Epsonow Magazine

Page 16 - Intelligence at the next level

With the release of the Epson Stylus Photo 870 and 1270 Inkjet printers in March 2000, printer intelligence took yet one more step forward. Incorporated with these printers was support for the latest Epson inkjet innovation - the intelligent ink cartridge (Intellidge™). Regarded as a significant advancement, Intellidge marks another milestone in Epson's research and development efforts to continually improve colour inkjet print quality.

Intellidge cartridges incorporate several new technologies, all of which are brought together to complement updated technologies in the Epson printheads, drivers and specialty media.

Electronic Level

At the electronic level, Intellidge cartridges feature a memory chip that tracks ink usage with a very high degree of precision. Ink level tracking information is stored on the chip and is communicated to the user through the printer driver's status monitor. While outwardly the benefits of this feature may not seem overly exciting, upon closer examination they are more than significant.

With Intellidge cartridges, users at last have a means of identifying the amount of ink remaining in a cartridge that may have been previously removed from the printer. In most cases, removal of a partially empty cartridge occurs when the user is about to print a large job and installs a full cartridge to ensure there is enough ink to complete the job. Prior to the introduction of Intellidge cartridges, printers had no means of identifying individual cartridges and thereby track the amount of ink used and calculate the remaining amount.

The problem with this is that the calculation is reset every time an ink cartridge is exchanged, with the driver believing there is a new full cartridge being installed. So, when a half-full cartridge is installed, the driver provides the user with a misleading gauge as to the amount of ink remaining. With Intellidge cartridges, rather than store the information on the printer/driver, it is stored in the cartridge's IC (Integrated Circuit), ensuring that each swap-over reflects the amount of ink remaining.

By virtue of this precision, the printer driver's status monitor has been programmed to provide users with a valuable "copies remaining" feature. This works by calculating how much ink was consumed in printing the most recent page then using that information to inform the user how many pages - printed using the same ink volume - can be generated with the remaining ink. Essentially, this has brought reliable unattended printing capabilities to the desktop.

"Continual technological advancement is a critical issue in developing printers that meet the expectations and - more importantly - sophisticated needs of the users," said Ms Irma van Leeuwen, Epson Australia - Epsonow Magazine Volume 1's Business Manager, Volume Inkjets. "It wasn't too many years ago that, in comparison to today's printers, inkjets were relatively clumsy and unsophisticated machines. What we have now, with advances such as the Micro Piezo Printhead¹, specialty medias², lightfast inks³, PRINT Image Matching4; and the Intellidge cartridge, are printers that are way beyond the expectations of most users of even five years ago."

Mechanical Level

At the mechanical level, the Intellidge cartridges feature a specially designed valve that closes when the cartridge is removed from the printer. The benefit of this is that when a cartridge is removed from the printer for temporary storage, the problem of ink clogging - drying - is negated. This brings a new level of reliability and flexibility to printing, and in partnership with the cartridge's IC, further strengthens the Epson printer's ability to maximise ink usage.

In previous cartridge models, a needle within the printer would pierce a protective film covering an aperture in a new cartridge's ink reservoir. When removed, ink at the aperture would dry and lead to clogging when the cartridge was reinserted. With Intellidge cartridges the film has been replaced by a valve, which when pushed by the printer's needle, is forced back to allow the flow of ink. When the cartridge is removed, a spring mechanism restores the valve to its closed position ensuring ink within the cartridge is not exposed to the air.

  1. Epson's Micro Piezo Printhead: The Micro Piezo printhead is one of the most important advances made in inkjet print technologies over the past decade. With this technology, incredibly fine ink droplets can be formed and placed on media, ensuring details well beyond traditional printhead technology capabilities. In fact, the droplets generated with this printhead technology on some Epson printers are as small as three picolitres - four times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
  2. Epson Specialty Medias: For many years, Epson has researched and developed an enormous range of specialty medias, specifically matching the ink generating characteristics of its printers and the ink formulations of genuine Epson inks. For more information on the use of Epson specialty medias, click here.
  3. Lightfast Inks: See "Take A Photo, Any Photo" for an overview on Epson lightfast inks and media.
  4. Print Image Matching: Click here for a detailed discussion on this new technology.