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Continuous Inkjet Printers, Al Gore and Lord Kelvin

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought of continuous inkjet technology as being quite a modern thing and that Al Gore had invented it around about the same time he was coming out with some of his other well known ideas, such as the Internet.

Well, rather to my surprise, it turns out that modern inkjet printers (such as our fantastic Citronix ciSeries) actually evolved from older inventions that were produced before Mr. Gore was born.

Lord KelvinThis handsome looking gentleman is William Thompson, who became The Right Honourable The Lord Kelvin. Born in Belfast in 1824, Lord Kelvin was a well known physicist and engineer who was involved in the study of electricity and thermodynamics.

To this day, the units of absolute temperature are kelvins, named after His Lordship.

What concerns us here though, is a device that Kelvin patented in 1858 (or 1867, depending on which Wikipedia page you are looking at). the Syphon Recorder.

A short time earlier, Samuel Morse had patented his electronic telegraph which allowed messages to be sent through wires over long distance. We’ve all seen the telegraph guy in the movies tapping away in Morse code while his colleague at the other end of the wire listens in and deciphers  the message.

Lord Kelvin’s Syphon Recorder was designed to trace incoming telegraph messages as a wavy line on a roll of paper tape.

Continuous Inkjet Syphon Recorder

Lord Kelvin’s Syphon Recorder

While this is all very interesting, what is exciting from a coding and marking point of view, is that the Syphon Recorder could claim to be the very first continuous inkjet printer.

The ink nozzle was located in a coil suspended between the poles of a strong magnet. When there was no message, the nozzle was stationary, and a straight line is produced on the paper as it passes under the nozzle. The incoming signals from a telegraph message sent a current through the coil which deflected the nozzle and stream of ink, causing the wiggling of the line on the tape, A trained telegrapher would then be able to decode the message.

Syphon recorder - continuous inkjet

As it turns out, the Syphon Recorder was not a success, despite being the first device to use an electrostatic charge to print a code.

The print technology didn’t go away though – Siemens was the first company to successfully use it commercially, for medical chart recorders in the 1950’s. Over time, it evolved into the continuous inkjet systems we use and love today.

So next time you power up your Citronix inkjet printer (which will work right away thanks to its SmartFlush system) you can thank Lord Kelvin for getting the technology for adding codes to your products started!

If you’d like to improve the efficiency of your own packaging and coding operations, we’d love to help you. To get started, contact us today at 888-438-3242 Option#3 or you can contact me directly at dholliday@idtechnology.com. We’ll get you in touch with one of our ID Technology specialists right in your area.

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