a brief history of linx printing technologies

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  • 5/28/2018 A Brief History of Linx Printing Technologies


    A History of Linx Printing Technologies

    1 L inx Printing Technologies Ltd Burrel Road, St Ives, Cambs, UK PE27 3LA C Perry 5/3/12

    Cambridge the birthplace of todays ink jet technology

    It seems that the earliest experiments using staticelectricity to manipulate a stream of droplets was

    conducted in France and published in 1749 by AbbNollet.(1) Lord Kelvin, in the UK, invented what could betermed the first inkjet recording device in 1858: thisused a continuous stream of ink from a siphon, and adriving signal to move the siphon across a moving webof paper, and was used to automatically recordtelegraph messages. Further research on therelationship of jet diameter to drop size was conductedby Joseph Plateau (Belgium) in 1865. (1) Then in 1878Lord Rayleigh published a series of papers regardingliquid drop formation, the theory behind which is stillused in todays ink jet printers.(1) Both Kelvin andRayleigh studied at Cambridge University.

    Cambridge Consultants and the ink jet company nebula

    Ink jet remained a scientific curiosity until the development of the computer chip andalthough several scientists made advances the defining patents were registered in1962 by Professor Sweet of Stanford University in the US. Sweets interest lay inusing the technology to produce a high speed oscillograph, as used in a chartrecorder. Fundamentally, Sweet showed how the ink stream could be broken up intodroplets of even size and spacing, and then a charge applied to each droplet to

    cause it to be deflected when passed through an electric field. This deflection wouldallow the ink droplets to print a pattern, with unused droplets re-circulated back intothe system. Thus the Continuous Ink Jet (CIJ) printing process was born.(1)

    The Sweet patent was picked up by Cambridge Consultants in the UK who embarkedon the development of a continuous ink jet printer. Two of the key people in thisactivity were Mike Keeling and Hillar Weinberg. The CCL technology spawned theformation of most of the key ink jet companies we see today: Domino in 1978, thenlater Thomson Industries (France) which went on to form Imaje. In 1981 Keeling andWeinberg were employed by Willett UK to develop a range of coding productsincluding CIJ. The story goes that having seen how these various companies hadimplemented the exciting new CIJ technology, Keeling and Weinberg thought theycould do much better themselves, and so in 1986 they left to form Linx.

    From small beginnings

    Keeling and Weinberg raised funding for their new company from a combination ofsecond mortgages on their houses, and venture capital companies although MikeKeeling recalls that they had gone through the Venture Capital Year Book starting atA and been rejected by everyone until they reached M! The founders sheerdetermination and belief proved worthwhile when Code Control Ltd was establishedin 1986, changing to Linx Printing Technologies on 6th July 1987.

    (1) Herman Wijshoff,Structure and fluid dynamics in piezo inkjet printheads. The Netherlands: Venlo 2008

  • 5/28/2018 A Brief History of Linx Printing Technologies


    A History of Linx Printing Technologies

    2 L inx Printing Technologies Ltd Burrel Road, St Ives, Cambs, UK PE27 3LA C Perry 5/3/12

    Why Linx? Mike Keeling explains: We used to say it was a combination of Links(linking machines together) and Inks then changing the k to an x. Adding the twodots above the i was a touch of brilliance. Also, a major requirement was that the

    new name should not be rude in any known language!

    The companys original office was in Mike Keelings spare bedroom in Willingham,Cambs before they moved to offices in St Ives with a production team of just 4people. Recalls Tony Hill, an original member of this production team, and still withLinx today:

    I remember the Sales Director excitably running downstairs and announcing to everybody that he had sold seven printers for delivery in the next month. I recall someconcern that we only had one month to make such a large number of printers, a

    process that takes under an hour and a quarter today.

