New perspectives delivered weekly.
Always fresh, sometimes controversial, usually Wednesday.
Archive for the ‘Imagers’ Category
Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Ink Jet Development Update
If you were to guess what percentage of A4 size pages printed worldwide were digital in 2010, which of the following percentages would be most correct, according to a recent IT Strategies report?
28%, 17%, 9%, less than 2%
And the correct answer is…less than 2%, actually 1.4% was the number quoted for all A4 non-consumer digital pages. The digital pages were qualified as “competitive to analog” pages. This is a far cry from the candy cane visions of the global inkjet domination. This number tells a story of a digital market that’s still in the earliest stages of adoption. But that’s not all…
There are newer ink jet devices on the market with impressive throughput numbers. The Screen Truepress SX is a B-2 size duplexing IJ printer utilizing Epson technology. Printing at speeds up to 6,165 Sq.Ft./Hr. (duplex). The Kodak Prosper using continuous ink jet heads has its first install at Consolidated Graphics in Maryland. This press has speeds up to 140,000 Sq.Ft./Hr. (duplex). That’s upwards of 100 million A4 impressions per month. Hp has their webpress T350, and Oce has the Jetstream 3000.
Current information has the average number of A4 impressions per machine month at around 4 million. So I have to question the demand or need for machines with capabilities that currently reach 50 million A4 impressions per month. Only time will tell if this type of capacity can be met or used to its fullest extent.
Remember MemJet the single pass head from Silverbrook? The single pass A4 size print head promises were grand with a range of products. Silverbrook went silent for a few years and news quieted down. It seems that their initial patents on print heads and ink tanks have been rounded out with more patents in the areas of ink supply, ink damping and nozzle maintenance systems. This additional work made a head patent into a more complete print engine, ready for integration. There are new partnership agreements for the A4 printer that is rated at 60 ppm at 1600×800dpi. The new partners are Kpowerscience (Taiwan), WeP Peripherals (India), and Lenovo (China). Here in the States, we don’t see any Lenovo printers, but if you were in China, they’re a major player, and this could be really big. Memjet label press engines have speeds to 30 ips at 1600×1600, with new partnerships with Astro, MainStream, OWN-X and Rapid. The wide format 42” print head array that touts 6 or 12 ips has partners that are to be announced this year.
These are not the only innovations; head technologies are advancing with new models being introduced by many manufacturers, and proprietary systems are being built that push ink jet into newer areas like printed electronics and materials deposition.
It seems as if the early impression of a new technology is almost always over estimated. The possibilities, despite the hurdles of reality, excite us. Because we can’t see the future influence of new technologies, their long-term impression is quite frequently under estimated. I think this is exactly the case with digital printing developments. For more updates visit SGIA.ORG
SGIA-Digital Printing Analyst
Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Ever wonder how you can contact your Representative or Senator about an issue? Let them know how YOU feel about, say the impending tax cut legislation? SGIA’s Printers Action Committee provides you with a voice on Capitol Hill!
SGIA has long served as the industry voice before federal and state agencies on issues that directly impact the imaging community. We have worked hard to establish relationships allowing us to work with those that are in the position to make decisions about the direction and fate of our industry sector. In the past, SGIA has worked on specific US legislative issues that would have had a negative impact on our industry sector. With the launching of the Printers Action Committee, SGIA is not only expanding its legislative efforts, but offering the industry the means and tool to also chime in on issues.
Let’s be frank — this may not be for everyone. And, not everyone may agree with the positions stated by SGIA. However, the Printers Action Committee allows you the freedom to provide your own message based on your political views. Our website provides you with the tool and avenue to connect with your elected Representatives.
Concerns? Suggestions? I would love to hear them! Take a moment to review the site, and provide me with feedback! SGIA is your trade association and this is your site! Let me hear from you! Contact me directly at email@example.com. So you can take a quick look, here is the link: http://www.sgia.org/about_SGIA/pac.cfm
Submitted by Marci Kinter
Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
This year’s SGIA Expo guarantees to be the premier event for the North American specialty imaging marketplace, highlighting the newest and best technology for graphics and sign, garment decoration and industrial imaging applications. Attendees at this year’s expo, whatever markets their businesses serve, can expect to see and experience products and ideas that can take their businesses into new markets and opportunities, and make connections that will bolster their existing business. The show will be both big and busy. It is the place to be for anyone working within our diverse industry.
The 2010 SGIA Expo offers nearly 500 exhibiting companies; five sales-free demonstration Zones highlighting graphics installation, garment decoration (both screen printing and digital technologies), dynamic signage technology, and industrial applications; more than 25 educational sessions; and numerous opportunities to network, learn and grow.
Staying competitive in today’s specialty graphics industry is about staying on top of changes in technology, understanding new markets and new opportunities, and making strategic decisions to differentiate your business from the competition. This year’s SGIA Expo has all the ingredients you need to do all of these things, all in one place. It is essential to your success.
If you have not yet registered for the 2010 SGIA Expo, do it today. Book the flight, reserve the room, get yourself there. If you already have, prepare for a great show. We at SGIA very much look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas.
Submitted by: Dan Marx, SGIA
Thursday, August 19th, 2010
I know that a lot of the screenprint community uses Photoshop for direct separations output without a RIP. This has been ongoing for quite some time as Photoshop has always had in the print dialog box, a button called “Screen”. In CS4 when the print dialog box pops up, you have under the “output” section, 5 buttons to the right side. Background, border, bleed, screens and transfers. The output process involved outputting the channels as screens to a given output device. This screen feature allows one to change both the dot shape, angle and frequency of a spot or cmyk channel for output sans RIP.
If you have already upgraded to CS5 you may have noticed this “Screen” feature omission, you for sure noticed this feature missing, if this was your “go to” method to make film separations.
There is a work around that seems to supply the missing screen buttons functionality.
Choose your channel or spot color and from the menu choose
Image > Mode > Bitmap > Method > Halftone Screen
Then you can choose frequency, angle and dot shape as in the previous Photoshop print dialog box. The Pixelate and Sketch halftone methods as workarounds won’t get you where you need to go. If printing from Photoshop is an issue, you can save the Photoshop file as a pdf, open in Acrobat and print (use advanced printing) as a bitmap.
I’m not sure what possessed Adobe to jettison this function. I’m guessing that they just didn’t know who was using that function in the print dialog box, and how many people were actually using it.
You can be heard and the Adobe Forums is the place to voice an opinion (great place to post/look for information). Sign up and search the forums for “Chris Cox”. Send him a message stating why you want this feature back. I’m not guaranteeing anything, I’m just just pointing a way to shake the tree.
Jeff Burton SGIA Staff
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included a grandfather clause for those employers currently offering health care. With the release of interim final rules on June 14th, the grandfather clause has been further clarified and defined. One begins to ask, is any plan truly grandfathered under this legislative package.
Under the interim final rules, a group health plan or health insurance coverage will no longer be considered a grandfathered health plan if the plan sponsor makes ANY of these changes.
- Elimination of all or substantially of any benefit to diagnose or treat a particular condition. For example, if your plan provides benefits for a mental health condition that includes both counseling and prescription drugs, and then eliminates the counseling portion of the benefit, then your plan is no longer grandfathered. Or, if you eliminate benefits for any specific illness, such as muscular dystrophy, then your plan looses its grandfathered status.
- If you increase the cost sharing requirement, such as co-insurance, above the level set on March 23, 2010, then you loose your grandfather status. For example, your plan has a coinsurance requirement of 20% for inpatient surgery. In June 2010, your plan is amended to increase this requirement to 25%. Grandfather status is lost.
- Your plan’s fixed amount cost sharing requirements, other than co-pays, increases to more than the maximum percentage identified in the final rule. This one is a bit more complicated to explain as it is tied to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). It is recommended that you talk to your insurance provider to determine your status under this requirement.
- You increase your plan’s fixed amount cost hshare requirements for copayments more than the allowed amount. Again, this is tied to medical inflation as measured from March 23, 2010. To determine if this provision impacts you, consult your insurance provider.
- If you have a group health plan and you decrease the employer’s contribution rate by more than 5 percentage points below the contribution rate that was in effect on March 23, 2010, then you loose your grandfather status.
- Your plan makes changes to annual or lifetime limits. If your plan changes to comply with federal or state legal requirements, changes third party administrators, or makes changes to voluntarily comply with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, THEN, you do not loose your grandfather status.
This is just a quick synopsis of the interim final rule regarding the grandfather status of health plans. I encourage you to work directly with your plan administrator to determine your status under these requirements, as there are documentation requirements for plans that are considered grandfathered. Essentially, you need to prove that your plan meets the grandfather criteria.
More information to come on the implementation of this new legislation.
Submitted by Marci Kinter
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
There are some interesting developments percolating through wide format inkjet.
Take for example the silver ink that Roland introduced last year. Really interesting in terms of what can be achieved by printing various shades of color over a silver metallic ink. By taking the technology learned and used in white ink applications, silver or other heavy pigmented inks can be jetted as well. Metallic silver is similar to White ink and has a tendency to settle in the cartridge, making it necessary to agitate the cartridge before installing in the printer and before each use. The XC-540MT automatically performs routine ink system maintenance to ensure ink lines remain free of sediment. If the unit sits for an unattended period of time, the ink in the dampers and heads must be purged and refilled. It’s really taken inkjet into a new design area that has stymied inkjet users in the past.
What about Latex ink from HP. Word has it that sales of those machines has been really good. Being able to tout ink that has no VOC content is a good achievement. It has its strengths and weaknesses, as does every other ink system. But this ink is specific for the HP thermal head technology. What about third party latex ink developments and latex inks for piezo heads? I believe these are in development and will surface in the near future. Personally I would use any non-VOC ink system, if it were compatible with the inkjet heads in my systems. I know UV curable inks are a solution to VOC inks, but this is not a simple chemistry to manufacture and there are associated health and safety issues.
While everyone waits for universal latex ink, SepiaX ink has been introduced. Sepiax Ink Technology GmbH is a company belonging to the Gernot Langes-Swarovski Group. They manufacture water based resin ink that also has no VOC content. Graphics One is the sole North American distributor. Specifically developed for printers using EPSON piezo print heads, SEPIAX ink works with printers from Mutoh, Mimaki, Roland and EPSON. The media does have to reach a temperature of 55C for optimum adhesion to the substrate. It has good compatibility with Epson heads, but what else is out there for non-EPSON head machine owners. The answer is, …nothing really.
Until third party ink manufacturers start to make variations (or hear market demands for it) on ink chemistries for the various heads out in the marketplace, there will be no other ink options. There are a lot of printers with heads by Ricoh, Toshiba, Xaar, Spectra/Dimatix, Konica Minolta, etc. These heads and printers need solutions too. Hopefully the European Union legislation on the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) will give alternate ink systems a shot in the arm, starting in the EU.
Alternate inkjet inks are in the early adopter phase of the technology lifecycle curve. The next few years will be very interesting, what do you think?
Submitted by Jeff Burton
Thursday, May 6th, 2010
First, the official name for the Health Care Bill is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Definitely a mouthful. Now, with more information published, we can start to look at the impact of this landmark legislation. Let’s talk about grandfathered plans.
What is a grandfathered plan. Simply stated a grandfathered plan is an individual or group plan, either self funded or fully insured, that was in existence on the date that the President signed this legislation into law, March 23, 2010. A new plan that is created after March 23, 2010 is not considered a grandfathered plan. Further, if your plan is grandfathered, this status may be jeopardized if any significant changes are made, however, there is still quite a bit of gray area regarding what changes would be deemed acceptable to retain the grandfathered status.
However, it is clear that a plan will continue to be considered grandfathered if family members of employees and new employees are enrolled in hte plan and the terms of hte plan are consistent with those in effect on March 23rd of this year. It is also clear that a plan may be renewed during the annual renewal process without loosing its grandfathered status.
While grandfathered plans do not have to comply with some of the requirements in the new health care legislation, there are certain provisions that do have an impact. Specifically, annual and life time limits, pre-existing exclusion requirements and the requirement to cover adult dependent children until the age of 26. Additionally, grandfathered plans must comply with changes to the Flexible Spending Accounts and the employer mandates. It is recommended that you review your plan’s provisions with your benefit advisor to determine the true impact of this legislation.
Submitted by Marci Kinter
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
The term “law” as it pertains to physics or logic comes from the idea that long ago, the gods (whomever they may be) decided how our universe works. Therefore gravity and other forces are known as divine “laws.” This notion has been abandoned by science in general as these “laws” can often be bent or broken.
In our industry, “laws” are broken (or at the very least, bent) because all too often the salesperson makes a promise they can’t keep. “We can get a perfect color match, no problem” is one example that is commonly used in the print sales vernacular. I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is no such thing as a perfect print-to-proof color match. If you need a refresher on color theory, subtractive and additive color, or the human perception of color, give me a call.
Fortunately, screen printing is an accommodating process because matching let’s say, a corporate color is easily done using a custom ink formula printed separately from traditional CMYK. Customers are hesitant, though, in approving a fifth screen due to costs. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on the phone with a press operator (in panic mode) who tells me that the salesperson guaranteed that their company can get a perfect corporate color match AND will do it using no more than four colors. The job is out on the press and they can’t get the color and need to know what to do. I break into my color spiel and after a few minutes, the caller realizes the position they are in and the fact that they will most likely lose money on the job, not to mention the risk of having an unsatisfied customer.
The scenario usually goes like this. The artwork not only includes a photograph of a person holding the advertised product, but also has a field of the corporate color (of course, with the legal jargon in reverse 2 pt. serif type). The order hits the press, the press operator achieves a neutral CMYK print with balanced color and…guess what…the corporate color is off. So the press operator begins to turn each of the dials on the press: squeegee pressure, angle, and speed. You know the story. Two hours later, the corporate color is “close enough” but the skin tone is a nice shade of chartreuse. The press operator goes back to troubleshooting and, after several screen changes, modifications to the ink (most likely undocumented), and countless press adjustments (not to mention the downtime and loss of profits), a “balance” is achieved. The CMYK portion of the print is close to neutral, and the corporate color is acceptable. The customer isn’t exactly ecstatic but they reluctantly approve the print because their ad campaign may suffer if the job is delayed.
The same often happens in wide-format digital. While digital technology has literally been a blessing for four-color process it, unfortunately, does not afford us with the luxury of matching a corporate color that can be printed separate from CMYK. Wal-Mart “blue” is one example. Wal-Mart rarely approves their “blue” when it is printed via inkjet using CMYK (or expanded CMYK). It’s too dirty. Yet, sometimes they are oversold on the premise that it can be done by a salesperson that, of course, bases the pricing on a fabricated notion – “We can get a perfect color match, no problem.”
If production were allowed to use an additional screen in the example above, the corporate color match would be much closer AND the photographic portion of the design would not have suffered. When a Wal-Mart “blue” digital match is promised and is then rejected, the printer is faced with paying for all the media that was purchased for a job intended to run on a digital line. Unfortunately, events such as these happen all too often and are usually at the expense of the printer.
When a salesperson understands the limitations of print production and communicates efficiently and effectively with the customer, they are able to convey the nuances inherent to print and can sell appropriately to their customers. Jobs are often oversold, however, and the burden is placed on the shoulders of the company to make it right for the sake of customer satisfaction.
We all know that Quality is defined as meeting the customer’s requirements. But we often find ourselves in a position where something has been sold that can’t be delivered. Plato said, “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile.” Of course, we also have Law VII of the Cartoon Laws of Physics: “Certain bodies can pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot.” Trust me, you can’t pass through solid walls painted to look like a tunnel.
Submitted by: Johnny Shell, SGIA
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
With the passage of the landmark health care legislation, it is time to turn our attention to implementation and what can be expected. This will not be a short process as pieces of the legislation do not become effective until 2018. Many provisions in the package focus on changes to the insurance industry, such as coverage of dependents until they are 26 and elimination of the pre-existing conditions for both children and adults. To help our members, SGIA plans to focus on those changes that impact the employer community. If you do have questions about other elements, please give us a call.
So, what is the overall impact. It is estimated that 44% of all workers employed by small businesses could be impacted by the employer mandate provisions. This equates to approximately 26.4 million people and 22% of the entire private sector workforce. 220,000 small businesses could potentially be subject to the employer mandate. In 2014, the employer mandate comes into effect. Depending on the number of employees you have, whether or not you offer insurance, and whether or not any of your employees receive premium subsidies determines whether or not you will be required to pay a penalty.
To help our members begin to understand the impacts of this legislation, SGIA has partnered with Printing Industries of America on a webinar set for April 20th at 2 pm eastern. This program will cover, among other things:
- What needs to implemented this year and in years to come
- Coverage/contribution requirements (Individual and “Employer Mandates)
- Status as a small employer
- What is a “qualified” health plan
Speakers from Ogletree Deakins and Margolis Becker provide insights into these and other topics such as small business tax credit, employer penalties as well as changes that impact individual taxpayers.
For registration information, please click here http://www.sgia.org/training_and_education/webinars/healthcare_0410.cfm. If you have any questions, please contact Marci Kinter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to make some things go away? Not that I’m complaining here, but I just heard someone a few weeks ago, compare screenprinting to cockroaches. I was pretty sure I knew where they were going with the comment but I wanted to hear their take on it. It went along the lines of there is always a new breed or variation that shows up just before you think the one you were working with has died out. This comment is especially true with regard to industrial and printed electronic screen printing.
Expanding on that odd thought process, I personally tend to think of it from another direction. Like the cockroach, screen printing is hard to exterminate because the chemistry is constantly changing. Yes, I realize that it’s a genetic issue with our six-legged buddies, but with screen printing, especially industrial screen printing, the chemistry of the inks and substrates we use are the genetics of the breed. It’s what we can put through mesh that keeps the process constantly evolving and viable. Just realizing what industrial and printed electronic products are screen printed can give you an idea of the scale of the industry.
One of the most obvious (and not so new) areas of ink chemistry is the conductive inks. These have been around for a while, even longer for that matter than rear window defroster grids on automobiles which are about the limit of the average person’s knowledge of conductive ink. Think about that one for a minute and then we’ll look at the rest of the car before we get out and move into the house.
Every car has a rear window defroster grid now but the first ones appeared only in the late 1950’s. They were and still primarily are, screen printed lines of metallic compounds that are fused together with heat while the windshield is being shaped on a mold. When it’s complete, they conduct electricity and generate heat. Some are also printed with inkjet now but most are still screen printed. Other examples of basic screen printed conductive inks in cars are the radio antennas. Many are printed along the edges of windshields under the black or dark red shading areas that cover the gasket material (which are also mostly still screen printed). Much of what used to be wiring under the dashboards of automobiles, connecting the instrument lighting and other components are now flexible polyethylene film with screen printed conductive pathways. These changes, which are not brand new, are constantly improving as both the metallic ink chemistry and the plastic substrate improve.
One of the first conductive inks, screen printing plants I ever visited was printing silver-based conductive circuit traces on ceramic circuit boards for anti-lock brake systems. I thought that was quite novel until I saw the screen printed electronic automotive gauge division, where the anti-lock circuit board printers did their training, three weeks later. These were electroluminescent. They glow in the dark when power is applied. They were not simply backlit with little light bulbs like older automotive gauges always had been. Was I intrigued? I was floored! I always knew that most automotive dash instruments were screen printed. That’s how the numbers (the ones I don’t pay attention to) get there. I had also already seen electroluminescent dials and instruments starting in the late 70’s (think about your Indi-glow clock). What I had never really put together was the fact that these were not just gauge faces that had graphics screen printed and then stuck onto some miracle electronic glow-pad. That glow-pad…..the electroluminescent circuit part itself…..is screen printed. The learning curve was fast and uphill from there.
Aside from the myriad of other non-electronic components on modern cars that are screen printed (logos, faux-wood grain, decals etc.) virtually every electronic part inside of a modern car that is not actually a physical wire, has some form of screen printing used in its manufacture. About half of the electronic components in a car are using either a conductive or dielectric ink. Many of those printed electronics components that do not use a conductive or dielectric simply used screen printed enamels or epoxies to create patterns on plastics, ceramic or metal. These substrates are first plated with Tin, Copper, Gold or other metals, then screen printed with patterns and then etched by acid, caustic base chemicals or abrasives to form circuit patterns. It’s getting deeper in here and I have not even gotten out of my car yet. I haven’t even touched on (and won’t get to) the screen printed adhesives that hold panels and components together or the sheets of laminated, screen printed, vacuum-filled ceramic micro-spheres that are used to create certain types of sound deadening and insulating materials.
I’m out of my “print-mobile” and in the kitchen now. I am literally surrounded by screen printed products and much of them use not only conductive and dielectric inks but inks who special chemical properties allow for extreme water, chemical and heat resistance. The control panel face or graphic overlay of virtually every appliance in your house is screen printed. Even deeper than that, underneath every one of those soft touch buttons on your stove, microwave oven, food processor and for that matter, television remote, cell phone, I-pod, computer and virtually every other device with switches and keypads……is a multilayer screen printed membrane switch using conductive inks and sometimes even screen printed adhesives, spacers dielectric masks, resistors, capacitors and LED’s.
If all of these screen printed electronics are starting to make your head spin and give you shortness of breath, it doesn’t stop yet. When you get to your doctor, most of the control panels, circuits and electrolytic sensors of many of the devices they connect to your body are screen printed (some also use pad, digital and flexographic printing as well). Hopefully the anxiety of all of this will not drive you to shoplifting at the local drugstore. Many of the products on store shelves have screen and flexographic printed, anti-theft, RFID (radio frequency identification) antenna tags on them made from conductive inks. Yes, sadly when that lands you in jail, even your county prisoner ID bracelet will probably be part or completely screen printed. Probably in the same shop that makes your license plates and prints your orange coveralls.
So back to the chemistry set. With so many forms of digital inkjet printing, why are so many products still being screen printed and why are so many new products choosing screen print? It’s a combination of the ability of screen printing to deposit particles of virtually any material and size, in very precise unbroken layers……and the chemistry. It’s a constantly renewing food chain. As specialty ink particles, additives and pigments evolve to create different products, eventually these particles or additives change the ink rheology and printability enough that the screen printing process no longer works well to keep making a specific product properly. Metallic and conductive inks have this problem. The metallic or functional particle content of the inks will change enough that the inks no longer print normally with screen print. In most cases the printing techniques themselves first evolve to fix this problem (better squeegee, mesh, set-up and stencil techniques). As the design of the printed product evolves from those processing changes (small, thinner, lighter, cheaper and more durable) the chemistry of the ink evolves again to simplify the process and the evolution starts over.
It is the ability of screen printing to adapt to virtually any ink chemistry, particle type and deposit thickness that keeps it constantly reinventing itself. If you are a professional or printer in the wild-wild-West of Screen and digitally Printed electronics, you already know far more about all of this than what I wrote here so I expect to see you all at the 2010 SGIA printed Electronics and Membrane Switch Symposium. For the rest of you, when the big one finally comes, all that will survive is chemicals, cockroaches and screenprinting, working together for you.
Submitted by: Ray Greenwood, SGIA