As we begin 2014 and I look back at the past 30 years, I am in awe of the technological advances in printing technology. It amazes me to think about how far technology has come and where it can take us in the future.
It seems like just yesterday where the local Fotomat and 60 minute photo is where you got images printed. Today you hit print on your home computer and presto an image appears. Well, most of the time, unless you have a print head issue.
Print heads and print head technology seems to be the key to what printing is evolving into. Prior to the last few years, designers and retail printing was limited to the visual signage, ads, magazines, banners and posters that sold or promoted products. Today 3D printing technology has taken printing to a new level, the "printing" or material being printed from the print head itself has become the actual product.
On December 10, 2013 Victoria Secret took 3D printing onto the runway. Yes onto the fashion run way as they used 3D printing to create the Wings on their models. Printed clothing is certainly an innovation that makes us think of the possibilities that are ahead of us.
Victoria Secret Fashion Show Goes High Tech
But that is not the end for print head technology. There are many new uses for print heads that we could never have imagined just a few years back. 3D printing has quickly risen with a WOW factor. From printing icing, sugars, various food products, ceramic, glass, human tissue, plastic and bio for medical and dental, to building materials such as concrete and metals for the aerospace, architectural and automotive industries, if you can melt or dissolve it, you can jet it. Just take a look at this video to get an idea of this amazing technology.
As the 2D printing market is creating print heads with higher and higher resolutions and smaller jet sizes, the 3D market is utilizing print heads made up of varied-sized nozzles, in which the chosen material is jetted from. 3D’s resolution, which is measured in microns, does not determine the detail per x/y coordinate, but in the Z direction or thickness. This Z direction is the factor that determines how smooth the product looks and feels. The drop sizes, which are variable in some cases, can be much larger than 2D print heads and based on the material to be jetted. The lower the micron thickness of the layer resolution in combination with drop size, the smoother and more detailed the part is.
I am curious if inkjet production printing and 3D somehow merge to create very innovative publications, products and mailers.
What are your thoughts on this new technology and how do you think it will impact us during our lifetime?