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Low Cost In-Situ Drop Analysis System for Ink Jet and Other Non-Contact Dispensing Technologies

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A compact, low cost, fully integrated machine-vision based system has been developed for in-situ drop watching and measurement of drops-in-flight in ink jet and other non-contact dispensing technologies.

In R&D, measuring the in-flight characteristics of fluid droplets under different conditions can aid in optimizing dispensing system settings, fluid formulation and overall system performance. Manufacturers of dispensing tips and heads, driver electronics and actuators, fluids, and dispensing systems can benefit from analysis of drops-in-flight during development and system integration. During dispensing system operation, the in-situ drop analysis system can be used to verify dispensing performance and can be used for process control by providing accurate feedback for on-the-fly system adjustment.

The in-situ drop watching and analysis system has a flexible optical design to allow for several different geometries to fit into both stationary and scanning applications. The system uses an LED strobe that is synchronized to the firing or ejection signal, so it is independent of the specific print head, dispensing tip or dispensing system being used. The very short strobe pulse width allows single droplets to be imaged by the camera with minimal motion blur. The system offers digital control of strobe pulse width, delay times, and strobe intensity for optimal imaging for a variety of dispenser settings and materials. An open architecture software package allows for powerful and accurate image analysis, including drop trajectory, velocity, radius and volume. Volume of individual droplets, ligaments, and drop streams can be reported. Movies and images can also be captured and archived.

This paper will give an overview of the details of this system as well as show some of the system capabilities through several examples of drop analysis. It will also discuss the wider range of options available for R&D environments such as face plate wetting visualization, automated motion for sequential analysis of multiple dispensing tips or jets, and an integrated capacity for frequency sweep actuation and output analysis.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • For more than 25 years, NIP has been the leading forum for discussion of advances and new directions in non-impact and digital printing technologies. A comprehensive, industry-wide conference, this meeting includes all aspects of the hardware, materials, software, images, and applications associated with digital printing systems, including drop-on-demand ink jet, wide format ink jet, desktop and continuous ink jet, toner-based electrophotographic printers, production digital printing systems, and thermal printing systems, as well as the engineering capability, optimization, and science involved in these fields.

    Since 2005, NIP has been held in conjunction with the Digital Fabrication Conference.

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