Print manufacturers and suppliers are bracing themselves for the arrival of a new technology that promises to "crack open the inkjet industry in one giant swoop".
Following a decade of research and the protection of more than 1,400 US patents with a further 2,000 pending, Memjet is said to be the biggest threat to the current big four print players.
The development of Memjet has been described as a "juggernaut of innovation" with the technology offering unprecedented speed, top print quality, and an extraordinarily low cost of purchase and operation.
Through an aggressive licensing programme managed by top US printer-industry management firm Silverbrook, Memjet intends to quickly become a top-tier player in multiple segments of the printing market.
The new Memjet technology prints full colour images at 60 pages per minute (ppm), many times the current inkjet industry standard. In addition, its developers claim it will cost a fraction of the price of high-speed colour laser devices, and will soon be available for OEMs targeting the home/office, photo-kiosk and label markets.
"Memjet’s technology delivers on the promise of inkjet for the broader market, with very fast speeds, high-quality colour, and significantly lower purchase and operating costs," said Robert Palmer, director of printer research for InfoTrends, a US-based market analyst firm. "With its strong patent portfolio, Memjet is in a favourable position to expand the market opportunities for inkjet technology. Clearly, this is a technology to watch."
"Conventional wisdom is that you cannot have high speed, quality colour and low cost all at once," said Bill McGlynn, CEO of Memjet’s home and office business. "This technology turns that notion on its head, making page-wide colour printing practical and cost-effective. We believe this breakthrough technology will change the printing industry by eliminating the cost and performance barriers of colour, and by allowing both incumbents and non-incumbents to compete on a new playing field."
The technology has major implications for the global printing industry. It will allow new brands to quickly enter the marketplace without large development costs, and enable existing brands to extend their portfolios and improve their competitive positions.
By setting a new performance standard and significantly lowering acquisition as well as operating costs, the technology promises to be the catalyst to accelerate the shift from monochrome laser printing to colour printing in businesses. It will also encourage businesses to decentralise colour printing, making it more practical for the workgroup.
The Memjet technology is comprised of three highly integrated components: page-wide printheads, driver chips and ink. The printhead consists of a continuous row of 1mm x 20mm silicon print chips connected end-to-end. Each chip contains 6,400 nozzles, meaning 32,000 nozzles in total for a 100mm (4in) printhead and 70,400 nozzles for a typical lettersize/A4 printhead. The nozzle density is 17 times higher than the nozzle density the market leaders offer in their leading printhead designs, which contributes to the cost -effectiveness of the new technology.
The ultra-compact, continuous colour printhead stretches from one edge of the page to the other. Unlike traditional scanning inkjet printheads, the Memjet printhead does not move, reducing vibration, noise and mechanical complexity, while dramatically increasing printing performance.
Last year, Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced its intention to lead industry innovation with the introduction of its Edgeline technology. Now it appears its thunder may have been stolen.
According to Lyra Research, a US-based print analyst firm: "In one giant swoop, Memjet will crack open the inkjet printer industry, enabling many companies to enter the market."
HP, Canon and other printer manufacturers are described as "potential customers" by Memjet Technology, the main company established by Silverbrook to market and license the technology. The company expects the printers to eventually cost $200 or less, sources say.
Steve Hoffenberg, Lyra’s director of consumer imaging research, said, "As Memjet technology rolls out in new product applications, it will have the capacity to turn sector after sector of the printer and imaging consumables market upside down. Without exaggeration, competitors ignore this dynamic upstart at their own peril."
Lyra points out that the critical factor in the success of Memjet will be the partners they sign up to market its home and office page printers.
A spokesman for Lyra commented: "Memjet has stated that many of the companies it will partner with to develop these printers will not be from the usual list of suspects. Instead, they will be companies that are looking either to enter or re-enter the printer business. The success of the new printers may rest on how successful these companies are in employing innovative strategies to enter a mature market. Memjet’s reference designs will enable licensees to quickly bring products to market."