The Tech Guru series features eight stories from some of Samsung’s printing experts, 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.
Samsung Electronics established its printing business in 1982 –much later than other major printing players. Despite its late market debut, Samsung has risen to become one of the world’s leading – and most innovative – printing manufacturers. The secret to Samsung’s success is straightforward: it is the company’s unswerving commitment to technological innovation.
For our fourth Tech Guru interview, we spoke to Kim Kyu-sung, the Head of Samsung’s Control Lab. He shared information about Samsung’s SoC (System on Chip), and explained how the technology has helped improve printer performance – and how it continues to revolutionize the modern printer.
After joining Samsung in 1995, Kim initially worked as a hardware engineer, joining the SoC team in 2001. He went on to lead the SoC team, and eventually became the Head of the Control Lab, a unit that currently comprises some 100 employees.
The Control Lab is responsible for overall printer performance, such as speed and image quality. The lab’s work is a joint effort, involving collaboration between the SoC division, the Engine Firmware division and the Imaging division.
As mentioned in in the second installment of the Tech Guru interview series, the Imaging Lab creates algorithms that improve image quality, while the SoC division receives algorithms that let it produce better chips. These are eventually handed over to the Engine Firmware team for control system development.
The Courage to Pioneer New Technology
Although one-chip systems can be found in A4 printing devices nowadays, there was once a time when printers made use of a whole range of separate chips – each of which was responsible for a different task. There was once one chip for printing, another for scanning, a third for security and so on.
Office printers and multi-function printers often deal with data transfers comparable in size to the workload of a desktop computer. These machines need to deal with highly complex technical tasks. Regardless, Kim and his team wanted to develop a single component that would be up to the job—the SoC, an integrated circuit with a Central Processing Unit.
Kim explained, “In 1997, Samsung acquired a CPU core design from ARM, a British company that specializes in developing low-power processors and systems. This helped Samsung gain a foothold in the industry – we became known as the first printer manufacturer to use ARM-based cores in our printer chips.”
The CPU in these ARM-based chips uses less electricity, but is capable of high levels of performance. That is why Samsung has implemented SoCs of this kind in ML-5000A and is still using them for its latest products.
Samsung, the sole manufacturer of A3 Copiers with SoC
Rather than merely following the latest printing industry trends, Samsung Printing Solutions has always looked to go a step further, looking at developments in the wider electronic goods market, with a particular emphasis on mobile tech and visual display innovation.
Kim said, “The SoC division – along with other divisions in the Printing Solutions unit – looked at some of the projects the other Samsung businesses were working on, as well as work being done by other companies. We held idea-sharing meetings where we would exchange technical knowledge and news.”
It was from these exchanges that Kim and the SoC division recognized the possibility of implementing the one-chip system to copiers. Before the one-chip system was developed for copiers in 2011, many people had voiced concerns about the idea. Integrating six or seven chips into one component was a unique challenge, as no manufacturer had yet succeeded in developing such a product. Some even considered it impossible.
The stakes were high, and the risks considerable. But Kim and his team were meticulous in their preparation. After much effort, the team made a breakthrough in 2011. The following year, the Polaris (SCX-812x and CLX 925x) – the industry’s first A3 copier to feature a one-chip SoC – was introduced.
“It let us deliver cost-saving functionality, streamline printer performance and reduce the risk of malfunction,” said Kim.
“When multiple chips are involved, additional costs incur, because you need more memory space and a bigger board. However, with a single chip, data transformation becomes quicker and easier, the number of machine components decreases and there is less of risk of malfunction – resulting in better overall performance,” Kim noted.
Although some companies now make A4 products with one-chip SoCs, Samsung is still the only company that makes single-chip A3 devices.
Capitalizing on Samsung Electronics’ industry-leading semiconductor technology, Samsung printers have always been able to incorporate cutting-edge chip technology.
Better Speed, Security, and Performance by Incorporating Solutions into Chips
Kim and his team are not just tasked with creating better printers for general use; they are also looking to make smarter, higher-performing devices. One example is a feature that allows users to select different sections from different pages of a document, creating a single document made up of all the selected sections. These technological innovations are driven by a new development – the quad-core A2500 chip.
The A2500 is a chip for A3, A4 and MFP devices. It enables enhanced printer performance, with improvements made to scalability, image quality and security. It is currently in development, but is slated for completion later this year.
With A2500 chip, Samsung printers will be quicker and more powerful than ever. Samsung’s Smart Scan Solution software will be three times faster once it gets incorporated into the hardware process of the device via the chip. Currently, CPU acts as a general core that analyzes processed data, taking more time to execute individual commands. However, by producing a separate component that deals with specific tasks, devices will perform faster.
Image quality and accuracy will see further improvement as ReCP (Rendering engine for Clean Pages) technology is also incorporated into the A2500 chip.
What is more, printers will become what Samsung developers are calling “mecha-less” – i.e. devices that do not depend on sensors. For example, different from current copiers that use three sensors to detect paper width, the new device with A2500 chip will be able to fathom the paper size from image data.
By replacing sensors with algorithms, Samsung printers will have less break-fix instances and the cost of production will go down as well.
The Control Lab will also look to strengthen security in A2500.
Stronger security will be achieved by providing standard “normal world” settings and a separate “secure world” environment. The latter requires users to go through to access protocols when managing important, confidential data, preventing data leakage.
A Smarter Mecha-less, Service-less Future Ahead
The Control Lab has reached a milestone by creating the first-ever one-chip SoC for printers. But it is not content with the status quo. Instead, the lab is looking to reshape the workplace environment by combining different workflow aspects into a single integrated point – the Smart UX Center.
“One way we plan to do this is by providing a ‘service-less’ SoC. This will be able to pre-diagnose imminent malfunctions, processing data through an additional motor,” said Kim.
If Kim’s dreams come to fruition, and the “service-less,” “mecha-less” models do indeed come into being, less would truly become more in the increasingly digitalized world of printing.
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