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Xerox launches new 3D printer featuring a nozzle ‘half the width of a human hair’


New Xerox 3D printers sport a nozzle which is almost too tiny to see with human eyes

Xerox says it has developed innovative architecture featuring tiny, stainless steel nozzles inside its new Direct to Object Inkjet Printer.

The company says this means it has created a new, label-less, on-demand method of personalising three-dimensional objects.

The nozzles are contained in print heads – about the size of a deck of cards – that accurately spray ink on objects as small as bottle caps and as large as football helmets. The printer can print on plastic, metals, ceramics and glass, eliminating the need for costly labels. 

“This innovation opens up a path for creating customised products instantly at a time when the consumer’s appetite is all about personalisation,” says Brendan Casey, vice president of Xerox Engineering Services.

“Imagine a sports fan coming home from a game with a helmet or ball that was personalised right at the stadium, or a retailer offering on-demand personalisation on hundreds of different store items.”

Xerox uses enhanced image-quality algorithms to direct the microscopic nozzles half the width of a human hair. By accurately spraying ink at distances of one-quarter inch, the printer is able to print on smooth, rough, slightly curved or stepped surfaces at print resolutions ranging from 300 to 1,200 dpi. The printer can handle up to 30 objects per hour, with the ability to scale for production.

“The real innovation here is that we can now print on items, such as steel water bottles with multiple curves, without the setup time and costs that analog printing such as flexography or screen printing require,” says Wayne Buchar, chief engineer, Xerox Engineering Services.

Xerox says the printer’s other innovative features include:

  • The ink jets are compatible with virtually any type of ink chemistry including solvent, aqueous and UV inks and can be operated at temperatures as high as 140°C, enabling jetting of specialised inks that meet demanding requirements.
  • The innovative architecture features a flexible design for holders so that objects can be changed out easily.
  • Xerox software ensures precise head-to-head registration and best in class color calibration.

Moreover, Xerox says the new printer, which can be seen in this video, promises to create new revenue opportunities for a number of industries:

  • Retail: In competitive retail space where brick and mortar stores are in a fierce battle with online retailers, the printer is easy-to-use, fun-to-watch and offers highly customisable output allowing stores to offer walk-up low cost print runs as low as one on a variety of objects.
  • Printing: For those serving a variety of markets, centralised print providers or distributors (online or brick and mortar) can offer small runs for personalising and customising products.
  • Packaging and manufacturing: It is a packager’s dream to eliminate the cost and headache of labels and be able to customise packaging. It also offers a flexible architecture that can support conveyors if necessary.

The Xerox Direct to Object Printer is a customised solution built to order. Xerox says it will work directly with customers to optimise a custom configuration specifically suited for their application. Pricing starts at $145,000 and varies according to configuration and options.