More than a decade ago, a small team of inquisitive Australian scientists asked a seemingly obvious but overlooked question: Is there a better, faster, more efficient way to print color documents?
The question proved to be bigger than they ever imagined. But driven by a passion for invention, curiosity and a desire to change an industry, they spent the next three years within Silverbrook Research labs rethinking previous assumptions about color printing. What they emerged with was the basic operating principles that today form the core of Memjet technology.
To be sure, the path was not easy. Early on, they realized that to reach their goal they needed to create technology that produced print quality better than the average eye could see. It would need to be based on low-cost hardware and lower running costs so it could be ubiquitous. It needed to be smaller, consume less power, and operate quietly, without vibration or chemical odors. And just as important, the technology needed to be scalable and flexible enough for very small and very large printers for a wide range of industries.
The result was a new printing technology paradigm based on page-wide, single-pass printing (what we call “waterfall” printing) that utilizes ink-based printheads, 1600 dpi quality (better than a human’s vision), 1 pico-liter drop sizes, and a minimum of 54,400 ink nozzles per A4/letter sized printhead (8.5 inches x 1600 drops per inch).
Fabricating and testing early silicon designs required the creation of custom manufacturing processes to formulate unique MEMS designs. Through a business partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Silverbrook Research fabricated and tested over 1,000 different nozzle designs to select a handful that met requirements for performance, power, stability, drop ejection, longevity, yield and other characteristics.
As the silicon designs advanced, the next step was to develop a system of components (printheads, controller chips, ink and software) all designed to work together as a printing system. The first demonstration of a Memjet printing system using these components was in March 2007. Two years later, Memjet components were first made available to OEM brands and other technology partners working on Memjet-based printing and imaging devices.
Memjet and its OEM partners unveiled Memjet-powered printers for office and labels solutions in 2011, and wide format printer solutions in the first half of 2012.
Memjet technologies today are protected by more than 4,000 global patents with 2,000 patents pending. Those patents were granted to Kia Silverbrook, who is the most prolific patent holder in the world. A former managing director of Canon Information Systems Research Australia (CISRA) in the early 1990s, Kia started working on the Memjet technology concept with a handful of Ph.D. scientists and imaging experts in 1994 as president and co-founder of Silverbrook Research.