Engineers from the University of Missouri have made an inkjet printer with clog-free nozzles. The idea was inspired by the tear film of the human eye, says Jae Wan Kwon, associate professor in the College of Engineering of MU. The clog-free inkjet printer uses a drop of silicone oil to cover the nozzle openings. This way the layer of silicone oil prevents the evaporation of the ink, much like the layer of lipids you can find in the human tear film, which coats the aqueous layer. And instead of using a mechanical shutter to provide the nozzle opening of a layer of silicone oil, the printer uses an electric field to move the silicone oil.
By employing this new technique, printers won’t waste as much material as they do now because large amounts of ink are lost when an inkjet printer uses a burst of ink to break through dried ink in clogged nozzles. And this technique is not just limited to inkjet printers we use at home: other devices, including biological tissue printers, use mechanisms similar to inkjets that could benefit from the new technology. So, indirectly, this biomimicry will be useful for the production of artificial biological structures as well.