Tag: inkjet

Inkjet can print eye cells

Neuroscientists at Cambridge University have come up with a more interesting use for their Inkjet printer other than printing photos of the lab’s Christmas party.

According to the British journal Biofabrication, which we get for the spot the fabrication competition, the team used an inkjet printer to print cells from the eye, making a practical step in the quest to grow replenishment tissue for damaged or diseased organs.

Researchers at England’s extracted two types of cells from rat retinas and squirted them through a printer nozzle to see if they survived.

Apparently the rats’ retinas were healthy after being “printed,” retaining their ability to survive and grow.

What the Cambridge boffins Keith Martin and Barbara Lorber believe is that they could use this technique to build artificial tissue in layers.

This is the first time that the technology has been used to successfully print mature cells from the central nervous system, the scientists said. They cautioned, however, that much work lay ahead.

What they want to do is build retinal tissue for people suffering from degenerative diseases of the eye as the loss of nerve cells in the retina is a feature of many blinding eye diseases.

“The retina is an exquisitely organised structure, where the precise arrangement of cells in relation to one another is critical for effective visual function,” they said in a press release.

The team used a piezoelectric inkjet printer head, which expelled so-called glia cells and retinal ganglion cells from adult lab rats through a single nozzle less than one millimetre (0.04 of an inch) across.

Inkjet fluid has a narrow margin of error in terms of viscosity and surface tension before it stops working. Adding cells to the liquid had the potential to make a real mess.

The only thing wrong with the technique is that there was a large loss in the number of cells sinking to the bottom of the fluid reservoir where they could not be printed. The cells that were printed were undamaged and could grow. 

Cambridge scientists print lasers

Regular inkjet technology could be used to print sheets of lasers onto any surface, thanks to research from Cambridge University.

Lasers are generally produced on silicon wafers, using similar processes to that of chip manufacturers.  These are then used for a variety of applications, from reading data on a Blu-ray disk, to beaming data across the world in high speed internet connections, not to mention wider medical uses.

With a new production technique involving printing laser producing material, scientists could enable these many applications and more with greater ease, using any material as a surface.

Cambridge University researchers used materials known as chiral nematic liquid crystals (LCs), similar to that found in LCD televisions, to create the lasers. These photonic materials are able to produce laser light when placed under the correct conditions, such as when the scientists add a fluorescent dye.  

While it has been possible to create this effect in labs previously, production methods have been overly complex, involving printing on substrates such as glass and silicon.  However Cambridge scientists have now created a way to print small dots of LCs using standard inkjet technology

By printing onto a polymer surface scientists have the ability to print on almost any surface, even flexible ones, producing tuneable laser sources, and high resolution laser displays. Medical applications using the patented printing system are also being touted, according to the university.

Inkjet printers bang out graphene circuits

Another application of that wonder material graphene has emerged, adding to its growing list of strange and exciting potential uses, with a breakthrough in printed circuits.

According to work by Cambridge University, the possibilities of using graphene in printed circuits has received a significant boost with a new production method.

Printed circuits are nothing new, but the main problem that has held back cheaply produced thin film electronics, leading to flexible and transparent electronics, is that the processing power is far too slow.

This usually involves mixing in conducting polymers with inks that can be printed right onto substrates.  Compared to traditional chips they are miles behind producing computional speeds that consumers have grown accustomed to.

However, advances made by graphene expert Andrea Ferrari and colleagues at Cambridge have shown that the revolutionary properties of graphene could mean that printed circuitry could soon be viable.  Among the multitude of graphene applications currently researched in labs around the world, its use in next generation chips is strongly touted as it has the potential for extremely high speed processing.

The problem up until now is that it is difficult to get graphene to incorporate with droplets needed to function with an inkjet printer.

The results of the study, published on Arxiv, shows a method involving chipping flakes of graphene from a block of graphite with a chemical process, and filtering out any printer clogging bits.

Apparently the team has been able to knock out a number of circuits for thin film transistors, according to Technology Review, but the research appears to be in its infancy.

According to the team, the discovery will pave the way for “all-printed, flexible and transparent graphene devices on arbitrary substrates”.

TechEye spoke to Professor Andrea Ferrari, who told us that the developments with inkjet printing could lead to flexible and transparent electronics, smart textiles, games, toys and RF tags.

According to Ferrari, even though he and the team have just completed early stage research, the technology is already looking promising: “This is a first demonstration, but already at this stage, at the first attempt, our mobility is much bigger than the biggest reported to date for printed semiconductor electronics.