    Linx leads the way with CIJ innovation

    If Keeling and Weinberg set up Linx to prove that they could develop better CIJprinters, then this was proved with their inaugural products, which included someindustry firsts still used today by most CIJ manufacturers:

    Totally sealed, adjustment free printhead this solid state printhead had noexposed wires and was robust and the design has been imitated globallysince

    Flight Viscosity Control this affects how an ink jet breaks up and it is the

    velocity that determines print quality. Linx printers monitor and controlviscosity using an efficient, non-mechanical method, which is more reliablethan some other systems

    Auto Modulation, jet droplet formation control - a method of automaticallymonitoring and adjusting jet modulation amplitude to ensure perfect dropletformation under varying environmental conditions

    One button start and stop ease of use was, and continues to be, at theheart of Linx product engineering

    Linxs first CIJ printer was the 5000 which was launched in 1987, shortly followed bythe 5100, 5150 and 5200 printers. These were the first CIJ printers to have the

    totally sealed printhead one button start and stop and the first to print up to 4 lines.The 4000 followed in 1988 and the 6000 in 1991, the latter continuing Linxs record offirsts with a full printhead autoflush (keeping the printhead clean for first timestartups), and a WYSIWYG display.

    Updates to both models were brought to market during the 1990s, including the 6200model which was the first CIJ printer to have auto power down, and the 4800 whichcame with IP55 rating as standard - another industry first. Linxs first food grade inkswere developed originally for the European egg coding market, and first used in the6200 and 4800 printers in 1997. Linxs first dedicated printer for pigmented inks the Linx 6800 Spectrum - was launched in 2002.

    2003 saw the 4800 replaced with the 4900 a printer with a deep drawn stainlesssteel cover that shrugged off water. In 2009 the 6000 series of printers wasreplaced with the 7300. Over the next few years both the 7300 and 4900 range

  • 5/28/2018 A Brief History of Linx Printing Technologies


    A History of Linx Printing Technologies

    3 L inx Printing Technologies Ltd Burrel Road, St Ives, Cambs, UK PE27 3LA C Perry 5/3/12

    expanded to include application-specific models, for example the 7300 Spectrum forhigh contrast pigmented inks, and the 4900DC which included a traversing printheadfor coding across multiple lanes of products such as yoghurt pots.

    Linx also developed its own range of inks and solvents, which enabled its CIJ printersto code onto a wide variety of substrates and applications, ranging from inks for wetbottle coding, to UV readable inks which are invisible until seen under a UV light andtherefore ideal for anti-counterfeiting or discreet coding.

    In 2011 a new CIJ platform was added to the range with the launch of the Linx CJ400- the lightest CIJ printer on the market. A large colour touch screen includes clear,step by step instructions to make message creation very easy, and a self servicemodule reduces the need for service engineer call-outs. These developmentsposition the Linx CJ400 as a very flexible printer, as it can be easily unplugged,carried to another line, and quickly installed. The self service module also makes theCJ400 ideal for geographically remote businesses where service call-outs could becostly.

    Commercial Growth

    The late 80s and early 90s was a period of rapid product innovation. There thenfollowed a period of intense commercialisation of the company in the late 90s, inorder to develop business processes, and channels through which Linxs nowexpansive range of products could be sold.

    Linxs Sales, Service and Marketing departments grew, and more distributors wereappointed to sell Linx products overseas. Linxs manufacturing processes were

    refined and improved to Best Practice standards of the time.

    As the Linx channel expanded and the company became a global business, acomprehensive range of Best Practice processes and tools for Sales, Marketing andService was developed and shared with the Linx distributors. Underlying theseactivities was Linxs objective: to make it easy for distributors to do business withLinx. Linxs distributors now had the tools to successfully compete in a growingmarket. And more distributors followed, with the period 2000 2010 seeing a rapidincrease in the number of new distributors appointed.

    Thinking along your lines

    After nearly 10 years of swift growth it was time for Linx to have its own personality:Linx was not just another CIJ company. In-depth research, conducted in 1996amongst a variety of CIJ specifiers, revealed that Linx was perceived as a young,keen, approachable company that was straightforward and easy to work with.

    Linx decided to build on these attributes, which were already associated with thecompany, and to position itself as a company which has empathy with its customers,and which talks and deals in a very straightforward manner.

    So the strapline Thinking along your lines was developed to express this position,and remains central to Linxs communications today.

  • 5/28/2018 A Brief History of Linx Printing Technologies


    A History of Linx Printing Technologies

    4 L inx Printing Technologies Ltd Burrel Road, St Ives, Cambs, UK PE27 3LA C Perry 5/3/12

    More than just a CIJ company

    Linx was to develop into much more than a CIJ company. In 1999 Xymark was

    acquired which brought to Linx an established range of