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IndusPRINT 2014 - South Asia

Venue: Bangalore
Date: 11th October 2014

IndusPrint 2014 is the first conference in India, which is specifically focused towards industrial inkjet and printing technology.

Inkjet India 2015 - Digital Textile Printing Conference

Venue: New Delhi
Date: 26th February 2015

Inkjet Forum India is all set to organise its 5th edition of this flagship conference on Digital Textile Printing in Delhi.

Inkjet India Technical Workshop Series 2015

Venue: tba
Date: tba

This technical workshop series will provide an indepth understanding of inkjet printing technology and will provide the delegates a comprehensive educational experience.

Inkjet Forum Asia 2015 - Digital Textile Printing Conference

Venue: Asia
Date: tba

We will go International with our very first ‘Inkjet Forum Asia’ conference on Digital Textile Printing in South East Asia. The details for the same will be announced shortly.

Inkjet India 2016 - Digital Textile Printing Conference

Venue: tba
Date: February 2016

Feature: Inkjet Design Trends
In its 6th year, Inkjet Forum India will organize its its flagship ‘Inkjet India’ series conference enlighten the stakeholders of this area about the flourishing trends of Digital Textile Printing.

IndusPRINT 2016 - Industrial Print Conference

Venue: tba
Date: October 2016

After the 1st event in Bangalore,IndusPRINT 2016 will provide the best networking opportunities for the stakeholders involved in this field of industrial inkjet and printing technology.

4th International Inkjet Conference 26th February 2014 | Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel | Delhi
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Digital textile print production would not be possible without improvements in inkjet printhead technology. Beginning in the 1990’s with the Epson DX-4 incorporated into the Mimaki TX-2 printer, printhead manufacturers continue to advance the technology both in terms of the number of nozzles per channel as well as firing frequencies.  Most of current digital textile printers in the market today utilize one of the following printhead technologies:


  • Epson DX-5 ( Mutoh RJ-900, Mimaki JV-33, Mimaki JV-5 )
  • Epson DX-7 ( Mutoh 1638, Roland XF-640 )
  • Seiko 508 GS ( Ftex JS-BT-180 , Ichinose 2030 )
  • Ricoh Gen 4 ( d.gen Telieios Grande, Mimaki TX400 )
  • Ricoh Gen 5 ( Mimaki TX500 )
  • Konica Minolta KM512 ( Konica Minolta Nassenger VII )
  • Kyocera KJ4 ( MS JP-6, MS LaRIO, Reggiani ReNOIR )

So what are some of the differences between these printhead technologies?

Printhead Width: Inkjet print head width ranges from 25 mm for the Epson DX 5 to 108 mm for the Kyocera KJ series heads. A larger printhead width permits faster printing.

Digital Textile Review Inkjet Printhead Print Widths

Printhead Channels and Nozzle Count: Each printhead offers a different configuration of printhead channels (each channel can be run different inks) and nozzles per channel. The nozzle count affects the printing resolution and printing speed

Firing Frequencies (kHz): The number of drops per second, typically specified in kHz for piezo printhead technology, directly impacts printing speed.

Minimum Drop Sizes (Picoliters): All inkjet printheads used for digital textile printing employ variable drop size capabilities. Smaller drop sizes provide finer detail at the expense of printing speed.  This is important when assessing the the performance and specifications of a digital textile printing system (See previous article).

The table below illustrates specifications for some example inkjet printheads:

Printhead Width (mm)Channels / NozzlesDrop Sizes (pL)Freq. (kHz)
Epson DX5258×1803.5-108
Ricoh Gen 4682×1925-2530
Seiko 508 GS721×50812-8440
Kyocera KJ41082×13284-1830

Next Generation Technology:

The current generation of printheads primarily operate in a swath/shuttle mode for producing printed output onto sublimation transfer paper or digitally printing directly onto textiles.  One noted exception being the MS LaRIO, which incorporates 25 Kyocera printheads in-line for each color channel and is only practical for printing shops with significant production throughput.

Next generation digital textile printers eventually need to migrate from swath to inline printing both for improved production speed and efficiency.  To meet this requirement, printer manufacturers plan to integrate wider and lower cost inkjet printhead bars. SPG Prints recently unveiled during the Unitex 2014 Digital Textile Congress their plans to offer a such as printer at ITMA 2015.  It is conceivable that printhead technology similar to the MemJet printhead, which incorporates over 70,000 nozzles, will find its way into future digital textile printing systems.


