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 user 2008-04-02 at 2:36:23 pm Views: 91
  • #19758

    Why Kyocera Entered Into Inkjet Head Biz?
    Kyocera Corp developed an inkjet head for commercial printers and will make it a business in April 2008.
    has the largest share (a little less than 50%) of the world market for
    the heads for thermal transfer printers, the company said. Also, the
    company engages in the businesses of photoreceptors, LED heads and so
    forth for electrophotographic printers.

    Kyocera will strengthen
    the business related to commercial printers by introducing the new
    inkjet head. I interviewed Hisamitsu Sakai, the company’s general
    manager of the Inkjet Division, and Sumio Arima, the company’s deputy
    manager of the Printing Device Sales Department, Corporate Thin Film
    Components Group.Why did you enter the business of inkjet heads?We
    consider that there is a large potential market for the commercial
    inkjet printers that are suited for printing a wide variety of images
    in small quantities and can print on demand without using a plate.The
    market size for inkjet printing, including printing equipments and
    inks, is only about ¥3 trillion (US$30 billion). But, the market for
    the printing business as a whole is large. For example, the market size
    for general printing, which uses a plate, is reportedly ¥70 trillion
    (including equipments and inks).Though printing equipments that use a
    plate are not suited for printing a wide variety of images in small
    quantities or for on-demand printing, commercial inkjet printers have a
    broader range of applications (Fig 1). Also, they will create demand
    for those new applications, expanding the print market.For example,
    recently, various types of ads and coupons, in addition to the card
    holder’s name and the detailed statement, are printed on credit-card
    bills. The name and the statement are different from person to person,
    but the ads and coupons are the same due to a limited printing cost.If
    commercial inkjet printers are used, it is possible to print ads and
    coupons that are different from person to person. And it will increase
    the value of the ads and, thus, boost the demand for printing.We
    already had many business talks. The new print head will be mounted in
    a printer developed by Miyakoshi Printing Machinery Co Ltd, who helped
    us test the head. Also, we are conducting negotiations with several
    dozen companies.

    The new inkjet head is targeted at the printers
    used in those business fields. And we solved the problems of inkjet
    heads.What kind of problems did they have?There have been three major
    problems in using inkjet printers for commercial printing, slow print
    speed, bad image quality and low durability. For example, offset
    printing machines, which are often used in commercial printing, have a
    printing speed of 150m/min for general use and 1,000m/min for printing
    newspapers and others. The speeds of electrophotographic printers are
    60-90m/min.In the case of inkjet printers, those with high image
    quality, 300-600dpi, have a printing speed of about 60m/min. Some
    inkjet printers for commercial use are as fast as 300m/min. But they
    are monochrome, and their resolution is as low as 150dpi.However, our
    new inkjet head has a printing speed of 75m/min. Its resolution is
    600dpi. So, we achieved both high resolution and high speed for
    commercial printing. When the inkjet heads are arranged in two rows,
    the printing speed can be 150m/min, equivalent to the speed of general
    offset printing machines.

    How did you solve the problems?
    increased the number of ink nozzles and enabled each nozzle to
    discharge about 30,000 ink droplets per minute. We increased the width
    of the inkjet head to 108mm, one of the widest in the industry,
    expanding the area that can be printed at one time (Fig 2). As a
    result, each inkjet head has 2,656 nozzles. Also, the ink channels are
    designed so that they do not get clogged with ink.

    It is a piezo
    print head, which discharges inks by expansion and contraction of
    piezoelectric elements. In general, it is difficult to increase the
    resolution of piezo inkjet printers because a piezoelectric element has
    to be set in each nozzle and, to enhance the resolution, it has to be
    finely processed.To solve this problem, we decided to use ceramic flat
    plates, which are piezoelectric materials. Many electrodes are formed
    on a thin and flat ceramic plate, and the plate is set on top of the
    tank that stores ink (Fig 3). In other words, several piezoelectric
    elements are accumulated on a ceramic flat plate (Fig 4).The ceramic
    plate is densely mounted with electrodes, but the plate itself is not
    finely processed. Therefore, it is relatively easy to increase the
    resolution. We have already obtained a patent for this technique of
    using a flat plate.We improved the ceramic material too. We cannot
    reveal the details of the material, but the new material is more
    responsive and generates more power when a voltage is applied. Our
    strength lies in ceramic materials, and we took advantage of it.The
    ceramic plate is about 20µm thick, and the amount of displacement is
    about 100nm when a voltage is applied. The width of the ink channels
    that flow from the ink tank to each nozzle is several dozen
    micrometers. The inkjet head has a total of 2,656 piezoelectric
    elements on four ceramic flat plates (Fig 5).

    You cooperated with Brother Industries Ltd to develop the inkjet head.
    we have the know-how in thermal transfer printers and
    electrophotographic printers, we had to start the inkjet printer
    business from scratch. So we cooperated with Brother Industries, a
    pioneer in that field.Brother Industries, whose strength lies in its
    inkjet technologies, and Kyocera, who has the advantage of
    piezoelectric material technologies, complemented each other in
    developing the basic technology for the new inkjet head. Not only our
    company but also Brother Industries can use the newly developed
    technology.The development period is five years, from 2002 to 2007.
    After that, we conducted reliability tests for the inkjet head. We had
    verification experiments, for several months, where printed paper could
    often be as long as 100km per day and confirmed that the image quality
    does not deteriorate.

    What is your future plan?
    We will
    further improve the resolution and print speed. We have the advantage
    of dealing with ceramic materials. The resolution of 600dpi is still
    low compared with conventional printing technologies. We look to
    enhance the resolution to 1,200dpi.If the arrangement of the inkjet
    heads is changed, it is possible to have 1,200dpi at this point.
    However, it would require an accuracy of a few micrometers to set the
    inkjet heads to the device. If we can achieve 1,200dpi by improving the
    head, we do not have to deal with this problem.As for the print speed,
    we would not like to define a specific goal at this moment. There are
    some technological constraints on piezo inkjet printers. So we have to
    find those limitations first.