TOSHIBA is a famous name but there is lesser known daughter company called TOSHIBA TEC. I talked with Erwin Kempeneers who is the managing director of IACS which is the preferred integrator of TOSHIBA TEC inkjet technology for industrial print applications in Europe and is also their approved European Inkjet Technology Support Centre.
Erwin, TOSHIBA is a famous name, how did it come about that this brand developed inkjet technology?
“TOSHIBA TEC began in this field by making devices for the retail market: POS scanners and printers. Besides their well-known thermal printers they started the development of inkjet printers and corresponding inkjet heads. The inkjet heads they had developed for this project were excellent and so TOSHIBA TEC decided to transfer this inkjet expertise into other market areas.”
What kind of inkjet heads are they?
“For industrial markets TOSHIBA TEC developed a piezo, shared-wall, shear-mode inkjet head. Its side-shooter architecture combined with through channel fluid recirculation guarantees excellent jetting performance as it recirculates the ink across the nozzle openings to eliminate sedimentation and intrinsic bubble accumulation. This technology is particularly suited to heavy industrial printing applications such as ceramics, laminated wood, coding & marking, corrugated and folding cartons. So InPrint is the perfect show for us.”
Could you explain a bit more about IACS and the relationship with TOSHIBA TEC?
“IACS is the industrial inkjet integration consultancy company I launched in 2007 providing Consultancy Services that cover all industrial printing markets and inkjet technologies. As a business, IACS does not manufacture printing engines per se but we have a lot of in-house expertise as our business is dedicated to creating machinery for OEMS.
Additionally, IACS offers technical assistance with the integration of TOSHIBA TEC piezo-electronic inkjet heads throughout Europe. If an OEM wants to test or implement TOSHIBA TEC heads then I can help them, but there is no obligation. In fact, everybody welcomes this assistance because it shortens the initial evaluation period and the actual implementation phase.”
What is your background?
“Well I was trained as a software and hardware engineer and began in the business back in 1997 with the development of the first single-pass, roll-to-roll printer for Barco Graphics, a company that was later taken over by ESKO. After our MBO, known as Dotrix, the company was bought by Agfa in 2004. I left the company in 2007 to start IACS. Very shortly afterwards we came to this agreement with TOSHIBA TEC. I was the first integrator of TOSHIBA TEC heads outside of Asia.”
Jasmine Geerinckx has a chemistry background but also handles the marketing and sales for IACS, while Erwin heads up the technical department.
“From 2007 to now we have worked with TOSHIBA TEC, focusing entirely on industrial markets but the technology we currently have available is developed for really heavy applications like ceramics and corrugated. Now we intend to extend that product family for other applications such as labels and other surfaces.
Demand is currently very strong from a wide range of industrial applications. There is a big pull from traditional industry to reduce run lengths, increase response rates and flexibility – they know they have to go to digital. They’re aware that industrialised inkjet is right for them but they are unsure of precisely how to implement it. That is where IACS steps in. We identify the elements that they should keep in their current process and work out the most efficient means to integrate the digital inkjet.”
So IACS really designs and builds machines?
“Yes, but it's not just the machine design. We have to assess the workflow and work out the best place to integrate inkjet into their manufacturing process. It's a consultative service rather than simply a machinery or technology investment.
TOSHIBA TEC and IACS began with a European focus because frankly this is where the demand is. Currently, non-Europeans have to come here to see the latest developments in inkjet – that is what we have seen at LabelExpo, it’s what we expect to see at InPrint and will undoubtedly experience at Drupa 2016.”
What do you think is the next big thing for inkjet?
“The area that will continue to be big for us is jetting difficult fluids for industrial purposes: viscose inks, large particles, and highly reliable technology that can handle these challenges. Coatings for example – we want to handle all kinds of difficult inks and fluids.”
Another import thing is the area of MEMS technology, using low viscosity, refined pigment inks for industrial applications.”
What is the biggest hurdle to this happening?
“Currently it is the cost of the consumables. Industrial markets probably use the most expensive substrates. Before you print you have to prepare the substrate in order to be able to use inkjet – this is an additional cost so our goal is to improve the process, removing this barrier.
If inkjet is only going to take a small part of the industry then so be it. But if we can reduce the cost of the consumables and inks, making inkjet more economically viable, then it will play a much bigger role.
That's the challenge we are tackling and we are working with everyone in the ink world to try to reach solutions. To make the world digital you have to be able to print anything on everything!”
“At InPrint we will demonstrate TOSHIBA TEC’s CF1 Family of heads and a compact fluid recirculation system, called CC1. This compact system is primarily designed for test and evaluation purposes. Its compact size allows it to be mounted directly onto either CF1 or CF1L printheads. CC1 incorporates a very small ink reservoir of only 15 ml, which is automatically topped up as required. This makes CC1 the perfect solution for testing new inks, minimising wastage during ink changes.
We plan to have specialists from TOSHIBA TEC headquarters with us at our InPrint booth B31 in hall A6 and of course, I’ll be there, so this will be the ideal opportunity for interested parties to see and discuss our current and future developments. Up until now, TOSHIBA TEC industrial printheads have not received the acclaim they deserve in Europe – we intend to change that!”