Memjet Announces Third Generation Inkjet Technology: ‘DuraFlex’

Bob Leahey
Sep 12, 2019

Inkjet technology supplier Memjet recently announced a new category of inkjet heads, inks and supporting print modules called ‘DuraFlex.’ The news marks a major addition to the offerings of the San Diego company, which now supplies thermal inkjet heads and dye-based inks to about 40 makers of systems that print labels, mail, office documents, corrugated, and other applications. DuraFlex will differ from the longstanding ‘VersaPass’ technology inside most current Memjet-based printers because of two main features: the heads are long-lasting and the inks are pigmented, yielding durable print; DuraFlex shares these two features and the “Dura” prefix of Memjet DuraLink, the head technology announced last year for use in industrial print applications. DuraFlex thus is a third generation of Memjet technology, one that will occupy a space between VersaPass (mostly for benchtops, starting in 2010) and DuraLink (industrial printers, just now commercially available), and it will be marketed to OEMs accordingly.

Memjet’s Three Inkjet Technology Classes

Technology Category VersaPass DuraFlex DuraLink
Main printer types Desk/benchtop, wide format Benchtop/wide format/light production Heavy production

 

DuraFlex heads will be available in 2020 in two sizes, A4 (222 mm/8.77”) and A3+ (324 mm/12.77”). The larger head is a first from Memjet in that width, which is big enough to use in document printers and also a close match with the 330 mm/13” web width that is most common for narrow label webs; at the same time, up to four A3+ heads can be stitched, to form a line head up 1270 mm/50”, a fit for wide format implementation. DuraFlex inks have the aqueous base chemistry common to all Memjet inks, and DuraFlex heads have Memjet’s characteristic 1600 x 1600 dpi maximum resolution; nozzle count, though, is the highest ever for Memjet, at 112,640 for the 222mm head, a nozzle density that according to Memjet enables 100% redundancy.

Memjet DuraFlex Heads, 324 mm and 222 mm

Memjet DuraFlex Heads, 324 mm and 222 mm

Two 0.7 mm die lines per head, and two colors per die line

At full resolution, the specified print speed for DuraFlex is 27.4 mpm/90 fpm; at 1600 x 954 dpi, speed is 45.7 mpm/150 fpm. Like the VersaPass heads, each DuraFlex head will jet four colors (CMYK). Like the DuraLink heads for industrial use, the DuraFlex heads also have an internal architecture that is quite different from VersaPass, to include bonded rather than suspended heater elements and other changes to heat management, changes that Memjet says are the keys to long thermal head life. The overall message is that Memjet has a new line of products to aim at a middle tier of printing equipment for a wide range of uses. These uses will include ones where Memjet is established (label, packaging, mail, wide format) and at least one where it so far has had little role, production level cut sheet printers and MFPs.

As noted in the table, DuraFlex printers will range from bench-top models to entry-level production systems. There will be overlaps in terms of where the different technologies serve, but DuraFlex usually will be in printers with higher average print volume than the mostly tabletop models using Memjet ‘VersaPass’ heads, but lower in volume than the industrial systems that will use the Memjet ‘DuraLink’ heads. The expected life of the different heads climbs upwards from VersaPass to DuraFlex; where VersaPass heads will jet a few liters of dye inks, DuraFlex heads will jet tens of liters of pigmented inks. Printhead life will vary depending on application and image design; Memjet is still testing DuraFlex, but today estimates 80 liters for the A4 sized printhead and 120 liters for the A3 head. Other notes:

  • DuraFlex is modular technology—besides the print module and its end-user replaceable head, there are modules for ink delivery, ink management, and head cleaning.
  • Memjet augments its print module and sub-modules with high capacity data path (field programmable gate array print pipeline, Intel-based embedded RIP, with an optional RIP bypass for data control.
  • Inks, according to Memjet, have been developed for indirect food contact applications. They comply with EU Framework # 1935/2004 and all components are listed or approved for listing per Swiss Ordnance.
  • Print output has strong environmental resistance to light, water, ozone, and abrasion, according to Memjet, which has tested it in various ways, such as accelerated fade testing.
  • Pricing for DuraFlex-based printers will likely vary from $15,000 to $30,000 for benchtop products and from $30,000 to $200,000 for light to moderate production printers.

Memjet DuraFlex Print Module and Ink Management, Delivery Sub-Modules

Memjet DuraFlex Print Module and Ink Management, Delivery Sub-Modules

First Up: Colordyne and Kirk Rudy

This month two Memjet OEMs, Colordyne and Kirk Rudy, revealed products that they have in the works based on DuraFlex; Colordyne has many years’ experience implementing Memjet VersaPass and Kirk Rudy has many years experience across a number of different inkjet technologies. Colordyne (Brookfield, Wisconsin), a top U.S. maker of digital label webs, will offer a print module based on DuraFlex, for integration into customers’ analog label webs as part of the company’s “Commercial Class” products. Kirk Rudy (Atlanta, GA), a major maker of mailing systems and related automation, will offer the “FireJet 4C Color Inkjet System”, again a modular print unit for integration with an existing system, in this case a mail transport. Both systems are expected to be commercially available in Q1 2020.

Kirk Rudy Firejet 4C Print Station

Kirk Rudy Firejet 4C Print Station

Memjet’s news of DuraFlex and the commitments to it by two of its top OEMs are signs the company is on the move. Taken together, DuraFlex and the still recent DuraLink developments look to mark an inflection point for the company, where Memjet will move up into mid-volume and high-volume printer segments with technologies specifically designed for those segments. In fairness, we note that Colordyne and a few other OEMs have already pushed VersaPass technology into high production uses, by using one VersaPass head per color in order to push print speeds much higher. With DuraLink and now DuraFlex, though, these partners and others will soon have a full range of options from Memjet to work with, opening all levels of the market to Memjet and its partners.

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