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Gerät und Verfahren zum Kontakten zwischen Bildgeber und -empfänger in einem Drucker mit laserinduzierter thermischer Übertragung - Dokument EP0754558
 
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Dokumentenidentifikation EP0754558 26.10.2000
EP-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0754558
Titel Gerät und Verfahren zum Kontakten zwischen Bildgeber und -empfänger in einem Drucker mit laserinduzierter thermischer Übertragung
Anmelder Minnesota Mining and Mfg. Co., Saint Paul, Minn., US
Erfinder Bills, Richard E., Saint Paul, Minnesota 55133-3427, US;
Lucking, Lawrence M., Saint Paul, Minnesota 55133-3427, US
Vertreter Vossius & Partner, 81675 München
DE-Aktenzeichen 69610376
Vertragsstaaten DE, FR, GB, IT
Sprache des Dokument EN
EP-Anmeldetag 18.07.1996
EP-Aktenzeichen 961116068
EP-Offenlegungsdatum 22.01.1997
EP date of grant 20.09.2000
Veröffentlichungstag im Patentblatt 26.10.2000
IPC-Hauptklasse B41J 13/22

Beschreibung[en]

The present invention relates generally to laser-induced thermal transfer printing technology and, more particularly, to techniques for providing contact between a donor and receptor in a laser-induced thermal transfer printer.

Laser-induced thermal transfer printing involves the transfer of a material from a donor sheet to a receptor sheet to form a representation of an image on the receptor sheet. During transfer, the donor sheet and receptor sheet are held in contact with one another. The transfer of material is thermally induced by the application of a scanning laser beam at selected points across the donor-receptor combination. Laser-induced thermal transfer printing is useful in the production of halftone color proofs, films, and printing plates.

The donor sheet and receptor sheet must be held with uniform contact pressure across the donor-receptor combination to ensure uniform transfer characteristics for a given level of laser energy. Existing laser-induced thermal transfer printers use a vacuum drum to achieve sufficiently uniform contact between the donor sheet and receptor sheet. Examples of commercially available laser-induced thermal transfer printers using vacuum drums are the Kodak Approval™ digital color proofer and the Crosfield Datrax™ imagesetter.

Unfortunately, the need for a vacuum drum adds cost, size, and complexity to the printer. Thermal dye diffusion printers achieve vacuumless contact between the donor sheet and the receptor sheet to transfer colorant. In a thermal dye diffusion printer, a thermal head applies a significant amount of contact pressure between the donor sheet and receptor sheet, eliminating the need for a vacuum drum. In existing laser-induced thermal transfer printers, however, vacuum-assisted contact continues to be a necessity. In view of the cost, size, and complexity presented by a vacuum drum, there is a need for a laser-induced thermal transfer printer capable of achieving vacuumless contact between the donor sheet and the receptor sheet.

EP-A-0 529 562 discloses an imaging system comprising a source of light movable with respect to a writing element and projectable thereon to generate an image, a focusing means is provided for focusing a light source which generates a first beam of light of a wavelength selected to be actinic with respect to the writing element. At least a portion of the first beam of light is absorbed by the writing element. The apparatus comprises means to automatically supply donor sheets and receiver sheets independently to a writing platen or drum, and to selectively load and unload the donor sheets from superposition with the receiver sheet without disturbing the registration of the receiver sheet. Also included are components which contribute to the quality of the images generated, such as relatively inexpensive, low jitter transports and drives for the writing head and imaging drum.

The present invention is directed to an apparatus and method for providing contact between a donor sheet and a receptor sheet in a laser-induced thermal transfer printer without the need for a vacuum drum. The present invention also is directed to a laser-induced thermal transfer printer having such an apparatus. By eliminating the need for a vacuum drum, the apparatus, method, and printer of the present invention significantly reduce the cost, size, and complexity of a laser-induced thermal transfer printer. Preferred embodiments of the invention will be described in more detail in connection with the drawings, in which:

  • Fig. 1 is a functional block diagram of an exemplary laser-induced thermal transfer printer;
  • Fig. 2 is an end view of an apparatus for holding a donor sheet and a receptor sheet in contact with one another, in accordance with the present invention;
  • Fig. 3 is a side view of a tensioning mechanism for holding a donor sheet and a receptor sheet in contact with one another, in accordance with the present invention;
  • Fig. 4 is a perspective view of the apparatus of Fig. 2, in accordance with the present invention;
  • Fig. 5 is a perspective view of the tensioning mechanism of Fig. 3, in accordance with the present invention; and
  • Fig. 6 is an exploded perspective view of the tensioning mechanism shown in Figs. 3 and 5, in accordance with the present invention.

