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Xerox Scientists: Advanced Control Systems Will Boost Digital Color Printing Performance

6 Jul, 2004

Xerox Scientists: Advanced Control Systems Will Boost Digital Color Printing Performance

Just as electronic engine control systems produced radical performance improvements in automobiles, two Xerox Corporation scientists believe that digital color printing will reap similar advantages from the even more advanced control system technologies now being implemented.

In a paper describing new frontiers in xerographic system controls presented today to the 2004 American Control Conference, Xerox researchers Eric S. Hamby and Eric M. Gross referenced a McKinsey Quarterly article on the impact of control in the automotive industry: Electronic engine control systems enabled the internal-combustion engine, over the last decade, to more than double its average horsepower per liter, while at the same time significantly lowering cost and sharply reducing emissions.

"Efforts to apply control system technology to the digital color printing industry are just beginning to intensify, and the potential for systems and control principles to impact this industry are enormous," they said.

Control systems are used whenever some quantity, such as temperature, altitude or speed, must be made to behave in some desirable way over time. Until very recently, digital printing product performance was primarily achieved through hardware design - by specifying tight tolerances on components, subsystems and materials.

While Xerox embedded color control systems in previous digital printers, the development of the Xerox iGen3(R) Digital Production Press required even higher performance at higher speeds and higher accuracy - levels that had never been achieved by anyone in the industry.

The iGen3 digital press is designed for high volume, short-run, full-color, on-demand and personalized printing. To meet the rigorous quality standards of the graphic arts industry, the Xerox iGen3 uses control systems in innovative ways, including to:

Actively manipulate the registration of each of the four color separations. Controls adjust the image forming process that will print the yellow, cyan, magenta and black colors, maintaining registration errors at less than 65 microns, roughly two-thirds the thickness of a human hair.

Automatically steer paper to provide image-to-paper registration with micron-level accuracy. The control systems that guide paper from the paper tray through the printing process are smart enough to recognize what kind of paper or media is going through the device, any wear to the components, and the effect of temperature and humidity.

Achieve improved color reproduction quality by automatically controlling the tone - lightness or darkness - of the images.

Among the areas where control technology is expected to make significant impact on the digital color printing industry are reliability, cost, and print quality consistency - from print-to-print, day-to-day and machine-to-machine.

The scientists concluded by urging members of the systems and control community to consider digital printing an emerging area where there is an opportunity to make significant contributions.

For more details on research and innovation at Xerox, visit http://www.xerox.com/innovation.


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