It has been almost 35-years since Inkjet printers have been around. With passage of time, inkjet printers have evolved quite a lot. However, the presence of inkjet printers has been mainly limited to the niche applications such as photography, personalized gifting & wide format printing applications such as drafting. All these years, HCP market is dominated by electro-photography (laser) technology. Features such as faster print-speeds, reliable print mechanism, sharp and crisp output have helped laser technology maintain the market share.
The technical advancement in the inkjet technology was continuously going on. Driven by myriad of industrial applications ranging from printing on ceramics, labels, variable data printing to digital textile printing, significant advances were made in reliability and performance of inkjet printing. Robust print-heads, high quality inks, sophisticated drive electronics all contributed to acceptance of inkjet technology to mainstream.
Let us understand the concept of single pass inkjet systems first. All of us have seen the inkjet printers with print-head coming back and forth during printing. This technology of printing media, by using lateral movement of print-head, is called scanning mode printing. Usually printing is done using multiple passes of print-head over the print area. In the Single pass mode, the print-head covers the width of the print media. The picture below will elucidate the concept.
In a HP PageWide Printer video on YouTube, Dr. Ross R. Allen shows the first page-wide print-head developed by HP in 1991. He notes the technology to build cost-effective & reliable printers around the print-head didn’t exist. HP did a lot of work to build these components. Their long-term goal was to bring fast, page-wide printing to everything from office printers to commercial printing presses.
Now It’s time, single pass inkjet is knocking on the doors of the home-turf of laser printers. It is indeed interesting to compare the single pass inkjet printer performance with the mainstream laser printers. Average print speed of laser printers has been in the range of 45 to 50 ppm. Single pass inkjets have been easily able to offer the print speeds in the range of 60 to 75 ppm. Print resolution of the laser printers is generally limited to 1200 dpi. Though inkjet printers typically have higher resolution in the range of 2400 dpi, it results into lower print speeds. Acquisition costs of single pass inkjet systems have been quite comparable with laser printers. With increased acceptance and more number of players, the costs are expected to decrease further. General duty cycle of the laser printers is better than the inkjet systems as of now.
If we move on and compare the print costs, laser prints and inkjets are almost at a similar level for color prints. For black and white prints, the inkjet has a definite advantage over the laser prints. Most OEMs have launched high yield cartridges with print duty cycles ranging into thousands of pages. This makes single pass inkjet printers attractive to the users. Laser printers deliver excellent results with plain papers. Inkjet printers need coated papers for delivering better results. However, the coated media is quite economical. Inkjet printers typically consume much less power as compared to the laser printers.
However single pass inkjet technology still has a few limitations. It is quite a challenge to address the clogging of nozzles. Missing nozzles may create unwanted artifacts on the prints. With the advent of sophisticated hardware and reliable inks, these problems are being addressed.
Acceptance of business inkjet printers is increasing across the industry. Supported by the ink tank printers, the sales figures of inkjet devices are indicating up trend. The number of pages printed per device has been steadily increasing for inkjet devices. This indicates a healthy trend of more utilization per device. It is the beginning of new era where inkjet is getting into mainstream and single pass inkjet devices are at the forefront of this transition.