IT intelligence: colour printing

Robin Fisk heralds a brave new world of cheap, fast, high-quality colour printing.

There have always been three problems with printing: the cost of the consumables; the sheer time it takes to produce a page with graphics; and the variable quality. But all that could change thanks to a new printing technology.

Memjet technology, developed by Silverbrook Research, promises high-speed, low-cost colour printing. It will be available in certain photo printers towards the end of 2007 and in A4-based home and office machines in 2008. Some analysts say it is the most significant development in the printer industry for 20 years.

So what is Memjet? Developed over the past 10 years, it produces full-colour images at 60 pages per minute - that's many times faster than the standard for ink-jet or laser printers. Memjet uses the best of ink-jet technology, but rather than the print head moving back and forth across the page, the paper moves past the print head, which has more than 70,000 nozzles.

There's no need for warm-up, so pages can be produced almost instantly. The normal resolution is 1,600 times 1,600 dots per inch, which yields high-quality images with virtually no drying time. A business-class printer is expected to retail at less than $300 (£150) in the US. A UK price has not been set yet.

Ink pricing is expected to be very competitive, so Silverbrook claims acquisition and running costs will be cheaper than for traditional technologies. The technology can scale up to large-format printing, too, meaning posters and A3 mailing items could be produced in-house. Memjet itself will not sell printers; it will license its technology to as yet unannounced printer companies.

The implications are clear: it will be possible to produce in-house print runs more rapidly and for less cost, and to decentralise high-quality colour printing to individual offices.

- Robin Fisk is managing director of software company Fisk Brett.

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