Solid ink

Solid ink

Solid ink is a technology used in computer printers and multifunction devices originally created by Tektronix in 1986. After Xerox acquired the Tektronix Color Printing and Imaging Division in 2000, the solid ink technology became part of the Xerox line of office printing and imaging products. Early offerings focused on the graphic arts industry. The Phaser III product introduced in 1991 cost $10,000 US. As the technology improved and costs were reduced, the focus shifted to office printing environments where quality and cost efficiency are important.

Solid ink technology utilizes solid ink sticks in lieu of the fluid ink or toner powder usually used in printers. After the ink stick is loaded into the printing device, it is melted and used to produce images on paper in a process similar to offset printing. Xerox claims that solid ink printing produces more vibrant colors than other methods, is easier to use, can print on a wide range of media, and is more environmentally friendly due to reduced waste output. The sticks are non-toxic and safe to handle. In the mid 1990s, the president of Tektronix actually ate part of a stick of solid ink, demonstrating that they are safe to handle and presumably, eat. The medium of the ink was (at least at the time) made from food-grade processed vegetable oils.

Current solid ink products are the Xerox Phaser 8560 and 8860 color printers and the Xerox Phaser 8560MFP and 8860MFP color multifunction printers.


*Print Quality: Due to the way solid ink printers put the ink onto the page, print quality is considered to be excellent with lively colors.
*First print time: When warmed up, solid ink printers have one of the fastest first page out time of any printing technology.
*Ease of Use: Xerox intentionally produces solid ink blocks in different shapes, in part to prevent insertion of the wrong color into the wrong supply slot. Some of the issues that existed a few generations ago have disappeared (for instance: abrasion resistance of the image on the finished page)
*Waste: Because loose blocks of ink are used, there is less waste generated compared to laser printers or inkjet printers, which produce empty ink cartridges or empty toners. A loose ink block, on the other hand, does not leave any residual carrier after it is consumed.
*Ozone: Solid ink printers do not produce ozone, making them more friendly to the environment and better for office workers than laser technology.
*Recycled Paper: Solid ink printers are able to print on many different types and thicknesses of media. They are much less sensitive to changes in media type than color laser printers


*Warm-up time: When the device is cold the first page may take up to 15 minutes.
*Power consumption: The ink must be heated and a large portion of the printing mechanism must be kept at or near the ink's melting point. Printers often keep a small pool of each color wax heated to temperature when the printer is not in one of its low-power modes. This is similar to laser printers which need to heat the fuser assembly. Inkjet printers do not require heated components (except high end, large format devices such as those used for sign making.) Xerox solid ink devices are typically incapable of meeting Energy Star requirements; they essentially become unusable if they do meet them. When Xerox sells an allegedly Energy Star compliant device, its "Intelligent Ready" algorithm immediately kicks in, and within 2 weeks the heaters are on all of the time.
*Printer damage from moving: The printer contains melted wax when at operating temperature, and owners manuals warn it cannot be moved until it has completed a special cool-down cycle selected from the machine's control panel. The manuals warn that substantial damage is possible, requiring servicing by a trained technician. The same problem occurs during a power outage. Given the printer's high power use, it is not feasible to connect it to a standard home/small business UPS. High-end battery back-ups can be used, though, but at a cost that exceeds the price of the printer.
*Odor: As the printer must melt wax blocks as part of its warm-up and printing process, the printer will emanate noticeable burning smells that continue for the life of the printer.
*Annotations: Given that the printing process creates a layer of wax on the sheet of paper, it is difficult to write on, or highlight printed text or graphics. Solid ink prints are also notoriously bad for feeding through the automatic feeder of a copier.
*High-speed Moving Parts: In order to transfer the ink to the sheet of paper, the printer includes a large internal drum, which is rotated at a high speed. Over time, the gears that move the drum may shift out of alignment, or other mechanical problems occur (such as misaligned ball bearings).
*Clogged Print Heads: Unlike some inkjet printers where the cartridge includes the print head, the print head in these printers is fixed. Cleaning the printhead wastes significant quantities of ink. Over time, parts of the print head become permanently clogged, resulting in unsightly streaks.

External links

* [ Xerox website]
* [ Xerox Office website]
* [ Xerox Solid Ink website]
* [ Society for Imaging Science and Technology For a full technical description of solid ink technology]


* [ Xerox website]

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