There’s a lot that goes on between clicking “print” and holding your high-quality printed page. Today, Thom Brown, one of the HP Supplies Guys, takes us under the hood of the printer to show how ink, toner and paper work with the printer to create good-looking, long-lasting prints.
I’ve been reading about an interesting university study on an inkjet system using silicone to prevent ink drying that draws its inspiration from the human eye. Being a true ink geek myself, I enjoy hearing about new ideas and I find the concept of biomimicry exciting. Science definitely learns a lot from how things operate in the natural world.
Although this particular technology isn’t something HP uses – since a silicone film could affect the material of cartridge nozzles, ink chemistry, and droplet size and consistency – we have developed several other technical innovations for Original HP ink cartridges to help prevent drying.
Next we’ll take a look inside an HP ink cartridge to see exactly how it works. But if you want to skip the science you can head straight to the end of my post for tips on keeping your ink cartridges clog-free and running smoothly:
HP Designs Ink Cartridges to Avoid Drying and Clogging
As we develop HP ink cartridges in the lab, we use a number of methods from start to finish to prevent ink from clogging or drying in the cartridge. Some of the ways HP helps you avoid ink drying include: Ink Formulation, Cartridge Reliability Testing, Printer Servicing Algorithms and Printer Design.
The tiny nozzles in Original HP ink cartridges that expel ink droplets are about one third the width of a human hair. As you can imagine, even the tiniest debris or contaminant in the nozzles could cause a clog. So we take special care during manufacturing to ensure that HP ink is free from impurities and debris.
To keep nozzles clog free, Original HP ink goes through multiple purification steps and the cartridge manufacturing is performed in a sterile room to ensure the contents are pure and free of contaminants. We also ensure the ink doesn’t interact with the other components of the cartridge, such as plastics, foam or precious metals, which could introduce contaminates if exposed to the ink.
Cartridge Reliability Testing
Over the years, one of HP’s design goals for its ink formulations has been to continuously improve cartridge reliability and reduce ink clogging at the nozzle. So each adjustment we make to improve an ink formulation, such as improved highlighter resistance, has to be tested to confirm that it doesn’t negatively affect reliability.
Before a cartridge design is completed, reliability is checked and double checked with numerous tests that ensure the cartridge works properly, not only right out of the box but throughout its entire life, from page one to page empty.
Printer Servicing Algorithms
HP printers use thermal inkjet technology, which means that ink expulsion is powered by heat. Inside the cartridge, pressure is created by a resistor that heats the ink, causing it to jet out of the nozzle. Similar to heating a boiling pot of water, this pressure creates air bubbles in a process known as nucleation.
Obviously, these bubbles have to go somewhere, right? To keep them out of the way of ink headed for the print nozzles, HP cartridge design and automatic print servicing draws these bubbles away so the printer operates smoothly.
With Original HP ink, the purpose of servicing is not necessarily to remove dried ink or debris from the print head, as may be the case with unpurified refill ink, but rather to remove air bubbles from the system. Things like automatic cleaning of the print heads and cartridge cleaning cycles routinely service the printer to maintain bubbles and clear nozzles. Without this servicing, the chamber would fill with air instead of ink, which would cause problems with printing.
HP printers are also equipped with a physical cap to prevent the ink at the print head from drying out while the printer is not in use. This cap protects the print head from the environment, like a cap you would place on a writing pen between uses. Under normal wear and use, this design performs very well to prevent ink drying at the nozzle.
Tips to Keep Your Cartridges Healthy
There are several easy steps HP printer customers can take to prevent ink drying and clogs. Following these simple tips and printing at normal usage intervals should keep your printer and cartridges working properly:
Keep the printer in a standard home environment. Avoid extreme conditions and dusty areas.
Maintain the health of the printer. Keep the printer clean and free of debris, and keep a usage pattern that matches your printer type. For instance, several pages at a time for a Deskjet, while an OfficeJet can handle tons of prints at once.
Allow the printer to enter park mode when not in use. For current HP printer models, this saves energy, leaves them ready for using features like wi-fi and HP ePrint and allows the printer to perform auto-servicing to keep the print heads clean and healthy so that when it is time to print, all components work perfectly.
Use Original HP ink in your HP printer. In my own experience, under the right circumstances a printer and ink cartridge that is properly capped and parked can work perfectly fine even years later. While doing some house cleaning, I actually came across an HP printer that hadn’t been used for more than five years. When I turned it on, it printed flawlessly from the first print out!
Ultimately, HP designs ink to dry on paper, not at the print head. We work to specifically design and test our printers, cartridges, inks and papers to work together as a printing system to ensure reliable, hassle-free performance.
Join us again next time for more from the HP Supplies Guys. Have a question about your printer or supplies? Leave us a comment or follow me on Twitter: @ThomatHP.