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Memjet logo. Click here to visit the Memjet website! Memjet promises printing breakthrough
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(Friday, March 23, 2007 - 16:06 EDT)

From the Sydney suburb of Balmain, Australian company Silverbrook Research Pty Ltd has developed what it says will offer a breakthrough in price and performance for full-color ink-based printing.

Launched at the Global Ink Jet Printing Conference in the Czech Republic city of Prague, the new technology has been branded "Memjet", and it revolves around newly developed print heads, driver chips and software. Existing inkjet printers feature a small print head which must be moved back and forth repeatedly across the paper to create a print, a process which is relatively slow and prone to noise and vibration. Memjet uses a print head that is 20mm wide with some 6400 print nozzles (1600 dpi resolution, one picoliter droplet size), and each Memjet printer will include an array of heads arranged with the same width as the media the printer uses. For example, a 4" x 6" printer will have five of the 20mm print heads arranged side by side for a total width of 100mm - just a hair under four inches. An A4 / letter sized printer would use eleven of the 20mm Memjet printheads, for a total of 70,400 individual nozzles.

Having the print heads spanning the width of the paper alleviates the need for the printer to move them about, cutting down on noise and vibration and reducing the number of failure-prone moving parts. Perhaps more importantly though, it means a significant increase in the speed with which prints can be made. If you're not having to wait for the head to span the paper over and over, a strip at a time, you're going to be able to move the paper a lot faster while printing. The most dramatic example of this can be seen on Memjet's technology video page, in the "Wide-format Printer" video. The company says wide-format prints can be made at six inches to a foot per second - and the video demonstrating this just might make your jaw drop.

Silverbrook, which is looking to license its technology to existing printer manufacturers (as well as potential new brands looking to enter the market), says its technology will offer speeds of 90 pages per minute in draft, 60 pages per minute for business documents, and 30 pages per minute for full-page color photos. This has required the creation of new driver chips capable of feeding the vast quantities of data necessary. Interestingly, while smudging of prints appearing at a rate of every one or two seconds might seem to be an issue, the company says its inks aren't fundamentally different to those currently in use. Memjet inks are unique and specific to its printers, Silverbrook says, but are still water-based. Drying time is rated as just one second, and this is said to be achieved courtesy of the small one picoliter droplet size. (In browsing the 1,400+ patents that Silverbrook has received, we did come across one referring to forced drying via a drying fluid, but it isn't currently clear if this technique is also being employed in the Memjet design).

Silverbrook has formed three companies to commercialise the technology, with each company aimed at a different market segment - Home & Office, Photo Retail and Label printing. The goal is to have Memjet printer products on the market in late 2007, with an A4 / letter printhead available in 2008. Only one partner has been announced so far - kiosk company KIS Photo-Me has announced plans for market trials of a Memjet-based photo kiosk later this year. Silverbrook is forecasting a pricetag of under $300 for a "business-class" 60ppm Memjet-based printer, with ink pricing expected to "lead the market and help eliminate the price penalty for printing color."

At the current time, one area has not been discussed at all by Silverbrook, but it is one which will likely have a large role to play in the appropriateness of Memjet for the photo printing market - print longevity. Should Memjet prints be capable of fade resistance on a par with existing inkjet technologies, then it really does look like a tech announcement that could spark major changes in the marketplace. Should longevity prove to be an issue, then Memjet will still likely dominate in areas where print life is of lesser importance. Only time - and third-party testing - will tell...

Original Source Press Release:

New Color Printing Technology is the First to Deliver High-Speed, Quality Color at a Breakthrough Price/Performance

Page-wide technology, backed by 1,400 U.S. patents, is available for OEMs targeting home, office, photo-kiosk and label markets

Global Ink Jet Printing Conference, Prague - March 21, 2007 - The new Memjet™ color printing technology, the first to combine high speed and quality color at a leading price/performance, was unveiled today in Kia Silverbrook’s keynote address at the Global Ink Jet Printing Conference in Prague.

The new technology prints full color images at 60 pages per minute (ppm), many times the inkjet industry standard. The technology, which will be a fraction of the price of high-speed color laser devices, will soon be available for OEMs targeting the home/office, photo-kiosk and label markets.

The Memjet technology, which has been in development for more than 10 years, is backed by more than 1,400 U.S. patents; about 2,000 more are pending. Silverbrook Research, the developer of the Memjet technology, received 452 Memjet-related patents from the U.S. Patent Office last year alone. Patents have also been awarded and are pending in many other countries.