“This is just the beginning. We are in contact with potential industrial partners and we hope to have some prototypes ready in the near future.” 

STMicro tops MEMS revenue, again

STMicroelectronics continues to top the charts as the biggest foundry manufacturer of microelectromechanical system (MEMS) sensors, beating the second place competition, Texas Instruments, with five times as much in revenue.

It has been leading the MEMS foundry market for four years now, and is the only company to achieve revenue in the hundreds of millions. The reason for its success? HP’s printers. Inkjet wafers accounted for the majority of its revenue in MEMS.

Despite some trouble in inkjet production, STMicro has managed to win contracts from other manufacturers like Kodak – as well as using its track record to run production lines in bio MEMS, including insulin pumps with Switzerland’s Debiotech.

Analyst outfit IHS iSuppli, which follows the MEMS market closely, reports STMicro brought in an estimated MEMS foundry service revenue of $228.6 million – compared to second place TI’s $47.4 million – in 2010 alone. Together with IDS MEMS production, the third, fourth and fifth spots were taken by Sensonor, Sony and SMI respectively.

Sony has performed well, growing 51.2 percent in MEMS market revenue – down mainly to Knowles Electronics, its biggest client.

Texas Instruments’ main problem has been in Lexmark’s shrinking inkjet business, TI’s main customer. However, IHS iSuppli says the company will grab some revenue share back following a consumer MEMS manufacturing agreement with a top 15 company in the inkjet business. 

Non-branded printer cartridges will save you a bundle

People that switch from branded inkjet printer cartridges to private label versions could save themselves a bundle of cash, research has found.

In a YouGov survey of 2000 households, for Environmental Business Products, the company found that switching labels could save households a combined £440 million a year.

It also found that the average home gets through 4.85 cartridges a year. Half of those questioned admitted they only ever buy branded cartridges from printer manufacturers such as Hewlett Packard, Epson, Lexmark or Canon.

According to the research, branded cartridges typically cost £30 each, which creates an annual bill of £145.50 – the same as a television licence. It said if buyers of branded cartridges – approximately 10.1 million households – instead bought private label versions from high-street retailers and supermarkets, which are around 30 percent cheaper, they would save £43.65 per household per annum or a combined £440 million. Currently only 18 percent of households exclusively buy private-label versions.

Patrick Stead, founder and chief executive of Environmental Business Products, which -surprise, surprise – supplies private-label cartridges to many high street retailers across Europe said: “When most items in the shopping basket are rising in price, the printer cartridge is one product where there are easy savings to be made, so it is surprising that so many people continue to pay a premium.

“Buying a private-label ink cartridge gives consumers a saving of 25 percent to 35 percent which is very welcome at any time, but especially in the current climate. Once people realise there is no compromise in quality, regardless of misleading propaganda, they’re likely to stick with the cheaper option rather than returning to branded.”

The survey also found that 10 percent of households buy 10 or more cartridges a year, giving a potential saving of £90 each per year, if they switched to highstreet cartridges. Additionally  66 percent say a cheaper price is likely to encourage them to switch from printer manufacturers cartridges to retailers’ versions, while 43 percent would be motivated to switch cartridges because of environmental credentials.

Google wants to intercept all the world´s print jobs

Online giant Google wants to become the “World’s Print Spooler” of sorts, if one believes Google’s plans for printing from its “Chrome OS” and “other web-connected platforms”, as published recently in a firm’s blog at Chromium.org which hosts its Chromium open sauce browser.

Highlighting how things can go overboard when you misdiagnose a problem, the on-line behemoth says that the printing landscape is too complex, because a lot of drivers are needed for different printers, and that they have come up with a solution: called Google Cloud Print, a described as “a service that enables any application (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer.” It calls this scheme “a new approach to printing.”

Mis-diagnosis
The firm says that “today’s printers still require installing drivers which makes printing impossible from most of these new devices. Developing and maintaining print subsystems for every combination of hardware and operating system– from desktops to netbooks to mobile devices — simply isn’t feasible.”. There is a problem with that statement: it is false. Everybody in the IT field knows that real quality printers speak industry-standard languages, of which PCL and PostScript are the most popular.

There are Free Software implementations of both PostScript and PCL, namely GhostScript and GhostPCL  , both available under the Free Software Foundation’s GPL license. If Google wants to make printing easy from its Chrome OS, they should integrate the open source PCL and/or PostScript engines into Chrome OS. Of course, there’s the issue of the particular licensing of Chrome OS itself.  But let’s leave lawyers out of the equation for now.

