A Novel Long-Lasting Roller for Color Printers

Published Jan-08-10

A critical improvement to the fusing subsystem of Xerox printers.

Michigan Molecular Institute, United States

The Story:

A Novel Long-Lasting Roller for Color Printers Xerox is a corporation with impressive R&D capabilities, yet it has embraced open innovation to strengthen the potential of its own world class researchers.

Stuck with a Printer Problem

The company had a long standing printer problem that had been worked on for a number of years, but a successful solution had not been found. So Xerox took its first steps in broker mediated open innovation and approached NineSigma to help define and then broadcast the problem to its network of solvers that covered many industries and spanned the globe.

The predicament was related to a critical printer subsystem that dictates the look and feel of what you see when an image is fixed and fused to paper fibers.

Xerox needed a new type of roller for its line of color printers that would have a considerably longer lifespan. Components in the fusing subsystem, especially in color printers, have relatively short lives. This is an industry-wide issue that adds to the cost of ownership to customers and can negatively impact how they feel about the products. It is therefore great source of irritation to Xerox researchers. Would open innovation be able to help?

Open Innovation Solution

A number of potential solutions were filed, and the winning one came from a source completely unrelated to the printing industry. Researchers at the Michigan Molecular Institute, an independent, not-for-profit research and educational organization, had been working with a special kind of material that Xerox realized could be adapted to its needs. The substance helped them to enhance the fusing subsystem to improve the quality of images.

Xerox has a comprehensive OI program and practices open innovation in a number of ways including technology transfer offices, supplier partnerships, sponsored research at universities, technology licensing, partnerships, and of course and broker mediated open innovation.

According to an interview that Dr Santokh Badesha, the OI Manager at Xerox gave to Business Week magazine, broker mediated open innovation works well for them when the problem and timeframe are clearly defined. “The broker mediated open innovation works the best because you are describing a problem out to the world and not giving out a whole lot of internal secrets in an open forum.”

Although the amount of the cash reward has been kept confidential, Dr Badesha reckons that internal Xerox efforts would have cost at least 10 times more than the cost of seeking a solution via open innovation.

Open Innovation Impresses

Xerox has also been impressed with open innovation via brokers because the approach has offered them a range of people from different disciplines to tackle their technical dilemmas. And according Badesha this has enabled the multinational to partner with solution providers to address a spectrum of problems ranging from critical to nice –to-have.

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