In the world of printing technology, there are few companies who enjoy the market leading position of the Seiko Epson Corporation of Nagano, Japan. From inkjet and laser printers to projectors and computing hardware, Epson’s products also encompass image forming and display technologies. As we’ll discuss more in today’s column, Epson has been pursuing a fair amount of research and development in the field of wearable technology, like glasses with computing components. This corporation’s operations in India have earned the company the top spot in terms of projector sales in this major growing market. Epson’s has also recently been involved with the development of printing systems for improving work processes at small businesses, even delis and diners.
Epson is a company that we’ve taken some time to examine in past columns published in our Companies We Follow series. Recently, the president of the Seiko Epson Corporation, Minoru Usui, was quoted in comments about his commitment to developing intellectual property and how it protects the corporation’s financial success. We’re always excited to discover innovations from a company dedicated to increasing the strength of their patent portfolio, and we found plenty of patent applications and issued patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office related to Epson’s core printing business, as well as some intriguing side pursuits.
Inkjet printing technologies are the focus of a couple of recently published patent applications which are assigned to Epson, including a few technologies developed to prevent heat damage from interfering with printer functionality. Other printing innovations created by Epson include a new ink set for black inks that reduces yellow discolorations in printed images. We also discuss some inventions in head-mounted displays and robotics, including one invention involving a redesigned suction-type robot which is more capable of holding a load when an external force acts on the load.
Printers are again in major focus during our exploration of the patents recently issued to Epson by the USPTO. A reduction in electrical contact errors in ink cartridges is supported by one invention we discuss, as well as another technology for improved processing of printer errors that require the printer motor to be powered off, such as paper jams. We include another couple of patents which represent Epson’s further developments in the robotics and head-mounted display technologies mentioned above. We also explore one patent protecting an event scheduling method for organizations that enables easier registration and sharing of events among multiple people.
Seiko Epson’s Patent Applications: Printing Technologies and a Couple of Robots
The Seiko Epson Corporation has been a major player in the printing industry for decades through its consumer and business printer options. Our latest check-in with Epson’s patent applications which have been recently published by the USPTO shows us that the company’s research and development in this field is still exceptionally strong. Inkjet printers have been a major component of Epson’s printing products, and the corporation is trying to patent a couple of technologies which would aid in heat control within these devices. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140198152, entitled Liquid Ejecting Apparatus and Method for Detecting Foreign Matter, would protect a liquid-ejecting apparatus for a printer designed to prevent heat from interfering with delicate optical sensors within the printer. The sensors in question here are designed to detect dust and other foreign matter which could damage an inkjet head if they come into contact. The leakage of heat which is required for some inkjet printing operations is prevented by a technology expressed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140205959, filed under the title Medium Heating Device. The medium heating device which would be protected through this patent filing is designed to prevent heat escape from a target heating portion which is used to cure ink which has been ejected onto printed media.
We were intrigued by one printing technology we came across which had a very specific application to the airline industry. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140211236, entitled Printer, Printing Control Method, and Recording Medium Storing a Printing Control Program, would protect a system comprised of a first printer connected to multiple other printers through a daisy chain, or serial, connection. The printing system disclosed can quickly handle printing requests which may require different kinds of printing media. This system has been designed for airports who need a cost-effective printing option for a system that can produce boarding passes, coupons or other reports on a variety of printing media. We were also intrigued by improvements to black ink used on Epson printers, which are expressed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140210918, filed under the title Ink Set. The black ink set described herein is comprised of a deep black with carbon and two other colorants and a pale black with a lower carbon composition and some of the first colorant used in the deep black ink. This ink set is designed to produce a black color in printed media which does not give off a yellowish hue.
