Technology Used in Office Multifunction Devices
Multifunction Devices (MFDs) perform multiple office imaging tasks, such as input, output, storage, and transmission of documents. They feature Canon's cutting-edge technologies, such as its advanced network, document processing, and software technologies.
The Electrophotographic Printing Process
Laser printers / laser multifunction printers (MFPs), office multifunction devices (MFDs), and digital production printing systems all employ the same printing principle.
The photosensitive drum surface is negatively charged with a static charge.
Laser beams scan the photosensitive drum to form an image. Areas exposed to the laser beams lose their electrical charge.
Toner is brought in close proximity to the drum and affixes to non-charged areas.
The photosensitive drum is brought into contact with the paper* and a positive charge is applied from behind, transferring the toner onto the paper.
Heat and pressure are applied to fix the toner to the paper.
- * Most color models use a transfer system in which the toner first transfers from the photosensitive drum to an intermediate transfer belt, then from the belt to the paper.
imageRUNNER ADVANCE Networking Technologies
Stronger Networking between Office MFDs, and between Office MFDs and PCs
Canon's imageRUNNER ADVANCE Office MFDs are a new type of MFD developed ahead of the competition based on a user-centric concept. They were designed not only for ease of use as Office MFDs, but also for networking with office PCs or other imageRUNNER ADVANCE Office MFDs for increased operation efficiency.
One of the core functions supporting this system networking is the Advanced Box function, which makes use of the built-in HDD (hard disk drive) to offer both MFD box functions and simple file server functions. This was achieved by creating a new document management module within the OS file system layer. The new document management module incorporates embedded application modules for controlling the operation of each of the Advanced Box, network (SMB, WebDAV), and memory media repositories,*1 allowing users to use the Advanced Box without having to worry about discrepancies between repositories.
The Advanced Box function offers compatibility with multiple standard protocols, such as SMB and WebDAV, for enhanced adaptability with various network environments in the emerging era of cloud computing. Providing the Office MFDs with both server and client functionality for the two protocols makes it possible to link imageRUNNER ADVANCE machines together in a network, as well as with PCs.
The Advanced Box functionality enables access to data on Office MFDs in the same way as accessing a file server, with no need to install special applications on a PC.
For example, a printed PowerPoint presentation can be scanned and saved in the Advanced Box in both PowerPoint and PDF file formats, enabling access and use at any time from a PC without having to prepare a separate file server.
Even imageRUNNER ADVANCE machines not equipped with HDDs can connect to other imageRUNNER ADVANCE systems connected via intranets, and can be used as if they had their own Advanced Boxes.
Additionally, the address book sharing function allows any imageRUNNER ADVANCE system to look up and use registered address information simply by registering addresses used by multiple parties within an office on a single imageRUNNER ADVANCE machine connected via an intranet. The address book framework was built based on the WebService platform offered by Canon's Office MFDs, ensuring its scalability*2 and making possible the sharing of address books across multiple Office MFDs on the same network. Enhanced connectivity between multiple imageRUNNER ADVANCE MFDs, and between the MFDs and PCs, supported by address book sharing and other functions, has led to significant advances in office workflow.
- *1 Repository
Repositories are databases which contain such information as system design information and program data.
- *2 Scalability
Scalability is the ability to expand a computer system. It refers to the ability to flexibly improve performance and functionality, regardless of the scale of the system.
Information Security Technology
Ensuring Comprehensive Information Security for Office MFDs
In offices, Office MFDs serve as hubs for the input and output of documents. As companies become more dependent on networks and documents grow increasingly important, the greater the need for advanced, computer-level security. Canon Office MFDs employ a number of information security functions, and the company continually strives to further improve these features to ensure customers can use Office MFDs securely and with peace of mind.
Office MFD Internal Technologies to Prevent Confidential Information Leakage
Office MFDs, like workstations and servers, store a great deal of confidential information within their internal memories, including passwords and encryption keys. The TPM (Trusted Platform Module)*3 plays an important role in protecting the confidential information contained in MFDs from physical analysis and unauthorized network access. All confidential information is encrypted using the root key on the TPM chip before being stored. The root key never leaves the chip, ensuring the protection of confidential information within the Office MFD.
Technologies Preventing Unauthorized Usage through Function Restrictions
Access Management System technology prevents unauthorized device usage by restricting which functions can be used on a per-user basis. IT administrators can set in advance which functions can be used by which users so that users will only see the screens for which they have been granted usage permission.
ACTs (Access Control Tokens)*4 are used when sending print orders from PCs to Office MFDs, making it possible to implement print restrictions and prevent print data tampering and replaying.
