Xerox Corp.revealed the latest research developments taking place within its labs at TheXerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC), which develops two to three patentseach week and over 130 inventions per year.
Nearly a dozenscientists and executives were on hand last week during a tour of theMississauga-based R&D facility to discuss the latest advancements in toner,ink, paper, photoreceptors and imaging software.
CTO SophieVandebroek provided an overview of Xerox’s R&D strategy, which focuses oninformation explosion, mass customization and sustainability. (For theone-on-one interview with Vandebroek, watch our video.)
Xerox hasadvanced the life of photoreceptors by 50 per cent with the development of apolymer composite that acts as a protective chemical armor against surface wearand scratches. The new photoreceptors, which were implemented into the 4112 and4127 monochrome copier/printer models this summer, can achieve about onemillion prints and 33 per cent fewer replacement cartridges.
The ultimategoal is to develop photoreceptors that will last the entire life of themachine, said Giuseppa DiPaola-Baranyi, laboratory manager for MaterialsIntegration at the XRCC. This involves leveraging expertise in smart materialsdesign and nanotechnology to design molecules for next-generationphotoreceptors with self-healing capabilities, she explained.
“For example,when you scratch your hand and you heal, that’s a biological process. We’relooking at how we do that analogy for photoreceptors. How do we use smartmaterials design, how do we use nanotechnology to give us life-of-the-machinecomponents that can repair themselves so that any damage is oblivious to therest of the systems,” DiPaola-Baranyi.
To meet thecontinued demand for paper and reduce the amount of energy used for recycling,Xerox researchers are developing paper for printing temporary images that canbe erased on demand. The end goal is the ability to reuse one sheet of paper upto ten times with prints that can last three to five days.
While paperusage per individual is declining in developed countries, paper usage indeveloping countries is on the rise due to growing economies and more peoplehaving access to computers and printers, said Adela Goredema, project leaderfor Reusable Paper at XRCC.
“Everyone wasthinking that the office of the current millennium would be paperless, but aswe know that is not the case … We can recycle paper, but the amount of energyrequired to recycle is also quite significant,” she said.
To make onesheet of paper from virgin pulp requires about 204,000 Joules of energy, whichis enough to run a 60 watt light bulb for about one hour; making one sheet ofrecycled paper requires about 114,000 Joules, which is enough to run the same60 watt bulb for about 30 minutes, she pointed out.
Natural language colour
Xerox ismaking it easier to edit colour in digital documents by translating words intonumbers with Natural Language Color technology. The software allows users tomake adjustments in colour by selecting everyday words and phrases fromdrop-down menus to create a phrase such as “make the skin-tone colours slightlymore warm.” Over 50,000 colour variations are supported.
The technologyhas been introduced in the Xerox Phaser 7500 colour printer as a Color By Wordsfeature and accessible online in a test lab called Open Xerox. Xerox plans toexpand the technology into other printer and MFP models in the future.
Rob Rolleston,technical manager of the Workflow and Documents area at the Xerox ResearchCenter in Webster, N.Y.,encourages visitors to the site. “We are trying to get customer feedback. Weare calling this customer-led innovation,” he said.
Printable organic electronics
Xeroxenvisions a flexible monitor that can “fold neatly into a briefcase” and asmart hospital gown that “monitors your vital signs and displays them for thenurse or doctor to see” as potential end uses of printable electronicstechnology.
An alternativeto silicon, electronic materials promise to be “durable, flexible, lightweightand economical” and printable on large flexible substrates. The technology,currently in development at XRCC, will have significant implications on theconsumer electronics industry.
“XRCCscientists also have developed special conductive ‘inks’ that can be used toprint transistor components,” states Xerox. “The components can be used asdriver circuits for displays.”
Solid ink isXerox’s alternative to liquid inkjet printing and traditional toner. Thetechnology, which has a crayon-like texture and sits in a solid wax form atroom temperature, doesn’t require cartridges.
Because theink melts within the machine and uses a quartz crystal to generate very smalldroplets at slightly above room temperature, the droplets don’t move very farand give you very nice, round spots, said Peter Kazmaier, manager of NewMaterials Design at XRCC.
Xerox recentlydeveloped second-generation solid ink technology for its ColorQubemultifunction printers, which feature colour printing speeds up to 85 pages perminute and a four print head design that totals over 3,500 ink nozzles.
XRCC estimatescustomers can save about 60 per cent of their colour printing costs with aColorQube machine, which makes colour less expensive to work with and requiresfewer replacement parts.
“Solid inkperforms really, really well when you are working with rougher papers, so youcan get almost the same image quality with a cheap paper, a recycled paper, onthis machine than you can with a much more expensive, high quality paper,” saidKazmaier.
Solid inktechnology has several environmentally-conscious benefits, such as using nineper cent less lifecycle energy, producing ten per cent fewer greenhouse gasesand generating 90 per cent less supplies waste than traditional laser printing.
Cured solid ink
Building offits solid ink technology, Xerox has invented a cured solid ink that hardensunder ultraviolet light and sticks to nearly any surface. The technology hasbig implications for packaging by allowing printing on non-porous materialssuch as plastics and foils as well as heavily porous materials like corrugatedcardboard.
This offeringis different from anything else on the market now, said Michele Chrétien,project leader for UV-Curable Solid Ink at XRCC. “We have something that ourcustomers could do things with that probably we haven’t thought of yet,” shesaid.
Ultra low-melt toner
Xerox hasexpanded upon its Emulsion Aggregation (EA) toner, which was introduced overten years ago and holds over 300 patents, with an ultra low-melt version thatfuses to paper at 45 degrees Fahrenheit lower temperature.
“Our goal wasto get to higher speed colour printing at the same time as using less energy,”said Patricia Burns, laboratory manager for Materials Synthesis andCharacterization at XRCC.
The new UltraLow-Melt EA Toner retains all of the benefits of the original EA toner, whichfeatures smaller particles that improve image quality and require less tonerresulting in more prints per cartridge, she pointed out.
The technologyis available in Xerox’s 700 Digital Colour Press and expected to roll out toother desktop printer, high-end MFP and high-speed commercial colour pressmodels in the future.
Softwaredevelopments in the works aim to ease the pre-press workflow for print housesand graphics artists. Areas of focus include making it easier to personalizepre-existing images, realistically portray binding solutions and the ability topreview all angles of flap-panel brochures on screen.
“We spent thelast 15 years making our printers good … we are now trying to work ondemocratizing, allowing more people to do some of their own pre-press becauseone of the problems is that it is expensive to do,” said Peter Crean, seniorfellow, Xerox Research Center in Webster, N.Y.