About John Ingraham

John Ingraham, Editor of Digital Textile Review, develops and implements products and services for digital textile printing systems and software. He has over 25 years experience in high-quality inkjet printing systems developing color management and workflow solutions for leading RIP manufacturers, and being a representative in two European Union sponsored commissions for the implementation of sustainable inkjet printing systems for digital textile production. John received his MBA from Bentley College and his BS in Imaging Science from Rochester Institute of Technology and was awarded three patents in the area of color management and halftoning technology. To read more, log on to http://digitaltextilereview.com/

Courtesy: http://digitaltextilereview.com/

Digital Textile Printing Posted 2014-09-23T05:51:50-07:00

While in the past year there have been so many life-changing applications for 3D printing, but there is still one which remains very much taboo. This is the ever evolving technology which enables the quick and almost too easy fabrication of 3D Printed firearms. In this article I decided to review the current state of the technology and those weapon technologies which have evolved since Cody Wilson's 3D printed firearm which shook the world back in May 2013.

There are still many concerns which remain on the table when dealing with the possible negative implications of 3D printing technology. The thought of mass fabrication of untraceable 3D printed firearms will send shivers down the spines of law enforcement agencies around the world.  There has been an incredibly fast progression of the technology behind the methods of manufacturing guns with 3D printers in the last two years alone.

The functioning AR15 lower receiver showed the world the true power of 3D printing.

Although police forces from around the world are warning technology enthusiasts not to attempt to use 3D printers to make plastic guns, because each time they have been tested the weapons have exploded. Relatively cheap plastic printed guns have been fired successfully in the United States, Canada and Japan. However, as in many other technology revolutions in the past, once the idea is out then it becomes impossible to put away again.

Two factors in engineering still need to be overcome, these are; high stress resistance materials that resist knife edge loads and high temperature flashes. All of these factors can subsequently damage the polymers and this subsequently leads to fracture at the point of high stress. However, with the recent introduction of carbon fibre 3D printing filaments then does the wide spread fabrication of newer and better 3D printed guns? And is this such a bad thing?

May 2013 – Defense Distributed Liberator .380

The first firearm which started it all, the .380 Liberator. This pistol was initially printed on a Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer, which utilises wide spread fused deposition manufacturing technology. This single shot firearm was the weapon that shock the world, and also showed the true potential of 3D printing. Since the files were released, hundreds of thousands of individuals downloaded the entire blueprints, and numerous individuals have printed this gun before the files were removed. By this time it was much too late.  The gun has since been printed on a variety of different 3D printers including those priced at under $750. This firearm is capable of shooting one bullet and costs approximately $9.30 in plastic parts to print.

The Liberator pistol was and is an interesting idea. A simple single-shot firearm in the spirit of the FP-45 Liberator — the American-made holdout pistol designed to be dispersed across Axis-occupied Europe during World War II. It's both a thought experiment and a type of protest: governments can't control the manufacture of arms, there's no way to monopolize them.

Recently the hybridization of the AR15 lower receiver and Liberator has evolved into the design of the Shuty-9 which is a blowback pistol. The Shuty uses a readily-available and almost universally-unregulated spare Glock barrel for real handgun performance. It has an upper that mounts around both the front and the back of the lower receiver to withstand the increased energy and the lower is heavily-reinforced around the buffer tower as well. The Shuty-9 shows the power of 3D printing hybridization.

August 2013 – Grizzly .22 Rifle

Only three months later, a Canadian man going by the name 'Mathew' 3D printed a replica grizzly .22 rifle. This firearm was tested, and pretty much exploded in his arms. Mathew went back to the drawing old board, and this time thickened the walls of the barrel. The Grizzly .22 was printed on a Stratasys Dimension 1200e machine, and was able to fire off 14 shots prior to it developing a fracture.

November 2013 – Browning 1911 Metal Replica

In November of 2013, Solid Concepts, now a Stratasys company, blew all these other firearms out of the water, by using a direct metal laser sintering printer to create a replica of a 1911 Browning .45 pistol. To date this weapon has fired over 600 shots successfully. Solid Concepts plans on producing more of these firearms in the months to come. It is important to note that a machine capable of printing this weapon would run close to $1 million, and printing such a gun to resell is not currently economically feasible.