By integrating those two industry standards into Chrome OS, most of the world’s “real” printers would work out of the box. The real problem for non-windows operating systems are the so-called “winprinters”, or GDI printers, or “dumb printers” as this scribbler likes to call them. Most low-cost inkjets fall into this category, with one notable exception: HP.

HP long ago decided to support GNU/Linux and has developed Linux drivers, with the name HP Linux Imaging and Printing System (HPLIP) which could be also integrated into Chrome OS for seamless printing, even to low-cost HP inkjets. That would, of course, leave out the low-end Canon, Lexmark, and any other minor player in the Ink-jet market, but perhaps Google could use the opportunity to promote the virtues of those with open source drivers and “real” printers with a brain  -an internal CPU and hardware-based page layout engine-. In other words: If a given printer does not support established standards, or the manufacturer does not provide open source drivers, that’s the printer manufacturer’s problem, they’ll lose Chrome OS users.

Google’s wasteful and dangerous vision: become the world’s print spooler
This scribbler could go on and on the lack of sense of Google’s proposal -making print jobs travel from computers to Google’s servers and back to a new breed of “Cloud-aware” printers, but the best way to put some light into this is to quote what the visitors to Google’s blog are thinking of this proposal.

One user says “This means that I can cloud print something in my house, walk to my local it store, pick it up and unfortunately not save any time”. Another named Sebastian wrote about his different priorities “That’s nice, but when will Chrome have a “print preview” option?”. Others think that the approach is unnecessary and wasteful, like Dave Johansen, who wrote: “Cool idea, but even putting privacy concerns aside, something about shipping a print job off to the cloud just to be sent back to my printer in my house seems unnecessary and wasteful.”

S. Sokolow agrees “This seems sort of like a Microsoft/Apple-style “doing it our way rather than the right way” move” with another one commenting “I do think it’s a little silly to send your print job from one side of the continent to the other and back again just because nobody in the Windows, Windows Printer, and mobile computing sectors are willing to invest in sticking a good UI, a roaming service or two, and a bit of polish on top of the CUPS + Zeroconf combination that Linux and Apple are continuing to develop.”, and Nizam agrees “very very wasteful. if you are developing a new communications protocol for printers to adapt, why won’t you use the same protocol over LAN rather than cloud? What is the exact benefit of the cloud here? I see none.”

Some people laugh at Google’s vision,  lots question it
Some users could only laugh at it. Vic Berggren said: “Is that so it can come back with adwords embedded in the print job?” A poster with the nickname CubanLinks added: “This is so ridiculous, it’s almost worthy of an April 1st post or a TheOnion article.”

Others point to the absurdity of relying on network (Internet) connectivity to be able to print: “Among other reasons I don’t like cloud services, as a user, I don’t like having my potentially unstable DSL as a single point of failure” says one, while another with nickname Deux wrote: “wait, so if I don’t have an internet connection, I can’t use my printer? Awesome! Always dreamed of that!”

Others, quite rightfully, think Google should stop trying to re-invent the wheel: Michael Brophy said “This Google Cloud Print is a folly — they can’t support printer drivers on Chrome OS because they don’t have the maturity of partnerships and OEM ecosystem that Microsoft has cultivated over the past 20 years. Not to mention Google just wants to turn everyone’s printers into another advertising outlet — like fax spam from the 80s and 90s.”

Carmen Kroc agrees, the answer is PostScript: “POSTSCRIPT. This problem was solved in the 70’s. How many more times is the world going to be hampered by obtuse printer manufacturers who insist on hitting users with the brand hammer so they can sell overpriced cartridges and install spyware on their machines. Google are going to have a much bigger fight with printer manufacturers by cutting off their access to abuse the user” (sic).

Finally, others like Les pointed about the security implications “You better get security right. The backlash you will get the first time somebody prints their taxes to the wrong printer or someone intentionally spams the wrong printer will be insane.” Mikko adds “Security? Confidentiality? Information integrity? Do you really trust Google so much?” Anthony Papillon writes “Honestly, if you look at this, there is no need for this project aside from Google having even more access to data. Installing a printer driver is a no brainer. Sorry, I’m a huge fan of Google but this is an obvious move to grab more data.”

Closing thought
Choosing a printer that supports PCL or PostScript is not a problem. Affording the overpriced INKJET INK or toner is the problem. Can Google make printer ink rain from the Cloud?.