Technology Driving Ink Sales

Speed and flexibility will beat laser and LED for digital printing.

Far from ushering in the paperless office or a switch to laser or LED printing, the pace of technology advancement is actually increasing the demand for print and will drive inkjet sales into the near future, according to Kodaks Research Laboratories.

Technology advances are expanding the applications that continuous inkjet printing can be used for, and we can expect future inkjet printing systems to produce output at new offset-class quality levels, said Gilbert Hawkins, associate director of the Kodak labs, during an address at the 15th Annual European Ink Jet Conference Nov. 7 to 9, in Lisbon.

"Right now, the high speed digital printing market is almost exclusively electrophotographic—toner, via laser or LED," said Jim Hamilton, group director at InfoTrends. "There currently are only a small number of high-speed inkjet systems at the ultra-high end, like the Kodak Versamark, cranking out huge volumes of output, to be sure."

"Todays inkjet presses are not up to top offset speeds, but they are up to 40% faster than the fastest laser printer," said Eric Wilson, director of product marketing for Kodak Graphics Communications Group.

But inkjet may be catching up.


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"I believe that toner-based electrophotographic printing is approaching its speed limit, while inkjet can keep growing, and inkjet can be less expensive in terms of equipment and consumables," Hamilton said. "People will want to print mixed color and black and white documents cost-effectively, even if its simply a color logo at the top of a page, and inkjet will be able to provide low-coverage color like this more cost effectively."

Technology drivers that will help drive significant growth in commercial and consumer ink jet printing, according to Hawkins, include MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) devices, nanoparticulate inks, new systems architectures, workflow solutions, and more sophisticated image processing.

"Continuous inkjet printing has expanded into a wide range of applications such as TransPromo communications, newspapers, packaging, book printing, and tracking and tracing capabilities," according to Hawkins.

"Stream, Kodaks next generation inkjet technology, will be rolled out through its Inkjet Products Solutions group," Wilson said. "Kodak is very invested in taking inkjet to new levels of applications, through new technologies. Advances like MEMS and non-inks are the type of advancements that increase resolution, speed and other print output capabilities of inkjet in commercial applications."

Another growth segment for inkjet technology, according to Hawkins, are hybrid applications, which place variable data on materials as theyre printed, by using inkjet print heads mounted on offset presses. This eliminates a time-consuming production step, which means a big productivity gain for commercial printers, noted Wilson, and inkjet can be integrated into existing offset printers without sacrificing the high throughput speed.


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