May 2014 – Zig Zag .380 Revolver

In early 2014, Hexen released the blueprints for their Reprringer Pepperbox revolver. The weapon which can hold 5 bullets at once, is a small firearm, with a relatively poor aim. It was initially printed on a variety of consumer desktop 3D printers. Unlike the other weapons this one does have stainless steel liners for its barrels. Hexen continues to improve upon the gun, with a 3rd version currently available. A number of pepper boxes have been 3D Printed on sub $500 printers made and fired.

September 2014 - The .22 semi automatic pistol

Recently a .22 semi-automatic firearm design has surfaced. Unlike former designs such as the Shuty-9, this design uses almost all plastic parts and uses weights to bring the bolt to a correct weight. It will need standard AR-15 parts, including an AR-15 FCG, AR-15 Buffer Spring, Ruger 10/22 Mag Spring, AR-15 Firing Pin and an 8mm metal insert.

What does this evolution mean?

The power of 3D Printing means that custom guns can be built entirely in one's home without a license, and the more advanced the guns get, the more potential for a hi-tech 21st century form of gunsmithing. This is the fascinating thing about 3D printing is that it gives the individual power to imagination to invent and reinvent or hybrid anything that they want.

Lawmakers such as Steve Israel have stated that any restrictions on 3D printing of weapons will be impossible to enforce, and the Justice Department has so far backed up their legality. As Tony Cartalucci has stated, it renders gun control moot; one would have to basically ban any personal use of 3D printers.

Preventing people from manufacturing guns, or worse yet, from possessing or using tools that can be used to create guns, is impossible. As the cost of 3D printing production goes down, and the accuracy improved then there will likely be a wave of non-profit and for-profit firearms manufacturers which evolve. Thus we could be welcoming a new wave of defence companies. Some of the biggest defence businesses today; Lockheed, Boeing and General Electric for instance started life as a small number of founders who had a crazy idea using a new technologies.  Allan and Malcolm Loughead (Lockheed) and William Boeing for instance were fascinated by flight which at the time was seen as 3D printing is today, a gimmick technology which would never take off. But guess what, they were right and the critics are now silent.

I'm sure that in the coming months and years ahead, then 3D printing technology will herald new defence companies. Make no mistake, 3D printed weapons is here to stay. These guns are only the beginning, we could yet see a future which empowers individuals Is it such a bad think that the individual is empowered to reinvent the world around them?

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

3D Printing Posted 2014-09-23T05:45:42-07:00

It seems like 3D printing technology is finally being used to its full potential in the field of medicine, as more and more success stories are surfacing. We are very happy to report that 3D printed implants and prosthetics are being used to improve the lives of patients all over the world, while complicated medical cases are also being solved through 3D printing. Only last week, for instance, we were able to report that a Chinese man had recovered from a complicated surgery where a 3D printed mesh was placed over his brain.

And this week, another complex medical case was solved using 3D printing technology. Surgeons from theTaipei Veterans General Hospital have successfully treated an orbital bone fracture with 3D printing technology.

The patient in question is a 35-year-old man who was in an unfortunate car crash that left him with a fractured orbital bone surrounding his left eye. It also caused his eye to sink into his skull, leaving him suffering from diplopia, or double vision. Not only does this condition seriously hamper a patient's ability to see, if left untreated it can cause infections and a number of other life-long side effects.

Surgeons first made a 3D scan of the patient's eye sockets based on stereoscopic images. These were used to develop a 3D-printed mock-up of the orbital bone, which helped them to determine the scope and severity of the fracture bone plate. Maxillofacial Surgery was first done on the virtual and the plastic mock-up of the fracture. This allowed them to develop a customized, suitable titanium bone plate that could restore the man's bone structure and return his eyeball to the correct position.

Surgery lasted for several hours, but doctors were able to successfully conclude the operation. Thanks to the titanium implant, the patient's eye has returned to its normal position. As of yet, no complications or infections have occurred. The symptoms of diplopia have also disappeared, putting 'the patient's life is back on track'.

