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 user 2005-03-11 at 10:28:00 am Views: 135
  • #10809

    Inks and Substrates
    technology that puts ink on paper—past, present, and future of inkjet inks,
    presses, and

    Putting ink on paper.It sounds easy enough. In fact, we
    give the relationship of ink to paper little thought when we jot a note or hit
    print on our keyboard, but in fact, from the earliest days when the Chinese and
    Egyptians developed the first inks, the technology has been an ever-evolving

    The Evolution of Ink
    The ink used in inkjet technology is water-based;oil-based ink would
    wreak havoc with the highly sensitive print heads of computer printers. However,
    early water-based inks were prone to smudging and running, but since then there
    have been enormous improvements in ink chemistry. For years,there was
    tremendous give and take among the pros and cons of this technology. The goal
    has been for inkjet manufacturers to develop inks that provide high quality
    images that last and can be printed on almost any media.

    Early inks were colored with dyes; then, pigments became the
    favored colorant despite the fact that particle size had to be reduced to avoid
    clogging machines. Because pigments are composed of thousands of molecules
    compared to a dye particle, which is made of a single molecule, pigmented inks
    are tougher to break down. They also resist bleeding. As a result, pigment ink
    lasts longer and resists fading. It is resistant to ultra violet light; can be
    applied to a wider variety of surfaces; and will perform better in outdoor
    applications and under adverse conditions, such as temperature fluctuations. The
    fact that pigment inks are both lightfast and waterproof has driven their
    worldwide development.

    “The secret to this is ink chemistry, and most inkjet
    manufacturers will jealously protect their own formulas. Companies like
    Hewlett-Packard, Canon, and Epson invest large sums of money in research to make
    continual advancements in ink pigments, qualities of lightfastness and
    waterfastness, and suitability for printing on a wide variety of media,”
    according to PCGuide.com.

    There’s no better example than in Epson’s ongoing product
    development. Epson launched its first color printer, the Stylus Color, in 1994.
    It was the first desktop inkjet printer that produced photographic quality
    prints. As photo quality printing evolved, Epson realized it needed to make
    photographs that had longevity of traditional silver prints. The launch of the
    Stylus Photo 2000 and the Stylus Pro 7500/9500 brought a new type of pigment
    ink, which Epson encapsulated in an acrylic resin. This encapsulated pigment ink
    was the first pigment ink to be compatible with RC photo papers. Epson’s latest
    version of pigment ink, UltraChrome, has the gamut of dye and the longevity of

    “Epson has the only long life high gamut ink set, with
    longevity over a full range of products. Some competitors have a single media
    type that can boost longevity, but only Epson has a full range of media that
    have great longevity,” says Greg McCoy, senior product marketing manager,
    professional supplies at Epson America, Inc.

    Dennis Moore, senior color specialist at xpedx’s National
    Technology Headquarters for Digital Imaging and its resident expert on inkjet
    proofing technology, likes Epson’s UltraChrome ink set. “It has a nicer gamut to
    it than the older pigment ink set, which was narrower in its range. Originally,
    with the Epson ink set and to some degree with Hewlett-Packard’s, there was a
    noticeable drifting of the ink as seen by the eye in three to four days. Epson’s
    UltraChrome ink set has a wider gamut and longer-term stability. Now, Epson
    proofers with the UltraChrome ink set are among the leaders.”

    Substrates, while numerous in types, aren’t nearly as complicated as
    inks. Basically, there are two types of paper: porous and non-porous. Because
    non-porous papers are coated, inks can take longer to dry. Inks dry almost
    instantly on papers using microporous coatings because it is absorbed into the
    surface and held there. However, the paper is so absorbent that it is more
    susceptible to fading from harmful light and ozone.

    Paper pre-conditioning is among one of the solutions to
    heightening printed image quality. Pre-conditioning seeks to improve inkjet
    quality on plain paper by priming the media to receive ink with an agent that
    binds pigment to the paper, reducing dot gain and smearing. Regardless of the
    type of media, this is the goal everyone is after.

