June 20, 2007

Toner Pioneer Art Diamond Reflects on his 52 Year Career and the Future of Printing

By Databazaar Blog

Printer Pundits: Art Diamond on Memjet and Edgeline, New Developments in Laser Printers, Toner Safety, and More


Art Diamond has maintained a prominent profile in the imaging industry for over half a century. He started his career working in R&D at Kodak and eventually formed Diamond Research Corporation in 1968, a technology consulting and chemical engineering firm at which he currently serves as President. Along the way, Art amassed 15 patents in the field of reprography, and authored more than 70 publications on imaging technology, including a textbook (Handbook of Imaging Materials, 2nd Edition).

Notwithstanding these achievements, most people know Art as the Chairman of the Tiara Group, which hosts the highly-regarded annual Toners & Photoreceptors conference as well as the newer Ink Jet Inks conference. The 2007 Toners & Photoreceptors conference just concluded (you can order recordings and other materials). The 2008 conference will take place June 9-11, 2008 in Santa Barbara. We're extremely grateful that Art found the time to participate in Printer Pundit Week for. Below you'll find our interview — the third installment in our new Printer Pundits feature.

Databazaar Blog: With conferences on both ink jet inks and laser toner, you have a vested interest in both technologies. What do you make of Memjet's announcements this year not to mention HP's Edgeline?

Art Diamond: Edgeline and Memjet are breakthrough technologies that enable high resolution, high reliability ink jet printing in every sector of the market. From the low-end kiosk churning out full color retail prints, to the high-end 70+ page per minute digital color printer, these technologies are formidable entries into the marketplace. However, here are my concerns:

To dry wet paper at the high speeds indicated, with 50% or better image coverage, I suspect that the drying system will add significant cost to any printer. With laser printer costs falling (they are currently at $300 or below) and these new ink jet printer costs rising, the future is not all that clear.

Another positive factor for ink jet is Kodak's announcement that it is going to adopt the Chinese model of ink pricing. They are departing from the razors and blades model of ink jet ink sales and reducing the price by around 50%. The big question is whether HP and Memjet will follow suit and adopt this new paradigm.

Memjet has startled the industry with it announced printer, but when will it become available? From what I've heard and read, it is at least one year away.

With these great strides having been made in ink jet printing technology, one wonders whether laser printers are standing still? Not! For one thing, I expect that color toner costs will also come down as more producers are able to emulate chemically produced technology (CPT) toners using conventional ground toner that is spheroidized or reshaped. Also, I suspect that CPT will prove to be "overkill" in toner manufacturing.

Databazaar Blog: Will ink jet printers someday replace laser printers in the office?

Art Diamond: Not immediately. After 52 years in the imaging industry I've learned that "old technologies die hard." In addition to the anticipated added cost of the Edgeline and Memjet machines, we must consider the existing installed base of laser printers. These are not going away that fast.

Databazaar Blog: We've heard a lot about ink jet technology this year. What's new and interesting in the laser/electrophotography camp?

Art Diamond: As I indicated above, lower cost and a greater number of sources of color toner are interesting factors.

In addition, the "CPT is overkill" view that I have expressed above could encourage many monochrome toner plants to switch to color toner and thereby enjoy the thicker profit margins they offer.

Databazaar Blog: What are the top three trends you've observed in the printer industry since you started with Kodak?

Art Diamond: First, affordable color at every speed sector in the imaging industry. This was but a dream in the 1950s.

Second, the switch from analog (light-lens) copiers and printers to digital (scanning and digitizing) devices.

And third, development of the multifunction printer (MFP) which is rapidly replacing copiers in homes and offices.

Databazaar Blog: Which issues generated the most buzz at your Toners & Photoreceptors 2007 conference?

Art Diamond: 1. The rising price of monochrome (black) toner due to the cost of styrene being tied to the price of oil.

2. The falling price of color toners due to a growing list of reliable sources.

3. The threat of Memjet and Edgeline technologies.

4. The possible competitive threat of China's 30 toner plants as their product quality rises and they look to Western markets.

5. The fear of tighter environmental controls stemming from legislation affecting European producers.

Databazaar Blog: We couldn't help but notice an issue on the agenda at the conference Dry Toner: Health and Safety Issues. What do we know about the health risks of toner, which just about every laser printer owner has inhaled at one time or another? Do today's cartridges provide better protection than those from the early days?

Art Diamond: Toner manufacturers have always been extremely sensitive to possible health risks with toner because it comes into contact with human skin. Epoxy resins, for example, have been totally excluded in favor of the benign styrene-acrylics and polyesters. These two toner resin types make up the majority of today's black and color toners. Particle size is also a consideration as anything below 10 microns is considered hazardous. Selling toner in cartridges has been a brilliant solution to this concern as it avoids the need for a customer to pour toner from a bottle into a machine hopper.

While there have been some fatalities due to large dust cloud explosions in toner plants, these are all in the past. Today's plant manager is highly cognizant of the dangers of a large spill and the need for regular plant cleanup to avoid buildup of toner particles on rafters and overhead pipes and beams.

Databazaar Blog: Which printers do you personally use at home and work and why?

Art Diamond: We have an HP LaserJet 3380 MFP which replaced a $25,000 Xerox 1065 that I purchased new in the 1980s. It handles most of my document printing, copying, and fax requirements.

We also have an old HP LaserJet Series IID printer that is hooked up to our bookkeeping computer. It continues to run well.

I do not have a computer or printer at home. I spend enough time at the office (3 miles away) so there is no need to work at home.

About Printer Pundits
We spend most of our time here at Databazaar Blog on printer gear, but this impressive technology doesn't just appear by magic. With Printer Pundits, we bring you interviews with some of the luminaries in the printer industry — senior executives, analysts, journalists, inventors, and others. Of course, in today's world everyone is a pundit so please share your insights below.

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