“Memjet’s technology delivers on the promise of inkjet for the broader market, with very fast speeds, high-quality color, and significantly lower purchase and operating costs,” said Robert Palmer, director of printer research for InfoTrends, Inc., a market analyst firm headquartered in Weymouth, MA. “With its strong patent portfolio, Memjet is in a favorable position to expand the market opportunities for inkjet technology. Clearly, this is a technology to watch.”

“Conventional wisdom is that you cannot have high speed, quality color and low cost all at once,” said Bill McGlynn, CEO of Memjet’s home and office business. “This technology turns that notion on its head, making page-wide color printing practical and cost-effective. We believe this breakthrough technology will change the printing industry by eliminating the cost and performance barriers of color, and by allowing both incumbents and non-incumbents to compete on a new playing field.”

Speed, Color and Price/Performance
The page-wide, ultra-compact technology combines the low cost and ease of use of inkjet technology with the speed and quality of laser, all at a competitive price.

Speed: The technology can print full-color, photo-quality images (4x6” or A6) at 30 ppm, full-color and black-and-white business communication (8.5x11” or A4) at 60 ppm, and draft mode at 90 ppm. In the label, tag and ticket market, this translates into 6 inches per second for full 1600x1600 color printing and 12 inches per second for 1600x800 color printing. This compares to industry standards of about 1 to 2 ppm for 4x6” photos, 10 to 15 ppm for cost-effective “business” color, and 30 ppm for draft mode. The technology also replaces similar-speed, 200 dpi label-printing technologies with a high-resolution color alternative.

A customized driver chip controls each printhead and can calculate 900 million dots per second. Because the Memjet technology prints the whole page at a time, without any warm-up time, the optimized system virtually eliminates waiting for a print job.

Color: The technology prints at native 1600x1600 dpi full resolution with the industry’s smallest drop size (just over one picoliter or one trillioneth of a liter). This design enables high-quality color photos, labels and business documents with virtually instantaneous drying times and low operating costs.

Price/Performance: The Memjet technology boasts the industry’s leading price/performance ratio. A business-class, 60 ppm Memjet-based printer is expected to retail for under $300. The ink pricing is expected to lead the market and help eliminate the price penalty for printing color.

The technology is scalable from 20mm to more than 2 meters (6 feet), making it appropriate for everything from small-format phone and camera printing to large-format commercial printing applications. The technology is available now for OEMs interested in home and retail photo applications (4x6” or A6), general business devices (8.5x11” or A4) and on-demand label, tag and ticket- printing devices.

Technology Implications
The technology has major implications for the printing industry. It will allow new brands to quickly enter the market without large development costs, and enable existing brands to extend their portfolios and improve their competitive positions.

By setting a new performance standard and significantly lowering acquisition and operating costs, the technology will likely accelerate the shift from monochrome laser printing to color printing in businesses. It will also encourage businesses to decentralize color printing, making it more practical for the workgroup.

Whether printing at home or in retail, the Memjet technology offers a fast, convenient option for printing photos. The technology will also expand the retail options for photo printing by enabling smaller-format, lower-cost, photo-kiosk printers.

And, by adding color and increasing the quality and reliability of label, tag and ticket printing, the technology can potentially disrupt existing thermal label-printing applications.

Patent-backed Technology
The Memjet technology is comprised of three highly integrated components: page-wide printheads, driver chips and ink.

The printhead consists of a continuous row of 1mm x 20mm silicon print chips connected end-to-end. Each chip contains 6,400 nozzles, equaling 32,000 nozzles in total for a 100mm (4”) printhead and 70,400 nozzles for a typical lettersize/A4 printhead. The nozzle density is 17 times higher than the nozzle density the market leaders offer in their leading printhead designs, which contributes to the cost effectiveness of the new technology.

The ultra-compact, continuous color printhead stretches from one edge of the page to the other. Unlike traditional scanning inkjet printheads, the Memjet printhead does not move, reducing vibration, noise and mechanical complexity, while dramatically increasing performance.

About the Memjet Companies
The Memjet companies specialize in fast, high-quality, color-printing technology at the industry’s most favorable price/performance ratio. The companies supply Memjet print engine components and consumables, including printheads, driver chips, software and ink. Memjet Home & Office, Memjet Labels and Memjet Photo Retail were established to be the sole licensees of the Memjet technology from Silverbrook Research Pty. For more information on the technology or the Memjet companies, email info@memjet.com or visit www.memjet.com.

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Memjet is a trademark of Silverbrook Research Pty. All other company or product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

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