Xerox Cured Gel Ink Is The Future

FILED UNDER: Technology

Xerox is previewing a breakthrough ink technology called “cured gel ink” that will print on materials like plastic and foil as well as perform better on traditional paper products.

Xerox introduced the new ink today at the print industry trade show Drupa. The gel ink will be restricted initially to commercial printing, but if successful, could make it into the consumer market.

Unlike traditional inkjet technologies, this new cured gel ink is not water-based and can therefore hold its shape on almost any surface. It has a consistency much like peanut butter once it has been jetted through the print heads and becomes rock hard once exposed to ultraviolet light.

According to Xerox, the resulting image is sharp and long lasting without any bleed-through or spreading in the paper which occurs with water-based inks.

“The technology is still in the research phase,” said Steve Hoover, vice president of the Xerox Research Center Webster. “but it is clearly an innovation that will take inkjet beyond the products and applications available today. These cured gel inks will set a new benchmark for performance, print surface options and image quality.”

At the heart of this new technology are the Xerox print heads which determine reliability, imaging speed and drop size. They are made from stainless steel and have 10 times the lifespan of a thermal inkjet print head. Each module can jet over 40 million ink drops per second.

Xerox foresees an almost limitless market for its new ink technology. The possibility of creating high-quality prints on low-cost paper should appeal to both the print industry and consumers.

Steve Hoover gave an overview at the conference. Here are some of his prepared remarks:

“This ink is a liquid with a consistency near water at an elevated temperature – near 100 degrees centigrade – but that has the consistency of toothpaste when it comes in contact with paper or nearly any other substrate – including not only coated papers, but also metal foils and plastic films. So when it contacts the paper it does not soak through to the back or spread out unevenly creating poor image quality. No, instead it sticks right where it lands giving precise and consistent dot formation and bright and vibrant colors and noise free images.”

“Here you see these drops of ink hitting the substrate and turning into a gel when they hit the paper. They hit and stick, forming precise dots reliably and repeatedly. But that still isn’t enough. Not only must the drops stick there when they lands but the final image must be robust. It must be able to undergo the rough handling and abuse and elevated temperatures that finished documents such as automobile manuals subject to over 70 degrees centigrade in a automobile glove box, or packaging materials shipped long distances or mail transported across a desert in the back of a truck. So, we add one final step. We expose the ink on the paper to UV light which initiates a chemical curing process that hardens the ink into a thin robust film able to undergo significant abuse and not peel, scratch or rub off even at elevated temperatures.”

The cured gel inks were developed by scientists at the Xerox Research Centre in Canada and is based on Xerox’s proprietary solid ink technology.

Photo credit: ZDNet

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Comments (One Response):

What a fascinating article Ive never hear of this ink before even though Im in the ink business.

I’m going to research this more, thanks for breaking the news to me.

Regards,

Simon.

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