by November 1, 2006 0 comments



What are rotogravure and flexography? How about making someone into tinier
and tinier pieces using an inkjet printer-and wonder what made that so
special? Did you know that a certain print equipment vendor has completely done
away with the requirement of having a drum inside a laser printer and turns out
better prints than before? The world of printing is littered with jargon and
buzzwords. We take you through some of them that try to deliver better, faster,
quieter prints, while saving on raw material and making printing easier.

Rotogravure is the technology where you have a separate printing unit per
color usually in the CMYK color set. Flexography is also called ‘surface
printing’ especially on flexible material like cloth and bags.

Evolution
Although the core reason for using a printer today still remains the ability to
transfer a document to printed ‘hard copy’ format, that is not the only
reason for innovation today. The printing machines of yesteryears have evolved
out of their ‘print only’ avatars to be ‘print capable’ machines today.
Whether they are termed ‘multi functional’ or ‘all in one’ devices, the
printers we see around us are more than electronics with the simple task of
transferring ink to paper in a variety of patterns and colors. They are now at
the core of the connectedness revolution, or the age of collaboration.

The first printing devices had limited memories built in, which could hold no
more than a few bytes of information about the job they were executing. Then,
more memory was added as well as the ability granted to let them be shared among
multiple users through a PC, spool bigger documents and even multiple documents
and print them. The printer was directly connected to the local network and used
by anyone that had access to that network. Tasks that used the same electronics
and were closely related enough to add value to the product were added —
photocopying, scanning and faxing. And the MFD of today was born. But innovators
were not satisfied as yet.

They said ‘hey, why have people sent the same documents again and again to
print?’ So they decided to add a permanent storage to the MFD, in the form of
a hard disk. To manage those documents, a DMS (document management system) was
added. Well, if you had a DMS and needed to share the documents with different
users, a minimalist workflow system would be handy too. And when someone placed
a document on the scan-bed of such an MFD, wouldn’t it be really cool to have
the scanned document go directly into a preconfigured folder on that user’s
workstation? You’re now staring directly at a printer from the modern age.

The colloidal toner used in laser printers is
usually powdered from a block of it. This gives no control over print
quality. To solve this, toner particles are now chemically grown under
controlled environments-this gives better print quality

Many MFDs, in the mid to high end range for offices now come with mailbox
facilities. With this technology, when a document is scanned, the scan-output
can go into one of several user’s folders either on the MFD, a centralized
document store or the particular user’s workstation where installed software
pick it up and drop it into a preconfigured folder. These folders and hence its
content can be organized according to what kinds of document they are: for
example a scanned contract document can go into a folder called ‘contracts’.
When someone else requires the same document, the item can simply be moved or
copied from these folders instead of having to scan it all over again.

Regardless of whether the document being printed is text or graphics, the
data is first rendered as a graphic inside the printer’s memory and then
printed. Now, each time the printer is required to print the same page, this
operation has to be repeated. Instead of this, a device that can store
pre-rendered images into persistent storage like a hard disk will save a lot of
time.

Since such MFDs are already connected to the local network, it can also
access the same resources as the workstations on the network. This means, if
there is access to e-mail, then the MFD can potentially email as well. This
technology is also harnessed in quite a few MFDs around the office today. With
this, if for example you need to scan a document and need to send it off to
someone via email, you need not scan it, pull it to a computer and then email
it. The MFD can be setup with the SMTP server settings and the device itself can
send off the email. Similarly, the MFD can be setup to watch POP3 or IMAP
folders for certain kinds of mail, download their attachments and either print
it out or send it to someone’s DMS folder. Side by side, printers moved from
something relegated to the back office or a separate print-shop room in the
office to being in every household, being on the desktop and the next gossip hub
after the water cooler. This bade the ubiquitous print capable device go color.
We’re not talking print cartridge, but the exterior style. Stylish printers
now grace executive desktops and our home work-desks. They have grown used to
being eye-candy.

You work on a multi floor or multi building office. Printing out the document
locally and having to fetch it to someone on a different floor or building is a
hassle. Instead of that, wouldn’t it be nicer to fire the print at your
workstation, but the print comes out of any printer that you please anywhere in
your network? Well, this is also possible with today’s technology.

