The Tech Guru series, beginning on February 17, will feature eight stories from the printing experts at Samsung, presenting their points of view in their respective fields. The series will show how Samsung printing products and technology – and those who develop them – embody the three core Samsung values: Smart, Fast and Reliable.
Although developing new and improved systems for printing products is important, not all printing companies invest in research and development (R&D) for their internal equipment. Samsung Electronics’ Printing Solutions Business operates a special organization called the Samsung Electro-Photography Lab, a part of its R&D Team, where more than 100 engineers work together to develop state-of-the-art printing imaging technology.
For Samsung Printing Solutions’ first Tech Guru interview, Dong-cheol Ahn, the Head of Samsung Electro-Photography Lab, was invited to discuss the lab’s capabilities and current industry trends.
A Breakthrough in Toner Reliability: Increased Lifespan from 60K to 100K
The Electro-Photography Lab features three teams that focus on specific parts of the imaging system: toner cartridge frames, internal materials (such as organic photo conductive drums and conductive rollers) and Electro-Photography (EP) control, which focuses on improving image durability. These teams consist of a total of 106 developers from diverse fields, ranging from polymer engineering to physics.
Dong-cheol Ahn joined Samsung Electronics in 1997 and began his career developing cartridges for A4 monochrome printers. Ahn initially carried out EP control tasks, where he improved printers’ image-tuning functions.
In 2005, he became the Engineering Manager (EM) for electro-photography systems, where he devoted his efforts to creating toner cartridges for a long-lasting, high-capacity A4 printer, now known as the ProXpress M4580. While continuing his work as a developer in the Core R&D Group, Ahn was appointed to head the Electro-Photography Lab in 2015.
In 2014, Ahn and his team received the “Challenge Award” for the ProXpress M4580 series, which was launched in August 2014.
“The ProXpress M4580 series was developed to increase competitiveness in printer cost and lifespan, particularly in comparison to older generations of Samsung’s A4 monochrome products,” said Ahn. “The major task was to keep the printers’ overall development costs and frame structure, while upgrading the electro-photography system.”
Together with the lab’s engineers, Ahn replaced the two-components developing method used by existing printers to a single-component development method. Simply put, he applied an electro-photography system originally used in personal printers and copiers to B2B printing goods – a first for Samsung’s printer business.
This innovative solution successfully supported the M4580’s printing speed of 45 ppm, and increased its lifespan from 60K to 100K copies. Considering the stable product replacement rate in the printer market, the popularity and sales volume of M4580 continues to grow in the A4 market.
Connecting New Digital Technology with Existing Analog EP technologies
Advancing from their once-analog past, printers’ internal electro-photography systems are evolving to meet the printing industry’s rapidly diversifying digitization and smartification trends. This phenomenon can be seen through the introduction of Samsung’s MX series, which comes with the inventive Smart UX Center.
Ahn stated, “Personally, the development of the EP unit of MultiXpress (MX) series, which is equipped with the Smart UX Center, was one of the most difficult tasks I was asked to do. But it is also the lab’s greatest achievement to date.”
To begin with, increasing the MX’s lifespan to 720K was a unique challenge. “The lab had to develop various new technologies, ranging from material technology to image control and mechanical design. We did this to enable devices to handle exceptionally high printing volumes – the equivalent of printing 10,000 copies every day for three months,” he said.
“However, the most challenging task was connecting new digital technology with existing analog electro-photography technologies,” said Ahn.
The lab developed technologies that allowed for precise toner calculations, connecting these with toner cartridge ordering solutions. The lab also developed the Feedback Control System, whose micro-electric current sensing helped devices deliver consistently high-quality print outputs – regardless of printer lifespan changes. “We spent a total of three years developing the MX series,” said Ahn.
Thanks to Ahn and the Lab’s efforts, the MX series is now Samsung’s best-selling copier product range. It is considered a representative model, which promotes Samsung’s aim to create a truly “smart” office.
“At the lab, we aim to provide both the most reliable core functions of printers, such as trustworthy image quality, and the most advanced smart solutions for serviceability – meeting customers’ needs in a rapidly digitizing world,” he noted.
The Future of EP Technology: ‘Maintenance-free’ Smart Printing Experience
“In the future, printers will operate automatically,” explained Ahn. “Devices will instantly analyze tasks and take the most appropriate action – without manual input. They will instinctively ‘know’ which paper type, size and printing environment they are printing with, and select the required functions for the required adjustments.”
“‘Maintenance-free’ is now the keyword for electro-photography systems, and for the printing industry as a whole,” said Ahn. He explained that EP devices’ sensors would identify errors even before they occurred, and provide real-time maintenance to printer managers.
To provide this level of serviceability for Samsung’s customers, the Electro-Photography Lab is now focusing on developing algorithms that will help customers detect printing devices’ lifespan information and analyze potential errors.
Ahn stated, “The Electro-Photography Lab will concentrate on developing innovative EP technology. We want to offer our customers robust printers with long life-spans to provide the market’s easiest and most convenient printing experience.”
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