Fig. 1 is a functional block diagram of an exemplary laser-induced thermal transfer printer 10. The printer 10 of Fig. 1 is shown for purposes of example only, as an illustration of a system with which the present invention could be used.

As shown in Fig. 1, printer 10 includes a laser 12 that generates a beam 13 of coherent light. The beam 13 passes through an isolator 14 to produce beam 16. The isolator 14 prevents back reflection from entering the cavity of laser 12. An acousto-optical modulator 18 receives beam 16 from isolator 14. An acousto-optical modulator controller 20 controls the mode of operation of modulator 18. In a first mode, modulator 18 produces a beam 22 of attenuated intensity. In a second mode, modulator 18 produces a substantially unattenuated beam 24. The controller 20 can be made to control modulator 18 to vary the intensity of the laser beam for transmission to a flat-field imaging scanner.

As further shown in Fig. 1, printer 10 includes a first order beam stop 26 that blocks light diffracted by modulator 18 to prevent transmission of diffracted light to the imaging medium. A beam expander 28 receives the light produced by beam stop 26, and controls the size of the light beam. A scanning system 30 scans the laser beam produced by beam expander 28 for application to the imaging medium. The scanning system 30 includes a galvanometer 32, a galvanometer controller 34, and a scan lens 36. The galvanometer controller 34 controls galvanometer 32 to scan the laser beam across the imaging medium. The scan lens 36 focuses the scanned laser beam, and applies the laser beam to the imaging medium. The imaging medium comprises a receptor sheet supported by a support means, such as a cylindrical drum 38. A donor sheet is mounted about drum 38 in contact with the receptor sheet. A drum controller 40 controls revolution of drum 38. The donor sheet carries material that, when heated by the scanned laser beam, transfers to the receptor sheet to form a representation of an image.

Fig. 2 is an end view of an apparatus 42 for holding a donor sheet and a receptor sheet in contact with one another, in accordance with the present invention. The apparatus 42 can be used in a laser-induced thermal transfer printer such as printer 10 of Fig. 1. The apparatus 42 includes a support means for supporting a receptor sheet 46. As shown in Fig. 2, for example, the support means may include a cylindrical drum 44 mounted about a rotor shaft 45. The cylindrical drum 44 supports receptor sheet 46 about a circumferential surface of the drum. The apparatus 42 further includes means for mounting a donor sheet 48 proximal to receptor sheet 46 about the circumferential surface of cylindrical drum 44, and means for applying tension to the donor sheet to draw the donor sheet into contact with the receptor sheet.

Alternatively, if receptor sheet 46 were transparent, the arrangement shown in Fig. 2 could be reversed, if desired. In other words, cylindrical drum 44 readily could be made to support donor sheet 48 about the circumferential surface of the drum. The transparent receptor sheet 46 then could be mounted proximal to donor sheet 48 about the circumferential surface of drum 44, and the tension applying means could be applied to the receptor sheet to draw the receptor sheet into contact with the donor sheet. In the remainder of this disclosure, for purposes of example, the present invention will be described with respect to the mounting of donor sheet 48 over receptor sheet 46.

The tensioning means of apparatus 42 includes means for applying pulling tension to at least one of a first end 50 of donor sheet 48 and a second end 52 of the donor sheet. In other words, the tensioning means applies pulling tension to either first end 50 or second end 52 of donor sheet 48. In the embodiment shown in Fig. 2, apparatus 42 includes a clamp mechanism 54 mounted on cylindrical drum 44. The clamp mechanism 54 exerts a pulling tension on second end 52, as will be explained. The use of a tensioning means, such as clamp mechanism 54, to hold the donor sheet and receptor sheet in contact eliminates the need for a vacuum drum. As a result, apparatus 42 enables manufacture of a laser-induced thermal transfer printer with significantly less cost, size and complexity than existing printers.

