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March 23, 2007

MEMS tech breakthrough: inkjet 10 times faster, 20 times cheaper

Another indicator of accelerating progress.

The Memjet technology uses a series of individual MEMS-based inkjet nozzles, fabricated using conventional semiconductor manufacturing techniques. Each chip measures 20 millimeters across and contains 6,400 nozzles, with five color channels, the company said. A separate driver chip calculates 900 million picoliter-sized drops per second. For a standard A4 letter printer, the result is a total of 70,400 nozzles.

The maximum resolution achievable is 1600x1600, according to Silverbrook. Photo-quality printing on the 8x10 printer can be achieved at 30 pages per minute; standard office-quality color prints are printed at 60 pages per minute, and draft mode prints 90 pages per minute.

The ink that the Memjet printers are currently using is dye-based, similar to that used by the rest of the industry. Silverbrook executives believe that they can design a printer that holds five times as much ink – 50 ml – as a conventional print cartridge, and sell for about $20 or less. How the company will solve clogging problems – the bane of inkjet printers – hasn't been fully disclosed, LeCompte said.


"I've seen it with my own eyes," said Charlie LeCompte, president of Lyra Research, which tracks the printer market. "They've been showing several models since January. I've seen the photo printer running; I haven't seen the letter printer running, but other people - at Lyra - have."

"I've been following this industry for 20 years, and I've never seen anything of this scale: 10 times faster, 20 times cheaper, all at once," LeCompte added.

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