Inkjet Print Head Pop Quiz

By Elizabeth Gooding / Published:

Over the past several weeks we’ve offered up a number of perspectives on which print head technology is best suited for high-quality production inkjet.  Marco Boer of I.T. Strategies provided an overview of piezo, thermal and continuous technologies noting that there are many purveyors of piezo heads, a handful of thermal head manufacturers and only one main provider for continuous inkjet technology.

We also heard from Crit Driessen, Vice President Strategy and Alliances, Océ Printing Systems regarding Canon’s selection of piezo heads, manufactured by Kyocera, in order to deliver the quality and  service model that would ensure up-time for customers.

Next, Mike Herold, Director of Global Marketing for Ricoh Inkjet Solutions offered his perspective on the benefits of piezo technology. He specifically cited the quality and efficiency benefits of the dynamic variable drop sizes used and the long life of the heads which are manufactured by Ricoh.

Most recently, Eric Wiesner, Vice President and General Manager of HP PageWide Industrial gave a robust overview of different print head technologies noting that HP manufactures both thermal and piezo print heads, preferring thermal for production inkjet and piezo for their UV flatbed  devices.

All gave solid reasoning for their selections and two gave balanced overviews of the pros and cons of all of the different technologies, which may lead you to ask “but, which is best.” Here I can quote Marco who says, “the benefit depends on what you are looking for.” And for that we need to look beyond the head technology and at specific characteristics of individual implementations of the technology:

  1. What is the claimed reliability of the heads and how is that measured? Liters jetted before replacement or something else? 
  2. Is there an automatic head maintenance/cleaning system? How much ink is used/wasted in the process?
  3. What mechanism(s) are used to prevent ink drying in the nozzle?  Does the ink supply continuously circulate ink through the printheads?
  4. Is de-gassing used to de-bubble and deaerate the inks to prevent misfires?
  5. How are nozzle failures (jet-outs) detected? Sensors at the head itself, vision system to test quality, both? 
  6. How does the system compensate for nozzle failures? Is there redundancy in the array?
  7. What’s the replacement cost of a head assembly? Can the customer replace heads or print-bars without a service call?
  8. How many levels of grayscale (varying drop volumes) does the print head produce?
  9. What are the specific drop volumes produced (in picoliters)?
  10. What are the characteristics of the ink for which it was designed?

This is the pop quiz you need to have ready for your your OEM. Now here’s a pop quiz to see if you’ve been following along on our video series.

inkjet pop quiz print headWhich head technology is considered longer lasting, piezo or continuous?

Which head technology is puts less volatile organic compounds into the environment?

Does variable drop size impact ink wastage? 

The answers are in the videos.


A big thank you to Chris Lynn of Hillam Technology Partners, LLC for his collaboration on the print head pop quiz. Stay tuned for more interviews on OEM print head strategy and drill-downs on the impact of the factors mentioned her on print quality, cost efficiency and reliability.


About the Author

Elizabeth Gooding


Elizabeth is the Editor and Co-founder of Inkjet Insight. She has a rare ability to see print related issues from many perspectives. She has managed creative teams on complex design projects, selected outsourcers for major brands and helped print organizations to retool operations, focus their market positioning and educate sales teams to accelerate growth. She works with a team of top analysts to translate experiences into tools, data and content to help print organizations evaluate the potential of inkjet, optimize their operations and grow pages profitably. She is a founding member of the Inkjet Summit advisory board, the co-author of an award-winning book on designing for inkjet and a curious consultant constantly seeking innovative ways to drive new pages onto inkjet presses.

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