    Like inks, many inkjet printer makers sell their own
    proprietary brands of paper that are guaranteed to run through their equipment
    and deliver optimum results. The downside is cost. Everyone likes to save money
    by opting for the less expensive generic brands; it is a trend that equipment
    manufacturers strongly urge consumers to resist. Their rationale is that only
    the manufacturer can design the three components—printer, ink, and paper—to work
    together to achieve optimum results.

    Moore says that Epson’s new proofing media, Epson Proofing
    Semi-Matte, works with the UltraChrome ink set, but adds that Dupont, GMG, IBM,
    Kodak Polychrome Graphics, and Mitsubishi have also developed papers for the
    proofing market. “You see a lot of competition in this market, but it is
    dominated by Dupont and Epson at this point.”

    McCoy states that Epson is unique in that it offers
    technology dedicated to the high-end user. “Epson creates a full printing
    system, printer, inks, media, and drivers to make it easy for our customers to
    create high quality, high permanence prints and a full range of

    Wide Format Printers
    Inkjet technology is constantly evolving, and leading the way are the
    product manufacturers. Agfa was the first to develop a special inkjet media that
    works with water-based dye inks and ensures color stability and high quality

    “Agfa had many firsts over the years, particularly in our
    largest segment, the graphic arts market, and we hold in the neighborhood of
    2,000 patents in the graphic arts industry,” says Deborah Hutcheson, senior
    marketing manager, digital solutions, Agfa Corporation, Graphic Systems. In
    fact, “Agfa was the first to introduce a closed loop inkjet printing solution
    for proofing and wide format solutions.” Agfa makes printers, inks, and media,
    as well as the software that governs it all.

    Encad is another company that has its share of firsts. Encad
    introduced the world’s first low-cost, wide format color inkjet printer, the
    NovaJet, in 1991. Since then, more than 100,000 Encad printers have been sold,
    making Encad the most common printer found in service bureaus, signmakers,
    exhibit houses, and photo labs all over the world. Two years later, Encad
    introduced the NovaJet II, the first affordable four-color, photo-realistic,
    wide format printer, which opened new possibilities in design and graphics. In
    1998, the company introduced the Encad Digital Textile Printing System, allowing
    for printing directly on fabric. Now, images could be transferred to fabric in
    minutes where before it had taken weeks or even months.

    In 2001, Encad and Kodak joined forces and now encompasses a
    wide format company that manufactures printers, inks, and media. “We’re still
    pushing the boundaries of wide format printing, continuing development and new
    technology in printers, inks, and media. As you look back on our history, you’ll
    see that the one thing we’ve always done, is look ahead,” says Barry Lathan,
    CEO, Encad, Inc.

    Digital Printing Papers
    Among those paving the way in the area of digital printing papers is
    Enterprise Group, a Weyerhaeuser Business. Enterprise Group is an industry
    leader in the development and sale of digital printing papers. “(We’re)
    successful in the digital market because of our relationships with OEMs
    (original equipment manufacturers), digital printer manufacturers, as well as
    post-processing equipment manufacturers,” says Jim Saxenmeyer, digital business
    product development manager.

    Enterprise Group offers digital lightweight papers, a
    variety of digital printing papers, and book publishing papers for a variety of
    digital printing applications including transactional printing, direct-mail, and
    book publishing. “No other manufacturer offers the full product line that
    Enterprise Group offers,” states Saxenmeyer. “Many of Enterprise Group grades
    are OEM certified.”

    The Xerox Supplies Business Group continues to develop
    digital optimized paper and specialty media. The newest development includes
    expanding the Digital Color Xpressions paper line by adding an 80 lb. cover and
    additional multiple weights of 20.5 x 14.33 inch paper, the largest size paper
    that can be run on the Xerox iGen3 Digital Production Press. Digital Color
    Xpressions, a line of uncoated papers, is ideal for applications such as
    brochures, direct mailers, and internal newsletters. It comes in a broad range
    of sizes, weights, and colors.