Canon's MEAP application platform optimizes Office MFDs for office operations. MEAP can easily be customized to work with existing company security systems, such as employee management systems, Smart card authentication and Active Directory.*5
Technologies Preventing the Leakage of Confidential Paper-Document Information
Studies have shown that 69.4% of information leaks originate from paper documents.*6 To prevent the unauthorized copying of paper documents containing confidential information, Canon has developed TL Code (Trace & Lock Code), a 2-D code technology. Office MFDs print TL code onto the background of a document when printing. Should an unauthorized user attempt to copy that document, the Office MFD will rapidly analyze the information contained in the TL code and respond in such ways as preventing the confidential document from being copied or identifying the user that printed the document.
In the past, individual printer manufacturers developed their own Office MFD and printer security technologies, but, in June 2009, the IEEE Std 2600.1™-2009 international standard (hereafter referred to as "IEEE 2600.1") was established. Canon was one of the companies that participated in the creation of this standard. In March 2011, after passing rigorous evaluation, including site visits of manufacturing processes at overseas production sites ,Canon successfully obtained Common Criteria (ISO / IEC 15408) certification conforming to IEEE 2600.1 from IPA (Information-Technology Promotion Agency, Japan).
- *3 TPM (Trusted Platform Module)
Trusted platform modules are security chips contained in PCs and Office MFDs. The chips can perform encryption, decryption and digital-signature generation and verification.
- *4 ACT (Access Control Token)
In order to prevent information leakage, permission to access individual functions must be set in advance based on user attributes and characteristics, and then user authentication must be performed to control which functions the user has access to. ACTs refer to information on access restrictions to control, on an individual user basis, whether or not printing can be performed. They are issued by PCs when applying operation controls to Office MFDs connected via a network.
- *5 Active Directory
Developed by Microsoft, a directory service system that contains information on network users and resources such as connected printers to facilitate searching. It is often used in large-scale computer networks.
- *6 According to the Japan Network Security Association (JNSA) "2010 Information Security Incident Research Report"
Cloud Printing Technology
Driverless, High-Compression Output of Cloud Customer Data
With the spread of cloud computing in recent years, it is now possible to use various networked services without needing to download applications to a PC.
Canon has developed technology that supports one of these services: cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
The service, Canon Business Imaging Online, allows users to convert various types of data processed on CRM vendor cloud servers into such documents as estimates, delivery forms and billing forms, which can then be output. Canon's data format conversion technologies help make this possible.
Canon's cloud servers make use of different types of data, such as customer and sales data received from CRM vendor servers, to create PDF files of various document forms, and convert them into the UFR II printing format. Canon's data format conversion technology creates UFR II format data from the PDF files without the need for a driver while also reducing data size (approx. 1/4 the size of files converted using conventional drivers), making possible high-speed, high-quality output.
In addition, Canon has developed many other technologies supporting cloud services, such as Single Sign-On technology allowing users to access all related services with a single authentication, multi-tenant support technology that prevents data from being leaked to other users using the same service, and distributed processing technology files that prevents an increase in server load from affecting server response to users.
Efficiently Implementing Random Processing on Office MFDs
Office MFDs that carry out concurrent processing such as printing and scanning handle enormous volumes of data. Because of this, the heart of such products needs to efficiently process multiple functions. Canon is developing dedicated processors to suit these products.
To increase overall system performance and the ability to respond to solutions, the "Advanced iR Controller" is made up of an image processing controller section equipped with an image processor, and an information processing controller section equipped with an information processor. Not only is processing speed maximized by connecting these two controllers using a high-speed PCI Express bus, but it is also possible to adapt to the evolution of document workflows by optimizing each of the controller sections.
The imaging processor incorporates advanced image processing technologies in addition to providing faster printing and scanning, which are the basic functions of an Office MFD. The information processor boasts excellent compatibility with the network and Internet environments and provides many new functions by coordinating security functions and connections with external systems.
VL compression technology
Printing A4 sized image data at 600dpi in full color requires 100MB of image storage space. To process this quickly, compression technology must be fast and highly efficient.
VL (Visually Lossless) compression technology is one of the many image processing technologies used in the imaging processor. This unique Canon image compression technology appropriately balances the image quality and compression ratio of PDL*7 data.
When a command is received from a PC to print PDL data, the system first divides the data up into many small tiles. The segmented image data is sent, in random order, to the compression engine, where it is processed. What makes this technology notable is that when this happens, it automatically divides the data into two types.
