Xerox: Democratizing printed materials
Colour prints: A Canadian innovation

There are currently 800 trillion pages of printed information shared every year across the globe. Dr. Hadi Mahabadi, VP of the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC), sees his role in this explosion of printed information as “democratizing the sharing of information.”

No longer is information guarded by the owners of a printing press: anyone can print up a business plan, or a political poster, or print their own book. And Canadian innovation played a big part in making this happen.

“We are very proud,” says Mahabadi, who is being recognized at MaRS on May 25 as a 2011 nominee for the prestigious Manning Innovation Awards.  Mahabadi spearheaded two innovations that changed the economics of colour printing across the world.

“Any colour print you see around the world, you could says it’s a Canadian innovation,” says Mahabadi. “We’ve decentralized the printing process to allow small businesses and print shops to grow.”

Xerox Research Centre Canada
The Xerox Research Centre Canada has filed over 1500 patents and has been nominated for a Manning Innovation Award.

At the XRCC campus in Mississauga, Mahabadi’s team figured out a way to make colour toner for copiers at a lower temperature, eliminating the need for “pre-mixing” expensive polymers.

They also employed nanotechnology to reinvent the way colour toner is created. Xerox designed a way to “grow” the tiny particles needed to make colour toner on a molecular scaffold. “We don’t have to grind down the ingredients anymore, we grow them from the bottom-up,” says Mahabadi.

Although Xerox’s technology is patented, competitors quickly figured out how to work around the patents and reverse engineer the process. This pushed the cost of colour printing down drastically. “Every page you print using this method saves 70% energy,” says Mahabadi.

“This is a Canadian innovation the world is benefitting from,” he says. “It has enabled the printing industry to be shifted from black and white to colour. We’ve made colour printing cheaper and more affordable.”

The XRCC has strong record of innovation. “Since 1985, no product has launched from Xerox International that didn’t have technology from this campus,” says Mahabadi. He is quick to point to the quality of chemical engineering faculties at Canadian universities, as well as the Federal Government’s SR&ED grants as reasons that Canadian science is so strong.

When asked about being nominated for a Manning Innovation Award, he says, “We hope to be part of the prestigious group that has received these awards. This is a recognition of what Xerox has been doing over the past 20 years.”

Named after the former Alberta Premier, the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation was created in 1980 by former CEO of Alberta Energy Company, David E. Mitchell. The awards are open to “Canadian resident citizens who have demonstrated recent innovative talent in developing and successfully marketing a new concept, process or procedure.”

Since its inception, the Foundation has sifted through over 2,500 nominees and doled out $4 million in prizes to 216 winners, all in order to encourage and recognize Canadian innovators like Mahabadi.

Think you’ve got the next game-changing innovation? Nominations for the 2012 Manning Innovation Awards are open until December 1, 2011 – click here for eligibility and judging criteria.

Joseph Wilson

Joseph was an education advisor at MaRS Discovery District. He writes on topics of science, culture and city issues for NOW Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Spacing and Yonge Street. He is the Executive Director of the Treehouse Group, dedicated to fostering innovation by hosting cross-disciplinary events. See more…