    Consistent with its ongoing commitment to environmental
    responsibility, Xerox has also enhanced its Multipurpose Pastel Paper with the
    addition of a line of papers containing 30 percent post-consumer waste that
    meets all government requirements for recycled paper. Xerox continues to assure
    customers the same level of quality and performance as previously non-recycled

    Display Graphics
    InteliCoat Technologies has earned a reputation over the last decade
    for producing innovative, highly productive digital imaging products for the
    market under the Magic brand name. InteliCoat gets into a range of applications
    including exhibit displays, transit and point-of-purchase (POP) advertising,
    banners and signs, proofing, wallcoverings, and fine art reproductions. Among
    the notable milestones achieved by InteliCoat was the introduction of PRINTLAM,
    a printable polyester laminate with a dual-purpose adhesive/i
    mage-receptive coating that offers a single-step finishing solution
    for indoor/
    outdoor promotional and display graphics.
    Also, Magic DMFTP, a thin overlaminate film with Fluorex brand protection,
    enables users to more easily and cost-effectively achieve high-quality
    protection for their flexible graphics. InteliCoat also offered the first
    media-specific customized ICC profiles designed to guarantee outstanding color
    results when used with Magic products.

    “InteliCoat’s Magic products are the highest performing,
    most reliable digital imaging media on the market. In addition to technologies
    and products, we bring a deep understanding of the needs and aspirations of our
    digital imaging customers, which drives our product development,” says Ed
    McCarron, product manager, display media. “Our technical and application
    expertise enables us to help our customers achieve the greatest value from their
    wide format digital printers.”

    Fine Art Digital Paper
    Among InteliCoat’s most recent offerings is its Magiclée line of
    inkjet media for fine art and photo reproduction applications. The Magiclée line
    features digital printing substrate choices that include fine art papers, photo
    art papers, glossy and matte canvas, gloss and lustre quick-drying photobase,
    and presentation grade matte papers.

    Hawk Mountain Papers is another contender in this market. It
    makes 100 percent cotton, acid-free/lignin-free, made in the USA, mould-made,
    thick, textured papers, fine art digital photo and print papers. Presently, they
    are working with specialty paper mills in the U.S. to make cotton paper for
    inkjet applications and develop proprietary inkjet receptive

    Wide Format Supplies
    At GRAPH EXPO, Xerox announced a line of wide format paper and
    specialty media specifically designed to maximize print quality on wide format
    printers including the new Xerox 8160 and 8142 Wide Format Color printers. The
    new line consists of more than 30 products including photo papers, films,
    banners, canvas, and presentation and poster papers used by graphic arts
    professionals to create materials such as posters, signs, banners, and POP

    “We’re opening new doors for our customers and allowing them
    to explore all the possibilities that wide format color printing has to offer,”
    said Nancy Rees, senior VP, Xerox Supplies Business Group. “With the range of
    media and Xerox wide format technology, graphic communications professionals can
    produce high-quality pieces that will impress even the toughest

    The Next Generation
    “There are always more improvements on the ink and papers as well,”
    says Epson’s McCoy, who is quick to add that he predicts, “faster and more
    affordable are in the works.” He also thinks that the inkjet market will take
    over the traditional silver halide technology in the next five years.

    “Solvent inkjet is the fastest growing technology in the
    outdoor sign market,” forecasts McCarron. “We also see digital printing emerging
    in new industry segments. Fine art and packaging are two good examples. The
    digital printing technology offers printers an excellent means of producing high
    quality short run or custom imaging in a timely and cost-efficient manner. This
    means that it is now possible for artists to produce art reprints one to a few
    hundred at a time as needed. Packaging designers can use the digital technology
    to easily create 3D-realistic packaging prototypes at a fraction of the cost for
    traditional proofing methods.”

    “I do expect a continued increase in ecosolvent and solvent
    printers to occur in the industry,” concurs Lathan. “They’ve been making
    significant inroads in both indoor and outdoor applications, and have a
    widespread acceptance in the marketplace.”

