New Compact Epson Printers Are a Neat Fit
Inkjet printers 40% smaller than previous year's models
Consumer inkjet printers are handy for printing photos and documents at home. Allowing one to quickly and easily go from blank sheet to printed page, they are undeniably convenient in almost all but one way: They have been too large to fit comfortably in homes with limited space. Epson's new inkjet models were developed and designed, in part, to solve this issue.
Listening to the voice of the customer
The models in the Epson Expression Premium series were developed for maximum usability. Heading into the development stage, Epson gathered and analyzed voice-of-the-customer data from users of previous models. This feedback showed that customers were often unable to set up their printers in the spots they wanted, for lack of space. The development team thus set out to find out where users want to install their printer and what size printers would have to be to fit in those places. Their research involved looking at factors such as the dimensions of commonly-sold shelving that might be used to hold a printer.
After extensive research and analyses, the development team came up with a size target: An inkjet unit nearly 40% smaller* than the models then on the market. The target was extremely ambitious and fraught with obstacles, but the team was wholeheartedly committed to making a printer that customers could place exactly where they wanted. Implementing a variety of innovative design changes, the team achieved the target in the form of the Epson Expression Premium series.
*Based on total volume of the printer, with trays closed, compared to previous models.
The first major design change shrank the printer's main board so that it could be squeezed into the ideal location inside the housing. Design engineers first located a space in the smaller printer body where the main board could be placed, thus automatically determining what size the board would have to be. They then increased the number of component layers on the board to give it a 30% smaller footprint than its predecessors. At the same time, the layout of the board components had to be rearranged to make sure they did not bump up against any internal parts. In the end, after much painstaking design work and rework, the board fit in the ideal location.
The second major design change involved relocating the ink cartridges to the top of the print head, so that they actually ride on-carriage. In general, inkjet printers create prints with a print head that deposits droplets of ink as it scans back and forth over a sheet of paper. On-carriage designs are mechanically simple, but since the ink cartridges and head are integrated, there is no way to avoid increasing the size and weight of the print head unit. The problem with the heavier head unit is that it requires a more rigid printer body frame. This is why Epson has long used an off-carriage design for most of its printers. In the off-carriage design, the print head and ink cartridges are separate structures, and ink is supplied to the head via ink supply tubes. However, off-carriage systems begin to become an obstacle to further size reductions once printers reach a certain level of compactness. To get around this problem, the development team decided to redesign the print head and ink cartridges so as to make them smaller and to reintroduce an on-carriage design. The team limited the height of the new print head by redesigning the ink channels and changing the layout of the IC board. Similarly, they limited the height of the ink cartridges by simplifying their internal structure and increasing their volumetric efficiency. The design modifications significantly helped reduce printer size by keeping down the height of the printer even with the on-carriage design and by freeing up space that otherwise would have been used to route ink supply tubes and so forth.
Key component verification
Current printers have a variety of complicated, built-in paper feeding mechanisms, such as paper trays in the front, a manual paper-feeder in the back, and automatic two-sided printing, but these paper-feeding mechanisms were radically redesigned on our latest models. Even the smallest components were thoroughly examined one by one, redesigned, and verified.
In this way, Epson's design team worked closely together to share ideas and fundamentally rethink the design of inkjet units, making them smaller so that they can be set up where users want them.