News Column

"Ink Jet Printer, Object-To-Be-Printed Holding Member, and Printing Method" in Patent Application Approval Process

May 21, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Engineering -- A patent application by the inventors ONODERA, Akihiro (Hachioji-city, JP); HIRANO, Masashi (Hachioji-city, JP); SANUKI, Toshihiro (Hachioji-city, JP), filed on October 30, 2013, was made available online on May 8, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews correspondents.

This patent application is assigned to Mimaki Engineering Co., Ltd.

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to an ink jet printer, an object-to-be-printed holding member, and a printing method.

"In recent years, objects to be printed of an ink jet printer are not only flat media such as paper or films, but also 3-dimensional objects having various shapes. In association with this tendency, a method of holding printed objects (works) having various shapes are also studied. For example, in the related art, a method of performing three-dimensional printing continuously by mounting the work on a rotating unit is known (for example, see JP-A-2011-20112). There is also a known method in which when printing on a rotating body having a plurality of ink droplets landing surfaces as a work, a printing operation is performed while rotating the rotating body (see JP-A-2010-158874).

"In recent years, with glowing popularization of handheld terminals such as smart phones, covers for such handheld terminals are now in increasing demand. Accordingly, the inventors of the present application have studied earnestly about how to hold works when printing on 3-dimensional objects like covers for the handheld terminals such as smart phones with an ink jet printer.

"When printing on the covers for the handheld terminals, printing not only on surfaces which cover back surfaces of the terminals, but also on side surfaces which intersect the back surfaces is desired. Since the covers for the handheld terminals are products which are required to be excellent in design, printing with great precision is desired. On the other hand, since the prices of these products are low in comparison with those of main bodies of the handheld terminals, printing with lower costs is desired.

"In order to realize these desires, the inventors of the present application have studies earnestly firstly about the method of printing on works having a shape such as the covers for the handheld terminals more adequately with the ink jet printer. Consequently, the inventors have found that adequate printing on each of the surfaces of the works is achieved by mounting the works such as the cover of the handheld terminals on shaft members and rotating the shaft members to change the orientation of the works.

"The inventors of the present application also have studied about problems occurring newly when printing on the works in this method. Consequently, the inventors have found that when the printing is performed with the configuration described above by using ultraviolet curing ink, there may occur a problem of leakage of stray light from positions where the ultraviolet rays to be irradiated for curing the ink are deviated.

"More specifically, in a case where printing on works such as covers for handheld terminals, for example, when changing the orientation of the works by rotating shaft members on which the works are mounted, in order to set surfaces which cover back surfaces of the terminals (main surfaces to be printed) as surfaces to be printed, the rotational position of the shaft members are aligned to predetermined positions so that the main surfaces to be printed oppose an ink jet head. When side surfaces are the surfaces to be printed, the shaft members are rotated so that the side surfaces oppose the ink jet head.

"In this case, the position of the surfaces to be printed in the direction of discharge of ink droplets (for example, in the vertical direction) in the case where the main surfaces to be printed are the surfaces to be printed may differ from that in the case where the side surfaces are the surfaces to be printed. When changing the position of the surfaces to be printed, gaps which allow leakage of ultraviolet rays may be created, and hence the problem of stray light may occur.

"However, when printing is performed by using the ink jet printer, an operator (user) may perform an operation of the printer in the vicinity of the printer. Therefore, leakage of the ultraviolet rays is not preferable. The leaked ultraviolet rays may cause deterioration of printer components, or resin components in the periphery thereof. Therefore, the amount of the stray light leaked to the position deviated from the work is required to be as small as possible."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent application, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "Accordingly, it is an object of the invention to provide an ink jet printer, an object-to-be-printed holding member, and a printing method in which the problems as described above are solved.

"In order to solve the above-described problem, the invention provides following configurations.

"(Configuration 1)

"An ink jet printer configured to perform printing on a 3-dimensional object in an ink jet system including:

"an ink jet head configured to discharge ink droplets of ultraviolet curing ink;

"an ultraviolet irradiating portion configured to irradiate ultraviolet rays to cure the ultraviolet curing ink; and

"an object-to-be-printed holding member configured to hold the 3-dimensional object to be printed so as to oppose the ink jet head, wherein

"the 3-dimensional object to be printed includes at least a first surface to be printed as a surface to be printed by the ink jet printer and a second surface to be printed as a side surface of the first surface to be printed,

"the object-to-be-printed holding member includes:

"a 3-dimensional object holding portion configured to hold the 3-dimensional object so as to oppose the ink jet head; and

"a light-shielding portion configured to reduce the ultraviolet rays proceeding to an outside of the object-to-be-printed holding member,

"the 3-dimensional object holding portion changes an orientation of the 3-dimensional object to bring the first surface to be printed and the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head,

