US 3911818 A
Variable alpha/numeric data is printed by a non-impact printing system in registered and aligned relationship with fixed data printed by a master plate cylinder on a moving web at press speeds. A programmed computer provides coded data representative of the variable data in a selected multiple line message format. Character timing signals are generated in response to the coded data and command signals from the computer represent the sequential position of the alpha/numeric data in the multiple line message format. The timing signals are automatically adjusted to accommodate different web speeds and variable form depths by an electrical top of form pulse occurring prior to the mechanical top of form of the master cylinder for each revolution thereof corrected by pulses, the rate of which is dependent on the speed of the web. The variable alpha/numeric data is printed by using the character timing signals to independently control the projection of ink droplet streams from a plurality of ink jet nozzles onto the moving web.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Macllvaine Oct. 14, 1975 COMPUTER CONTROLLED INK JET IBM Tech. Discl. Bul1., Vol. 14, No. 9, Feb., 1972, p.
PRINTING 2796, Variable Delay for Ink Jet Printer. 75 Inventor: Donald A. M n Lockpon [BM Tech. DlSCl. Bul1., V01. 11, NO. 12, May, 1969, NY pp. 1736-1737, Electrostatic Ink Deflection Bar Code Printer."  Assignee: Moore Business Forms, Inc.,
Fans Primary ExaminerE. H. Eickholt  Filed; Se t, 4, 1973 Attorney, Agent, or Firm watson, Cole, Grindle &
 Appl. N0.: 394,208
 US. Cl 101/426; 101/52; 197/1 R; 340/l72.5; 346/75  Int. C1. B41L 47/46  Field of Search 101/47, 52, l R, 426, 92, 101/93 C, DIG. l3; 197/1 R; 346/75, 1 R; 226/1, 2, 9, 47; 340/1725, 203, 340/205, 206, 259
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,285,169 11/1966 Hartwig 101/426 X 3,473,074 10/1969 J0ann0u..... l01/D1G. 13 3,540,372 11/1970 Chambon... 101/92 3,576,367 4/1971 Sable IUI/DIG. 13 3,588,906 6/1971 Van Brimer et a1. 346/75 X 3,708,050 l/l973 McCarthy .lr. 101/93 C X 3,769,624 10/1973 Lee et a1 1 346/75 X 3,787,882 l/l974 Fillmore et a1. 346/75 3,789,969 2/1974 Howard et a]. 197/1 R 3,797,022 3/1974 Beam ct al 346/75 3,803,628 4/1974 Van Brimcr et a1. 346/75 X OTHER PUBLICATIONS IBM Tech. Discl. Bul1., Vol. 12, No. 12, May, 1970, pp. 2202-2204, Non-Impact Printer Logical Design."
Watson 1 ABSTRACT Variable alpha/numeric data is printed by a non impact printing system in registered and aligned relationship with fixed data printed by a master plate cylinder on a moving web at press speeds. A programmed computer provides coded data representative of the variable data in a selected multiple line message format. Character timing signals are generated in response to the coded data and command signals from the computer represent the sequential position of the alpha/numeric data in the multiple line message format. The timing signals are automatically adjusted to accommodate different web speeds and variable form depths by an electrical top of form pulse occurring prior to the mechanical top of form of the master cylinder for each revolution thereof corrected by pulses, the rate of which is dependent on the speed of the web. The variable alpha/numeric data is printed by using the character timing signals to independently control the projection of ink droplet streams from a plurality of ink jet nozzles onto the moving web.
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. 1 L: L :Z 1' 1 Tlr "VACUUM MAmFoLo WEB COMPUTER CONTROLLED INK JET PRINTING This invention relates to both apparatus and methods for computer controlled printing presses and more specifically to such apparatus using the principle of nonimpact ink jet printing whereby the variable message data can be imprinted on paper along with the printing of fixed data at press speeds. The COMPURITE printing system disclosed herein represents a combining of business forms printing press equipment and computer outputs for the simultaneous printing of a form (or direct mail advertising piece) and the imprinting of variable data. The variable data may be an address or other variable information available on the magnetic tape.