Wu Zhengxian, Oral maxillofacial Surgeon at Veterans General Hospital in Taipei told reporters that the anatomical structure of the maxillofacial region is highly complex and difficult to operate on. It is filled with delicate neurovascular tissue, so surgery can easily affect the patient's appearance and functioning. Furthermore, the area is rich in nerves and blood vessels, so surgery can also lead to unnecessary complications. While a fracture in the orbital bone could already be treated, it relied greatly on the physician's familiarity with the anatomic location and the clinical experience he has accumulated.

Fortunately, 3D printing and scanning technology has become capable of producing highly accurate models of the patient's condition. Not only do these allow doctors to more closely inspect the patient's condition, it also allows them to perform mock surgeries that will help them recognise and prepare for various problems that can occur.

In the Taipei Veterans General Hospital, it is already being used in the treatment of various facial, orthodontic and dental conditions. While currently not widely used throughout the world, these applications of 3D printing can potentially greatly increase success rates. The costs involved remain an obstacle to widespread use; patients in Taipei will have to pay an additional fee of up to 70,000 Taiwan Dollar (approximately $2500) per surgery. In Taiwan, at least, insurance doesn't yet cover the costs for this additional preparatory step.

Furthermore, while this application of 3D printing technology seems very promising, Wu Zhengxian went on to stress that this form of comuper-assisted surgery is still very novel. It still needs to be carefully assessed in its usage and effects on surgery, before its maximum potential can be realised. It nonetheless appears to be very promising, especially when applied to hitherto complex or impossible cases.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

3D Printing Posted 2014-09-23T05:44:00-07:00

World premiere of disruptive inkjet technology running live jobs at Screen Demonstration Center

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. — Screen’s ever-evolving portfolio of Truepress digital printing devices continues to offer fresh innovations and dynamic advancements with the launch of new disruptive technologies. A series of free events at the Screen USA headquarters in Rolling Meadows, Ill., will introduce customers and prospects to an all-new high-speed inkjet press unlike anything on the market, as well as the latest Truepress engines for direct mail, signs, personalized packaging and other applications.

  • What:  Screen Customer Open House 2014
  • When:  September 28-30, 2014; 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Where:  Screen USA Demonstration Center, 5110 Tollview Drive, Rolling Meadows, Illinois

This three-day Truepress technology roundup will focus on Screen’s faster, higher-quality and more reliable production inkjet press platforms, including continuous-feed variable data, wide-format and label-printing systems. Open house guests will learn everything they want to know about the “major new commercial product release” during each day’s presentation.

“The excitement generated by inkjet production printing, especially in the high-volume direct mail and full-color variable data markets, shows no signs of waning,” said Ken Ingram, vice president of sales. “With fast production speeds and high-resolution color output, Screen makes inkjet printing more powerful and adaptable. Attendees will be very impressed by the demonstrations and print samples they see.”

Visitors to Graph Expo 2014 will have a great opportunity to complement their show-floor research by test printing several Truepress models. The Screen Demonstration Center is conveniently located 30 minutes away from Chicago’s McCormick Place, site of the annual graphics industry trade show. 

Participants can take as much time as they need to evaluate the superior output quality, media compatibility and printhead technology that the Truepress series brings to large-format projects, print on demand, transactional and transpromotional printing, and label/packaging applications.

Speedier wide-format printing
The new Truepress Jet W3200UV HS moving-bed inkjet printer delivers true-quality wide-format printing at the top speed of 1,615 square feet per hour. Combining Screen’s renowned imaging precision with outstanding productivity, the new high-speed model achieves almost double the throughput of the Truepress Jet W3200UV (914.9 square feet per hour), launched in 2013. Print service providers have a choice of machines depending on their specific needs and the freedom to upgrade from the Truepress Jet W3200UV to the high-productivity Truepress Jet W3200UV HS in the future.

Creative ink and label substrate options
The Truepress Jet L350UV inkjet label press now can be configured to print with high-opacity white ink. Using Screen’s high-definition CMYK and white inks increases the impact of the label. The new inline corona treatment system allows the Truepress Jet L350UV to print consistently superior images on coated labels, synthetics, films and metalized substrates. Available with an inline finishing option, the Truepress Jet L350UV will be demonstrated sending labels to Screen’s newly minted JetConverter L350 label-converting line. Screen launched the JetConverter L350, which helps create an integrated workflow supporting highly effective label production, at Labelexpo Americas 2014.

