Research

Inside Ink Jet Printing

Inkjet printers produce droplets at an incredible rate. A typical printhead generates droplets that are about 10 picoliters in volume – that is, ten trillionths of a liter – moving at about 4 meters per second. Resolving the formation of those droplets would require ultra-high speed imaging at millions of frames per second. Instead researchers devised an alternative method to capture droplet formation, based on stroboscopic techniques. In this case the strobe is a 7 nanosecond laser pulse (7 billionths of a second) that illuminates a given droplet twice. By doing this for many droplets, the researchers can create a highly detailed time series like the one above, which shows the inkjet breakup and droplet formation. Here each droplet is 23 micrometers wide – about one-third the width of a human hair. (Image credit: A. van der Bos et al., source)

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