A new digital inkjet technology from a UK-based research and development company promises to cut the cost of customising vehicles, white goods and architectural surfaces, while also saving energy.
Cambridge-based technology and product development company The Technology Partnership (TTP)’s Vista Inkjet system is capable of printing with standard industrial paints. Successful tests have already been carried out using cellulose and two-part part polyurethane paints, which are used for car and aircraft body manufacturing.
‘In the aircraft industry, creating a customised image involves masking taping the area, spraying with an individual colour, then heating the hanger to cure this. The process then has to be repeated with each further shade, and that uses time and energy,’ said David Smith, head of business development for Vista. ‘Using Vista, the whole process could be completed in one go with a single curing stage.’
Other applications include coating metal coils or roof panels used in architectural cladding, printing using thermoplastic fluoropolymer paints such as Kynar for decorative finishes on architectural metallic structures. TTP is also exploring the printing of low cost and high functionality materials for ceramics, textiles, security and brand protection along with high conductivity patterns and 3D printing, as well as the customisation process for white goods, where a more durable paint could now be used.
Existing inkjet printing is restricted by ink formulations and the use of closed chambers and narrow channels. Instead, the Vista Inkjet relies on a new print head design based on a planar construction that allows free-flowing ink circulation and accurately controls the movement of the nozzle plate to eject droplets, from 0.5 pico litres to over one nanolitre.
This means that fluids with large particulates and high viscosities can be used along with aqueous pigmented inks and a range of solvent inks such as alcohol based fluids, ethyl acetate, MEK and Dowanol. Motion of the nozzle plate is controlled by customised electrical drive signals to eject droplets on-demand or on a continuous basis, providing great accuracy.
The droplets created are precise, well-formed and consistent, and print heads can also be designed with specific nozzle diameters, pitch and number of rows for different inks, paints and applications.