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When the ink hits the page

The physics of the most printable inkjet printer ink

Hitting “print” is easy. Getting a perfect printout is not. All too often, inkjet printers spew out smudged or smeared pages. Now, a new study of the physics of ink concludes that the culprit is the gloopiest ink.

Inkjet printers have a tiny nozzle, or inkjet, that squirts droplets of ink onto the paper as it passes through. Ideally, the ink forms into a perfect round droplet as it launches from the inkjet, hitting the paper right on target. But droplet formation is affected by ink properties including density, surface tension and viscosity, which is the measure of resistance to flow or “gloopiness.” And if the droplets aren’t just right, a splotch appears instead of a crisp line of text, the researchers say.

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