Epson Develops a Next-Generation Inkjet Print Head Using an Original Thin-Film Piezo Element That Has the World's Highest Degree of Distortion
Seiko Epson Corporation (Epson) has succeeded in developing a thin-film piezo element that boasts the world's highest* degree of distortion. Volume production of next-generation Micro Piezo print heads that feature these elements as actuators will be launched in April 2007.
The Micro Piezo print head is an inkjet print head which utilizes Epson's original Micro Piezo technology. This technology uses electrical signals to change the shape of piezo elements and then fires ink droplets according to the physical force generated by the change in shape of these elements. Epson's Stylus Photo and Stylus Pro inkjet printers, which utilize Micro Piezo print head technology, are photo-quality printers that have consistently played leading roles in the Japanese inkjet printer market and earned high approval and trust from customers.
Inkjet systems are currently attracting a great deal of attention as they are being put to use more and more frequently in printing and manufacturing processes. Inkjet systems have the advantages of being ideally suited to small print loads and of being gentler on the environment. Compared to other inkjet systems, Micro Piezo technology offers superior ink ejection performance, compatibility with a wide variety of inks, and durability. As a result, this technology is already being utilized effectively in various commercial and industrial fields such as photo lab printing, digital printing, textile printing, and color filter manufacturing. The Micro Piezo print head is not only suitable for functions ranging from consumer applications to commercial and industrial applications, but it also offers outstanding cost effectiveness due to its high degree of reliability and production volume efficiency.
Epson is currently focusing its development efforts on creating a next-generation Micro Piezo print head to support expansion of the inkjet field beyond consumer printers and to strengthen its applications for business and industry.
Through these efforts, Epson has achieved the following:
Created a piezo element with the world's highest degree of distortion through film thickness reduction and materials development.
Raised density levels by developing and utilizing innovative thin-film processing techniques.
Designed a high-density ink reservoir through independent MEMS technology development.
As a result, Epson has managed to develop a nozzle with a density of 360 dpi-the world's highest* for an inkjet print head using piezoelectric technology-while at the same time maintaining the advantages of conventional
Micro Piezo print heads. Epson has also managed to establish a completely independent manufacturing process by producing the piezoelectric materials in-house. The installation of these next-generation Micro Piezo print heads in printers and other devices will make it possible to design speedier and more compact inkjet equipment than ever before.
In the future, Epson plans to focus on Micro Piezo technology as one of its core technologies. By continuing to develop Micro Piezo technology, Epson will be able to expand its usage potential beyond consumer applications to encompass other areas such as business and industry.
*According to Epson's research
Special characteristics of Epson's original Micro Piezo print head
This print head fulfills all the requirements for an inkjet print head-superior ink ejection performance, compatibility with a wide variety of inks, and durability. The print head also makes it possible to control not only water-based pigment ink with superior water and light resistance, but also a wide variety of ink types in miniscule quantities, and fire them with high precision.
1. Ink ejection performance
Meniscus control, which limits vibration on the surface of the liquid in the nozzle, makes it possible to achieve improved gradation and faster print speeds in addition to the following advantages:
Perfectly spherical dots
High precision impact point control
Higher drive frequencies
Variable-sized ink droplets (MSDT: multi-sized dot technology)
2. Ink compatibility
Epson's original pigment ink achieves high levels of color reproduction and durability. Industrial applications such as solvent ink, color filters, and UV ink are currently under development.
Because it utilizes a permanent print head, the technology is applicable to a wide range of uses ranging from consumer printers to industrial manufacturing equipment.
Features of the next-generation Micro Piezo print head
By independently developing a thin-film piezo element which has the world's highest degree of distortion and using it as an actuator, Epson has succeeded in taking full advantage of the features of conventional Micro Piezo print heads while at the same time doubling nozzle density. A conventional Micro Piezo print head's nozzle density is 180 dpi (maximum) whereas a next-generation Micro Piezo print head's is 360 dpi.
Glossary of terms
A component which converts energy input into physical force.
Piezo element/Piezoelectric material
An element which expands or contracts microscopically when an electrical voltage is applied. It is often used as an actuator or sensor because of its unique characteristics.
MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems)
Devices for which semiconductor processes are used to integrate mechanical elements, actuators, electronic components, and other functions into circuit modules.
A type of ink that has high weather resistance and is often used for printing materials such as outdoor signage.
A type of ink that hardens when it reacts with ultraviolet light. It has high weather resistance and is often used for printing materials such as outdoor signage.