Figs. 3-5 provide various additional views of clamp mechanism 54, both alone and in combination with cylindrical drum 44. With general reference to all of Figs. 2-5, clamp mechanism 54 includes a first bottom clamping bar 56, a first top clamping bar 58, a second bottom clamping bar 60, and a second top clamping bar 62. As best shown in Fig. 4, the various clamping bars 56, 58, 60, 62 of clamp mechanism 54 extend across the circumferential surface of cylindrical drum 44, in a direction transverse to a direction of revolution of the drum.

The first bottom clamping bar 56 and first top clamping bar 58 are coupled to one another via a plurality of bolts 63, and together form a first clamp 64 for holding first end 50 of donor sheet 48. Similarly, second bottom clamping bar 60 and second top clamping bar 62 are coupled to one another via a plurality of bolts 65, and together form a second clamp 66 for holding second end 52 of donor sheet 48. The clamp mechanism 54 thereby mounts donor sheet 48 proximal to receptor sheet 46 about the circumferential surface of cylindrical drum 44. The first clamp 64 can be made to tightly grip first end 50 of donor sheet 48 by turning bolts 63. Bolts 65 also can be turned to cause second clamp 66 to tightly grip second end 52 of donor sheet 48.

The first clamp 64 and second clamp 66 are movable relative to one another. As best shown in Figs. 4 and 5, first bottom clamping bar 56 is mounted in a fixed manner to cylindrical drum 44 via a plurality of bolts 68. However, second bottom clamping bar 60 is mounted on drum 44 in a movable manner. Specifically, first bottom clamping bar 56 has a slot 70 formed at opposite ends. A pair of pins 72, positioned at each end of second bottom clamping bar 60, are oriented to slide within slots 70, along the circumferential surface of drum 44 in a direction parallel to revolution of the drum. The pins 72 can be held within recesses in second bottom clamping bar 60 via set screws 74. A pair of adjustment screws 76 are mounted within first bottom clamping bar 56, in communication with slots 70. The adjustment screws 76 contact pins 72 within slots 70. By turning adjustment screws 76 to extend into slots 70, pins 72 can be made to move toward first bottom clamping bar 56 and first top clamping bar 58 within slots 70.

The movement of pins 72, in response to turning of adjustment screws 76, pulls second bottom clamping bar 60 and second top clamping bar 62 toward first bottom clamping bar 56 and first top clamping bar 58, thereby moving second clamp 66 toward first clamp 64. The movement of second clamp 66 toward first clamp 64 exerts tension on donor sheet 48, thereby drawing the donor sheet into contact with receptor sheet 46. Specifically, second clamp 66 applies a pulling tension to second end 52 of donor sheet 48 that acts across the entire width of the donor sheet. The pulling tension brings donor sheet 48 into contact with receptor sheet 46 with substantially uniform contact pressure.

The receptor sheet 46 could be mounted on cylindrical drum 44 with an adhesive, or with another clamping mechanism. The clamping mechanism 54 used for donor sheet 48 could be employed, however, to hold both the donor sheet and receptor sheet 46. For example, a first end 78 of receptor sheet 46 could be tightly held between the outer circumferential surface of cylindrical drum 44 and first bottom clamping bar 56, which is bolted to the drum. A second end 80 of receptor sheet 46 then could be held with a separate clamping bar mounted on drum 44 adjacent second bottom clamping bar 60. Alternatively, second end 80 of receptor sheet 46 could be left unclamped, with tensioned donor sheet 48 holding the second end against drum 44. With whatever clamping arrangement that is used, the various clamping bars should be balanced with drum 44 to prevent drum rotation speed variations.