    Will inkjet technology be surpassed by solid ink technology?
    Xerox thinks so. It has pioneered the development of solid ink technology, which
    is an alternative to inkjet and laser technologies in the office. “Introduced
    over 12 years ago, Xerox’s exclusive solid ink technology is not only a viable,
    affordable option for those companies looking to add color to their business
    documents, but it has also become a competitive force in the industry. Solid ink
    adds value to businesses,” says Chris Iburg, director, printer marketing, Xerox
    Office Group, Xerox Corporation. “It is the only printing technology that can
    create brilliant, vibrant prints on a wide range of media. It is the easiest
    technology on the market to use. It is the only technology that produces minimal
    waste. And, with a low entry price and cost per page, solid ink printers truly
    give customers the most value for their money.”

    Xerox’s solid ink products serve small and midsized
    businesses as well as workgroups within the enterprise. In addition, solid ink
    printers are popular in industries requiring high-quality color printing on
    demand, such as real estate, advertising, and graphic arts. It offers reliable
    print quality on a broad range of media, including cardstock, envelopes, and
    transparencies, as well as recycled paper and custom page sizes.

    “Solid ink technology’s advanced printing architecture,
    simplicity, and ease of use set it apart from competitive printers,” says Iburg.
    “Other companies have tried to compete with Xerox’s long history of color
    expertise, but none have come close to matching the convenience and quality
    offered by solid ink technology. Low-end inkjet devices are slower, more costly,
    and create considerably more waste than solid ink. Additionally, output produced
    on an inkjet printer is likely to smear without sufficient drying time.”

    In the area of inkjet head technology, “We see that piezo
    systems will continue to evolve, expanding the latitude of the head to support
    different ink types offering less constraints and more functional freedom both
    for the developer and as well as the end user,” says Hutcheson. “Agfa expects
    that there will be a strong tendency towards UV inkjet systems over the next
    three to five years. This is due to the idea that it offers better adhesion to
    uncoated media, ultimately reducing the total cost of production.”

    “Agfa expects the wide format inkjet market to continue to
    expand as the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the systems come down and
    productivity increases. The growth, in some part, will be at the expense of the
    traditional technologies such as offset and screen printing. The quality and
    productivity of inkjet will continue to improve exponentially, making it a
    viable solution for more and more applications.”

    Lathan agrees. “We expect that there will be continued
    demand for printers that offer low TCO, benchmark speed, as well as, image
    quality that exceeds customer requirements for a wide variety of applications.
    With speed, comes requirements for media that supports a variety of
    applications; so, we will see a continued focus on new, hybrid media that will
    increase sales.”

    “As UV systems take hold, we look toward future developments
    in this area with UV systems that provide a wider color gamut, more vibrant
    colors, and the ability to print flexible and maybe even stretchable media, once
    again expanding the capabilities of inkjet and reducing the cost production,”
    says Hutcheson. He sees a breakthrough in aqueous or water-based inks to improve
    the scratch resistance and printability on uncoated vinyls. Enterprise’s
    Saxenmeyer agrees that the next generation of inkjets will be high-speed
    water-based systems.

    “In the next five years, there is a potential for
    substantial growth,” predicts Saxenmeyer.

    Xerox’s Iburg says that inkjet’s areas of strength—wide
    format printing and home use—will remain strong in the future, but predicts the
    continuing decline of the office inkjet market. “As the cost of other printing
    technologies like laser and solid ink continue to be driven down, inkjet will
    eventually be phased out of the office.”

    “At Encad, we certainly feel positive about the growth
    opportunity in wide format printing and see a continuing drift toward inkjet
    being the common migration path for many output needs, such as point of sale
    display, proofing, and photographic enlargement. In addition, I expect an
    expanding market opportunity in the photographic and proofing space,” says

    Everything I’m reading leads me to believe
    inkjet is taking on more and more of the printing dollar,” says Moore. “As far
    as the future of proofing goes, you’ll see inkjet proofing taking a lot of the
    business from laser printers. Clients no longer want to pay top dollar for a
    proof when they know when they can get just as good and acceptable results with
    an inkjet proof. Inkjet has a good future in front of