Is 'water-jet' the next big printer innovation?

This printer is ink-less and could be the sustainable future of printing.

A new water-jet printer concept could help put a significant dent in the waste that comes from conventional 2-d printing.

Printer ink is "one of the most expensive liquids you can buy," according to Consumer Reports. And a lot of that ink never even reaches the page. On top of ink waste, Sean Xiao-An Zhang, a chemistry professor at Jilin University in China, tells AFP, 40 percent of prints in offices are thrown away after one reading.  
His solution: A printer that uses water instead of ink on a special reusable paper that fades away in a day.

Zhang and his team published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

According to the paper, Zhang treated paper with "water responsive dyes" and then replaced ink with only water. When water touches the paper it unlocks the color from the dyes and disappears when the water dries up. Using this method, the team is able to print "many times without a loss in quality" using four colors: blue, gold, magenta, and purple.

The other advantage: cost. In a video, Zhang says that based on 50 prints the cost of using water-jet technology is only one percent of ink-jet printing.

Of course, sometimes you need to print something that doesn't fade away after a day. Fortunately, the water-jet printer was demonstrated using a standard printer and cartridge (filled with water). The paper is the only unique aspect. That means if you need to make a permanent print it would be as easy as replacing the cartridge in your printer and replacing the treated paper with untreated paper.

But when would you only need to use a print for such a short time? Zhang explains to Discovery News that he imagines a world in which you could print out newspapers or magazines one day and the paper could be reused the next day to print on again. It could be a welcome relief for those who prefer reading on paper but don't want to fill up the recycling bin.
Photo: Flickr/Jung-nam Nam

This post was originally published on