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Has your inkjet printer got a future?

Of course it has but not perhaps in the long term. This news may astound you. A new technology has been born in the laboratory of Inkski, a Cambridge (UK) research organisation, it's called LiLo, which is an acronym for Light Initiated Liquid Offset.  It has the potential to make existing technologies, including wide format inkjet, redundant.

Whilst billions of dollars are being poured into inkjet technology to further improve speed, quality and applications, Lilo technology has the capability of making all that investment redundant in the world of print.

Inkski's key insight is that detachable ink drops can be formed in a regular array on the surface of a rapidly spinning cylinder. This creates an 'event-horizon' of new drops arriving at a rate of hundreds of thousands of drops per second for each channel (nozzle equivalent). When drops arrive at the substrate they can then be selectively ejected, allowing digital printheads to be made that can output more than a billion drops per second.

The spinning cylinder also imparts a high velocity to the drops, giving them the momentum to travel reliably from the cylinder to the substrate without the need for excessive acceleration. A photonic trigger is used to eject drops from the cylinder surface, giving the technology its name, LILO, for Light Initiated Liquid Offset.

LILO has demonstrated the necessary physical processes for digital printing:

  • Drop forming
  • Ink recirculation
  • Selective drop ejection

One of the most important aspects of the LILO approach is the lack of an ink jet chamber or nozzle. With no chamber to contaminate or nozzle to block, LILO promises to be much more reliable and scalable than current ink jet technologies. LILO also seems less sensitive to environmental parameters and ink formulations, providing the prospect of a universal, self-priming, digital printhead delivering conventional type inks at offset speed.