3D printers have taken the lead when it comes to customized creations that can be spouted from a nozzle, but perhaps their two-dimensional cousins aren't done with just yet. Old-school printing specialist Xerox has come up with the new-school idea to give inkjet technology an edge, unveiling a so-called Direct to Object Inkjet Printer that does exactly what its name suggests.

Xerox's new printer uses special algorithms to control microscopic nozzles that each measure half the width of a human hair. From one-quarter inch away, (0.635 cm), these nozzles spray ink onto surfaces that can be smooth, rough, curved or stepped and made from plastics, metals, ceramics or glass.

The printer can take to a thermos, a football helmet, a bottle cap or a flowerpot and print out the desired design in resolutions ranging from 300 to 1,200 dpi. Xerox says it can use virtually any kind of ink chemistry, and that it is capable of handling 30 objects per hour.

Each print takes only 90 seconds, and while the idea of printing names onto the kids' water bottles sounds like a neat idea, the Direct to Object Inkjet Printer isn't intended to be a household item. It was designed to replace the need for labels, and is aimed more at retailers who might be able to give their business an edge by offering personalized products, be it by putting a name on some new sneakers or a logo on a team's sporting gear.

The printer itself measures 2.28 m tall, 1 m along each side (7.5 ft by 3.3 ft) and comes with a hefty price tag of US$145,000.

It can be seen at work in the video below.

Source: Xerox

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