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Why We Should Use Inkjet Printers in Medical Images

Why We Should Use Inkjet Printers in Medical Images

September 10, 2018, By Kevin William Day, president of BCH Technologies

 

Abstract

 

Since medical imaging has moved from traditional film to digital, most paintings have been created by laser printers. There are some major problems concerning this method, besides the high price tag.  Ultra high-resolution inkjet ink has been developed by BCH Technologies. We provide a cost-effective solution that enables clinics to print high-quality digital imaging in medicine (DICOM, X-Ray and more) on various types and sizes of film and paper.  This digital printing solution reduces the cost by ten to 20 times (10,000+ to 500 USD) and enhances the print quality by more than ten times (320x320 dpi to 5760x1440 dpi).

 

BCH’s medical ink also outperforms regular inkjet ink by providing high resolution with continuous grayscale and high black-white contrast that cannot be done with traditional ink.  The ink is especially effective at picking up microscopic details which would be missed by traditional ink.  Not only will BCH ink produce high-quality DICOM, X-Ray, and images, it also can be employed as a department printer for a variety of uses.

 

The BCH medical ink enables practices to 1) save time and money 2) reduce false interpretation due to bad print quality 3) expedite the sharing of exam results among medical teams and patients.  We expect wider usage in the future in fields such as Ultrasonography,X-Ray, CT, Endoscope,MRI Magnetic resonance imaging,and Dentistry.

 

 

Details

 

First, laser printers have lower resolutions and are inappropriate for handling medical images.  

 

For example, a Sony FilmStation Digital Dry Film Imager (laser) has a resolution of 320x320 dpi, which is touted as "high-resolution."  In comparison, the inkjet's resolution is much higher than that of laser printers.  Epson's inkjets can print in 2,880x1,440 dpi (non-optimized) and Canon and HP inkjets can print 2,400x1,200 dpi (non-optimized).  

 

Secondly, the laser printers only print limited shades of gray, which cannot reproduce precise and accurate diagnostic images.  

 

It is intuitive that a better resolution will let us have more ways to express shade gradients.  This is because laser printers use the coverage of carbon particles to express darkness and brightness.  As a consequence, there is a limited number of shades it can express, and then all the shades in between are merged.  The low number of gray shade results from the low resolution of laser printers plus their inability to do anything other than deposit a dot of black toner.  However, inkjet printers use stochastic dither patterns and in a comparatively huge number of places, so they can place a dot of ink for every pixel in the image.  Furthermore, inkjets can print gray by mixing colored ink instead of dithering black, which the laser printer cannot do that.  Combined with their high resolution, the ability of inkjets to express a grayscale image is limitless.

 

In conclusion, our hospitals and clinics spend millions of dollars on taking high-resolution images, and a medical facility can spend another 10,000 on one printer to print grainy pictures for the physicians to see.  Using inkjet technology will dramatically reduce costs and provide real ultra-high resolution pictures.  The benefit will help doctors more easily diagnose symptoms or find problems which may be missed by traditional laser printing.

 

The advantage of BCH Medical ink vs regular ink

 

Regular inks can print better than laser inks, but they are not comparable with BCH medical inks.  BCH medical ink is formulated to satisfy these requirements:

 

1. Optimized for film printing.  Although BCH's medical ink can be used on both paper and transparent film, we have optimized the ink for the balancing of color reproduction, tonal gradations, and uniform glossiness, and we have more precise control of dry time, spread, and retention.  Therefore, the ink will dry fast and be smear resistant.  Also, the ink will be suitable for long-term storage.  Furthermore, the ink is designed to reduce reflection and enhance transparency control for films.  

 

2. High resolution and high black-white contrast ratio.  Have you ever wondered why medical films are blue?  It is because inkjet and laser toner are naturally dark brownish/black, so adding a light blue will enhance the dark black and make it “crisp.”  BCH took this into consideration and added particular material to the black, which makes it darker than regular black.  Therefore, we expanded the range from the darkest black to a transparent color, giving a physician’s eye more range to explore intricate details.  Furthermore, we have specially formulated the ink to be used in photo mode printing, which can make the image three to four times sharper than regular ink.

