Saturday, February 06, 2010

Memjet® - Microelectromechanical Inkjet Printing

Several years ago I worked as a U.S. Patent Examiner in the area of inkjet printing technology. Most of the companies which filed patent applications in this area are fairly well known such as Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Seiko-Epson, and Xerox. However, there was one company called Silverbrook Research which was not well known but nevertheless was filing patent applications at a similar pace to these larger companies. One of the key features that Silverbrook was focusing on was using microelectromechanical actuators as the ejection mechanism instead of the thermal actuators used by Canon and HP or the piezoelectric actuators used by Seiko-Epson. According to the patent applications this allowed more efficient use of ink, reduced heat generation, and the construction of page wide printheads allowing for digital inkjet printing at speeds much greater than existing inkjet printers and reducing ink costs. In addition, the MEMS designs simplified integration of miniature photoprinters into cameras and other handheld devices. Reading the patent applications of Silverbrook was what first got me interested in MEMS which later lead to my interest in nanotechnology and the creation of this blog.

It is interesting for me to see that a new company called MEMJET® seems to be gaining traction based on Silverbrook's patents and has attracted Len Lauer, the former COO of Qualcomm, to come on board as the companies new CEO. A Youtube video illustrates the speed of some of their printers which puts conventional inkjet printers to shame.

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