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Ask the Expert: Inkjet Printing

By Stephen Chrisos, Inkcups Now

How is the inkjet printer industry evolving?

Promotional and industrial products are being printed with inkjet technology more than ever before. The introduction of a white ink was a giant leap forward into the evolution of the inkjet market. Increased adhesion from new ink formulations also provides the ability to print on a wider range of substrates. More reliable print heads are being introduced, and these new print heads reduce maintenance cost because there are fewer problems, such as clogging. Inkjet printers today can print on nearly any object, including notebooks, pens, sticky books, metal saw blades, mint tins, golf balls, pacifiers, flash drives and many other applications.

What are some recent advances introduced to the inkjet printing industry?

Within the past five years alone, there have been significant advances in new inkjet printing technology. A new print head design results in no more clogging and can throw a better dot with a higher off-contact print than ever before. The introduction of UV LED inks to the inkjet printing industry opened up a whole new range of opportunity to the promotional product and industrial printing industry by allowing heat-sensitive material to be cured under low temperature LED light. The introduction of a conveyorized belt to scanning inkjets replaced the standard flatbed design and boosted production output by allowing continuous printing. And, new innovations in quick change loading templates for parts further increased production output.

Do you see the inkjet printing industry challenging other means of printing such as pad printing and screen printing?

As time goes on, I do believe inkjet printing will be a logical choice for parts of the current screen and pad printing marketplace, particularly when it comes to multi-colored print jobs. However, I do not think the inkjet printer will take over the entire market due to the ease of set-up, print quality and opacity of screen and pad printing on one- or two-color work.

Where do you see the inkjet printing industry in the next 10 years?

A lot of advances will come through print head technology and automation capability in terms of manufacturing and UV curing. Print heads will have more colors per head, allowing fewer print heads per machine and reducing overall machine cost. The print heads will get larger, allowing more coverage per pass and resulting in faster print speeds and an increased number of dots per inch, enabling inline machines to utilize this new print head technology.

Inks will be able to print on more materials, such as latex. Inks also will be formulated to adhere to more products without pretreatment. For those that do need to use pretreatment, the inkjet will spray it on the parts as a part of the overall printing process.

Whatever the future may hold for inkjet printing, I am sure that it will be a bright one. And I, for one, can’t wait.

Stephen Chrisos is in marketing/international sales for Inkcups Now. For more information, call 978.646.8980 or visit www.inkcups.com.