Memjet: Upsetting the Apple Cart, or is it the HP Cart?
Press release from the issuing company
March 27, 2007 - (WhatTheyThink.com Exclusive, Commentary by Andy Tribute) - An announcement was made last week that on the face of it could change the whole world of digital color printing. This announcement of a new inkjet technology appears to “move the goalposts” in terms of technology to allow a future generation of inkjet printers to have a much lower performance and operating cost than the products available today. The announcement came from the Australian research company Silverbrook Laboratories and was for their Memjet inkjet print heads.
These printheads were demonstrated on a video in a desktop printer that was stated could cost $200 and which would run at 60 pages/minute. Silverbrook is best known as a company that has a huge raft of patents in the inkjet area. These cover both the inkjet technologies themselves plus uses for such technology such as incorporating such technology into creating micro printers within mobile phones etc. The company is not a manufacturer of products but its business is in licensing technology for other companies to license under a royalty payments scheme. Former HP executive Bill McGlynn is the President of Memjet’s home and office business.
The Memjet printhead has a resolution of 1,600 dpi and the printhead is 100 mm (4-inches wide). The printhead can be aligned with another head for electronic stitching to provide a page-width array suitable to printer a US Letter or A4 document. This creates a single pass print engine that gives both the speed and the claimed quality. Silverbrook and the research company Lyra Research that has seen the printer, claim that this technology will change the world of digital printing.
The nearest technology to Memjet in the way it operates or its resolution is HP’s Edgeline technology which has been announced but which has yet to come to market. This is projected to be able to run at approximately the same speed and resolution as Memjet but the cost of an equivalent performance engine is thought to be in the region of $15,000.
Both of these technologies use thermal inkjet printheads. It appears from a limited overview of each that the Silverbrook approach has a higher inline resolution with a small picoliter drop size, whereas the HP Edgeline approach has more rows of nozzles in a staggered row approach. Edgeline also appears to have technology to identify and bypass failed nozzles in the printhead and also for auto error correction of nozzles. What is interesting however is that both Edgeline and Memjet have the potential to be built into wide page arrays, perhaps up to 20 inches or more to build the future low cost and high-speed enterprise level printers.
Edgeline is a proven technology around which HP will be building much of its future printing technology. Memjet is an unknown quantity and so far we are relying on Lyra Research for validation of Silverbrook’s claims. If they stand up then we face a really interesting new arrival in the inkjet technology market. The question then will be which companies will get the rights to license this technology to build a range of future inkjet print engines. Obviously this is a technology to watch for the future and I plan to keep a detailed eye on what this company is doing and what products may come from the use of its technology.
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