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Inkjet printing is a type of computer printing that recreates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper and plastic substrates.[1] Inkjet printers were the most commonly used type of printer in 2008,[2] and range from small inexpensive consumer models to expensive professional machines. By 2019, laser printers outsold inkjet printers by nearly a 2:1 ratio, 9.6% vs 5.1% of all computer peripherals.[3]


The concept of inkjet printing originated in the 20th century, and the technology was first extensively developed in the early 1950s. While working at Canon in Japan, Ichiro Endo suggested the idea for a "Bubble jet" printer, while around the same time Jon Vaught at HP was developing a similar idea.[4] In the late 1970s, inkjet printers that could reproduce digital images generated by computers were developed, mainly by Epson, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Canon. In the worldwide consumer market, four manufacturers account for the majority of inkjet printer sales: Canon, HP, Epson and Brother.[5]

In 1982, Robert Howard came up with the idea to produce a small color printing system that used piezos to spit drops of ink. He formed the company, R.H. (Robert Howard) Research (named Howtek, Inc. in Feb 1984), and developed the revolutionary technology that led to the Pixelmaster color printer with solid ink[6] using Thermojet technology. This technology consists of a tubular single nozzle acoustical wave drop generator invented originally by Steven Zoltan in 1972 with a glass nozzle and improved by the Howtek inkjet engineer in 1984 with a Tefzel molded nozzle to remove unwanted fluid frequencies.

Images produced on inkjet printers are sometimes sold under trade names such as Digigraph, Iris prints, giclée, and Cromalin.[9] Inkjet-printed fine art reproductions are commonly sold under such trade names to imply a higher-quality product and avoid association with everyday printing.

Fluid surface tension naturally pulls a stream into droplets. Optimal drop sizes of 0.004 inch require an inkjet nozzle size of about 0.003 inches. Fluids with surface tension may be water based, wax or oil based and even melted metal alloys. Most drops can be electrically charged. There are two main technologies in use in contemporary inkjet printers: continuous (CIJ) and drop-on-demand (DOD). Continuous inkjet means the flow is pressurized and in a continuous stream. Drop-on-demand means the fluid is expelled from the jet nozzle one drop at a time. This can be done with a mechanical means with a push or some electrical method. A large electrical charge can pull drops out of a nozzle, sound waves can push fluid from a nozzle or a chamber volume expansion can expel a drop. Continuous streaming was investigated first many years ago. Drop-on-demand was only discovered in the 1920s.[citation needed]

The continuous inkjet (CIJ) method is used commercially for marking and coding of products and packages. In 1867, Lord Kelvin patented the syphon recorder, which recorded telegraph signals as a continuous trace on paper using an ink jet nozzle deflected by a magnetic coil. The first commercial devices (medical strip chart recorders) were introduced in 1951 by Siemens.[10] using the patent US2566443 invented by Elmquist Rune dated September 4, 1951.

There are many ways to produce a drop-on-demand (DOD) inkjet. Common methods include thermal DOD and piezoelectric DOD to speed up the frequency of drops.[12] DOD may use a single nozzle or thousands of nozzles.[13] One DOD process uses software that directs the heads to apply between zero and eight droplets of ink per dot, only where needed.[citation needed] Inkjet fluid materials have expanded to include pastes, epoxies, hot-melt inks, biological fluids, etc. DOD is very popular and has an interesting history. Mechanical DOD came first, followed by electrical methods including piezoelectric devices and then thermal or heat expansion methods.

The earliest reference to a continuous inkjet ink (CIJ) in the 1971 patent US3596285A states " The preferred ink is characterized by viscosity and surface tension characteristics such that the liquid will be maintained over span under the force with which it is moving in bridge or stream. Implicit in such requirement is that the pressure applied to the ink in formation of said stream is sufficient to form a jet and to impart enough energy to carry the jet as a continuous liquid mass notwithstanding the defective forces which are or may be applied. Furthermore, the color of the ink and the color of the carrier should be such that good optical contrast is formed there between the following printing. The preferred ink is a "hot-melt ink". That is to say it will assume a solid phase at the temperature of the carrier and liquid phase at some higher temperature. The range of commercially available ink compositions which could meet the requirement of the invention are not known at the present time. However, satisfactory printing according to the invention has been achieved with a conductive metal alloy as ink. It is extremely hard at room temperature and adheres well to the surface of the carrier.

