Where Is Thermal Inkjet Technology Going?

Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers are one of today’s most popular industrial printing options. First introduced to the market in the early 1980s, TIJ printers have become widely popular in a variety of industries due to their versatility, compact size, and low maintenance needs. Despite only weighing a few pounds, TIJ printers are capable of printing high-resolution characters and machine-scannable barcode/QR codes. TIJ printers are also more cost-effective than many other industrial printers, making them particularly alluring to small and medium-sized businesses.

Since the 1980s, thermal inkjet technology has consistently evolved to better meet user needs. For instance, early TIJ models were only capable of producing codes below 100 x 100 DPI (dots per inch) and printing at a speed of around 30 m/minute. Now, some models are capable of producing 600 x 300 DPI images and running at max speeds of 120 m/minute. 

Similarly, early TIJ printers were only compatible with water-based inks. Although water-based ink works well with porous substrates such as cardboard and paper, it does not work well with non-porous substrates such as glass, various plastics, and metals. For non-porous materials, solvent-based ink is the ideal choice. Consequently, TIJ printers could not be used to print non-porous surfaces until solvent-based ink TIJ models arrived on the market. 

There are still new developments emerging within this technology, and this article will profile these different advancements by examining what the newest TIJ printers are capable of. To accomplish this, we will use a modern TIJ printer as a case study and show you what performance and features can be expected from a modern TIJ device. 

Reliable, Efficient Operation for Maximum Uptime

As the adage goes, time is money. To maximize profits, companies need to make their operations as efficient as possible. Accordingly, it’s advantageous to use printers that can operate with as little production intervention as possible. 

By nature, TIJ printers are nearly maintenance-free. Unlike other industrial printers, TIJ printheads are not built into the printer itself. Instead, the printhead is built into the disposable cartridges that TIJ printers use as ink sources. If there is an issue with the printhead, simply exchange the old cartridge for a new one. This system eliminates the need for printhead services and professional maintenance, decreasing the total cost of ownership while increasing uptime.

The TIJ model we will be demonstrating these advancements with, the Anser X1, further increases uptime by offering two parallel cartridge slots, and therefore, two parallel printheads (as pictured above). The parallel printheads enable users to replace a cartridge without stopping production, achieving seamless uptime. When time is money, innovations like these are extremely valuable. 

Printers like the Anser X1 can also utilize the two cartridge slots to equip the printer with two different ink formulations at the same time. Given that different substrates require different ink formulations, the dual printhead configuration allows users to easily access the correct ink when switching between surface materials. Removing the step of switching between cartridges or entire printers is a huge step up for efficiency. 

Higher Resolution Larger Codes Printed at a Higher Speed

Thermal inkjet technology developers have always strived to invent printers that can create codes at the highest possible level of quality. As such, DPI level, print size, and printing speed have all incrementally increased over time. In recent years, top-level TIJ printers have been able to create machine-readable 600 x 300 DPI codes at one-inch height; but, printing speeds have generally topped off at around 120 m/min. 

The brand new Anser X1 improves on all of these features. The X1’s printing resolution can reach 600 x 600 DPI, while the parallel printheads can work in tandem to deliver a two-inch print height. Additionally, the X1 offers a maximum printing speed of 300m/min—a speed that rivals certain continuous inkjet (CIJ) models.

Increased Resistance to Environmental Hazards

Industrial production facilities can be harsh environments to work in. Temperatures can be excessively high or low, in addition to unusual amounts of dust and relative humidity that can cause equipment problems. While TIJ printers have worked towards resisting these elements with structural features like dust covers, the Anser X1 takes environmental resistance to the next level by offering:

  • Total Dust Ingress Protection: The X1 is built with an IP66 enclosure, meaning that it offers the highest possible protection against dust particles.

  • Water Protection: The IP66 enclosure also provides the X1 with a high level of protection against water, including the powerful jets used during production washdown.

  • High Humidity Resistance: The X1 can successfully operate in relative humidities ranging from 0% - 90% (non-condensing).

  • Wide Operating Temperature Range: The X1 can successfully operate in temperatures ranging from 0°- 40° Celsius (32°-104° Fahrenheit).

  • Robust Screen Protection: The X1’s industrial-grade touch panel is strong enough to protect against the accidental impacts commonly associated with industrial work environments.

This degree of robust protection and resilience for a TIJ printer has not been seen before all in one package. 

Look No Further Than InkJet, Inc. for the Latest in Thermal Inkjet Technology

Year after year, engineers continue to redefine what TIJ printers are capable of. By offering improved code qualities, accelerated print speeds, and significant environmental resistance, new TIJ models help companies maximize their profits by maximizing uptime, in addition to minimizing the headaches caused by inferior products. Of course, with all of the TIJ options available on the market, choosing the best one for you can be difficult. Fortunately, the experts at Inkjet, Inc. can help with this search.

With over thirty years of experience in developing ink and working with thermal inkjet technology, the expert team here at Inkjet, Inc. has a wealth of knowledge that we share with every client. If you’re looking for a printer to fit into your operation, give us a call today and we can help you find the best model to fit your needs.

For more information on thermal inkjet printers, thermal inkjet technology, or any other questions related to printers and ink, contact InkJet, Inc. online or by phone at (800) 280-3245.