The COMPURITE system disclosed herein represents apparatus and method introducing a capability of printing at a maximum speed of 1,375 characters per second. At such speed variable information composed of 5 X 7 dot matrix characters may be printed on a web of paper moving at maximum press speeds. The COM- PURITE apparatus disclosed herein is capable of being installed on printing presses without significantly reducing the efficiency of the existing production equipment. For example, the COMPURITE system provides significant advantages because of its modular characteristics which enhances its portability. it may be installed on multiprinter flexographic printing presses for producing a wide variety of products and sizes.
Flexography is a rotary, relief printing process employing fast drying, evaporating, solvent inks and usually flexible rubber printing plates. It is this ink distribution and transfer system made mandatory by such inks, the comparatively inexpensive printing plates, and the great advantage of quick and simple roller cleanup and press setup in changing from one job to the next, which sets flexography apart from the run-of-the-mill letterpress printing and makes it especially adaptable to high speed, low cost, in-line printing with converting machinery. Within reasonable limits, changes in size of the printing repeat can be accomplished economically and with insignificant waste. By mounting plates on printing cylinders of different circumferences and changing the spacing across the cylinders, size variations can be made in both the length and width. This interchangeability of plate cylinders (as well as their size) is the basic difference between flexography and conventional rotary letterpress. It allows the printer to make-ready off press while running other work; downtime is minimized.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION FIG. 1 illustrates in block diagram form the basic components of the COMPURITE l ink jet printing system. Variable data information to be printed by the ink jet nozzles in registration with fixed form data printed by a plate cylinder are stored in magnetic tape unit 30 on two magnetic tapes identified as unit 0 and unit 1. The variable data is formatted so that the data therein can be read into, and under the control of, computer 31. Computer 3] assembles the variable data into an alpha/numeric character message format for distribution to computer interface 33. Computer 3] has the capability of reading the magnetic tapes, storing the data thereon and providing the basic data control and program sequencing functions for formulating the variable data input to computer interface 33. Computer 31 includes the necessary input/output system and data bus lines for communication between computer interface 33 and CRT operator control and display 32.
CRT operator control and display 32 comprise at least a CRT display unit for visually displaying information to a system operator and an associated keyboard by which the operator may establish a dialog with the computer for the insertion of necessary data and information to establish various system parameters necessary for the operation of the COMPURITE I system. The CRT display also provides the operator with information generated by the computer concerning the operation of the system.
Forms position and web speed 34 includes the necessary transducers, such as optical encoders, for providing data relating to the desired form depth, web speed, and rate of rotation of a master printing cylinder. The web speed and rate of revolution of the master cylinder provide necessary timing pulse inputs to computer interface 33 so that the interface can provide the necessary timing and control signals for coordinating the operation of computer 31 and nozzle electronics 35 for printing the alpha/numeric characters in aligned and registered relationship on the moving web.
Computer interface 33 includes the necessary circuitry for receiving transducer signals from forms position and web speed 34, data control and sequencing information from computer 31, and status signals from nozzle electronics 35 and nozzles 36 to synchronize and aid in controlling the operation of the entire COM- PURITE l system. Computer interface 33 essentially comprises five basic sub-components which respectively generate various control and synchronization signals for internal utilization within the interface itself and for the operation of the nozzle electronics. For reasons which will become more apparent with the subsequent discussion of the ink droplet formation and projection of the ink droplets in registered position on a moving web, the speed of which is variable as desired, it is necessary to control the time of ink droplet release as a function of web speed. Computer interface 33 includes Top of Form Controller circuitry for precisely controlling the ink droplet release as a function of the web speed and the top of form of the master plate cylinder. its output, a corrected top of form pulse (CTOF) represents a basic control signal within the interface which is used as a reference from which all the character strobe and timing signals within the Interface are generated for the subsequent control of the nozzles within a print unit or print units. The CTOF is also adjusted in accordance with a desired form depth which is selectable by the operator whereby the variable information printed by the ink jet nozzles can be displaced or registered with respect to various form depths on the master cylinder.
