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Reference 1

Numerical Simulation Method of Droplet Formation for Continuous Inkjet
(Yoshifumi Ogamis paper in New Inkjet Technology (2007), Gijutsujoho-kyokai, pp.183-190
translated by Ikegawa)

Fig. 1 Break into droplets in continuous inkjet

1. Numerical simulation method
1.1 Basic equation
The movement is treated as two-phase (gas and liquid) flow so that the ink droplet (liquid)
may fly over air (gas). The governing equation of the flow is the Navier-Stokes equation for
two-phase flow (1) and (2), where v is the velocity, p is the pressure, is the density, and is the

i i vi i i vi vi i pi i i vi vi i i g Fi

a a v a a a v a v a a p a a a v a v a a a g Fa


The subscript i of expression (1) shows the ink droplet and the subscript a of expression (2)
shows air. i is a rate of the volume of ink that is occupied in a cell. (Therefore, a rate of the
volume of air a in a cell comparatively becomes a=1-i) (Fig. 2). The cell indicates each one when
the calculation area is divided into a minute area of limited pieces (Sec.1.2). The g is gravitational
acceleration and F is the outside force (centrifugal force, electromagnetic force, and surface tension,
etc.). This method considering the rate of volume to simultaneously handle gas and liquid is called
VOF (Volume of fluid) method. The cell filled with ink more than 50% is regarded as ink area.

Fig. 2 Volume of air and ink in the cell

These expressions are just the application of the law of the Newtons motion to the fluid.
That is, it is shown that the fluid is accelerated by pressure, viscous force, gravity, and other forces
sequentially shown from the right side of Eqs. 1 and 2. The left side shows the acceleration of the
In addition, it is necessary to consider the continuousness of air and ink shown as equations
of continuity (3) and (4).

i i i i vi

a a a a v


This expression is a mass conservation rule in the cell where fluid goes in and out.
Formation and flight of the ink droplets are simulated by solving these Eqs (1)-(4).
In general, the calculation method might be different according to the laminar or turbulent
flow. Whether the flow is laminar or turbulent can be judged by the following non-dimensional
parameter, the Reynolds number.


vis cos ity

whereis the density of ink, V is the representative velocity of ink, and L is the representative length
(for instance, inner diameter of the nozzle). The Reynolds number of ink flow Rei ( =iVL/i) is
221 for i=902 kg/m3, i=0.0045kg/ms, V=18.41m/s, L=6.010-5m. The flow of ink is laminar
because Re i is smaller than several thousands. Therefore, the turbulent flow model need not be used
for ink and droplets. The Reynolds number of air flow surrounding the inkjet Rea (=aVL/a) is 71
for a=1.184 kg/m3, a=1.84x10-5kg/ms, V=18.41m/s, L=6.010-5m. The air flow surrounding
the inkjet is also laminar.
1.2 Meshing and calculation
Figure 3 shows the nozzle used in simulation. Ink is filled in the nozzle, and pressure
fluctuation P and velocity fluctuation v are given at left side by the device such as piezoelectric
elements in the real inkjet printer. As a result, ink discharges out from a right end of the nozzle of
0.06mm in the inner diameter.

Fig. 3 Nozzle of inkjet

The calculation area as shown in Fig. 4 for the simulation is an area including not only the
above-mentioned nozzle but also the orbit of flying ink droplets. Equation (1) - (4) is applied to this
area, and the area is divided into the mesh of small limited number of cells because the memory is
limited, and the solution is obtained by the computer only on the lattice point. Figure 5 shows the
cross section of the calculation area and the closeup view of the mesh.

Fig. 4 Calculation area

Fig. 5 Mesh of calculation area

Special software is used for the generation of such a mesh. It is also possible to use the data
of the drawing by CAD. It leads to the accuracy of the solution and the descent of stability. A
commercial fluid-dynamic software FLOW-3D (FLOW SCIENCE, USA) was used to solve this
problem in this paper.

2. Simulation example
2.1 Boundary condition and properties
In actual inkjet printer, pressure (or, speed) fluctuation is added on the ink constant pressure
by using the piezoelectric element, etc. This fluctuation causes surface tension wave on the columnar
inkjet surface. The surface tension wave increases its amplitude, causes big curving on the ink
column and separates it into the ink droplets. The velocity at the inlet boundary is written as follows
v v0 1 C cos 2ft
where v0 is the constant speed, v0C is the amplitude of fluctuation, and f is the frequency of vibration
of the piezoelectric element.

Fig. 5 Velocity at the inlet

Fig. 6 Detail of nozzle

The average speed v0 and the fluctuation amplitude v0C are shown as the number of
vibrations (Fig. 5). The value of the pressure and the amplitude at the inflow boundary can be
experimentally set from the standard of the piezoelectric element. Because it is difficult to get the
value experimentally, flow velocity is used here.
The density and the viscosity of air are assumed to be 1.21kg/m3 and 1.8110-5kg/ms
respectively, and the density, the viscosity and the surface tension of ink are assumed to be
9.02x102kg/m3, 4.50x10-3kg/ms, and 2.62x10-2N/m respectively.
2.2 Influence of amplitude
We focus the amplitude of velocity fluctuation at inlet among various factors that influences
the generation of the ink droplet. Figure 6 shows the appearance of the nozzle. The ink is filled in the
state of the first stage.

Time (s)
Fig. 7 Results: Droplets in time change (v0=5.1cm/s, C=0.005, f=64000s-1)
Figure 7 shows the results when assuming v0=5.1cm/s, C=0.005, and f=61000s-1. First of all,
columnar ink discharges from the nozzle. The ink column shows increasing big curving on the
surface and is separated into several ink droplets.

Fig. 8 Results: The relation of amplitude C and break up into droplets

The amplitude at the velocity fluctuation at the inlet influences point (break point) where the
ink droplet is formed. Figure 8 shows the appearance of the break point neighborhood when
changing it from C= 0.005 to 0.1. Although the case of C=0.005 shows no droplets, the ink droplets
are formed in Z=7.59mm for C=0.01, and Z=5.93mm for C=0.03.
The amplitude grows larger, the break point length from the nozzle exit becomes smaller.
Moreover, in case C=0.01-0.05, the small droplets (satellite) are observed. In case C=0.05-0.07, the
distance between droplets are not uniform. The relation between the amplitude and break point
length is shown in Table 1 and Fig. 9. If the break point length becomes small, the inkjet device
can be miniaturized.

Fig. 9 Results: The relation of amplitude C and break point length Z