"when bringing the first surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, the 3-dimensional object holding portion holds the 3-dimensional object so that a position of the first surface to be printed in the direction of discharge as a direction in which the ink jet head discharges the ink droplets comes to a first opposed position,

"when bringing the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, the 3-dimensional object holding portion holds the 3-dimensional object so that a position of the second surface to be printed in the direction of discharge comes to a second opposed position different from the first opposed position,

"the light-shielding portion is provided apart from the 3-dimensional object held by the 3-dimensional object holding portion in the direction orthogonal to the direction of discharge, and hence shields the ultraviolet rays proceeding to the outside of the object-to-be-printed holding member in at least any one of directions in the periphery of the 3-dimensional object, and

"the light-shielding portion is provided so at to be capable of advancing and retracting in the direction of discharge at least at part of positions, the 3-dimensional object holding portion advances and retracts corresponding respectively to the first opposed position in a case where the 3-dimensional object holding portion brings the first surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head and the second opposed position in a case where the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head to change a light-shielding area that shields the ultraviolet rays in the direction orthogonal to the direction of discharge.

"In this configuration, for example, when a position of the surface to be printed is changed by changing the orientation of the 3-dimensional object, the light-shielding area shielded by the light-shielding portion may be changed adequately so as to match the position in question. Therefore, in this configuration, stray light leaking to the position deviated from the 3-dimensional object, for example, as a work to be printed may be suppressed adequately.

"The 3-dimensional object holding portion rotates the 3-dimensional object about a predetermined shaft to bring the first surface to be printed and the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head. The 3-dimensional object to be printed is, for example, a cover for a handheld terminal such as a smart phone. The light-shielding portion shields ultraviolet rays on the side of a housing portion of the object-to-be-printed holding member closer to the ink jet head or in the vicinity thereof (for example, an upper part of the housing portion). The housing portion of the object-to-be-printed holding member is, for example, a portion composed of a side surface fixed in position by the object-to-be-printed holding member.

"The term 'change the light-shielding area shielded by the light-shielding portion' means, for example, to change the position of the light-shielding portion by advancing and retracting movement, or to change the surface area of an area of the light-shielding portion which contributes to the light shielding may also be applied. The light-shielding portion may perform both of the change of the position and the change of the surface area of the area which contributes to the light shielding by the advancing and retracting operation. The light-shielding portion may change the surface area of the area which contributes to the light shielding to zero by the advancing and retracting operation. In this case, the light-shielding portion may perform the shielding of the ultraviolet rays only in one of a case where the first surfaces to be printed are brought to oppose the ink jet head and a case where the second surfaces to be printed are brought to oppose the ink jet head, and do not have to shield the ultraviolet rays in the other case.

"In this case, more specifically, it is conceivable, for example, to use the light-shielding portion configured not only to perform the advancing and retracting operation in the direction of discharge but also to be bent at a portion pushed upward (ink jet head side) by the advancing and retracting operation and moved to an upper surface (ceiling portion) of the object-to-be-printed holding member. In this case, for example, in the other case of the cases described above, the light-shielding portion may be brought into a state not involved in light shielding in the direction orthogonal to the direction of discharge at all by being moved to the ceiling portion. In the one case of the cases described above, the ultraviolet rays may be shielded by the light-shielding portion by moving the light-shielding portion downward from the ceiling portion. Examples of the light-shielding portion configured as described above include a configuration similar to that of a slider type door used in garages for vehicles configured to open a garage by moving a slider to a ceiling portion of the garage.

"(Configuration 2)

"In a case where the 3-dimensional object holding portion brings the first surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, the light-shielding portion shields the ultraviolet rays at a first light-shielding position in the direction of discharge, and in a case where the 3-dimensional object holding portion brings the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, the light-shielding portion shields the ultraviolet rays at a second light-shielding position different from the first light-shielding position in the direction of discharge.

"In this configuration, the light-shielding area shielded by the light-shielding portion may be adequately changed by changing the position of the light-shielding portion by the advancing and retracting operation, for example. Accordingly, for example, stray light leaking to the position deviated from the 3-dimensional object may be suppressed adequately.

"(Configuration 3)

"The 3-dimensional object holding portion includes: a shaft member extending in the direction orthogonal to the direction of discharge; a shaft holding portion configured to hold the shaft member so as to be rotatable; and a 3-dimensional object fixing member configured to fix the 3-dimensional object to the shaft member and rotates the 3-dimensional object together with the shaft member by being fixed to the shaft member, and the 3-dimensional object holding portion changes an orientation of the 3-dimensional object by rotating the shaft member to brings the first surface to be printed and the second surface to be printed to oppose to the ink jet head.