Computer interface 33 includes a Master Head Controller for each print unit. The Master Head Controller receives heading distance information from the computer and generates the necessary timing signals to control the ink droplet release from the first nozzle in each print unit with which the Master Head Controller is associated. These timing signals are generated by counting clock pulses having a rate which is variable in direct proportion to the web speed. The operation of the Master Head Controller is controlled by the CTOF pulse. The timing signals comprise character strobe pulses (STRl pulses) for providing a reference frame within which are formed five spaced character stroke strobe pulses (STRZ pulses) in which each of the STR2 pulses -times" the release of a respective column of the 5 X 7 matrix from which all of the alpha/numeric charac ters in the COMPURlTE 1 system are generted. The Master Head Controller also generates additional timing signals which provide control functions to Head Controllers 2, 3, 4 and 5 of its associated print unit. The Master Head Controller also generates a print request signal, prior to the actual time of droplet release, for the nozzle electronics so that the No. 1 nozzle of that printing unit can be primed for printing.
Computer interface 33 further includes common Head Controller circuitry for receiving a device address signal and control functions for operating the Master Head and Head Controllers 2, 3, 4 and 5 of a print unit. These control functions comprise DISABLE, ENABLE, STOP PHASING, and START PHASING signals as well as a start signal from the computer which synchronizes the operation of the Master Head Controllers of each print unit as well as the operation of the remaining four Head Controllers for each print unit.
The computer interface 33 further comprises identical circuitry for each of the second. third, fourth and fifth Head Controllers of each print unit to generate timing signals for controlling the respective droplet release from each of the associated nozzles 2, 3, 4 and 5 of that print unit. These timing signals also comprise character strobe pulses (STRl pulses) and character strobe pulses (STRZ pulses) which perform the same function as the same named pulses generated by the Master Head Controller. However, the character strobe and stroke strobe pulses from the respective Head Controllers 2, 3, 4 and 5 are generated to account for the displacement along the axis of web movement of the nozzle within a print unit. That displacement is fixed during any given printing operation, but may be varied within the mechanical limitations of the nozzle structure and the format which is desired to be printed. In other words, the spacing between the nozzles along the axis of the moving web may be varied as well as the respective spacing of the nozzles along an axis transverse to the axis of web movement. Each of Head Controllers 2, 3, 4 and 5 includes suitable circuitry for timing the generation of the character strobe and stroke strobe pulses to account for the spacing between the nozzles in the direction of web movement. Each of the head controllers includes circuitry for generating a print request signal which is delivered to its associated nozzle to prime the associated nozzle for printing.
Head controller circuitry identical to all the head units is provided within computer interface 33 to count the number of characters printed by each nozzle so that end of message control signals can be generated to terminate the generation of the character strobe and stroke strobe pulses within the Master Head Controller and Head Controllers 2, 3, 4 and 5 of each of the print units as well as to signal the computer that the printing of a particular variable set of data has been completed. This circuitry also generates register strobe signals for controlling the output of coded alpha/numeric character data to the nozzle electronics.
The nozzles of each print unit are associated with a set of storage and print buffers which are responsive to respective register strobe signals from the Common Head Controller Circuitry for strobing the character data from the computer data bus to a seven line output representing a given character by a seven bit ASCII code. Each of the nozzle controllers includes addressing, sense line, and data control circuitry for controlling the receipt of information from the computer and for providing a means of communicating with each of the nozzles whereby the computer can determine their respective status for printing.
The printing format of the embodiment disclosed herein includes a length of thirty-eight characters in each of the lines of printing. The embodiment also utilizes a displacement of ten characters per inch of web movement. The spacing of the lines between the printing nozzles of a given print unit and between the print units themselves, is variable and limited only by the mechanical configuration of the press, the mounting of the mechanical structure of the print units, etc.