It is difficult for people to notice compression degradation in natural images and complex computer graphics. This means that even if high compression coding is performed on images such as these, they will be recognized as being suitably high quality images. This type of image data is highly compressed using unique Canon compression method suitable for use with natural images and computer graphics.
On the other hand, compression degradation of text or lines in images is very noticeable, an encoding method which produces little degradation must be used. This type of image data is processed using unique Canon compression method suitable for use with text and lines, which produces little compression degradation.
In this way, automatically applying different compression methods depending on the type of image data makes it possible to achieve fast, highly efficient compression.
100MB images compressed to approximately 2.5MB(approx. 1/40thof its original size) using VL compression and JPEG compression. The images compressed using VL compression have a clearly higher image quality than those compressed using JPEG compression.
- *7 PDL (Page Description Language)
PDLs are languages used to provide printing data instructions when printing documents or images created on a PC. Typical PDLs include Adobe System's PostScript.
MEAP / MEAP Connector / MEAP Web
Supporting the Building of Business Models
"MEAP"*8 is an application platform incorporated into Canon digital MFDs. Applications customized to suit users' needs can be run without the use of a PC. MEAP, which realizes independence from the operating system using Java technology, is mainly comprised of three elements; the MEAP platform providing the basic runtime environment, the MEAP system service providing system-related functionality, and the MEAP application.
"MEAP Connector" is a technology based on MEAP. Business systems for forms, etc., which digital MFDs could not directly output in the past, can now be closely linked to digital MFDs as part of the workflow.
"MEAP Web" makes it possible to call up digital MFD functions from web applications.*9 Web applications and digital MFDs can be operated seamlessly by using the Web browser displayed on the operating panel. MEAP Web contributes to document-related tasks by dramatically improving the links between digital MFDs and Web-based business systems.
- *8 MEAP: Multifunctional Embedded Application Platform
- *9 Web application
Web applications are programs that use web functions. When a user makes a request, the server provides a mechanism that generates and provides content.
Improving Output Performance
Producing high-speed, high-resolution output on network digital MFDs creates a heavy load for the printer controller. Canon has developed a printing system that performs optimal data processing for each product and provides efficient high-speed / high-resolution output, without placing excessive strain on the printer controller.
UFR II / UFR II LT
Canon Office MFDs and laser printers incorporate UFR II, developed by Canon for printers. UFR II uses a load-balancing feature to efficiently distribute the processing burden of all components of printer data between the PC and the printer, and also facilitates optimal data processing in line with the printer's RIP*10 capabilities.
UFR II LT, the page description language used in low-cost machines, also uses UFR II technology to carry out PC data processing, enabling high-speed printing even on printers with low processing capabilities.
- *10 RIP
Raster Image Processing, a process for creating bitmap data from a page description language (PDL).
In ordinary printers, RIP is processed by software (software RIP). However, in the case of color printers, which handle large volumes of data, it is often impossible to use software RIP for high-speed data processing, meaning that hardware RIP is necessary.
With the aim of enhancing high speed and high resolution of printers, Canon has developed the core technology for high-speed RIP, which can be used as either software RIP or hardware RIP, and will continue to incorporate this into its products. Additionally, Canon is furthering the optimization and parallelization of internal processing in order to accommodate higher speed, and is developing technologies to enable high-resolution data processing by high-speed internal data compression.
Document Processing Technology
Automatically Analyzing Scanned Documents to Create Reusable High-Quality Electronic Documents
Canon Office MFDs do more than just make copies of scanned data. Built-in "document processing technology" enables the creation of reusable electronic documents by analyzing and processing scanned documents.
The first step in document processing technology is document analysis. "Document analysis technology" is used to analyze the layout of a scanned document to extract objects such as texts, diagrams, photographs and graphics, and separate them into their respective areas to generate basic data of each attributes, positions and sizes. These basic data are then processed with character recognition, vector conversion,*11 image processing, and compression by which high-quality documents are created.
- *11 Vector conversion
This refers to conversion into a graphic expression format (vector data) that saves shape information independent of resolution. This enables smooth contours to be maintained even when an image is enlarged.
High-Compression PDF*12 Conversion Technology: High Resolution with Lower Data Volume
"High-compression PDF conversion technology" employs document analysis technology to extract text and image data and separate them into multiple layers. This technology enables each layer to then be optimally compressed, providing for a high-compression ratio while maintaining high resolution.
Using conventional compression methods, an A4-size color image scanned at 150 dpi can be compressed to a file size of about 2 MB. With this technology, the same image scanned at a resolution equivalent to 300 dpi can be reduced to roughly one tenth of that size (200KB). Canon is the first company in the world to incorporate this technology into MFDs, and has dramatically improved the capability of handling color document image data, which entails particularly high volumes of data.
