Inkjet is increasingly used with industrial robotics to digitally decorate, paint or create shaped products as an in-line step in the manufacturing process. The non-contact nature of inkjet technology offers distinct advantages as well as technical challenges. Real-world process automation that includes inkjet can be found in manufacturing applications as diverse as aerospace, automotive, printed circuit boards, flat-panel displays and direct-to-shape product decoration.
The powerful combination of inkjet and robotics can transform traditional, labour-intensive processes. As an example, the elimination of complex masking requirements to prevent overspray when painting compound curves and other complex geometries encountered in automotive manufacturing has resulted in significant operational efficiency and waste reduction. In addition to the benefits offered by the replacement of traditional processes, inkjet automation has opened the door to new, non-graphical applications where the positional capability of the robotics, combined with the precision and reliability of inkjet can serve the demanding requirements of functional fluid deposition for UV protection, conductive traces, barrier layers and adhesives.
Benefits for Automation and Robotics
- The increased operational efficiency and waste elimination offered by automated inkjet processes can transform production environments.
- Meteor’s ability to support ultra-high data rates, large image buffers and long cable lengths means that systems with printheads mounted on robotics or other complex configurations can be deployed without limitation.
- The non-contact nature of inkjet technology facilitates printing onto irregular or complex shapes.
- Short production runs become economically feasible due to lower set-up requirements and print-on-demand capability allows for reduced stock of finished goods.
- The proven speed and reliability of inkjet technology, paired with readily available robotic systems and an ever-increasing range of jettable fluids facilitates the development of new digital deposition applications.
- Meteor offers a range of development tools and services to facilitate suitable printhead selection; waveform and fluid optimisation; and print process development.