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KYOCERA Introduces KC-50 Series Protective Overcoat for Thermal Printheads

New development makes thermal printheads six times more resistant to corrosion while increasing print quality and energy efficiency

September 28, 2011
Kyocera Corporation (President: Tetsuo Kuba) today announced its new KC-50 Series protective overcoat for thermal printheads - an innovation that improves corrosion resistance by six times*1 while also offering increased energy efficiency and higher print quality. Many flat-type thermal printheads manufactured by Kyocera will soon be available with the KC-50 Series protective overcoat.

The worldwide market is expanding for thermal-type printers. Their advantages include silent, maintenance-free operation; high-speed, high-quality print; excellent durability; and no need for ink or toner. Because of these qualities, thermal printers are widely used to generate receipts, tickets, merchandise labels, ID cards and many other essential printed items.

Additionally, because thermal printers are widely used in outdoor equipment and industrial environments, their excellent durability is a key feature. The KC-50 Series protective overcoat takes this durability to a new level by offering increased resistance to corrosion caused by outdoor conditions or industrial environments. The new protective overcoat significantly improves corrosion resistance through Kyocera's proprietary sealing materials and deposition technology, while improving both energy efficiency and print quality.

With the world's No. 1 market share*2 for thermal printheads, Kyocera strives to develop products that meet diverse customer needs and prove useful in everyday life.

Thermal printhead with new KC-50 Series protective overcoat Structural profile of
thermal printhead
Picture: Thermal printhead with new KC-50 Series protective overcoat | Structural profile of thermal printhead


Development Background
Thermal printing equipment is widely used to create bar code labels, mainly in commodity management, and Point of Sale (POS) transaction receipts. Consequently, thermal printers are often used in harsh environments including outdoor ATMs and gas stations, which are exposed to year-round temperature and humidity fluctuations; food-processing plants and kitchens, where food products or sanitizing agents may cause corrosion; and in coastal areas where saltwater, humidity and condensation are pervasive. Demand has therefore grown for thermal printers that offer strong corrosion resistance, as well as high-speed, high-quality print, in these environments.

Main Features
1.) Thermal printheads incorporating Kyocera's new KC-50 Series protective overcoat have been shown to possess six times greater corrosion resistance than conventional products, resulting in increased longevity of the printing device with higher-quality print than ever before.

2.) Because the protective overcoat layer is approximately 15 percent thinner than conventional overcoats, the distance between the heat source and print media is shortened, which reduces heat requirements and increases energy efficiency. The improved heat transfer also increases print accuracy by one symbol grade*3, even at high print speeds, resulting in higher-quality print.

Product Outline
Name: KC-50 Series Protective Overcoat for Thin-Film Thermal Printheads
Production facility: Front-end processes: Kagoshima Hayato Factory (Japan)
Back-end processes: Nagano Okaya Factory (Japan), Dongguan Shilong KYOCERA Optics Co., Ltd. (China)
Availability: September 15, 2011
Remarks: Applicable to most flat-type thermal printheads manufactured by Kyocera.

The new protective overcoat embodies Kyocera's proprietary thin-film technologies and materials - including formation, photo-lithography and surface treatments. It offers the following features.

1. Six times greater corrosion resistance
This chart shows thermal printhead corrosion after immersion in a five percent NaOH alkaline water solution with 24 volts applied - conditions 3,500 times more harsh than a typical environment (defined as a temperature of 20C, with 65 percent relative humidity). Test results show that it takes six times longer for the KC-50 Series protective overcoat printhead to reach the same level of corrosion as the conventional product. In other words, the KC-50 series offers 600 percent greater corrosion resistance than Kyocera's conventional thermal printhead. Picture: Six times greater corrosion resistance

2. Improved energy efficiency
Because the protective film is 15 percent thinner, the distance between the heat source and print media is shortened, thus improving heat transfer. This results in a more direct application of heat to media, increasing energy efficiency while maintaining high-speed, high-quality print.

3. Improved bar code print quality
The reduced distance between heat source and print media brings another benefit: improved print quality. Although bar code print quality usually decreases as print speed rises, this product delivers print quality one grade higher than conventional products, even at increased speeds (for example, the grade B of 2.5 is maintained at 356 millimeters per second). Picture: Improved bar code print quality

*1 The conventional KC-17 protective overcoat and the new KC-50 Series protective overcoat were compared in accelerated tests while immersed in a five percent NaOH alkaline water solution with 24 volts applied (a level that melts aluminum foil instantly).These test conditions are 3,500 times more harsh than a typical environment (20C, 65 percent relative humidity, by JIS definition).
*2 As of September 15, 2011; based on Kyocera's research.
*3 Quality standards in which print quality is rated in five grades (A, B, C, D, F), based on "ANSI X3.182" Bar Code Print Quality Guideline. A to D indicate readable grades; F indicates an unreadable grade.