Memjet-powered printers shoot ink through 70,000 nozzles to print a color, 8 ½-by-11 page in a second. Blink and you’ll miss it. The company promises fast, laser-quality prints at a third of the cost of LaserJet printers.

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The Memjet printer head spans the width of a sheet of paper with a series of interlaced chips, each with thousands of nozzles. The design makes it possible to print a standard-sized color page in a second.

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Bill McGlynn spent more than two decades at Hewlett-Packard as the company grew into a printing powerhouse. He was part of the team that brought the country the first LaserJet printer in 1984.

Now, he is chief executive of a little Idaho company you’ve never heard of, Memjet Home and Office, marketing new printer technology that an analyst says could change the printing industry.

Memjet-powered printers shoot ink through 70,000 nozzles to print a color, 8 ½-by-11 page in a second. Blink and you’ll miss it. The company promises fast, laser-quality prints at a third of the cost of LaserJet printers.

McGlynn insists his year-old company is no David to HP’s Goliath — indeed, he hopes to gain HP as a customer.

Memjet has set up shop in Eagle, Idaho, practically the backyard of HP’s Boise printing and imaging campus.

Wake up, HP

HP will be forced to pay attention, says Steve Hoffenberg, director of consumer imaging research for Lyra Research, which monitors the digital imaging industry.

"What Memjet is offering blows away anything else out there," Hoffenberg said.

Memjet did not develop the technology — an Australian company did — but it’s McGlynn’s job to spread it to companies that could use it to sell printers under their own brand names. That could include such companies as Dell, Sony and Kodak, though McGlynn won’t say.

He watches with pleasure when pages fly out of inkjet printers packed with Memjet components. A document printer blasts out 60 pages a minute. A photo printer delivers a 4-by-6 print every two seconds.

An $800 laser printer can produce 16 color pages per minute. A Memjet document printer will cost $300 to $500, and a photo printer will start at $150 — prices Lyra says are unmatched.

After 24 years with HP, McGlynn retired in 2005 and now is working to carve out a niche in a field dominated by his former employer.

"I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with two revolutionary technologies that have changed the way people work," McGlynn said. "And we think this will do it in a bigger way than the original LaserJet."

The original HP LaserJet was a defining moment in the history of printing, ushering in the laser printing age. HP grew rapidly and today is the undisputed titan of printing in an industry with well-known makers such as Canon and Epson.

Ten years of research and development by Australian-based Silverbrook Research created the technology for the new, high-speed inkjet printers. Memjet licensed the technology from Silverbrook.

Like the LaserJet, the Memjet technology can print full-page copies at once.

Most inkjets use printing heads that move back and forth across the page dropping ink until the print job is complete. The motion limits speed.

Memjet uses a page-wide array of nozzles on 11 silicon chips with 6,400 nozzles each — 70,400 nozzles in all.

The ink flows from the nozzles as the paper moves below it. The nozzles are so small that it takes an electron microscope to see them.

Larger pages can be printed the same way by adding additional chips.

The company hasn’t reached a deal with a printer manufacturer yet but is talking with well-known electronics companies not yet in the printer business, McGlynn said.

HP isn’t impressed.

"It’s not a breakthrough technology," said Glen Hopkins, HP’s San Diego-based vice president for research and development for inkjet printers.

Hopkins said HP has introduced full-page inkjet printers in its Edgeline series printers that use large, stationary printheads — arranged in a line — to dispense ink across the entire width of the page as the paper passes beneath them.

That method produces printing speeds as fast as Memjet’s, but at much higher prices. Edgeline printers start at just under $19,000.

Pinpointing difference

Hopkins said the Edgeline is for serious businesses that need both speed and quality. He says the Memjet product sacrifices quality to keep the price low.

"They’re coming at it from a different angle and are assuming people want really fast speed but don’t care that much about image quality and product robustness," he said. "They’re making tradeoffs that we have not made in the past and don’t anticipate making in the future."

Not so, says Kim Beswick, Memjet’s vice president of marketing. Beswick said the company is achieving high quality and speed.

Hoffenberg said HP is wrong to dismiss Memjet so quickly.

"I’ve seen a good amount of what Memjet is doing, and it is definitely a substantial technology, and there are clearly people involved who do know the business," he said. "Inside the executive level of HP, they need to actively figure out what they can about Memjet."

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Bill McGlynn, chief executive at Memjet Services, retired from Hewlett-Packard in 2005. Now he wants HP for a customer.

Via the Seattle Times

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