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Inkjet Printing Technologies

After the 1990’s inkjet had worked its way into nearly all households through its printing presence in consumer benchtop printers as a low cost, reliable, fast, and convenient method for printing anything from digital files, photos, or screen shots. It has come a significant distance since its advent in the 1950s, in commercial products such as medical strips and chart recorders. As the industry has seen success the technology spread throughout the 1970s, into the widely recognized printing technique that exists today.

In theory, inkjet printing is simple. A print head ejects micro droplets of ink, carrier, and water onto a substrate (paper, vinyl, PET, etc.). When executing these techniques, companies have spent decades and countless millions practicing their disciplines in this skill. Piezo and thermal print heads are the most common when it comes to jetting UV inkjet or water based latex inkjet ink.

Taking into account the complexity of the practice of inkjet printing, what drives the industry to adopt these techniques is the wide range of applications that are available. Initially, it was seen as a drop on demand product, which can produce any color gamut available without pre-blended colors or a unique colored thermal transfer ribbon. As this technology continues to develop, it is turning into a wider range of applications including educational and industrial where professionals need to accurately deposit precise amounts of materials. Additionally, inkjet printing laid the ground work for the 3d printing technology that is still premature and developing today. The list of industrial uses for inkjet technology appears endless and is only being improved by reduced manufacturing costs, higher quality materials (such as outdoor durable jetted materials, 3d printed materials, and accurate doses), printing on difficult surfaces, reduction of waste, and rapid prototyping.

Benefits of Inkjet
Automotive coatings Replaces spraying or dipping, thereby reducing waste and increasing coating uniformity.
Plastic part decoration Non-contact accommodates curved surfaces. Improved print quality over pad or screen printing. Digital eliminates requirement for inventory of screens or pads, resulting in faster prototyping and wider variety of designs. Process color capability reduces the number of ink colors that must be stocked.
Conductive patterns Minimizes waste of costly materials; very suitable for short runs.
Rapid Prototyping Rapid formation of three-dimensional structures designed by using computer software.
Variable information Allows fast changing of the printed information, unlike analogue printing methods which require formation of new hardware (e.g., screens in silk screen printing).
Ceramics Minimizes setup time, eliminates requirement for inventory of screens.

(Magdassi, 2009)

The introduction of inkjet printing in industrial markets has proven to increase manufacturing environments with often more than a modest improvement, or in some cases revolutionize the production and identification of materials and products.