We’ve been noticing a fair amount of robotics innovations on behalf of many corporations covered in the Companies We Follow series, and Epson is trying to legally protect its own developments in this field. For instance, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140214207, which is titled Horizontal Articulated Robot, and Method of Controlling the Same, describes a technology which is meant to improve the service life of electrical cables used to power actuators and sensors located within a horizontal articulated robot. This configuration allows for the reduction of angular velocity sensors used to control damping activity by the robot, allowing cables with less durability to be used effectively. Improvements to suction-type robots used to move heavy loads would be protected through U.S. Patent Application No. 20140214202, entitled Robot Control Method, Robot Control Device, Robot, and Robot System. The robot control method which is explained here would allow a suction robot to securely hold a load even when an additional outside force is experienced, such as when the load collides with an object or forward acceleration creates an inertial force on the object being held.
Finally, we wanted to take a look at a patent application filed in a technological sector in which we’ve seen plenty of activity: wearable tech. Epson may be making a stronger push into that field with inventions like the one detailed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140211289, which is titled Head-Mounted Image Display Apparatus. If a patent is issued, it would protect an apparatus with a laser light source and a splitter for cutting the laser into two beams of differing optical intensity. This improved configuration allows for a more efficient use of lighting sources utilized within head-mounted image display apparati.
Issued Patents of Note: From Resolving Printer Errors to Manufacturing Robots to Business Scheduling
We didn’t have to search back too many weeks to find a decent selection of patents recently issued to Epson by the USPTO. Printing technologies were again a major component of this company’s intellectual property development as of late. It also looks as though Epson’s research into robotics and head-mounted displays is paying off, as we’ll discuss below. Epson has lately been a force to be reckoned globally in terms of innovation; the company earned 1,494 U.S. patent grants during 2013, the 16th-most of any patenting entity in the world that year.
The complex circuitry of printing components being manufactured by Epson offer more device functionality today, but issues in power transmission across the circuitry may be presented in some circumstances. U.S. Patent No. 8794749, which is titled Printing Material Container, and Board Mounted on Printing Material Container, protects a technology which addresses short circuiting in ink and toner cartridges which come attached to a plurality of devices, such as memory devices that can store information about ink color and levels. The invention involves a new configuration for terminals on components in a printing material container so that unwanted contact between terminals may be reduced. Improved methods of processing errors in printers are protected for Epson through >U.S. Patent No. 8792112, issued under the title Printing Apparatus and Error Processing Method Thereof. The printing apparatus protected by this patent includes circuitry capable of processing whether an error is a simple error that can be easily fixed or a fatal error requiring that the power be turned off to the motor and other components. This system has been designed to help printer users address errors without being inconvenienced by having to reboot the computer and re-enter printing instructions. We also noticed a patented technology related to Epson’s line of label printers in U.S. Patent No. 8797582, entitled Tape Printing Apparatus, and Display Method in the Tape Printing Apparatus. The tape printing apparatus protected by this U.S. patent includes a display function for previewing print data prior to the print job; the technology enables the display screen to maintain excellent visibility of the print data, especially tiny characters, even on smaller preview display screens.
Outside of printing technologies, we saw a couple of patents that protected inventions similar to the some of the ones we touched on above in our discussion of Epson’s patent applications. For example, we found a patent protecting a robotics technology with more specific manufacturing applications in U.S. Patent No. 8794685, issued under the title Robot Hand and Robot. This technology is also aimed at improving a robotic hand’s ability to grip items, especially smaller items, without scratching them during welding, painting or other manufacture processes. As well, another Epson innovation in the field of head-mounted display systems has been protected through the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 8792175, which is titled Virtual Image Display System. Head-mounted displays involve image light display components, like light guides, used to direct images onto a screen resting in front of a user’s eyes. This technology allows those light guides to be positioned more accurately and easily.
We’ll close up our discussion of Seiko Epson’s recent additions to its patent portfolio with a technology developed to enable the easier administration of event calendars used within an enterprise setting by businesses and other organizations. U.S. Patent No. 8793590, given the title Information Processing Apparatus, Information Processing Method, and Program, protects an invention developed to reduce the burden of setting events and operating calendars for multiple security levels by enabling event sharing among calendars. Specifically, it helps users register events and send access rights more easily to a group of individuals at once instead of one member at a time.