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FLEXIBLE FRAME ONSERT CAPPING
SYSTEM FOR INKJET PRINTHEADS
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED
This is a continuation of application Ser. No. 09/340,550 filed on Jun. 28, 1999, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,196,658 issued Mar. 6, 2001. Which is a continuation of Ser. No. 08/741, 850, filed Oct. 31, 1996, now issued as U.S. Pat. No. 5,936,647 on Aug. 10, 1999. 10
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to inkjet printing mechanisms, and more particularly to a flexible capping system having an elastomeric sealing member onsert molded 15 onto a flexible, flat, springy support frame, and preferably to a series of such sealing members mounted on a single flexible frame to simultaneously seal several adjacent inkjet printheads.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 20
Inkjet printing mechanisms use cartridges, often called "pens," which eject drops of liquid colorant, referred to generally herein as "ink," onto a page. Each pen has a printhead formed with very small nozzles through which the 25 ink drops are fired. To print an image, the printhead is propelled back and forth across the page, ejecting drops of ink in a desired pattern as it moves. The particular ink ejection mechanism within the printhead may take on a variety of different forms known to those skilled in the art, 30 such as those using piezo-electric or thermal printhead technology. For instance, two earlier thermal ink ejection mechanisms are shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,278,584 and 4,683,481. In a thermal system, a barrier layer containing ink channels and vaporization chambers is located between 35 a nozzle orifice plate and a substrate layer. This substrate layer typically contains linear arrays of heater elements, such as resistors, which are energized to heat ink within the vaporization chambers. Upon heating, an ink droplet is ejected from a nozzle associated with the energized resistor. 40 By selectively energizing the resistors as the printhead moves across the page, the ink is expelled in a pattern on the print media to form a desired image (e.g., picture, chart or text).
To clean and protect the printhead, typically a "service 45 station" mechanism is supported by the printer chassis so the printhead can be moved over the station for maintenance. For storage, or during non-printing periods, the service stations usually include a capping system which substantially seals the printhead nozzles from contaminants and 50 drying. Some caps are also designed to facilitate priming, such as by being connected to a pumping unit that draws a vacuum on the printhead. During operation, clogs in the printhead are periodically cleared by firing a number of drops of ink through each of the nozzles in a process known 55 as "spitting," with the waste ink being collected in a "spittoon" reservoir portion of the service station. After spitting, uncapping, or occasionally during printing, most service stations have an elastomeric wiper that wipes the printhead surface to remove ink residue, as well as any paper dust or 60 other debris that has collected on the printhead. The wiping action is usually achieved through relative motion of the printhead and wiper, for instance by moving the printhead across the wiper, by moving the wiper across the printhead, or by moving both the printhead and the wiper. 65
To improve the clarity and contrast of the printed image, recent research has focused on improving the ink itself. To
provide quicker, more waterfast printing with darker blacks and more vivid colors, pigment-based inks have been developed. These pigment-based inks have a higher solid content than the earlier dye-based inks, which results in a higher optical density for the new inks. Both types of ink dry quickly, which allows inkjet printing mechanisms to form high quality images on readily available and economical plain paper.
Early inkjet printers used a single monochromatic pen, typically carrying black ink. Later generations of inkjet printing mechanisms used a black pen which was interchangeable with a tri-color pen, typically one carrying the colors of cyan, magenta and yellow within a single cartridge. Here, the service station was designed to service either type of cartridge.
The next generation of printers further enhanced the images by using either a dual pen system or a quad pen system. The dual pen printers provided a black pen along with a tri-color pen, both of which were mounted in a single carriage. Here, the service stations had caps arranged sideby-side to simultaneously seal both the black and tri-color printheads. These dual pen devices had the ability to print crisp, clear black text while providing fill color images. The quad pen printing mechanisms had a first pen carrying black ink, a second pen carrying cyan ink, a third pen carrying magenta ink, and a fourth pen carrying yellow ink. Quad pen plotters typically carried four cartridges in four separate carriages, so each cartridge needed individual servicing. Quad pen desktop printers were designed to carry four cartridges in a single carriage, so all four cartridges could be serviced by a single service station.
These earlier dual and quad pen printers required an elaborate capping mechanism to hermetically seal each of the printheads during periods of inactivity. A variety of different mechanisms have been used to move the servicing implements into engagement with respective printheads. For example, a dual printhead servicing mechanism which moves the caps in a perpendicular direction toward the orifice plates of the printheads is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,155,497, assigned to the present assignee, HewlettPackard Company, of Palo Alto, Calif. Another dual printhead servicing mechanism uses the carriage to pull the caps laterally up a ramp and into contact with the printheads, as shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,440,331, also assigned to the Hewlett-Packard Company. A rotary device for capping dual inkjet printheads is commercially available in several models of printers produced by the Hewlett-Packard Company of Palo Alto, Calif., including the DeskJet® 850C, 855C, 820C and 870C model printers. Examples of a quad pen capping system that use a translation motion are seen in several other commercially available printers produced by the HewlettPackard Company, including the DeskJet® 1200 and 1600 models. Thus, a variety of different mechanisms and angles of approach may be used to physically move the caps into engagement with the printheads.
The caps in these earlier service station mechanisms typically included an elastomeric sealing lip supported by a movable platform or sled. This sled was typically produced using high temperature thermoplastic materials or thermoset plastic materials which allowed the elastomeric lips to be onsert molded onto the sled. The elastomeric sealing lips were sometimes joined at their base to form a cup-like structure, whereas other cap lip designs projected upwardly from the sled, with the sled itself forming the bottom of the sealing cavity. Typically, provisions were made for venting the sealing cavity as the cap lips are brought into contact with the printhead. Without a venting feature, air could be