B2 sheetfed printing
The Truepress JetSX inkjet sheetfed press is capable of the same level of quality for full-color print jobs commonly performed at higher cost on toner and litho presses. It is built to run variable and static jobs at 1,440 x 1,440 dpi in formats up to 20.8 x 29.1 inches. The Truepress Jet SX handles digital and offset stocks in thicknesses up to 24 points. Its fast-drying aqueous inks are sealed with a postcoat for instant handling and processing.

“Any printers who are interested in generating new products and new sources of profitability are invited to attend the Screen technology open house,” Ingram said. “We have the digital inkjet platform that is right for you.”

Courtesy: www.whattheythink.com

Event News Posted 2014-09-23T05:40:16-07:00

FESPA broadens educational content for Digital Textile Conference
Further speakers have been announced for FESPA'sDigital Textile Conference (2 October 2014, Grand Hotel Villa Torretta, Milan)

New speakers provide in-depth knowledge and expertise on digital textile printing, and will encourage printers interested in digital textile printing to explore new trends and techniques, as well as market growth areas for new business opportunities.

The conference programme will focus on four areas of discussion; an overview of digital textile printing, interior and soft signage, apparel printing and fashion, as well as an in-depth exploration of the technologies and techniques used to deliver these applications.  

Providing an overview of digital textile printing, Ron Gilboa, of US-based research company Infotrends, will discuss insights into the growth and creative development of the digital textile market, based on data collected from leading market players in digital textile inks and equipment. Ron will also examine the market drivers in digital textile printing, and where he believes the market is heading in the next five years.

Hailing from the USA, Scott Donovan, Managing Director at BleuPrint Creative, brings thirty years of experience in digital textile printing to the conference. Scott will examine how fabric printing can help grow a business by looking at market analysis and exploring mass-production, to individually customised products, as well as the possibilities these can provide end users.

Professor Dr Marc Van Parys, Head of Research Laboratory TO2C, will highlight new developments in digital textile printing including recent innovations for new UV inks and lacquers tailor made for different textile applications. Egidio Fasana, Production Manager, Mascioni will be discussing a centre of excellence for digital textile printing, multi-pass vs single pass.

Looking at interior decoration and soft signage, Italian Colour Correction Guru, Marco Olivotto, will discuss colour correction for digital textile printing, including traditional correction techniques, gamut problems and how printers can get the most from digitally printed designs and patterns.

Swedish based Andreas Skantze, President of Big Image Systems, will examine his most challenging and creative case studies over his 25 years’ experience in the industry to demonstrate the potential of fabric printing.

Talking digital printing in fashion, Mark Abramson, CEO of ThinFolio, a Kickstarter funded project, will discuss the success and challenges he has faced, from the consumer, to creating print ready files and managing the production and shipment of large volume, uniquely digitally printed products.

This session will also include speeches from previously announced speakers Melanie Bowles, Senior Lecturer in Textile Design at the Chelsea College of Art and Michael Schmidt, celebrity fashion designer who incorporates 3D printing in his designs.

Duncan MacOwan, Head of Events & New Media, FESPA, adds: “The speaker line-up for the Digital Textile Conference just gets better and better. World leading experts on digital textile printing are able to combine their knowledge to provide digital textile printers with the right tools to enhance their services and increase value and quality for their customers. Milan is the epicentre of the textile industry and visitors to our exhibitions have mentioned time and again how digital textile printing has huge growth potential, with 81% of printers to our most recent World Wide Survey saying they are handling more textile work.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with some of the leading suppliers to the digital textile printing community in delivering this year’s conference, such as MS Print Solutions, Durst, Kiian Digital, Kaspar Papir, Everlight Chemical and Hollanders, as well as our local Italian association Siotec. All have contributed greatly to aligning the direction of the Digital Textile Conference to the needs of printers looking to expand their businesses in this market area.”

Digital Textile Conference tickets are available now for €150 for members, increasing to €180 for non-members.

