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BLOG: The future of printing

Zafar Anjum | Sept. 21, 2011
Not only is printing technology keeping pace with changing user behaviour, printing is also going into totally new, unimagined directions.

Another of HP's stunning innovations is the use of printing technology in drug discovery. At the summit, HP's Imaging and printing group's executive vice president Vyomesh Joshi talked about a High-Performance Digital Dispensing System based on inkjet technology. It enables biologists to develop and test medications at more precise dosages than traditional methods.

HP's Digital Dispensing System looks like a printer which performs digital-titration (a method for determining the concentration of chemical compounds). This is a great leap forward because unlike traditional serial dilution process which is time-consuming and error-prone, HP's process can streamline the drug-discovery process from the 70 steps of the serial-dilution process to just a couple of steps. This makes the process faster, cheaper and more accurate.

Now, eat the ink

Beyond digital titration, in research labs, scientists are also working on printing food. HP didn't talk about it but scientists at Cornell are already doing it, bit by bit. According to a report, 3D printing - or what they call "Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) - may "make its mark on the culinary realm by transforming the way we produce and experience food. Food-SFF would benefit the professional culinary domain primarily in two respects: by lending new artistic capabilities to the fine dining domain, and also by extending mass-customisation capabilities to the industrial culinary sector."

Not just food printing, scientists are even working at printing human body parts. According to an IDG report published in 2004, a team of scientists are working to create human tissue with the use of ink-jets. Vladimir Mironov, director of Shared Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the Medical University of South Carolina in the United States, is one of the scientists who has rigged Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Canon ink-jet printers to shoot out proteins instead of ink, and to capture tissue on specialised gel instead of paper. The "skin printing" research, although in early stages, aims to replace the current skin-graft method, which can lead to post-operative complications.

As for the enterprises, HP's reading is that there will be more need to manage the documents than to print them. HP has introduced many new solutions in this area.

So, the story of printing is not over yet. Be it on the ramp or off the ramp, printing is still in evolution.

Zafar Anjum is the online editor of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia.


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