Inkjet Academy course – over 2,500 attendees and still counting

Aimed at providing a foundation of basic knowledge of inkjet technology for those new to the industry, and an update for those already working in this field, the Inkjet Academy has been running for over 15 years.

So how did the Inkjet Academy begin? Well, around 1997 if I remember correctly, Dr Alan Hudd and I were sitting in Amsterdam airport waiting for our delayed flight back to the UK. We were of course sitting in the bar, and while enjoying our beers we reflected on the IMI Inkjet Conference we had just attended. We’d both been surprised when close to the end of 2 days of presentations someone from the audience had asked a speaker “what do you mean by piezo?” We realised that not everyone who attended the conference was an inkjet expert. In fact some were very new to inkjet and were attending the conference to find out all about it.

But the conference wasn’t an ideal way to find out about inkjet at all! It consisted of a series of invited speakers to talk about the state of the art of inkjet. Anyone new to the industry would get a very distorted view of what was going on.

So we concluded that what was needed was a course describing the fundamentals of inkjet, and an overview of all aspects of the technology. I could cover the printhead and hardware topics, and Alan the ink and materials. But what should we call it?  “Something catchy, like ‘Inkjet Academy” said Alan, “but not that”. I disagreed, it was perfect, capturing what we were setting out to do, and it was memorable. But would it be successful?  We estimated that maybe 200 might attend over 5 years.

Proposing the idea to Al Keene, President of IMI, he suggested we try the course prior to his US Inkjet Conference the following January in Orlando, Florida. Amazingly 70 signed up for it, around half the numbers attending the conference!

Over the years the course has evolved as we have adapted it to reflect the change of focus of the delegates. At the beginning around half of the course was devoted to desktop technology and coated media, these days it is almost exclusively industrial piezo inkjet and applications.

So how many are there working worldwide in the inkjet industry? We have had well over 2,500 attend the course, and will probably exceed 3,000 by 2015. Delegates from just about every company in the industry have attended. We have run courses in the US and Europe twice a year, we’ve been to India 3 times, and early in 2014 ran a course in Hong Kong.  And this December we are delighted to be running our course in Tokyo for the first time.  Over the years 30 Japanese have travelled to the US and Europe for the course, so this will offer a greater opportunity to attend.

What’s the point of attending if you already know about inkjet? Well, we have given in-house courses to some of the major names in the industry, who make billions of dollars a year from inkjet. But their staff only know their own technology. They learn about their competitors and other applications from the course. Some companies are expert in their particular part of the inkjet industry but don’t have the full view. And new employees can get an overview of the field they are entering.

Mike Willis, Pivotal Resources