Courtesy: www.fespa.com

Digital Textile Printing Posted 2014-09-23T03:27:53-07:00

A Digital World Running on Analog Technology

Our world is a digital world, and it has been for a long time now. Personal computers have been around since 1980, The Internet has seeped into almost every aspect of our lives, and most of us now carry mobile devices that have the computing power to put a man on the moon.

Imaging has been taken over by digital cameras--a welcome change from the days when we had to wait to develop film and print pictures. We can now delete bad photos immediately, print good ones at lower costs, and share them within seconds using the communication platform of our choice. Even the old light bulb is being replaced with less power-hungry LEDs, which are all mounted on a PCB carrier.

So why are 95% of the circuit boards that drive all of these digital devices still imaged with film, the same way they have been for the past 50 years? This white paper will address this question by exploring the challenges of digital PCB imaging and the emergence of inkjet imaging, a technology that has the potential to revolutionise the industry.

Digital PCB Imaging: A Brief History

The first digital imaging in the PCB world was introduced 15 years ago and known as laser direct imaging (LDI). Since then, a very slow (and costly) revolution has been brewing, with LDI driving smaller track and gap resolutions. Most recently, advances in light-emitting diode (LED) direct imaging have threatened LDI’s hold on the market. But the basic imaging process is still based on a photo sensitive resist that is exposed and developed in a multi-step process requiring an incredible amount of infrastructure. If we draw an analogy with the graphics industry, we can see that digitisation also started with laser printing. This laser-based technology was subsequently replaced by LED and years later by inkjet, with direct digital  imaging technology replacing all but very high-volume offset (with variable data also making a place for inkjet in this area).

A clear innovation pattern can be seen across the printing industry:

The key drivers behind this innovation pattern include:

  • The move to full digital data processing and printing;
  •  The need for short turnaround and lead times;
  •  Lower plotting costs and no waste of film and screens; and
  •  Lower running costs and less labor.

The advantages are clear. Why then has this revolution not taken place in PCB production? It’s not because companies haven’t tried. In fact, inkjet has penetrated the PCB world with legend printing, where the quality demand meets the technology available.

Inkjet for PCB Imaging

Imagine printing an etch resist directly on copper. You get to save material (the entire surface is no longer covered with photo sensitive resist) and most importantly, the development step is eliminated. You can even envisage a future in which conductive tracks are printed directly without the need for massive infrastructure and chemistry. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Why then are we not imaging inner and outer PCB layers with inkjet?

The short answer is that it’s really difficult.

The jetting process of inkjet, suitable for graphic applications, is not reliable enough for PCB imaging. There are also conflicting demands. The ink must be robust in the processing applications, it must adhere to copper, it has to be resistant to etching (alkaline and acid), compatible with tin plating, and of course it should be strippable.

Typical inkjet text on the left compared to PCB lines at the same 

Inkjet also has a number of serious drawbacks which can lead to failure in the drop formation process:

  • Air entrapment in the nozzle due to high-frequency jetting;
  • Nozzle plate wetting conditions;
  • Clogging of nozzles; and
  • Drop deformation and satellite formation (small drops next to the main drop).

To put it simply, the biggest drawback is that inkjet jetting is not a 100% robust process. It’s not a question whether inkjet drop formation will fail, but when. This can be disastrous for an imaging process used for PCBs. It can hamper jetting, leaving areas open or unfilled, and it can spray drops at different speeds, resulting in drop displacement (spurious copper). These jetting problems also come without warning, leaving the printed substrate unusable.

If we manage to overcome these jetting problems, inkjet could replace 11 out of 15 process steps used with contemporary lithography. The whole process would then be reduced to four steps: A cleaning/light pre-etch of the copper substrates; imaging with inkjet; etch; and strip. This reduction in processes leads to higher yields, fewer registration issues, fewer costs, and full digital production with process time from CAM to etch in less than five minutes.

Inkjet could replace 11 out of 15 process steps used in contemporary lithography.

The advantages inkjet brings will drive industry adoption in time. The real questions are, how and when?

The jetting properties of inkjet today will not perform at the required level, even though current reliability is about one error per billion actuations. With more than two billion drops needed on a panel, there is a 100% chance of failure. Jet instability will therefore remain an intrinsic inkjet problem.

