Technological innovations in both inkjet and laser printing systems, along with improvements in the durability of printed photos were detailed at the HP Labs conference in Disneyland, Paris last week.
In an effort to differentiate itself from competitors, HP is placing greater emphasis on photo permanence, to improve the longevity of photos printed using its ink and paper.
Exposure to light, heat, ozone and air pollution causes photos to fade, and as new inks are developed, researchers are looking for different types of chemical degradation.
As there is no Ansi or ISO print permanence test, the only unbiased comparisons of printer inks and papers are produced by independent testers such as Henry Wilhelm of the Wilhelm Imaging Research Institute in the US.
Speaking at the HP Labs event, he emphasised the importance that ink and paper quality has on photo permanence, pointing to research carried out by his institute: 'Refilled HP cartridges from suppliers such as Tesco and Jessops produce photos that begin to noticeably degrade in a number of months.'
HP is now promoting micro-porous paper over swellable polymer for printing photos. Swellable paper is slower to absorb ink and dry, and porous has now matured to the stage where it's overcoming the challenges of ozone fade and haze.
Some of the improvements in paper for inkjet printing have been incorporated into HP's Colorlok paper.
Nils Miller, senior scientist at HP, elaborated: 'Colorlok paper technology locks colorant at the surface for improved performance, as ordinary plain papers can allow ink to over-penetrate.'
Faster dry times mean ink is less likely to smear and HP argues that by using this paper, black appears darker resulting in bolder, sharper documents. Crucially, the paper is available at mainstream price points.
New inks, in the form of the Vivera 110 tri-colour cartridge, are optimised for porous paper. Dye structures have been changed to increase ozone fade resistance and strengthen water fastness.
The Vivera branding is applied to ink which has passed HP's internal quality control standards for commercial and consumer printing.
Further increases in the number of nozzles per inkjet cartridge are foreseen with top-of-the- range professional printer cartridges now containing 10,560 nozzles per printhead. Inkjet printer performance has been following Moore's law, roughly doubling every 18 months since 1985.
Aside from print quality developments, HP's next generation of consumer photo printers will feature improved LCD panels with more intuitive graphical interfaces and enhanced, onboard photo-editing tools. Such printers will become increasingly PC independent.
In an effort to improve consumer choice when it comes to its new product releases, this summer HP is simplifying its printing sub-brands into Deskjet, Photosmart, Photosmart Pro, Officejet and Officejet Pro.
In the laser printing market, HP is expanding its use of ceramic heating cores in place of halogen lamps to form the fusing unit of Laserjet printers. Ceramic cores drastically reduce warming up times, first page prints and power consumption.
Advancement in the accuracy of laser printing is proceeding with the refinement of toner composition leading to better control over the shape, size and charging properties of toner particles.
At the very high end of the printing scale, HP has been researching fine art reproduction. Its efforts have resulted in a sophisticated method of producing almost exact colour copies of original artwork.
Improvements in the calibration techniques for cameras and printers are achieved by using an HP emissive calibration chart. These techniques are device independent, although HP obviously pushes its own equipment.
HP artist software processes the artwork data captured by the camera using a reference image to effectively reproduce the image. The overall workflow required to carry out the operation has been greatly simplified.
The system is not completely refined, HP acknowledges that there's further scope for improvement.
HP technologies look good on paper
By Marc Delehanty on Jul 5, 2006 10:00AM