Xerox Invents New Print Compression Technology

Sometimes it takes looking at other problems in the world to come up with a solution for your own. Such is the case with Xerox.

The Rochester, N.Y.-based printing company Wednesday said it has come up with a new compression technology as way to improve printer performance by simply studying issues in the digital television and cable industry.

The challenge before Xerox researchers was getting machines to assemble and print color documents at a high speed. Their biggest obstacle was that each page requires handling tens of millions of pixels — selecting, processing and positioning each pixel with precision.

The company likens the effect to too much information arriving at the same place at the same time, and things slow down — similar to traffic during rush hour.

Xerox says its “a-ha” moment came at its Webster, N.Y., R&D laboratories when a researcher asked, “How do the digital signals from my cable service get converted into high-quality video images on my TV screen so quickly?” This led a group of Xerox researchers to experiment with chips developed for the digital television and cable industry. The result was Xerox MultiMode (XM2) compression.

XM2 is a system that compresses both the personalized images and the assembled page to a manageable size and runs the imaging and compression algorithms on a high-performance video chip. The company says it has applied for patents.

Senior Fellow Peter Crean claims Xerox is the first to use these chips in a variable printing application.

“The combination of XM2 and the video chip delivers the same high-quality images using one-third the bandwidth that industry-standard compression algorithms use,” said Crean. “That means we can move files that contain more data in a smaller format, ultimately boosting print speeds. Customers get higher quality images at lower costs.”

Crean says this type of compression is particularly important when printing variable content documents, which may include a combination of pictures, text, and graphics.

Xerox said it is making its XM2 technology available in its DocuColor 2000 series of digital color presses and the new Xerox DocuColor iGen3 Digital Production Press. The compression technology will also be made available for Xerox monochrome production printers, the company said.