Deposited Nanoparticles Can Promote Air Clogging of Piezoelectric Inkjet Printhead Nozzles
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Piezoelectric inkjet printing is susceptible to printhead clogging when printing with inks that contain dispersed particles. This paper investigates the mechanisms by which 28-530 nm nanoparticle dispersions induce printhead clogging without forming large aggregates or thick deposited layers on printhead surfaces. Printing experiments were combined with nanoparticle deposition studies and with experiments where inks were pumped through printheads at a constant flow rate with a syringe pump. Submonolayer coverages of hydrophobic cationic polystyrene nanoparticles adhering to printhead surfaces promote rapid clogging by trapped air that enters from the nozzle opening. We propose that the deposited particles distort the shape of the ink/air meniscus, possibly causing air entrainment, and promote air bubble adhesion to the interior printhead surfaces. The printer's purge-blot cleaning procedure removes air clogs, but the clogs quickly reform when printing is resumed because the adsorbed nanoparticles are not removed by the cleaning procedure. Nondepositing anionic hydrophobic nanoparticles cause much less clogging, possibly because of filtration of trace large aggregates. Colloidal stability is a necessary but not sufficient criterion for ink dispersions; the ink particles must not adsorb onto the printhead surfaces. Thus, alternate surface chemistries for the printhead and ink particle surfaces may be required to print hydrophobic ink materials.
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