What is inkjet technology?
Inkjet technology has become a household word through its presence on the consumer desktop as a low cost, reliable, relatively quick and convenient method of printing digital files. Although inkjet technology has been around since the 1950s in speciality printing, the impact of the technology in a wide range of industrial applications is only now becoming clear.
Simple in theory. Complex in practice
In theory, inkjet technology is simple - a printhead ejects a pattern of tiny drops of ink onto a substrate without actually touching it. Dots using different coloured inks are combined together to create photo-quality images.
In practice however, successful implementation of the technology is very complex. The dots that are ejected are smaller than the diameter of a human hair (70 microns), and they need to be positioned very precisely to achieve resolutions as fine as 1440x1440 dots per inch (dpi). This precision requires multi-disciplinary skills; a combination of careful design, implementation and operation across physics, fluid mechanics, chemistry and engineering.
Why inkjet technology for industrial applications?
Inkjet technology is increasingly viewed as more than just a printing or marking technique. It can also be used to apply coatings, to deposit precise amounts of materials, and even to build micro- or macro-structures. The benefits of inkjet technology are significant and include the reduction of manufacturing costs, provision of higher quality output, conversion of processes from analogue to digital, reduction in inventory, printing onto very large, very small, fragile or non-flat substrates, reduction of waste, mass customisation, faster prototyping and the implementation of just-in-time manufacture.
The introduction of industrial inkjet technology into manufacturing environments has the potential to make a revolutionary step-change to existing capabilities with huge commercial benefits.