Desktop inkjet printers, as used in offices and homes, tend to use aqueous ink[11] based on a mixture of water, glycol and dyes or pigments. These inks are inexpensive to manufacture but difficult to control on the surface of media, often requiring specially coated media. HP inks contain sulfonated polyazo black dye (commonly used for dyeing leather), nitrates and other compounds.[11] Aqueous inks are mainly used in printers with thermal inkjet heads, as these heads require water to perform the ink-expelling function.

Some professional wide format printers use aqueous inks, but the majority in professional use today employ a much wider range of inks, most of which require piezo inkjet heads and extensive maintenance.

An intermediate method does exist: a disposable ink tank connected to a disposable head, which is replaced infrequently (perhaps every tenth ink tank or so). Most high-volume Hewlett-Packard inkjet printers use this setup, with the disposable print heads used on lower volume models. A similar approach is used by Kodak, where the printhead intended for permanent use is nevertheless inexpensive and can be replaced by the user. Canon now uses (in most models) replaceable print heads which are designed to last the life of the printer, but can be replaced by the user should they become clogged.

The primary cause of inkjet printing problems is ink drying on the printhead's nozzles, causing the pigments and dyes to dry out and form a solid block of hardened mass that plugs the microscopic ink passageways. Most printers attempt to prevent this drying from occurring by covering the printhead nozzles with a rubber cap when the printer is not in use. Abrupt power losses, or unplugging the printer before it has capped the printhead, can cause the printhead to be left in an uncapped state. Even when the head is capped, this seal is not perfect, and over a period of several weeks the moisture (or other solvent) can still seep out, causing the ink to dry and harden. Once ink begins to collect and harden, the drop volume can be affected, drop trajectory can change, or the nozzle can completely fail to jet ink.

To combat this drying, nearly all inkjet printers include a mechanism to reapply moisture to the printhead. Typically there is no separate supply of pure ink-free solvent available to do this job, and so instead the ink itself is used to remoisten the printhead. The printer attempts to fire all nozzles at once, and as the ink sprays out, some of it wicks across the printhead to the dry channels and partially softens the hardened ink. After spraying, a rubber wiper blade is swept across the printhead to spread the moisture evenly across the printhead, and all jets are again fired to dislodge any ink clumps blocking the channels.

Professional solvent- and UV-curable ink wide-format inkjet printers generally include a "manual clean" mode that allows the operator to manually clean the print heads and capping mechanism and to replace the wiper blades and other parts used in the automated cleaning processes. The volume of ink used in these printers often leads to "overspray" and therefore buildup of dried ink in many places that automated processes are not capable of cleaning.

Compared to earlier consumer-oriented color printers, inkjet printers have a number of advantages. They are quieter in operation than impact dot matrix or daisywheel printers. They can print finer, smoother details through higher resolution. Consumer inkjet printers with photographic print quality are widely available.

In comparison to technologies like thermal wax, dye sublimation, and laser printing, inkjets have the advantage of practically no warm up time, and often lower cost per page. However, low-cost laser printers can have lower per-page costs, at least for black-and-white printing, and possibly for color.

For some inkjet printers, monochrome ink sets are available either from the printer manufacturer or from third-party suppliers. These allow the inkjet printer to compete with the silver-based photographic papers traditionally used in black-and-white photography, and provide the same range of tones: neutral, "warm" or "cold". When switching between full-color and monochrome ink sets, it is necessary to flush out the old ink from the print head with a cleaning cartridge. Special software or at least a modified device driver are usually required, to deal with the different color mapping.

Some types of industrial inkjet printers are now capable of printing at very high speeds, in wide formats, or for a variety of industrial applications ranging from signage, textiles, optical media,[23] ceramics and 3-D printing into biomedical applications and conductive circuitry. Leading companies and innovators in hardware include HP, Epson, Canon, Konica Minolta, FujiFilm, EFi, Durst, Brother, Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh and many others worldwide. 041b061a72


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