Inkjet Printer Manageability and costs

There's no doubt that the inkjet printer has been one of desktop computing success stories of the late 1990s. It's first phase of development was the monochrome inkjet of the late 1980s - a low-cost alternative to the laser printer. The second spanned the arrival of color and its development to the point of effective photographic quality - giving the inkjet an all-round capability unmatched by any other printer technology. However, when it comes to manageability and running costs, the inkjet trails its rival laser technology by some distance and it is on improving these aspects of the technology that the inkjet's third phase of development will focus.

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Hewlett-Packard's HP2000C inkjet, launched in late 1998, signaled encouraging progress in this direction. Most inkjet printers combine the ink reservoir and the print head in one unit. When the ink runs out its necessary to replace both - even though print heads can have a lifetime many times that of ink reservoirs. The HP2000C differs radically from traditional designs, using a modular system in which the ink cartridges and print heads are kept as separate units. The printer uses four pressurized cartridges, which hold 8cm3 of ink each and remain static underneath a hinged cover at the front of the printer. These are connected by tubes which are integrated with the standard ribbon-style cable that runs to the print head carriage. Internal smart chips monitor the supply, activating a plunger on the relevant cartridge when it requires a refill. Each ink cartridge can keep track of how much ink it has used and how much remains, even if it is moved between printers. The print heads are also self-monitoring - triggering an alert when they need to be replaced. The whole system can look at the requirements for a particular print job and only start if it determines there is sufficient ink to complete it.  


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