The IJC pt1: new heads from Kyocera and Epson

Regular readers may have noticed that I was unable to post any stories last week, mainly because I was in Düsseldorf for the Inkjet Conference, or IJC, which offers an excellent forum for anyone interested in inkjet technology.

Steve Knight of The IJC with Sabine Geldermann, director of Drupa and head of print technologies for Messe Dusseldorf.

Steve Knight, one of the co-founders behind the IJC, kicked off the event by pointing out that the audience was not a random collection of people but that everyone was heavily involved in the inkjet world, adding: “It’s a very technical conference and there’s a huge amount of knowledge in this room.” This certainly proved to be the case, with an intensive programme of highly detailed presentations, rounded off with some fairly incisive questions. There was plenty of time set aside for networking, which is just as important to this event as the presentations themselves, given that the inkjet world is fairly small and most people knew at least some of the other participants. 

One of the first people to take to the stage was Sabine Geldermann, director of Drupa and head of print technologies for Messe Dusseldorf, who pointed out that year on year inkjet presses are playing a bigger part at Drupa. We all know that 2020 will be a significant year for the inkjet world with two big shows, Drupa and InterPack, both held at Messe Dusseldorf. This is perhaps also why so many printhead vendors were keen to speak at the IJC, with presentations from all of the major printhead vendors or their representatives.

Shin Ishikura, manager of Kyocera’s Inkjet Design Centre

To my mind, one of the most significant announcements came from Shin Ishikura, manager of Kyocera’s Inkjet Design Centre. He started off by reminding us that Kyocera was one of the founding pioneers of single pass printing, having first announced its IJP 1.0 printhead back in 2005. He added: “When we started the majority of inkjet machines were still scanning so not many people bet on us and they were rather sceptical of the concept of single pass printing. So we had to wait until Drupa 2008 when our technology was proven by a small number of early adopters.”

Kyocera started with two models and has since expanded its line up to supply a variety of industrial applications, which Ishikura says are mostly characterised by the jetting fluid. He notes that there’s a general requirement for more throughput, more laydown, more robustness, less variation and a wider operating window, adding: “Now we are ready with the second generation, IJP 2.0.”

There are three main elements to the new platform, including a rigid box frame structure that counters resonance issues, an efficient monolithic bulk piezo actuator built inside the box frame, and an option for a complimentary recirculation flow channel, which uses a double channel to equalise the pressure between the supply and return. 

To start with, there will be two distinct models, including a 1200 dpi version for aqueous inks, which has 5116 nozzles arranged across a 108.27mm print width. It can produce drops from 1 to 2.8pl with a maximum jetting frequency of 80 KHz. It features recirculation and has been optimised for non-absorbable media. It includes FPGA nozzle adjustment, which can automatically detect problems such as missing nozzles or variations in drop volume between nozzles and correct these without requiring any input from a RIP.

Kyocera also has a 600dpi end-shooter printhead, also for aqueous inks. This has 2560 nozzles, but produces 5-18pl drops at a maximum firing frequency of 30KHz. Kyocera says this is more flexible for a wider operation window and will be able to lay down more ink than existing models by roughly 25 to 50 percent. 

Ishikura also shared details of two further printheads due to be available shortly. These include a UV version of the 1200 dpi head capable of producing a higher drop volume, and a variation of the 600 dpi head, complete with recirculation that’s also able to handle UV inks. He says that up to nine waveforms can be implemented on these heads.

From left: Duncan Ferguson, vice president of professional printing and robotics for Epson Europe, with Ronan Daly, senior lecturer in science and technology of manufacturing at Cambridge University.

Duncan Ferguson, vice president of professional printing and robotics for Epson Europe, described the development of Epson’s printheads from their first design to the current third generation PrecisionCore heads. He says that the PrecisionCore has two big advantages, explaining: “The first is a very high jetting performance. It has a wide ink application and can be used for multiple uses from home and office to industrial. The second big advantage is the high density and high precision that enables it to work with a wide variety of materials and gives it durability for a long life span.”

Epson has a number of new PrecisionCore heads due out shortly, including the I-800, I-1600, I-3200 and S1600. I’ve already covered the S1600, which is an s-shaped head and essentially a variation on the existing S3200 that was announced earlier this year at the Fespa show.

The heart of the PrecisionCore technology is a chip, with two rows of nozzles, each having 400 nozzles, so 800 in total, tightly packed together on a 33.8mm line, which gives an effective density of 600 nozzles per inch. Epson combines several of these chips together to create its various printheads. Thus the S-series have been designed so that multiple heads can be slotted together in a line to create a printbar, with the chips staggered in two rows to make it easier to stitch the different heads together.

In contrast, the I-series are squarish heads with the chips arranged side by side giving them an effective print width of 1.33ins. These heads are typically used in scanning applications such as wide format printing. So the I-800 has a single chip with 800 nozzles but each of the nozzle rows can be addressed separately so that there’s a choice of one colour at 600dpi or two colours at 300dpi resolution. 

The I-1600 consists of two chips and can be used with one or two colours at 600dpi or four colours at 300dpi. The I-3200 has four chips, with eight nozzle rows in total, and can be configured for one, two or four colours, all at 600dpi. Interestingly, the I800 heads only support aqueous and solvent inks whereas the rest of the I and S-series heads also support UV inks as well as aqueous and solvent.

Ferguson also shared details of a new head in Epson’s older MACH range, the F1080. This is a 180dpi head, as with all the MACH range, but can be configured with one, three or six colour channels. It will take both aqueous and solvent ink, but not UV.  This range also includes the older F1440 and the new UV-compatible version of the L1440, which I’ve already covered back in May at the Fespa show, both of which can take up to eight colours.

I’ll post some more reports from the IJC over the next few weeks. Almost all of the presentations had something useful and it will take time to go through them all. But some details stand out, such as Landa having installed 22 nanographic presses to date, mostly sheetfed, but with some webfed. This number also includes quite a few that have not yet been made public.

In the meantime, November is going to be a busy month as I’ll also be in Munich for the InPrint show and Frankfurt for Formnext and I’d encourage anyone that wants to meet with me at these events to get in touch.

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