"In this configuration, for example, the respective surfaces to be printed of the 3-dimensional object to be printed may be brought to oppose the ink jet head adequately with great precision. Accordingly, printing with great precision is adequately achieved. The 3-dimensional object fixing member is fixed to the shaft member, for example, in a state in which the shaft member penetrates therethrough. The shaft holding portion may be a side surface configuring the housing portion of the object-to-be-printed holding member or part thereof.

"(Configuration 4)

"The object-to-be-printed holding member further includes an interlocking member configured to advance and retract the light shielding portion in the direction of discharge in conjunction with the rotation of the shaft member. In this configuration, the light-shielding portion may be advanced and retracted adequately, so as to match the position of the surface to be printed which changes according to the rotation of the shaft member for example. Accordingly, stray light leaking to the position deviated from the 3-dimensional object may further be suppressed adequately.

"(Configuration 5)

"The interlocking member is an ellipsoidal cam configured to rotate according to the rotation of the shaft member by the shaft member inserted through the center thereof, and advance and retract the light-shielding portion in the direction of discharge in conjunction with the rotation of the shaft member by rotating in a state in contact with the light-shielding portion. In this configuration, the light-shielding portion may be advanced or retracted adequately so as to match the position of the surfaces to be printed which changes according to the rotation of the shaft member. Accordingly, stray light leaking to the position deviated from the 3-dimensional object may further be suppressed adequately.

"(Configuration 6)

"The 3-dimensional object holding portion includes: at least two shaft members arranged with axial directions parallel to each other; and at least two 3-dimensional object fixing members configured to fix the 3-dimensional objects to the shaft members, the object-to-be-printed holding member includes at least four ellipsoidal cams mounted to both ends of the at least two shaft members, and the light-shielding portion is in contact with the at least two ellipsoidal cams on one end side of the at least two shaft members and the at least two ellipsoidal cams on the other end side of the at least two shaft members, and advances and retracts in the direction of discharge according to the rotation of the at least four ellipsoidal cams.

"In this configuration, the light-shielding portion may be advanced and retracted more smoothly and more stably, for example, by causing the light-shielding portion to be advanced or retracted in a state of being held at least at four points. Accordingly, stray light leaking to the position deviated from the 3-dimensional object may further be suppressed adequately.

"In this configuration, adequate printing on a number of 3-dimensional objects may be performed simultaneously by using a plurality of shaft members and a plurality of the 3-dimensional object fixing members. Therefore, in this configuration, printing cost may be reduced adequately. In this case, by effectively utilizing the configuration in which the plurality of shaft members are used, advancing and retracting movement of the light-shielding portion may be performed further adequately. Therefore, in this configuration, the stray light may be suppressed more adequately by using, for example, a configuration specific for achieving the printing at low costs.

"The light shielding portion includes, for example, a first portion configured to come into contact with ellipsoidal cams on one end side of at least two shaft members and a second portion configured to come into contact with the ellipsoidal cams on the other end side of the at least two shaft members, and a third portion coupling the first portion and the second portion. In this case, the first portion, the second portion, and the third portion of the light-shielding portion advance and retract simultaneously in the direction of discharge in a state in which the relative position thereof is fixed. The first portion, the second portion, the third portion, and the like may be a single continuing member as a whole. At least four ellipsoidal cams are configured to advance and retract the first portion, the second portion, and the third portion of the light-shielding portion in the direction of discharge by coming into contact with the light-shielding portion on both end sides of the at least two shaft members. The light-shielding portion shields the ultraviolet rays by at least one of the first portion, the second portion, and the third portion. The light-shielding portion may further include a fourth portion configured to couple the first portion and the second portion at a position different from the third portion.

"(Configuration 7)

"The object-to-be-printed holding member further includes an urging member configured to urge the light-shielding portion in the direction away from the ink jet head. In this configuration, for example, the light-shielding portion may be advanced and retracted more adequately by the ellipsoidal cams as interlocking members.

"(Configuration 8)

"A corrected information memory configured to memorize information for correcting an angle of rotation of the shaft member is further provided. The corrected information memory is, for example, a ROM. In this configuration, for example, the rotation of the shaft members may be controlled with great precision further adequately.

"(Configuration 9)

