Xerox: MOEMS May Light the Way to More Accurate Imaging at Lower Costs
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
ROCHESTER, N.Y.--Aug. 19, 2002--Imagine depositing four grains of salt, one precisely on top of the next, on a paper towel as it spins off the roll. That's the kind of challenge Xerox Corporation faces when it lays down yellow, cyan, magenta and black images onto a photoreceptor to make a color print or copy. It is even harder because the images must match up, or register, to within 1/12th the width of a human hair while the photoreceptor belt travels at up to 70 feet a minute. Xerox currently achieves accurate imaging in its high-end printers and publishers through high-cost, high-quality precision manufacturing techniques. But Xerox scientists are conducting advanced research to fabricate miniscule electro-mechanical devices that will offer a lower-cost and even more accurate way to control image registration. The technology is also expected to have applications in optical switching for telecommunications and industrial automation. Incredibly small and extremely reliable, these devices called micro-opto-electro-mechanical systems (MOEMS) integrate optical, electrical and mechanical elements in a package no bigger than a microchip. They contain intelligence that allows them to optically sense and then control what is going on around them by generating, modulating, guiding, switching and detecting light. "A photoreceptor belt can vibrate like a taut rubber band," said Joel Kubby of Xerox's Webster, N.Y.-based Wilson Center for Research and Technology. Instead of trying to hold the belt steady while the four colors comprising the image are laid down, Xerox scientists are investigating the use of MOEMS to detect the exact position of the belt and then to accommodate its movement by steering the laser beam to that position. "MOEMS will replace precision manufacturing with closed-loop feedback control," Kubby said. The result will be much more precise registration, which will give customers even better image quality at lower costs. Using MOEMS for image registration is just one of several Xerox MOEMS and MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) research projects under way at the Wilson Center and the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation. Xerox research has resulted in the fabrication of MOEMS that require minimal interconnects, which increases reliability and also decreases manufacturing cost - both important factors to the continued adoption of MOEMS in biomedical, telecommunications, automotive and aerospace industries. Xerox also is a founding partner in New York State's recently announced Center for Excellence in Microsystems and Photonics, an advanced research and manufacturing facility that will help speed the transformation of this research into reality. In addition, Xerox is the lead partner in the MOEMS Manufacturing Consortium -- a $14 million Advanced Technology Program administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) -- to develop a broadly enabling fabrication process for MOEMS.