer in 2003, 43 percent of the photographers polled preferred printing their digital photos with Epson. Fujifilm, with 19 percent, came in a far second.

    Non-PC Printing
    Explaining Epson’s home printing strategy, Mimura said the company’s printing technology has evolved from PC-centered solutions to non-PC solutions such as direct printing from mobile phones and digital cameras that have provisions for multimedia memory cards, Bluetooth transmission, and Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection.Mimura also boasted of Epson’s new product category, the All-in-One Photo Printer that can print photos directly from all sources such as film, USB drives, memory cards, digital cameras, and mobile phones.Epson is also expanding the types of content that can be printed off its printers. After PC-based and photo contents, Epson is looking at the printing of public contents that do not infringe on intellectual property rights. Public contents, Mimura explained, could include TV broadcasts, online newspapers, educational materials, Web-based photo albums, online educational material, and catalogs. “Epson believes there will be a whole lot of opportunities for printing public content,” he said. He added that Epson is working with a Japanese TV station to develop printable contents off the air such as TV commercials, recipes and other pertinent information.Mimura said photo printers will eventually become an indispensable appliance in living rooms and will be placed near the digital television. “I believe Epson will open up a new era of digital imaging,” he predicted.

    Printing Quality
    “Home printing is experiencing growing demand,” said Minoru Usui, director and deputy chief executive of the I&I products operations division at Epson.According to Usui, there are five components that contribute to the quality of photo printouts: ink, ink-jet head, paper, printer driver, and the ink cartridge.He disclosed that Epson develops and manufactures its own ink that works best for Epson printers. The company essentially uses two kinds of ink – pigment and dye. Usui said pigment ink has excellent durability and produces laser-quality printouts on plain paper and silver-halide quality prints on glossy paper. Dye ink, on the other hand, is excellent for color reproduction and is ideal for low-cost printers.”Using non-genuine ink may not produce the best printing results,” said Usui, adding that mixing non-genuine ink may cause serious problems such as clogged printer nozzles, missing dots, poor colors, and poor durability.On the subject of ink-jet heads, Usui said Epson’s Micro Piezo head ejects ink droplets in a variety of sizes at high speed and performs exceptionally with pigment inks. According to him, the thermal ink-jet head which HP uses has a shorter head life and may damage inks.As for paper, Usui said media quality greatly affects printing quality, adding that Epson’s glossy paper offers much wider color representation than ordinary photo paper.The printer driver, meanwhile, sets the size, color and pattern of ink droplets for the printed image.Lastly, the ink cartridge supplies accurate amounts of ink to the head by constant pressure to produce flawless printouts. “The ink cartridge is not just a box of ink. In fact, it is a sophisticated ink preservation and delivery system,” said Usui. Epson’s ink cartridge, he explained, is designed to keep ink uniform and free of contaminants to the last drop.During a tour of Epson’s ink factory in Hirooka, Kiyohito Koke, manager of the ink-jet printer marketing department, showed members of the media the 10 processes in producing an ink cartridge. Journalists were shown the “clean room” where the cartridges are assembled in a very clean environment to ensure the ink does not get contaminated. The ink cartridge also goes through a vacuum packaging process to remove traces of dissolved air which could form bubbles in the printer nozzles and cause missing dots.