Having grown up in the mainframe days, I have memories of nearly going deaf in data centers while the chain/band printers went to town getting out checks/statements/etc in the front room of the "glass house". What made them deafening also made them fast since they were of the category of "line printers" where an entire line of text was slammed onto the paper at a time. Well a company called Memjet has come up with the guts for a whole new generation of inkjet printers that in effect is the next generation of line printer.
Key to this new technology is a ink nozzle array that spans the width of the entire page, radical new nozzle design that allows for drop sizes previously unheard of (which they claim eliminates the need for light cyan and light magenta for photo quality color), reformulated ink and some sexy driver chips to keep it all running in sync. You've just got to see the video on their site to understand just what their tech is capable of providing.
Now let me be VERY clear...this is NOT a product yet. Those demos are of engineering prototypes used to demonstrate the Memjet technology in real world applications. These folks are hoping that various printer manufacturers will be willing to OEM this base technology and package it into a finished product. Think of this as a peek into a crystal ball that might predict the kinds of printers we'll get to see in the near future.
So with ink running through my veins after a tenure with Xerox (as a Printer Product Interfacing Specialist) I just had to poke and prod the engineers with some questions on the underlying tech:
Question: Some folks (Mediastreet) have touted in the past that ink can cost upwards of $21,000/gallon of ink and most inks are dyes rather than pigment causing image fade over time.
Sitting idle most inkjet technologies "dry out" and cause nozzle clogs which then cost a bunch of ink to clear out during the
"cleaning process", how does Memjet handle clogging or drying of ink in the nozzles?
Answer: Image fade caused by light and ozone can vary greatly. Some of the conventional wisdom on this topic is shifting because of new papers, new dyes and new pigment dispersions that are improving some of the old parameters. Permanence itself has both to do with the ink type but, perhaps more importantly, the paper type and the interaction between the two. Photo papers designed to interact positively with
the ink can still lead to long life, even with dyes. Having said that, pigments (because they do have non-soluble particles) have an
advantage in terms of light and ozone fade, but a disadvantage in terms of overall vibrancy.
What can we say about the Memjet dyes? Our Memjet dyes are specific to our system. While they are not fundamentally different than other
dye formulations, other dye formulations may cause catastrophic damage because of subtle but important differences. In the future our
ink formulations will continue to evolve to potentially include novel dye elements as well as pigments.
Question: Paper handling, at these kinds of speeds an A4/Letter page hopper can fill up mighty fast. Are there additional paper handling options?
Answer: The biggest advantage of the speed is the productivity that is realized from being able to pick up your print job immediately. While we do believe that Memjet's speed will increase the number of pages end-users typically print, we don't think this increase will be
dramatic for desktop device and, in most cases, users will simply print more 1-5 page documents vs. a 200-page document. Very quickly
over the first couple of years of product development, there will be increasing numbers of small workteam, workgroup and departmental
printers and MFPs, with a huge range of paper-handling options to meet the needs of many different types of input and output workloads.
Question: Interfaces: just how do I connect these printers? They look like network printers, but I need to know about driver support, are they
supported on Windows and Mac and Linux/Unix?
Answer: Memjet is simply supplying the components and our partners will develop a broad range of devices, under their own brands, that
provide a range of functionality: connecting directly via USB, wirelessly, via the network, via Bluetooth, software drivers that
support a range of OSs and include GDI drivers, universal drivers, PDL drivers, etc. Some will use standard printer MIB protocols to
integrate with management software for job accounting (Liberty, Equitrack, Pharos, etc) or overall device management (Web JetAdmin,
MarkVision, etc). Others will work directly to create more integrated solutions. While Memjet is driving the basic architecture, our brand
partners will implement the final solution and final service architecture and drive the answer to these questions.
Question: I live in Hawaii and repair has always been a bugaboo. What kinds of exceptions should I have?
Answer: My guess is that repair in Hawaii will vary based on our brand partners service infrastructure. One advantage to the Memjet system vs. a laser printer system, for example, is that the entire printhead is replaceable. This will limit some service issues that require a printhead replacement.