The clamping mechanism 54 of Figs. 2-5 is shown as a manual configuration. In other words, first and second clamps 64, 66 are tightened by manually turning bolts 63, 65, respectively, and tensioning is provided by manually turning adjustment screws 76. However, clamping mechanism 54 could be readily automated. For example, the clamping bars of each of first and second clamps 64, 66 could be spring loaded instead of bolted. The spring bias could be selected to provide either a normally closed or normally open position. With a normally closed spring bias, an automated lifting device, such as a solenoid, could be provided to open the clamp for receipt of donor sheet 48. With a normally open spring bias, a similar device could be provided to force the clamp closed, thereby holding donor sheet 48. For added automation, a feeding device could be provided to feed the ends of donor sheet 48 into clamps 64, 66 upon actuation of the clamping bars. The tensioning also could be automated, for example, by actuating pins 72 with solenoids instead of screws 76, or by a gear-driven mechanism that could gradually move second clamp 66 toward first clamp 64.


Anspruch[de]
  1. Verfahren zur Kontaktherstellung zwischen einem Bildgeber- und einem Bildempfängerbogen in einem laserinduzierten Thermotransferdrucker, wobei das Verfahren die Schritte aufweist:
    • Tragen entweder eines Bildempfänger- oder eines Bildgeberbogens auf einem Träger;
    • Anordnen des anderen, nämlich entweder des Bildempfänger- oder des Bildgeberbogens nahe dem getragenen Bogen; und
    • Aufbringen von Spannung auf den angeordneten Bogen, um den angeordneten Bogen in Kontakt mit dem getragenen Bogen zu ziehen.
  2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der getragene Bogen der Bildempfängerbogen ist und der angeordnete Bogen der Bildgeberbogen ist und der Schritt des Aufbringens der Spannung aufweist: Aufbringen einer Zugspannung auf ein zweites Ende des Bildgeberbogens.
  3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 2, wobei der Schritt des Aufbringens der Spannung aufweist: Halten eines ersten Endes des Bildgeberbogens in einer festen Position, während die Zugkraft auf das zweite Ende des Bildgeberbogens aufgebracht wird.
  4. Verfahren nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 3, wobei der Träger eine zylindrische Trommel aufweist, wobei der getragene Bogen um eine Umfangsfläche der Trommel gelagert wird.
  5. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Schritte des Anordnens des angeordneten Bogens und des Aufbringens von Spannung auf den angeordneten Bogen die Schritte aufweist:
    • Bereitstellen eines Klammermechanismus, der auf dem Träger angeordnet ist, wobei der Klammermechanismus eine erste Klammer und eine zweite Klammer aufweist;
    • Halten eines ersten Endes des angeordneten Bogens mit der ersten Klammer;
    • Halten eines zweiten Endes des angeordneten Bogens mit der zweiten Klammer, wobei der Klammermechanismus dadurch den angeordneten Bogen nahe dem getragenen Bogen auf dem Träger anordnet;
    • Halten des ersten Endes des angeordneten Bogens in einer festen Position mit der ersten Klammer; und
    • Verschieben der zweiten Klammer, um eine Zugkraft auf den angeordneten Bogen aufzubringen, wodurch der angeordnete Bogen in Kontakt mit dem getragenen Bogen gezogen wird.
  6. Vorrichtung zum Durchführen des Verfahrens nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 5, wobei die Vorrichtung aufweist:
    • einen Träger zum Tragen des getragenen Bogens;
    • einen Mechanismus zum Anordnen des angeordneten Bogens nahe dem getragenen Bogen über dem Träger; und
    • einen Mechanismus zum Aufbringen von Spannung auf den angeordneten Bogen, um den angeordneten Bogen in Kontakt mit dem getragenen Bogen zu ziehen.
Anspruch[en]
  1. A method for providing contact between a donor sheet and a receptor sheet in a laser-induced thermal transfer printer, the method comprising the steps of:
    • supporting one of a receptor sheet and a donor sheet on a support;
    • mounting the other of the receptor sheet and the donor sheet proximal to the supported sheet; and
    • applying tension to the mounted sheet to draw the mounted sheet into contact with the supported sheet.
  2. The method of claim 1, wherein the supported sheet is the receptor sheet and the mounted sheet is the donor sheet, and the step of applying the tension includes applying a pulling force to a second end of the donor sheet.
