FAST-FOWARD TO VERY FAST INKJET PRINTERS
FAST-FOWARD TO VERY FAST INKJET PRINTERS
2007-03-21 at 10:18:00 am #17620
Fast-forward to very fast inkjet printers
Printer industry tracker Lyra Research offered a glimpse last week into a historically secretive firm that may be responsible for the next shake-up of the inkjet printer market.Silverbrook Research, an Australian research-and-development firm, has received more than 1,000 U.S. patents in the last decade and more than 400 last year related to inkjet technology, said Steve Hoffenberg, Lyra’s director of consumer imaging research, in a Lyra Web cast.The result is a technology — dubbed Memjet — that offers print speeds that double those of most current desktop inkjet printers and exceed the speeds of many laser printers currently in the market.The speed, you ask? A page — which can include color text, photos and graphics — every second.”Our initial reaction when we saw this demo was ‘Holy smokes,’” said Hoffenberg, who said he met with officials of Silverbrook Research and showed pictures and video of some potential printer prototypes in the presentation.The technology has not been publicly unveiled and remains a mystery to most in the industry. Kia Silverbrook, the chairman and CEO of Silverbrook Research, plans to discuss the technology at the Global Ink Jet Printing Conference this week in the Czech Republic.The Memjet name refers to “mems,” or microelectromechanical systems. Most inkjet technology, Hoffenberg said, already fits the broader definition of the term.The technology utilizes wider printheads — 8 inches in the case of a letter-size printer — rather than current printheads that are often part of the replacement cartridges that consumers purchase.
Memjet technology also uses powerful microchips that reduce the time it takes a printer to process information, like photos, sent to it from a computer.”Essentially the computer does not have to wait for processing to output,” he said.Silverbrook, Hoffenberg said, plans to license the technology to a series of companies it has set up that would then license it to other firms.Eventual products could include home printers, photo printers, wide-format printers and much more.The home inkjet printer could be priced as low as $199, Hoffenberg said, and would include five ink tanks — prototypes show the tanks hold about five times more ink than the typical cartridge today — that could be priced less than $20 each.A design for a photo printer, with a possible price of about $149, Hoffenberg said, could print 30 photos a minute at a cost of about 10 to 20 cents per print.He added the printers shown to him offered competitive print quality.And with licensing as the only barrier, it could open the printer market up to new firms that wouldn’t have to undergo the capital investment of existing players like Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark International, Canon and Epson.”In one fell swoop, essentially, a whole new set of competitors will have the ability to take inkjet desktop products and other products to market,” Hoffenberg said.Lyra suggested that firms including computer makers, office equipment manufacturers and consumer electronics firms could be interested in the technology.The existing printer companies may also consider licensing the technology, Hoffenberg said.A video of a prototype home Memjet inkjet printer at work is available online at http://www.lyra.com/lh3m.nsf/memjet.”It’s definitely for real,” Hoffenberg said. “The video isn’t faked at all.”Lyra Research President Charles LeCompte offered another perspective.”I’ve been in this business for 20 years,” he said, “and I haven’t seen anything as mind-boggling as this.”
In Lexmark-specific news, the Lexington-based printermaker announced last week that it has collaborated with another company to produce the first FBI-certified color printer solution for fingerprint cards.Working with Mentalix Inc., the companies have launched a program that allows law enforcement agencies to print color images, boundaries and fingerprints on a blank sheet of card stock, Lexmark noted in a news release.Such a technique can replace current processes that see agencies reproduce fingerprints on separate pre-printed cards and then attach those to other information.The system works with Lexmark’s C524 and C534 color laser printers and is also FBI-certified for the T640 monolaser family.This newest announcement is one of several in recent weeks thathighlights efforts by Lexmark’s Printing Solutions and Services Division to use the company’s printers to address paperwork problems in various industries.The company has long had a strong presence in industries such as pharmacies, where it’s offered programs that allowed for easier printing of information such as labeling for pharmaceutical bottles and the printed material that accompanies them.Recent announcements by the company also include initiatives aimed at law offices and hospitals.For attorneys, Lexmark has partnered with cost recovery firm Copitrak to introduce a program for Lexmark’s laser multi-function printers that lets attorneys assign actions such as scanning or copying a document to specific client accounts.And coming in April, Lexmark will unveil the Lexmark Clinical Assistant.Designed for a laser multi-function printer, the program lets hospital employees, at the press of an icon, scan documents into electronic medical records, route physician orders to hospital pharmacies and more.”Clearly, we believe that our heritage of providing tailored solutions for vertical industries has been and continues to be a strength of the company,” said Lexmark spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick.