Inkjet vs. Nanography – An Overview
There are some folks that that think that Nanography will make inkjet technology obsolete. What is Nanography? The Nanographic Printing® process employs a heated blanket onto which very small (much smaller than conventional Inkjet particles) NanoInk® particles are ejected, as well as warm air dryers above the blanket. As the ink droplets hit the blanket they start to dry, the water is evaporated and a very thin layer, some 500 nanometres in thickness, is formed on the blanket surface. Each color is laid down onto the blanket in sequence and a dry, warm composite laminated layer of NanoInk is then transferred by the impression cylinder onto the substrate.
So then, the big difference between conventional inkjet technology and the Nanographic process is that inkjet transfers directly on to a substrate where the ink can tend to absorb into the media fibers and impact image quality while the Nanographic process emits NanoInk on to a blanket first and is then transferred while warm onto the substrate, thus eliminating any kind of ink bleeding. Nanography’s very high image resolution and quality, wide color gamut, broad range of usable substrates, and very low cost of print, are all benefits derived from the combination of NanoInk and the Nanographic Printing process.
But doesn’t Nanography use inkjet head technology to emit the NanoInk? Yes, but the key to Nanography is the use of small NanoInk particles and the fact it that uses an indirect printing process that avoids many of the problems with printing directly onto the substrate. For example, today’s inkjet web presses often use very expensive heaters and web tension controls to avoid problems caused by water-based inks. However, there are alternative ink technologies that avoid these problems but at a premium cost for these non-water based inks.
So, where will Nanography have the most impact initially? Certainly, it will be in high end commercial printing where analog presses still dominate and digital presses only have a small market share to date. Perhaps Nanography will help accelerate the transition to digital presses. It should be expected that Nanography will also have an impact on certain segments of the wide format and flat-bed printing markets where the ability to print on a wide range of substrates, wider color gamut, no drying time issues etc. are advantages over conventional inkjet technologies, particularly the aqueous ink based wide format printers which represent a large portion of the wide format printing market.
Will Nanography make inkjet printing obsolete, after all, inkjet technology has been around since the 1970’s? Relative to the electrophographic process, inkjet technology is relatively new and the former is going to be around for some time despite the huge price/performance advantages of say Pagewide inkjet technology. There are still many inkjet patents being filed so Photizo believes that inkjet technology is not yet mature especially relative to electrophotography so we should expect more improvements in inkjet technology for years to come.
Okay, so we should expect Nanography to have an impact on commercial printing. Will the technology have an impact on office printing or even consumer printing? Because the Nanographic process is more complex than conventional inkjet printing, the hardware costs will be higher albeit the technology does offer advantages in terms of image quality/color gamut, flexibility of substrates, and perhaps ink costs (uses low cost water based ink). It is reasonable to expect that Nanography will have an impact in markets/applications where the output is actually being sold i.e. commercial print, print for pay etc. where the advantages are Nanography are very important. For office and consumer printing, inkjet printing is likely to offer the price/performance that is very acceptable for the near future.
Photizo plans to dive much deeper into a technology and price/performance and CPP comparison of these great printing technologies in a future Insight.