The Tech Guru series features eight stories from a number of Samsung’s printing experts, presenting their points of view from 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.
For our eighth and final Tech Guru interview, we spoke with Kim Jongmin, who oversaw the development of the entire MX7 series at the Samsung Printing Project Lab. The Project Lab acts as the project leader in planning and developing new products – from ensuring quality and managing costs to meeting delivery time, the Project Lab manages every aspect of new product development.
Kim joined Samsung in 2004, and has been working at the Project Lab ever since; he was involved in the development of mid-to-high level printers and color copiers before leading the MX7 project. Kim says that while project teams do also exist in other companies, their role is often limited to deciding the overall direction of each project based on input from several R&D teams. In contrast, the Samsung Project Lab gets deeply involved in all aspects of development projects, working through every obstacle faced by each component technology development team until the task is complete.
Toward a Seemingly-Insurmountable Goal
As the one million-page printing test demonstrated, the MX7 series is known for its durability and longevity. In particular, the MX7 boasts a very low jam rate (during the test, there was not a single error until 330,000 pages had been printed). The MX7’s long life was made possible through electrophotography, materials and fusing technologies that the Project Lab developed with each of the component technology labs.
When embarking on the MX7 project, Samsung did not at the time possess all of the technologies that could produce such a high-end multifunction printer. The MX7 project required the development of printers that were approximately three times better in terms of toner yield and durability, a major upgrade from what had come before. Even the engineers within Samsung initially had doubts about the success of the project.
But Kim and his team were committed to making it happen. Although the project’s goals were set very high, as the R&D teams kept working at it, the task became less daunting, and the engineers could see the project coming together.
Close cooperation with an overseas research institute was one of the keys to the project’s success. Thirty to forty Korean engineers from Kim’s team spent eight months in Yokohama, Japan, for joint research with the Samsung Research Institute in Japan (SRJ). At SRJ, Korean engineers focused on frame, feeding, motor drive and circuit technologies, while the Japanese colleagues focused on improving electrophotography technologies. Combining the Japanese colleagues’ strengths in fine-tuning design parameters for electrophotography and the Korean team’s knowledge and experience in manufacturing created strong synergy, which led to the successful development of the MX7 series.
Developing World-class Longevity Technology
Two of the main longevity technologies developed in conjunction with SRJ are related to developer life and fuser belt design.
The developer is a unit in the MX7 that draws toner powder and moves it to the OPC surface. In developer units, there are magnetic particles called carriers that charges the toner powder. The carriers need to be spread evenly on the roller regardless of the printing environment, paper type or printed content. Through a technology that maintains a steady concentration of the carriers, Samsung created a developer that can print up to 1.2 million pages before needing replacement.
“In an office that prints 10,000 pages a month, MX7 developer unit can last for up to ten years,” explains Kim. “When we developed the unit, there even were worries that we might not be able to sell enough developers because the first developer will last too long.”
After developers move the toner particles onto paper, fuser rollers then press the papers with heat to bind the toners to the paper. These rollers are covered with very thin belts that need to revolve 3.5 million times without failing. To create such a durable belt, Samsung engineers had to discover the right material, design and belt movement path, as well as ways to decrease friction. By selecting core technologies and closely managing them on a weekly basis, the Project Lab helped create a long-lasting fusing system, which included two A1 level patents (A1 patent is the highest-level in Samsung Electronics patent categorization. A1 level is given to the most widely-used technologies that require strong protection).
The Glue that Holds Everything Together
When asked about the future trend of printing industry, Kim answered that decreasing cost per page (CPP) by will continue to be one of the top issues, and that a key way to achieve that is through more efficient use of consumables. In addition, he feels that improving usability through the application of sensors will also be an important development.
The Project Lab’s next task will be to refresh the existing MX2, MX3 and MX7 printer series. “We are planning to improve each unit’s performance by increasing the life of printer consumables. By enhancing the quality of both customer replaceable consumables like toners and field replaceable units like fusers, we plan to achieve a lower CPP as well as a more affordable device price,” Kim added.
“Although each lab is in charge of developing different component technologies, the Project Lab analyzes technology trends and draws the blueprint for the entire product’s R&D. We act as a bridge between each of the component technologies and work to fill the gray zone that exists between the labs,” he continues.
Kim sees the Project Lab’s role as vital to Samsung Printing’s future success: “I would venture to say that everything begins and ends at the Project Lab. Product development starts with our research and decision and ends with us testing and refining the quality. I want to continue to be the glue that holds everything together, bringing the best products to life.”
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