Printing systems using multiple relatively inexpensive print engines have, in principle, many advantages over single engine designs. The throughput of such a system is relatively easily and inexpensively scalable. Reconfigurability in number and types of print engines, the ability to replace defective engines or path modules while running, etc. all provide powerful systems benefits to the user and manufacturer including customizability, high parts reuse, and high productivity. To enable such designs a highly reconfigurable paper path must be available to act as the glue layer. We describe a system consisting of hypermodules (bidirectional nip assemblies and sheet director assemblies) each of which has its own computation, sensing, actuation, and communication capabilities. The modular system uses auto-identification to inform the controller of the potential paths through the systems as well as module capabilities. Motion control of cut sheets, which of necessity reside within multiple hypermodules simultaneously, requires a new abstraction, namely a sheet controller which coordinates control of each sheet. Software/hardware co-design has provided a system architecture that is scalable without requiring user relearning. We will demonstrate the capabilities of such a system consisting of 160 modular entities and four 55 ppm printers. The throughput of the system is very nearly four times that of a single print engine.
Biegelsen, D. K.; Crawford, L. S.; Duff, D. G.; Eldershaw, C.; Fromherz, M. P. J.; Kott, G.; Larner, D. L.; Mandel, B.; Moore, S.; Preas, B. T.; Schmitz, G. P.; Swartz, L. E. Hypermodular parallel printing systems. Proceedings of NIP25: International Conference on Digital Printing Technologies and Digital Fabrication 2009; 2009 September 20; Louisville, KY. Springfield, VA: IS&T; 2009; 184-187.