Preventing the misuse of resources in an organization of whatever the size is
not easy. But with technologies of authentication and authorization, it is
possible to make sure that only those users who are authorized to print on a
particular device can print from it. Using the same technologies, it is also
possible to allow certain people to print only certain kinds of documents —
for example, if someone prints out an email, then color could be disallowed and
the document would be printed out using only black. Similarly, administrators
could also setup particular applications to do color while everything else does
only black.

Also, prints can be protected from unauthorized access using security codes,
PIN numbers or technologies such as RFID. Let’s say you are trying to print
your salary statement and don’t want anyone else to have a peek at it before
you reach the printer. With such protection mechanisms in place, you could fire
a print with the option checked that you don’t want the print to come out
immediately. Now, you can walk over to the printer or MFD at your leisure. Only
once you tap in your PIN code or swipe your RFID (could be your employee access
card as well) at the printer would your print out appear. For these technologies
to work, your printer/MFD is linked to the same network domain you log on to (eg:
an LDAP or Active Directory domain). The device will pick up your credentials as
set up.

Jargon Buster
Versatile Media Handling
A jargon used to describe the fact that the particular printer can handle
different types of paper, including sizes and nature of that paper. For
instance, if a printer can print on normal A4 sized paper, envelopes and
glossy photo paper, it can do versatile media handling.

ADF
An acronym for ‘automatic document feeder’, this is the mechanism that
picks up the media from different trays as per the job being executed and
sends it to the printing mechanism. This mechanism can select the right
paper, pickup one sheet of it at a time and send it in. Modern ADFs can
also detect if the paper is aligned with the edges of the feeding
mechanism and correct it to avoid paper jams inside.

DADF
Duplex with ADF. Here, the printer not only has an ADF mechanism, but also
has a duplex attachment to loop the paper back into the printer for
printing on the reverse side. This beats having to stand by the printer
and figuring out which side and edge to orient the paper on for the other
side print.

PictBridge
A standard used to interface printers with other photo taking devices such
as digital cameras and mobile phones. Using this technology, a digital
camera can be connected to a printer over a wire or wireless interface and
take printouts. Both devices must support PictBridge for this to work.
PictBridge printers also feature software within them to enable users to
preview the pictures, print out photo index cards and select what images
to print out, all without needing a computer around.

What vendors are upto
Let’s take a look at different printing technologies .

Anti-refilling Ink Tanks
This is a generic term to describe technology used by different vendors to
combat pirate refilling of ink cartridges. The common denominator between the
variations is that there is some kind of electronics inside the ink cartridge
that either self destructs the unit or tells the printer that this unit has been
used before with a lesser amount of ink.

The end result is that such cartridges cannot be reused. Pirate refillers
have still found a way around, by replacing or reprogramming these chips to
reset their state and fool the printers into accepting them as fresh stock.

Mailboxes in MFDs
Multi-functionals now come with the ability to send and receive email. But where
would they store it? Also, it would be a hassle to reprint or rescan documents
again and again. Therefore, MFDs now bundle hard disks inside them that can
store your documents for you. You can create folders and organize them. Access
control lists can protect who has what kind of access to the files stored in a
mailbox. When someone else wants the document, it can be copied or moved to that
mailbox in a simple operation. Embedded software can check your mail, and
organize attachments into your folders, ready for print.

Gloss Mark (Xerox)
This is an accidental invention that uses defects in a printout like banding to
insert digital information on to printouts that cannot be duplicated using
scanning or photocopying. This is used as a sort of watermark to protect the
document. Such information is not normally visible but can be seen when the
documents is held at a certain angle or under certain lighting.

Picolitre/FINE (Canon)
Full Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering is the correct technical lane
for the buzzword from Canon—Picolitre. In inkjets, the print head has several
nozzles that spray a fine stream of ink droplets with a size of about 5
Picolitres on to the paper. FINE creates droplets of 1 Picolitre size that makes
the output clearer and sharper. Mid to high end models of inkjet printers with
Picolitre can produce an output with a resolution of 9600 dpi. Entry-level
models can do 4800 dpi.