Nozzle electronics 35 receives the coded alpha/numeric character data output as well as the character STRl and STRZ pulses of computer interface 33, whereby the printing of the alpha/numeric characters from each of the nozzles within a print unit is controlled. A matrix generator for each of the nozzles provides a stream of pulses synchronized with respect to the generation of ink droplets in the nozzles themselves. The pulse stream is timed by the character strobe pulses from the computer interface so that each column of the 5 X 7 matrix is timed to release the droplets in registered and aligned relationship on the moving web regardless of its speed.
The pulse stream output from each matrix generator is converted by digital-to-analog conversion circuitry, a separate circuit being responsive to each of the matrix generators, whereby a low level video ramp signal representing seven different voltage levels for each column of the matrix is produced. The low level video signals are amplified and provided as control voltages to a charging tunnel whereby each of the successive drops in the droplet stream projected from each nozzle is charged in accordance with its desired displacement along an axis transverse to the movement of the web. The video amplifier is synchronized with the excitation of a piezoelectric crystal which forms the droplets in each of the nozzles so that the droplet charging is properly phased with the generation of droplets.
Nozzle electronics 35 also includes high voltage deflection circuitry for placing a static charge on the charging plates of a deflection tunnel through which each of the charged droplets passes, thereby deflecting each droplet a distance directly proportional to the charge placed on each respective droplet during its passage through the charging tunnel. Uncharged droplets are not deflected and are intercepted by a collector prior to their impingement on the web so that they play no part in the printing of the alpha/numeric characters.
The nozzle electronics 35 also includes well-known phasing and droplet sensor circuitry for sensing the phasing of the ink droplets and to correct that phasing should it require correction.
Finally, the COMPURITE system includes means for controlling the ink supply and flow of ink to each of the respective nozzles and that system is designated by numeral 37 in FIG. 1. The print units each include an ink supply manifold whereby each of the five nozzles in a print unit are parallelly supplied with ink from ink reservoirs. The uncharged ink droplets which are intercepted by each of the respective collectors associated with each of the nozzles are withdrawn by a manifold vacuum return connected to each of the collectors. The
ink system 37 also includes appropriate filters and pressure regulators to assure a proper supply of ink to each of the ink jet nozzles.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION fixed data information printed on the moving web by a master press cylinder.
A second object of the invention is to provide such a computerized printing system wherein the variable data is printed using ink jet printing technology wherein all of the alpha/numeric characters of the variable data are generated from a X 7 character matrix.
It is a third object of the present invention to provide computer interface circuitry between the computer and ink jet print nozzles for controlling the timing of the ink droplets in accordance with variable web speed.
It is a fourth object of the present invention to provide computer interface circuitry for controlling the transmission of coded character data information from the computer to the nozzle electronics in accordance with variable web speed and heading distance information from the computer.
It is a fifth object of the present invention to provide the necessary alpha/character timing signals to the nozzle electronics whereby the electrical signals for defining the character matrix for each alpha/numeric character are determined so that the alpha/numeric characters are printed in aligned and registered relationship on the moving web.
It is a sixth object of the invention to provide computer interface circuitry wherein the registration and alignment of the printing of the alpha/numeric characters from each of a number of ink jet nozzles is selectively varied in accordance with the form depth of the master printing cylinder.
It is a seventh object of the invention to provide computer interface circuitry of the type specified herein which is capable of simultaneously controlling a plurality of ink jet nozzles whereby alpha/numeric data is printed from the nozzles in aligned and registered relationship with the form depth on a master cylinder.
It is an eighth object of the present invention to provide computer interface circuitry of the type specified herein for the generation of character strobe signals which are automatically adjusted in accordance with the variable speed of a moving web, the selected form depth, heading distance data provided by the computer. and to compensate or account for the spacing of the individual printing nozzles with respect to one another along the axis of movement of the web.
