Dutch TU Delft students discover inkless printer

bb161103-inklessThe Delft TU spin off company Inkless developed a printer which does not use ink or toner. The letters are burned into the paper with a very accurate laser. This is called carbonisation. The challenge is to get a dark and permanent “print” without burning the paper.  “Inkless has much better control over the carbonisation process, as a result of which we can print less deeply and therefore do not go through the paper. We have also developed a solution that ensures that the print is black enough and permanent”, according to founder Arnaud van der Veen. The Inkless method, developed in cooperation with Optics Research Group at the TU Delft has been patented.

Van der Veen confirms that the principle is similar to the old fashioned thermic printing method. “Inkless printing techniques already exist, like for till receipts, but they are not environment-friendly and the quality is poor; for example, the print fades quickly. As a result, these existing technologies can only be used in a limited number of applications. Inkless now achieves the quality standards of conventional printing techniques, including in terms of resolution and printing speed”, says Van der Veen. “This means we are now ready for the next step and further upscaling.”

Printing text, images and graphics is possible on paper, labels and the surface of packaging. ‘That means that we are talking about several different, large markets: coding & marking (e.g. printing best before dates and barcodes), digital production printers and business and home printers. Since we now have the technology at the level we need, we are currently exploring the most logical strategy and market for us’, says Van der Veen. ‘It may make most sense for us to join forces with one or more major players in the market – we have already started making contacts to achieve this. This will enable us to upscale relatively quickly and, we expect, to reduce prices still further.’

‘Our ink-free printing technology has many advantages. There is no longer any need for cartridges, toners or special coatings on the paper, which offers enormous environmental benefits. Cartridge and ink production uses a lot of energy and produces waste and harmful emissions. Also, with an ink-free printer, the problem of an empty cartridge just when you need to print something important will become a thing of the past. In addition, printing without cartridges or toners obviously means that there are no recurring costs once you have purchased the printer. That means a considerable cost advantage.’

Inkless is the result of a graduation project by Venkatesh Chandrasekar at TU Delft. With his fellow student Van der Veen, he set up a company to further develop the promising technology with the support of STW (Take Off initiative), Climate KIC and MIT-RVO. The company is part of the Yes!Delft business incubator and TU Delft is one of its shareholders. The start-up company founded by Chandrasekar and Van der Veen (who have since graduated) has seven employees and is based in Delft and Waddinxveen.

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Rob van den Braak

Printer’s devil (1964), phototypesetter, offsetprinter, teacher of graphic techniques, salesmanager, productmanager, trade journalist, founder of BlokBoek e-zine (2011). But above all husband, father, friend and lover of life in southern Spain (since 2010).

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