  3. The method of claim 2, wherein the step of applying the tension includes holding a first end of the donor sheet in a fixed position while the pulling force is applied to the second end of the donor sheet.
  4. The method of any of claims 1-3, wherein the support includes a cylindrical drum, the supported sheet being supported about a circumferential surface of the drum.
  5. The method of claim 1, wherein the steps of mounting the mounted sheet and applying tension to the mounted sheet include the steps of:
    • providing a clamp mechanism mounted on the support, the clamp mechanism having a first clamp and a second clamp;
    • holding a first end of the mounted sheet with the first clamp;
    • holding a second end of the mounted sheet with the second clamp, the clamp mechanism thereby mounting the mounted sheet proximal to the supported sheet over the support;
    • holding the first end of the mounted sheet in a fixed position with the first clamp; and
    • moving the second clamp to apply pulling force to the mounted sheet, thereby drawing the mounted sheet into contact with the supported sheet.
  6. An apparatus for performing the method of any of claims 1 to 5, the apparatus comprising:
    • a support for supporting the supported sheet;
    • a mechanism for mounting the mounted sheet proximal to the supported sheet over the support; and
    • a mechanism for applying tension to the mounted sheet to draw the mounted sheet into contact with the supported sheet.
Anspruch[fr]
  1. Procédé permettant d'assurer un contact entre une feuille donneuse et une feuille réceptrice dans une imprimante à transfert thermique induit par laser, le procédé comprenant les opérations consistant:
    • à soutenir une feuille choisie parmi une feuille réceptrice et une feuille donneuse sur un support ;
    • à monter l'autre feuille parmi la feuille réceptrice et la feuille donneuse à proximité de la feuille soutenue ; et
    • à appliquer une tension à la feuille montée afin de tirer la feuille montée en contact avec la feuille soutenue.
  2. Procédé de la revendication 1, selon lequel la feuille soutenue est la feuille réceptrice et la feuille montée est la feuille donneuse et l'opération d'application de la tension consiste à appliquer une force de traction à une seconde extrémité de la feuille donneuse.
  3. Procédé de la revendication 2, selon lequel l'opération d'application de la tension consiste à maintenir une première extrémité de la feuille donneuse dans une position fixe, tandis que la force de traction est appliquée à la seconde extrémité de la feuille donneuse.
  4. Procédé de l'une quelconque des revendications 1 - 3, selon lequel le support consiste en un tambour cylindrique, la feuille soutenue étant soutenue autour d'une surface circonférentielle du tambour.
  5. Procédé de la revendication 1, selon lequel les opérations de montage de la feuille montée et d'application de tension à la feuille montée comprennent les opérations consistant :
    • à fournir un mécanisme de pinces monté sur le support, le mécanisme de pinces comportant une première pince et une seconde pince ;
    • à maintenir une première extrémité de la feuille montée au moyen de la première pince ;
    • à maintenir une seconde extrémité de la feuille montée au moyen de la seconde pince, le mécanisme de pinces montant ainsi la feuille montée à proximité de la feuille soutenue par-dessus le support ;
    • à maintenir la première extrémité de la feuille montée dans une position fixe au moyen de la première pince ; et
    • à déplacer la seconde pince afin d'appliquer une force de traction à la feuille montée, tirant ainsi la feuille montée en contact avec la feuille soutenue.
  6. Appareil de mise en oeuvre d'un procédé suivant l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 5, l'appareil comprenant :
    • un support servant à soutenir la feuille soutenue ;
    • un mécanisme servant à monter la feuille montée à proximité de la feuille soutenue par-dessus le support ; et
    • un mécanisme servant à appliquer une tension à la feuille montée afin de tirer la feuille montée en contact avec la feuille soutenue.






IPC
A Täglicher Lebensbedarf
B Arbeitsverfahren; Transportieren
C Chemie; Hüttenwesen
D Textilien; Papier
E Bauwesen; Erdbohren; Bergbau
F Maschinenbau; Beleuchtung; Heizung; Waffen; Sprengen
G Physik
H Elektrotechnik

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