It is a ninth object of the present invention to provide computer interface circuitry of the type specified herein which is responsive to address, control commands and data information from a computer which assembles the variable data in accordance with a given message format, for generating character printing timing signals to time the release of ink droplets from a plurality of ink jet nozzles whereby alpha/numeric characters may be printed in aligned and registered relationship with a master printing cylinder over a wide range of press speeds.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS In the drawings:
FIG. 1 illustrates in block diagram form the components of the COMPURITE I system;
FIG. 2 illustrates the configuration of a print unit illustrating the relationship of the five printing heads thereof and a five-line print output with each line being printed by a respective head or nozzle;
FIG. 3 shows an exemplary embodiment of three print units each consisting of five staggered heads for respectively printing different variable information on different portions of a moving web and also figuratively shows the relationship of the print units to a print cylinder for printing a form wherein the variable data are in registered position with respect to the plate cylinder;
FIG. 4 shows a representative matrix font consisting of 64 alpha/numeric characters each of which is configured within a 5 by 7 matrix;
FIGS. 5A and 5B are circuit schematics of the interface top of form controller;
FIG. 6 is a schematic representing the interface head controllers common computer address circuitry;
FIG. 7 is a schematic of an interface master head controller;
FIG. 8 illustrates a schematic of interface head controllers 2, 3, 4 and 5;
FIG. 9 is a schematic representative of the interface head controllers common end of message circuitry;
FIG. 10 represents the circuit schematic for common interface nozzle controller circuitry;
FIGS. 11A and 118 respectively show gating circuitry used in the computer interface;
FIG. 12 shows the operative relationship between the interface schematics represented by FIGS. 5A, 5B and 6 to 10;
FIG. 13 is a side view of the plate cylinder showing the form depths and the encoder slits used in timing the print nozzles;
FIG. 14 illustrates the relationship of various control signals of the computer interface as a function of a given press speed;
FIG. 15 is a combined block diagram and functional representation respectively of the nozzle electronics and an ink jet nozzle showing the interrelationships between the electrical signals for operating the nozzle and the relationship of the ink droplet stream with respect to the elements of the nozzle and the moving web;
FIGS. 16A through illustrate the principle of operation of the nozzle electronics;
FIG. 17 shows the ink supply manifold and vacuum manifold assembly for a five-nozzle print unit which forms part of the ink system; and
FIG. 18 is an illustrative embodiment of the ink supply regulator forming part of the ink system.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION FIG. 2 illustrates a typical print unit 38 of the COM- PURITE l system in operative association with a moving web 39. Each of the five ink jet nozzles 38a, 38b. 38c, 38d and 38e of print unit 38 is mounted to print a respective line of print 40a, 40b, 40c. 40d, and 40e. As illustrated in FIG. 2, each of the print lines 40a to 40e are equally spaced from one another; however, the interline spacing may be varied by suitably adjusting the mounting of a desired one or all of ink nozzles 38a to 38a in a direction transverse to the movement of web 39. In the COMPURITE system described herein, each of nozzles 38a to 38e is spaced a distance D from an adjacent nozzle in a print unit 38. The distance D is two and one-half inches for the system as described herein. However, such a mounting relationship of the respective nozzles within a print unit is only exemplary, and it is understood that the spacing D between each nozzle may be varied if desired by a suitable modification of the interface circuitry as will be apparent from the desription herein of its structure and operation.
In an operative embodiment and in actual use, the ink jet nozzles of the COMPURITE l system lie in a horizontal plane with the moving web 39 moving in a vertical plane. However. the positions of the print unit and the moving web in the horizontal and vertical planes may be interchanged, if it is recognized that poor results are obtained when the ink jet nozzles are required to emit their droplets against the force of gravity. Each of the ink jet nozzles 38a to 38:2 lies in a plane normal to the plane of moving web 39.