- *12 PDF (Portable Document Format)
A document conversion format developed by Adobe Systems Inc. widely used for exchanging documents and displaying documents on the Internet.
Searchable PDF Conversion Technology: Searching For Text in Image PDFs
"Searchable PDF conversion technology" enables text search within PDF documents by overlaying text, identified and extracted as data using document analysis technology, on the original image as a text layer. The technology achieves a fast processing speed of 7.5 pages per minute for A4-size documents, with a high accuracy rate of 97.75% (based on in-house Japanese-language evaluation samples).
In addition to Japanese, this technology supports English as well as various European and Asian languages.
Outline PDF Conversion Technology: High-Resolution Text Display in Various Environments
"Outline PDF conversion technology" represents the evolution of high-compression PDF conversion technology. While this technology conventionally composes text and background data extracted from scanned images, Canon's outline PDF converts text data into vector data and then compresses it to make possible the display of high-resolution text regardless of the resolution of the output devices.
Text and graphics data converted with outline PDF can also be reused in Adobe Illustrator, expanding the range of reusability for scanned documents.
Office Open XML Conversion Technology: Promoting the Reuse of Paper Documents
"Office Open XML conversion technology" enables to convert files into the new XML-based file format adopted by Microsoft Office 2007. When scanning paper documents, this technology can change text and diagram data into vector data, and convert the documents into PowerPoint format retaining images, background and the layout. This makes it easier to change texts and diagrams compared with the conventional PDF conversion, substantially reducing the work required for data input and editing even when the original is a paper document.
Single Pass Two-Sided Scanning Technology
Contributing to High-Speed Scanning and More Compact Office MFDs
Normally, when reading both sides of a document, it has been necessary to flip the document over using a feeder*13 and read each side separately. Optical systems have had complex configurations with scattered parts in the past, and by arranging these into a single unit, Canon made it possible to place scanner units on the feeder side and the platen glass side. This enables simultaneous scanning of both sides of a document in a single pass, resulting in significantly faster scanning. Furthermore, this reduces the risk of damage to documents while scanning caused by paper jams, etc., and also eliminates the operating noise created when flipping documents.
This scanner unit utilizes a compact high-performance 4-color line sensor, white LEDs and a proprietary free-form mirror unique to Canon.
The specially designed 4-color inline sensor has a faster data transfer rate than conventional sensors, enabling faster scanning. By using a white LED light source, power consumption has been reduced to one quarter of the level when using a xenon lamp. Furthermore, using a free-form mirror provides a greater depth of field than in the past, making it possible to reproduce a sense of depth when scanning an item with an uneven surface. The optical path length is also 47% shorter, and the scanner unit has been successfully made more compact, this also contributes to reducing the space consumed by Office MFDs.
- *13 Feeder
A mechanism for automatically transporting the document to the scanning section.
Compact Long-Life Drum Cartridge System
Combining High Image Quality with Reduced Maintenance and Resources
Digital MFDs that print using the electrophotographic printing process have required regular maintenance due to wear of the photosensitive drum. Canon has developed a compact long-life drum cartridge to contribute to the reduction of instances of maintenance and the saving of resources.
The E (Excellent) drum incorporated in this system is a photosensitive drum boasting high durability and high stability due to the addition of a layer of specially-developed coating.
The Compact Long-Life Drum Cartridge System utilizes the long-life properties of the E Drum, while adding 3 new mechanisms to ensure it is more compact at a lower cost. The "electrical charging roller cleaning mechanism" reduces contamination and achieves a significantly longer lifetime by adding a cleaning component to the electrical charging roller. The "cleaner pre-exposure mechanism" contributes to providing a more compact size at lower cost by using an LED as the light source for removing residual charge from the photosensitive drum after exposure. Furthermore, the "toner removal cleaner mechanism" reduces abrasion of the photosensitive drum by not fixing the cleaning blades in place.
pQ (Pure Quality Color) Toner
Contributing to the Improvement of Color Reproduction
A pQ toner has micro-dispersed wax components within the toner particles, which realize oil-less fixing and enable uniform gloss. By utilizing the micro-dispersed pigment components developed for V-toner, the reproducible color space is expanded and the color reproduction of digital MFDs is improved. Furthermore, toner transfer performance was also improved by modifying the surface shape of the toner. This makes it possible to reproduce the toner image more faithfully, enabling the output of clear figures and graphs with sharp text and details.