The Work-around: Detect and Replace Failing Nozzles

Even when using state-of-the-art heads and inks, the only possible remedy for inkjet based PCB imaging is not to solve the jetting issues, but to work around them. This is accomplished by measuring the jetting performance and switching off nozzles with performance degradation before they can cause misprints. Mutracx’s Lunaris has this technology built into its system. The performance of every nozzle is continuously measured in every print-head channel. How is this done? The piezo used for channel actuation is also used as a sensor. Using this sensor response mechanism, the system checks the status of the channel prior to using that nozzle for jetting. The system can then anticipate which nozzles it can use at any given time. Nozzles not jetting correctly are then replaced, meaning that there is also redundancy in the system.

Lunaris has built in three heads per raster line. Mutracx has named this monitoring system “Predict,” as it predicts potential issues before they can cause failure. With 60 heads and 15,360 nozzles in total, the Lunaris printer jets approximately 20 to 50 million drops per second (depending on the image) and does half a million Predict tests per  second, all in real time. The system also uses this information to monitor the overall nozzle condition in the heads and will trigger regular maintenance between jobs without operator interference.

The Print

Does this solve all problems for inkjet?  Not completely. There is still the issue of creating an accurate image based on drops on the fixed raster of the print head. The distance between drops, known in the industry as the drop pitch, is physically determined by the nozzle pitch in the head, and is typically 120 microns. Lunaris has developed a clever print strategy that allows you to choose which raster drops will be fired while the stage makes steps perpendicular to the jetting direction. By applying different frequencies, Lunaris can also change the line width to achieve optimal contours.

The CAM image is analysed at a very high resolution (2.5 micron scale) and a print strategy model determines which nozzles should be fired  to print any feature within a 5-micron boundary. The physical properties of the resist and resist flow on the panel are also taken into account in this model. Together with other system tolerances, within an image, we print every feature within a +/-15 micron envelope.

With this  system, overall registration is very high due to the use of carbon fiber (with very low thermal elongation per  degree Celsius), critical  positioning components and dynamic calibrations based on Robax© encoder rulers. The machine itself is temperature controlled for thermal stability (clean machine). The result is a very high and stable overall accuracy.

There is another key difference with other imaging technologies and inkjet printing: The smoothness of lines and patterns. Every feature has to be built up from individual drops. There is always variation in the jet speed over time. While the system is calibrated within microns, a slight wave can be visible when printing lines perpendicular to the stage movement. To stay within a 10% line width variation, you need to drive the limitation in feature size to 100 microns post-etch (even though the wave does not alter the conductive width of the line).

Image Quality Inspection (IQI)

Lunaris has one more unique characteristic made possible by inkjet printing: Inline quality inspection. Typically, in an inner layer production line, optical inspection is done at the very end after all 15 processes involved in inner-layer production have been completed.

Because the system only prints resist according to the CAM image, it can also do a printed resist image inspection as an inline quality inspection prior to etch. A high-resolution scanner is used with optimized exposure to ensure maximum contrast with the resist. This image is compared to the CAM image and analyzed within the print cycle. In this way, 100% print quality is guaranteed into etch.

In case of a misprint, the panel can be stripped. This means the substrate (with the valuable copper) is not etched and can therefore be reused, eliminating waste.

Not If, But When: New Inkjet Technology Will Conquer PCB Imaging

As this white paper discusses, inkjet has proven its advantages in many industries. By addressing the weaknesses of the technology in a system like Lunaris, the PCB imaging industry can now harvest the benefits:

  • A direct digital imaging process for PCB production, producing cores from CAM to etch in minutes;
  • Full panel automation, making PCB production as easy as sending a print job to your graphic inkjet printer; and
  • An advanced inspection system that paves the way for a new business model: charging only for prints that are well made.

There are still limitations in the current Lunaris system. For instance, it limits feature sizes to 100 microns post etch. But coupled with LDI, it can fully digitize a factory fit for all feature sizes. As heads and inks improve and drop sizes decrease, feature resolution will increase.

The system is setting a foundation for the adoption of inkjet in the PCB industry. The first fully functional systems are now being integrated into factory installs, and Mutracx is working on expanding its customer base across Europe, North America, and Asia.

Courtesy: http://www.pcb007.com/

Business and Technology Posted 2014-09-22T06:15:58-07:00

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