FIG. 3 illustrates a three-print unit ink jet printing system comprising print units 38, 38' and 38". Each of the print units 38, 38 and 38" includes five ink jet nozzles respectively designated as 38a to 38e, 38' to 38e' and 38a to 38:2". Moving web 39 is illustratively driven by drive rollers 41a, 41b in the vertical direction indicated in FIG. 3. The mounting structure for each of print units 38, 38' and 38" is not shown in FIG. 3 to avoid cluttering the drawing. The print units may be mounted by any suitable mounting structure so that they are in proper spaced relationship to moving web Continuing with FIG. 3, master print cylinder 40 is illustratively shown in operative relationship with print and drive roller 41a. However, the relationship of print cylinder 40 to print roller 41a and print units 38, 38'. 38 is only exemplary. Master print cylinder 40 may be located further downstream from the moving web 39 than is depicted in FIG. 3. It is also understood that master print cylinder 40 may be located upstream of print units 38, 38, 38". The mechanical top of form of master print cylinder 40 is illustrated in FIG. 3. Displaced from the mechanical top of form is a slit 4] from which electrical top of form pulses may be produced by suitable optical encoder circuitry which is well known to those skilled in the art. A number of slits 42 are provided around the periphery of master print cylinder 40 to generate a fixed number of timing pulses for each revolution of the master cylinder. In the embodiment described herein there are 2500 slits 42. Suitable electrical pulses are generated by optical encoder mechanism associated with slits 42. The electrical top of form pulse as well as the 2500 pulses per revolution of print cylinder 40 are inputs to the interface circuitry to provide the necessary timing functions for the operation of that circuitry. Additionally, a transducer is provided to generate clock pulses for the Interface at a fixed number of pulses/inch of web travel. Such a transducer is not shown in FIG. 3, but may comprise any well-known speed transducer such as is normally used with the drive and gear train mechanism of printing presses to indicate its speed.
The spacing between print units 38, 38' and 38" can be varied to provide any desired variable data printing format on the forms printed by the master cylinder. It is also understood that the lateral spacing of print units 38, 38' and 38" can also be adjusted as desired in a direction transverse to the movement of web 39, whereby the printing from each of the respective print units in relationship to the form or forms on master plate cylinder can be adjusted as desired.
With each of print units 38, 38' and 38" mounted in a fixed spatial relationship with the master print cylinder 40, the COMPURITE I system includes form depth selection by the operator and the COMPURITE interface circuitry automatically adjusts the generation of the character strobe pulses to cause the ink jet printing to be registered and aligned in accordance with the form depth selected.
FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary alpha/numeric matrix font comprising a total of sixty-four alpha/numeric characters. As is evident from FIG. 4, each of the alpha/numeric characters is generated by a 5 X 7 matrix as will be more clearly understood from the description which follows. Each ink jet nozzle is capable of producing each of the sixty-four alpha/numeric characters illustrated in FIG. 4. It is understood that the character font in FIG. 4 is only exemplary and that other type fonts may also be used with the COMPURITE I system described herein.
THE COMPUTER HARDWARE, SOFTWARE, FUNCTIONS AND OPERATIONS As the COMPURITE I system is described herein, the variable information (e.g., mailing addresses) to be printed on a form must be recorded on an input device such as a magnetic tape, paper tape, card, etc. It is understood that if the input, for example the information stored on magnetic tape, is not compatible with the COMPURITE requirements as described herein, the data may be converted from the customers tape format to the COMPURITE format by any of the well-known conversion techniques. In order to make such a conversion it is necessary to know the record layout of the magnetic tape to be converted. It is also imperative to know precisely what information is required to be printed, where it is located on the tape, and the required format of the COMPURITE printing.
For the purposes of the present description the alpha/numeric characters are set in ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Table I defines the ASCII character set for the 64 character font described herein.
TABLE I ASCII Character Set BITS I o 0 0 0 0 0 Space P o 0 0 I I A 0 o 0 I 0 2 a R 0 0 1 I 3 c s o 1 0 0 s 4 D T U I 0 l 7: S E U U I l 0 & 6 F V 0 l I I 7 G W I 0 0 0 s H x 1 o 0 I I a I Y I 0 I 0 1 .I z I O I K I l 0 0 L I 0 l M I I I O N I I I I