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IBM printing unit hoping for MAGIC

The company signs a deal for access to a technology it says could one day make its heavy-duty printers more cost-effective.

IBM has signed a deal for access to a technology it says could one day make its heavy-duty printers more cost-effective.

Big Blue's Printing Systems division, which serves the business market, announced Thursday that it has invested an undisclosed sum in Aprion Digital. Aprion sells a line of components for digital inkjet printers.

Aprion's technology, which it calls Multiple Array Graphic Inkjet Color, or MAGIC, works by combining an array of nozzles that deliver hundreds of tiny droplets simultaneously to a page or other print medium. The nozzles can be controlled individually. Current inkjet printers produce a continuous flow of ink.

It's this individual control that attracted IBM, company executives said. It could lead to longer-lasting ink cartridges, making IBM printers more cost-effective. MAGIC has proven to be of equal quality but faster than current inkjet technology, IBM executives said.

The company is looking into using MAGIC in future printers designed to create product packaging, signage and textiles, among other things.

"There's a potential for it within that area," said George Promis, business line executive for production print at IBM Printing Systems. He indicated, however, that any inkjet printers the company offered would be in addition to its current product lines.

IBM will collaborate with partner Hitachi Koki Imaging Solutions, which also made an investment in Aprion, to explore further uses of MAGIC. But the company wasn't ready Thursday to offer a schedule for putting the technology to use in products.

"We're investigating it as a future" technology, Promis said. "But there's no time frame yet."

IBM has been selling printers for about 40 years. But since the Printing Systems division doesn't currently sell printers to consumers, it goes largely unnoticed, Promis said.