Biomimicry has inspired many unique creations over the years, such as clothing, machines and even armor. But now a team of University of Missouri engineers have used biomimicry to create a clog-free printer that will save both time and money by keeping ink-jet nozzles clean and running efficiently. However, what might be the most bizarre aspect of their creation, is that they have based it on the human eye.
“The nozzle cover we invented was inspired by the human eye,” said Jae Wan Kwon, associate professor in the College of Engineering in a statement. “The eye and an ink jet nozzle have a common problem: they must not be allowed to dry while, simultaneously, they must open. We used biomimicry, the imitation of nature, to solve human problems.”
The clog-free inkjet printer uses a droplet of silicone oil to cover the opening of the nozzle, similiar to the film of oil that keeps a thin layer of tears from evaporating off the eye. Eyelids spread this film over the layer of tears, but on an ink jet nozzle, mechanical shutters would be too big to work. Instead, the Missouri team spreads the nozzle oil with the use of an electric field.
Kwon and his team believe that this innovation will make home and office printers less wasteful — as generally most printers clear their nozzles with a burst of fresh ink, which is expensive and constantly forms a crust of dried ink on the nozzle.
“Other printing devices use similar mechanisms to ink jet printers,” Kwon said. “Adapting the clog-free nozzle to these machines could save businesses and researchers thousands of dollars in wasted materials. For example, biological tissue printers, which may someday be capable of fabricating replacement organs, squirt out living cells to form biological structures. Those cells are so expensive that researchers often find it cheaper to replace the nozzles rather than waste the cells. Clog-free nozzles would eliminate the costly replacements.”
The team’s research has been published in the Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems.
Via Biomimicry News