 

3. Continuous gray.  Contrary to most people's beliefs, printing a black and white (grayscale) image is harder than printing in color.  To make something gray, we would mix equal amounts of cyan, magenta, and yellow.  To make a pure black, we would need all three inks (CMY) printing at the maximum capability.  However, this will result in too much ink on the paper and create problems.  Therefore, a printer will carry a premixed black color and use it just in this situation.  Now, what if we want to print 98% black?  Do we use black or CMY ink?  The printer will make a decision and use mostly black ink and a little bit of CMY.  During this process, the printer carefully calculates the best results for each print mode and paper type used while looking at various image factors including color reproduction, tonal gradations, black density, low graininess, glossiness, anti-bronzing, and anti-metamerism. Mixing ink is not easy, and the result often varies from paper to film.  In many prints, we can see the “banding” problem which is the inkjet transition from mixing colors.

 

One solution to this problem is to only use black and different shades of black inks.  Although some printers carry a gray ink cartridge to get around the hassle of mixing, BCH takes this idea to the next level.  For BCH's medical ink, we replaced all the colors (CMY LC LM) with specially formulated four to six shades of gray, so the printer is using a more precise color rather than making it on the fly.  Therefore, we are mixing different shades of pure blacks, which give the print a more natural and accurate representation of actual colors.  This way, it can separate subtle differences that may be missed by a regular inkjet or laser.

 

4. Minimize clogging.  In a fast-paced environment such as the medical field, the chance of clogging should be minimized to the lowest level.  BCH uses triple filtration technology and a nano-filter to make sure the ink won't clog up the printhead.  We also add the BCH wetter solution to prevent the clogging from happening.  We select high-grade dye ink because even if the printhead is clogged, the clog can be easily removed by a printer's built-in self-cleaning function.

 

 

5. Safe and environmentally friendly.  BCH ink is non-toxic, leaves no VOA residue, and is safe to be used in a medical environment.

 

 

We shouldn't switch to an Inkjet unless we consider these factors:

 

1)  Selection.  The price of an inkjet is desirable, but there are many brands and models on the market.  Selecting a suitable model/brand is a huge task.  For example, a Sony Filmstation (laser) costs over $9,000, but an Epson 1430 only costs $350.  However, there are 30-40 inkjet brands and models that will fit the $350 budget.  Not all inkjets are created the same, and we need to do some research on their abilities.  Inkjet printers may be more expensive than other inkjets, but that doesn’t mean they are better than their cohorts.  A printer model must fit how clients will use the printer.

 

2) Speed.   Secondly, although the quality is inferior, a laser printer can print much faster than an inkjet.  For example, a laser DryPro can print a 13x19 Super-B size film in 40 seconds, but an inkjet Epson 1430 will need about three minutes (with the highest resolution).  

 

Although an inkjet can’t compete with laser printers as far as speed, we need to realize there are some advantages.  An inkjet is always ready to produce the first picture almost instantly.  A laser printer needs a long time to warm up, so it requires 50 seconds (Konica Minolta Drypro 873) to 60 seconds (Fuji Drypix 7000) to warm up before printing the first picture.

 

Secondly, although an Epson will need three times longer to print a picture, the picture is printed with high resolution.  If the speed is a concern, we can use inkjets that are built for document printing, and many such printers can print at speed comparable to a laser printer.  So we should choose different models according to clients’ needs.  BCH took this into consideration and made its medical ink compatible with most inkjet printers.

 

3) Servicing Cost.  The clogging is not a problem for laser printers.  Instead, a laser printer will develop a striping problem, similar to clogging in the inkjet.   A laser printer’s drum is built in with the cartridge, so the printer will get a new drum frequently and thus reduce the possibility of striping.  On the other hand, an inkjet tends to become clogged by dried ink or debris.  An inkjet cannot be idle for a long time (more than few weeks).  To fix this problem, the inkjet has a built-in function to clean itself at a certain time interval; therefore, it is better to keep inkjets plugged in when they are idling.  Furthermore, we need to select ink which is formulated and manufactured to have clog-prevention in mind.

 

When an inkjet printer's printhead is clogged beyond the point of the printer's built-in function to handle such a problem, professional service is needed.  There are a few scenarios:

a. Printers with an integrated printhead: The printhead is built into the cartridge.  Therefore, similar to laser printers, we can simply change the cartridge.  

b. Printers with a removable printhead: We can ship a new printhead with instructions for installation.

c. Printers with a permanent printhead.  We need to provide the customer with a replacement contract which stipulates that a new printer will be shipped to the client with a return label for the old printer.

