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Canon Ink Cartridges: Where Are They Now And Where Did They Come From?

Aug 17, 2007
During the 70's a discovery was made by Canon researchers who found that when a soldering iron accidentally touched an ink filled syringe there was a resulting expulsion of ink as a stream creating the beginnings of their 'Bubble Jet' technology. It took several years to actually bring this to life and in 1985 they began to sell printers utilising this new technology. Since then further research has improved technology of the the inks to the point where the quality was referred to as 'near photo' quality comparing the standard of a photo taken with a camera using film (now becoming obsolete with the popularity of digital cameras) to that of what the printer was capable of doing using special photo quality paper.

Ongoing developments were also made to the the actual cartridges themselves improving the ink delivery systems and introducing such innovative concepts as small heaters attached to the nozzles of the printhead and experimenting with varying the size of the ink droplets. In addition to working on better technology of the inks and the cartridges themselves the printers also benefited from the continuing research so that new models started appearing combining other functions such as fax, copy, scan, CD/DVD labelling and better media handling abilities.

The Present...
Canon currently divides their inkjet printers into 2 main categories being the Pixma series suitable for the majority of home/office users and their Large Format Printers.

Pixma Series Inkjet Printers - Under the dashboard

'Ink Cartridges aint Ink Cartridges'
The Pixma series of printers utilises 8 separate ink tanks meaning you dont have to change the entire cartridge because one color has run out as is the case with machines using other types of cartridges. The actual printhead itself sports an impressive 768 nozzles for each color (6,144 all together).

All manufacturers have faced the same challenge with inkjet technology in that ideally to achieve 'faithful image expression', meaning your picture actually looks like a picture with nice smooth edges etc, you need to have the cartridge spraying out very small ink droplets with exact placement on the page but the problem was always that as the droplets become smaller there was a tradeoff in quality and precision of placement. To combat this the most common technique in the past was to use more than one pass across the page but then there was a downside with this as well being a slower printing speed as the printer passes back and forth spraying out those microscopic size droplets and using many passes to achieve good quality and retain that true image.

Canons has adopted a new approach called FINE (short for Fullphotolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) utilising a a different ink ejection system and nozzle. As mentioned before when the ink droplets are large quality isnt really a problem but you dont get good image expression whereas when you reduce the size of the droplets you get problems with quality and also air resistance causes issues with the ink droplets being placed correctly. With FINE there is a new ink ejection system using bubbles formed at the tip of the nozzle and the nozzle also has a heater attached above the ejection opening. Canon states that the combination of these 2 features allowes for more uniform droplet size, faster droplet speed without being affected by airflow and more exact placement on the page.

Canons printhead for this range of machines also experienced some new technology using semi conductor manufactuering processes as the normal manufacturing methods werent suitable for the large number of nozzles Canon wanted to use. Basically 2 resins are used one after the other to form the nozzle and heater into a single wafer giving the manufacture of the nozzles semi conductor level precision over a large surface area without any requirement for the bonding processes generally used.

*Editors Note: It should be mentioned that of course other manufacturers such as HP etc all make similar claims about their 'ground breaking technology' and by the time you sift through the terminology they've all introduced for their technology its difficult to determine which is better than the other*

Media Handling for the Pixma Series
The media handling capabilities include a duplexing unit and document feeder and a tray guide to assist when its time to label all those CDs and DVD's that have been lying around for months.
About the Author
Mr James has owned The Cartridge Specialists (Melbourne) since 2004 selling ink, toner, fax rolls etc & regularly writes articles about his industry
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