Full Concurrency
A multifunctional device will pause a new print job while there is a scan in
progress. Although a scan does not make use of components required for printing
like the cartridge this delay still happens and is avoidable. Full concurrency
is the term coined to describe an MFD that can process a scan and a print job
simultaneously.

Fixing Film (Canon)
It takes some time to heat up a metallic roller compared to a sheet of the same
metal. The heat roller inside the laser printer traditionally uses a roller made
of aluminium to melt the toner. A fixing film—made of a very fine aluminium
sheet—is used to save energy, heat up faster as well as cool down quickly with
the same results.

Spherical Toner
Pulverizing a block of the mixture can make laser toners but this creates
particles of uneven size creating inconsistency and defects in the printout. To
avoid this the toner particles can be chemically grown under controlled
conditions to create particles of a desired size and shape. The answer found is
the spherical particle and the toner with such particles is called a Spherical
Toner (S Toner). Cleaner-less Toner is a variation of this where wax is added to
lubricate the roller.

DID
When multiple printers of the same model or family from the same vendor are
deployed on a single network it is redundant to have to setup each one
separately. To help with this, DID is an innovation that lets one configured
printer publish and deliver its configuration on demand to another printer of
the same model or family on the network. No manual intervention is necessary to
transfer this information apart from indicating to one of the printers that such
mechanism is either desired or available for use.

Follow Me Printing
For this you require atleast two printers of the same family with AnyPlace
Printing enable. Users of these printers would be assigned PIN codes which are
known to the printers. The software installed on the user desktops would offer
the option of Follow Me Printing. When checked, the user can simply fire a print
without selecting a particular printer and walk away.

He can then go to any of the AnyPlace Printing devices, enter his PIN and the
printout would appear from that device, regardless of the floor, building or
city as long as it is on the same network or access has been provided.

Remote Copy
Similar to AnyPlace printing this sends a scanned image to another device, but
may not require entry of a PIN. The user here would place a document for scan at
his local device, select remote copy and specify the target device. The copy
printout would appear from the remote device that can be a several thousand
kilometers away.

Transmit/RIP once (HP)
The software inside the printer will first render anything sent to it as a
picture in the memory and then prints this image. This operation must repeat
every time the page is sent, causing delays. The rendered image (called a
Rasterized Image) is cached on a hard disk in the printer, letting you transmit
and rasterize it only once speeding up output.

Instant On (HP)
Printers are configured to go to sleep when there is an idle period to save
electricity. When you fire a print it must wake up, get up to temperature before
it can print. Instant On keeps the printer at a certain temperature so that it
can start printing as soon as it can wake up.

Edgeline (HP)
An inkjet’s print head is much smaller than the surface of the paper it must
print on. This means the head must travel from one edge to the other before it
can print a complete line of a document. Edgeline printers from HP use a print
heads that cover the entire width of the paper. The print head stay stationary
while it is the paper that moves along.

ImageREt (HP)
Image Resolution Enhancement Technology is a modification to the laser toner to
produce hi-res images. Multiple dots of color are overlaid to produce a single
dot of better quality. The size of the dot and positioning on the media is
controlled electronically. The technology is optimized for use on HP’s
LaserJet paper.

Color Access Control
Using traditional authorization software, it is possible to assign ACLs on a
per-user, per software basis. Each user can be limited or allowed to use single
color or full color for printouts as per their role. For instance the front-desk
operator is permitted to take out only black prints and the Marketing Manager
can take black or color printout.

In a laser printer, a combination of two
rollers (a heat and a pressure roller) called the ‘Fuser’ unit melts
and applies the toner
mixture to print onto the medium. The toner paste is applied onto the
medium and the heat roller will melt the mixture. The
pressure roller applies even pressure on the paste and ensures that it
adheres to the medium. Static charges are used to focus
the laser beam used to print. These charges are accumalated using a
heating wire (called the ‘Corona wire’) overheated to 7 KV
generating the Corona Effect. This causes ionization, harmful to the Earth’s
Ozone layer as well as ill-suited for airconditioned
offices. To solve these multiple problems, a set of charged rollers are
used eliminating the need for the Corona heating wire

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