The drastically improved resolution of Epson's latest generation of printers is the latest chapter - and not the happy ending, to the inkjet fairytale, Epson officials said recently.
Epson boasts that its new range of Stylus inkjet printers, capable of producing 1440 x 720dpi, can now produce photo-realistic images. That may leave some asking what's left in terms of the development of these printers, but Epson officials believe they have barely begun.
"I would say that the inkjet has only achieved 30 per cent of its full potential," said Katsuhiko Takai, general manager of Epson's terminal printer research and development centre.
Resolution is still capable of being improved to at least 1440 x 1440dpi, Takai said. However the most critical developments would not be related to print resolution, he added.
"At the moment, the print quality of the inkjet is superior to the colour laser printer," said Takai. "However, the print speed of lasers is better."
By improving the print speed of its inkjets, Epson was hoping not just to take on the laser market but the photocopy market as well. It already sells a dedicated scanner for its inkjet proofer which converts that to a copier, but right now most would probably consider its performance inadequate for that role.
Epson also hopes to take its inkjet family into a number of vertical markets including the textile industry with a printer designed to print on fabrics, a large format printer for the signage market as well as moving into the photographic industry. Future inkjet developments will aid the technology as it attempts to seriously advance on these markets.
For example, while it now claims it is capable of printing photo-realistic images on its own special paper, Takai admitted that Epson was "far from satisfied with the print quality". While the sharpness of inkjet printers were as good as a photographic image, no inkjet had yet achieved the smoothness of image that you get from a photo.
Philip Sim travelled to Japan as a guest of Epson.