 

4) Size and weight.  A Sony Pix Station, which is considered a "compact" laser printer, is 27x24 x10 inches and weighs 55 lbs.  The selling point of PixStation is that it can fit in small spaces.  An inkjet printer can offer a similar benefit; an Epson 1430 is 31x24x16 and weighs 26 lbs.  Therefore, inkjet printers are often smaller than laser printers.

 

 

 

How to use the BCH Medical Imaging Ink:

Printing substrate: Blue/White Medical Film, Dry film, Paper

Use for: Ultrasonography,CT, Endoscope,MRI Magnetic resonance imaging,Dentistry

 

1.  Choose a printer.  

Printhead type:  The printhead type determines how you are going to service the printer.

Integrated: The printer rarely breaks, and it receives a new printhead with every cartridge.  So this is the easiest and most stable solution.  However, most brands do not have them available for the highest resolution possible because the manufacturer won’t invest a lot of money in a disposable printhead.  The optimized resolution is about 4800x1200 dpi for these printers.  Secondly, there are few models that can print in the wide format because these printers are designed for document printing.

Removable  Some HP and Canon printers offer removable printheads.  You may want to offer a replacement service for the printhead.  The printhead is easy to install, and you can send manuals or videos with the printhead.

Non-removable  All of Epson’s printers and some HP and Canon printers have non-removable printheads.  You may want to offer some kind of insurance or replacement option to the clinics.

 

Other things to consider:

 

Precision: Do you need the highest dpi possible, or can you just use a regular resolution printer?

 

Color (Shade): Do you need a four color (shade) printer, six color, or more?

 

Print speed:  How fast do you need the printer to print?  The high speed is comparable to that of a laser printer, but it cannot print the highest resolution.  The low speed is about three times longer.

 

Duty Cycles: How many pages can you print before a printer breaks down through usage?

 

Form factor: What size is more suitable for the workplace?  Do you need it to be full size or compact?

 

Ink replacement: Do we want an outer tank to supply ink (CIS) or should you use replaceable cartridges?

 

You can select any HP/Canon/Epson desktop printers with rear-tray feeders.    For the best results, you will want to have six-color printers.  For faster speeds, you can choose four-color printers.  

 

 

2. Deciding on the cartridge.  Once a printer is selected, you can choose to let customers refill the printer themselves or buy cartridges from you.  

a) You can sell clients refillable cartridges and purchase medical ink from BCH.

b) You can ask us to provide pre-filled, one-time use cartridges.

Not all printers have refillable cartridges as a solution, so you may want to contact us and discuss what is the best way to proceed.

c). If you decide to add ink yourself, we can provide consultations.

d) Install the printer like a regular desktop printer and enjoy the printing.

 

 

An example of comparing laser and inkjet printers

 

 

 

Fuji DryPix 7000

Canon Pro-100

Epson Artisan-1430

HP

OfficeJet 7720

HP

Officejet 5255

Type

Laser

Inkjet

Inkjet

Inkjet

Inkjet

Resolution

320x320

4800x2400

5760x1440

1200x1200

1200x1200

Paper Size

8x10

10x14

14x17

4x6, 5x7, 8x10, Letter, Legal, 11x17, 13x19

4x6, 5x7, 8x10, Letter, Legal, 11x17, 13x19

4x6, 5x7, 8x10, Letter, Legal, 11x17

4x6, 5x7, 8x10, Letter, Legal,

Time First Page Out

65

10

10

10

10

Speed

Seconds

65 (14x17)

51  (8x10)

90  (11x14)

46 (4x6)

111 (8x10)

173 (11x14)

180 (13x19)

 

22 ppm (laser comparable)

10 ppm (laser comparable)

Connectivity

Cable

Cable, Wifi, Airprint

Cable, Wifi

Cable, Wifi

Cable, Wifi

Printhead

NA

Removable

Permanent

Removable

Integrated

Cost

10,000

499 MSRP

349 MSRP

159 MSRP

99 MSRP

Drop Size

 

3

1.5

   

Duty Cycle

     

30,000

 

Noise

 

38.5 dB

43 dBA

55 dBA

 

Size

448 lb

49x29x27

43.2 lb

27x15x8

26 lb

24x12x8

34 lb

23x17x12

20 lb

17x14x7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: General

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