"An object-to-be-printed holding member used in an ink jet printer configured to perform printing on a 3-dimensional object in an ink jet system by using ultraviolet curing ink and hold the 3-dimensional object to be printed so as to oppose an ink jet head, the object-to-be printed holding member including: a 3-dimensional object holding portion configured to hold the 3-dimensional object so as to oppose the ink jet head; a light-shielding portion configured to reduce ultraviolet rays proceeding to an outside of the object-to-be-printed holding member, wherein the 3-dimensional object to be printed includes at least a first surface to be printed as a surface to be printed by the ink jet printer and a second surface to be printed as a side surface of the first surface to be printed, the 3-dimensional object holding portion changes an orientation of the 3-dimensional object to bring the first surface to be printed and the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, when bringing the first surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, the 3-dimensional object holding portion holds the 3-dimensional object so that a position of the first surface to be printed in the direction of discharge as a direction in which the ink jet head discharges the ink droplets comes to a first opposed position, when bringing the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, the 3-dimensional object holding portion holds the 3-dimensional object so that a position of the second surface to be printed in the direction of discharge comes to a second opposed position different from the first opposed position, the light-shielding portion is provided apart from the 3-dimensional object held by the 3-dimensional object holding portion in the direction orthogonal to the direction of discharge, and hence shields the ultraviolet rays proceeding to the outside of the object-to-be-printed holding member in at least any one of directions in the periphery of the 3-dimensional object, and the light-shielding portion is provided so at to be capable of advancing and retracting in the direction of discharge at least at part of positions, the 3-dimensional object holding portion advances and retracts corresponding respectively to the first opposed position in a case where the 3-dimensional object holding portion brings the first surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head and the second opposed position in a case where the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head to change a light-shielding area that shields the ultraviolet rays in the direction orthogonal to the direction of discharge. In this configuration, the same effect as Configuration 1 may be achieved.

"(Configuration 10)

"A printing method configured to perform printing in an ink jet system on a 3-dimensional object using: an ink jet head configured to discharge ink droplets of ultraviolet curing ink; an ultraviolet irradiating portion configured to irradiate ultraviolet rays to cure the ultraviolet curing ink; and an object-to-be-printed holding member configured to hold the 3-dimensional object to be printed so as to oppose the ink jet head, wherein the 3-dimensional object to be printed includes at least a first surface to be printed as a surface to be printed by the ink jet printer and a second surface to be printed as a side surface of the first surface to be printed, the object-to-be-printed holding member includes: a 3-dimensional object holding portion configured to hold the 3-dimensional object so as to oppose the ink jet head; and a light-shielding portion configured to reduce the ultraviolet rays proceeding to an outside of the object-to-be-printed holding member, the 3-dimensional object holding portion changes an orientation of the 3-dimensional object to bring the first surface to be printed and the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, when bringing the first surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, the 3-dimensional object holding portion holds the 3-dimensional object so that a position of the first surface to be printed in the direction of discharge as a direction in which the ink jet head discharges the ink droplets comes to a first opposed position, when bringing the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head, the 3-dimensional object holding portion holds the 3-dimensional object so that a position of the second surface to be printed in the direction of discharge comes to a second opposed position different from the first opposed position, the light-shielding portion is provided apart from the 3-dimensional object held by the 3-dimensional object holding portion in the direction orthogonal to the direction of discharge, and hence shields the ultraviolet rays proceeding to the outside of the object-to-be-printed holding member in at least any one of directions in the periphery of the 3-dimensional object, and the light-shielding portion is provided so at to be capable of advancing and retracting in the direction of discharge at least at part of positions, the 3-dimensional object holding portion advances and retracts corresponding respectively to the first opposed position in a case where the 3-dimensional object holding portion brings the first surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head and the second opposed position in a case where the second surface to be printed to oppose the ink jet head to change a light-shielding area that shields the ultraviolet rays in the direction orthogonal to the direction of discharge. In this configuration, the same effect as Configuration 1 is achieved.

"According to the invention, when printing on 3-dimensional objects such as covers for handheld terminals, generation of stray light may be adequately suppressed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate an example of a configuration of an ink jet printer 10 according to an embodiment of the invention, in which FIG. 1A schematically illustrates a function and a configuration of the ink jet printer 10, and FIG. 1B illustrates a detailed configuration of the entire ink jet printer 10;

"FIGS. 2A to 2C are drawings illustrating an example of a detailed configuration of an object-to-be-printed holding member 18, in which FIG. 2A is a perspective view illustrating an example of the configuration of the object-to-be-printed holding member 18, and FIGS. 2B and 2C are explanatory drawing for explaining the advancing and retracting movement of the light-shielding portion 110 of the object-to-be-printed holding member 18.

"FIGS. 3A and 3B are drawings for explaining a state in which a light-shielding portion 110 advances and retracts in association with rotations of a shaft members 102 and an ellipsoidal cams 112, in which FIG. 3A illustrates an example of a state in which printing is performed on main printing surfaces 302 of 3-dimensional objects 50, and FIG. 3B is an example of a state in which printing is performed on side surfaces 304 of the 3-dimensional objects 50."

URL and more information on this patent application, see: ONODERA, Akihiro; HIRANO, Masashi; SANUKI, Toshihiro. Ink Jet Printer, Object-To-Be-Printed Holding Member, and Printing Method. Filed October 30, 2013 and posted May 8, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=4906&p=99&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140501.PD.&OS=PD/20140501&RS=PD/20140501

Keywords for this news article include: Mimaki Engineering Co. Ltd.

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Source: Journal of Engineering


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