09 December 2018 Digital Printing Technologies

Memjet's Duralink finds growing support eyeing new printhead

The second generation printhead retains the speed and resolution of the Memjet head that caught the attention, now offering the robustness that production print needs.

Memjet has provided assessment and engineering kits for its DuraLink technology to inkjet press developers across the world.

This is the thermal inkjet technology adopted by MGI for its AlphaJet B1 digital press, and by Chinese manufacturers UP Group for colour label press and Basch for a mono label press. A host of others are poised to announce implementations which will establish Memjet as a provider of production level inkjet technology.

Colordyne announced its partnership with DuraLink at the US Labelexpo in September and is now looking for partners to develop a range of applications for its 3600 engine, its implementation of the DuraLink, based on its pigment ink, longevity and speed.

Memjet has previously been known for its fast and simple VersaPass printhead which is in use for desktop printers, in wide format, roll to roll label presses and for specialist applications like the Rigoli Reprocad press for printing coffee packs as part of the filling line. None of these demands 24/7 production.

Nevertheless Memjet has worked with Colordyne in label printing, Winkler & Dünnebier and SuperWeb at this point even without the more robust technology. Numerous others have used the first generation technology for labels and addressing applications. The arrival of the new head is starting to change that.

Memjet announced the development of DuraLink, a few weeks after Eric Owen joined the business from Kodak in August last year. It was the specification and potential of DuraLink that drew him to the business. Kodak had been one of a number of companies to look at the potential of Memjet, but although liking its water based technology alongside its own Stream technologies, did not follow up because the VersaPass lacked the robustness that is needed for production print and the development path did not match Kodak's requirements. It was at this point a dye ink only system and for the breakthrough into production printing, pigment ink is needed.

But with DuraLink that has changed. It remains a thermal inkjet technology. That is where rapid heating of water in the ink creates a bubble which ejects ink from the nozzle. Thermal inkjet was pioneered by Canon and HP and while the former uses it in desktop machines, HP has based its entire portfolio on thermal inkjet.

DuraLink uses a pigment ink, jointly developed over the last two years with Kao in Japan. The printhead has a much extended production life, approximately ten times the previous version is claimed, while retaining the 1600dpi resolution and 1m/second print speed that first created interest in Memjet. Each colour is now on a separate printhead, essential for production level implementations rather than a single head for five colours, CMYK plus an extra black.

And it has a much more durable means of heating the ink. Consequently printheads are expected to fail after passing 50 litres of ink, not 5-6 litres. This will be about two weeks of run time, says Owen, enabling the change of head to be scheduled as part of routine maintenance.

This step forward has created huge interest resulting in presentations to 100 Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies, he says. “Nobody we have shown it to has walked away because of any technical deficiency reason."

Memjet is helping speed adoption by providing complete kits, matching head to electronic control systems and ink delivery modules. It will shorten implementation and viability testing for partners. He puts a three to five month time table on this phase "and we will convert a large share of these," Owen adds.

"Having the kind of response we have experienced has validated everything I had hoped I had understood when I joined the company last year. People who know more than me have now thoroughly investigated the technology."

The interest is coming from around the world, with Owen careful not to name names before the partner makes the initial announcement. Konica Minolta subsidiary MGI's announcement that it is using DuraLink in the AlphaJet project, probably presages further announcements from the Japanese company, but none has been made as yet.

Gareth Ward

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