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Patent Analysis of

Fixing device and image forming apparatus

Updated Time 12 June 2019

Patent Registration Data

Publication Number

US10001735

Application Number

US15/384838

Application Date

20 December 2016

Publication Date

19 June 2018

Current Assignee

RICOH COMPANY, LIMITED

Original Assignee (Applicant)

IMADA, TAKAHIRO,YOSHIKAWA, MASAAKI,ISHII, KENJI,YOSHINAGA, HIROSHI,ARAI, YUJI

International Classification

G03G15/20

Cooperative Classification

G03G15/2053,G03G15/2064,G03G2215/2035

Inventor

IMADA, TAKAHIRO,YOSHIKAWA, MASAAKI,ISHII, KENJI,YOSHINAGA, HIROSHI,ARAI, YUJI,IWAYA, NAOKI,TOKUDA, TETSUO,TAKAGI, HIROMASA,YAMAGUCHI, YOSHIKI,FUJIMOTO, IPPEI,SESHITA, TAKUYA,IKEBUCHI, YUTAKA,YOSHIURA, ARINOBU,SHIMOKAWA, TOSHIHIKO,GOTOH, HAJIME

Patent Images

This patent contains figures and images illustrating the invention and its embodiment.

US10001735 Fixing image forming 1 US10001735 Fixing image forming 2 US10001735 Fixing image forming 3
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Abstract

A fixing device may include an endless fixing member; a heater inside the fixing member; and a nip forming unit configured to form a nip through which a recording sheet is conveyed, the nip forming unit including a supporting member and a contact member supported by the supporting member, the supporting member including at least one contact surface and the contact member including a plurality of protrusions protruding towards the supporting member such that two or more of the plurality of protrusions are configured to contact one of the at least one contact surface of the supporting member, each of the plurality of protrusions having a height associated there with such that the height of the plurality of protrusions increases in a direction from ends of the contact member towards a center of the contact member.

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Claims

1. A fixing device comprising: an endless fixing member; a heater inside the fixing member, the heater configured to heat the fixing member; anda nip forming unit configured to come into press-contact with a rotationally driven pressing member with the endless fixing member interposed therebetween so as to form a nip through which a recording sheet is conveyed, the nip forming unit including, a supporting member having a first end and a second end in a recording sheet width direction, the supporting member including at least one planar contact surface, and a contact member supported by the supporting member, the contact member including a plurality of protrusions protruding towards the supporting member such that two or more of the plurality of protrusions are configured to contact one of the at least one planar contact surface, each of the plurality of protrusions having a height associated therewith such that the height of the plurality of protrusions increases in a direction from ends of the contact member towards a center of the contact member.

2. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the plurality of protrusions protrude from a surface of the contact member towards the supporting member, the height of one of the plurality of protrusions at the center of the contact member being greater than a height of the plurality of protrusions at the both of the ends of the contact member.

3. The fixing device of claim 2, wherein the height of the plurality of protrusions gradually increases towards the center of the surface of the contact member.

4. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the contact member is supported by the supporting member such that the contact member is in contact with the supporting member within a nip area, the nip area being a portion of an inner periphery surface of the endless fixing member in a direction perpendicular to a surface of the recording sheet in which the nip forming unit comes into press-contact with the pressing member.

5. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the heater is configured to heat the fixing member using radiant heat.

6. The fixing device of claim 5, wherein the heater is configured to heat the fixing member via a metallic pipe, the metallic pipe configured to radiate the radiant heat.

7. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes stainless steel (SUS).

8. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes nickel (Ni).

9. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes a resin.

10. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the fixing member is a belt, the belt including a separation layer, the separation layer configured to prevent toner from adhering thereto.

11. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the contact member is formed of a material that includes a resin.

12. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the supporting member is formed of a material that includes one or more of iron and stainless steel.

13. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein the supporting member includes a plurality of planar contact surfaces.

14. The fixing device of claim 13, wherein the plurality of protrusions are arranged in sets of two or more protrusions such that each of the sets of two or more protrusions are configured to contact a respective one of the plurality of planar contact surfaces of the supporting member.

15. A fixing device comprising: an endless fixing member; a heater inside the fixing member, the heater configured to heat the fixing member; anda nip forming unit configured to come into press-contact with a rotationally driven pressing member with the endless fixing member interposed therebetween so as to form a nip through which a recording sheet is conveyed, the nip forming unit including, a supporting member having a first end and a second end in a recording sheet width direction, the supporting member including a plurality of contact surfaces, and a contact member supported by the supporting member, the contact member including a plurality of protrusions protruding towards the supporting member, the plurality of protrusions being arranged in sets of two or more protrusions such that each of the sets of the plurality of protrusions are configured to contact a respective one of the plurality of contact surfaces of the supporting member, each of the plurality of protrusions having a height associated therewith such that the height of the plurality of protrusions increases in a direction from ends of the contact member towards a center of the contact member.

16. The fixing device of claim 15, wherein the plurality of protrusions protrude from a surface of the contact member towards the supporting member, the height of one of the plurality of protrusions at the center of the contact member being greater than a height of the plurality of protrusions at the both of the ends of the contact member.

17. The fixing device of claim 16, wherein the height of the plurality of protrusions gradually increases towards the center of the surface of the contact member.

18. The fixing device of claim 15, wherein the contact member is supported by the supporting member such that the contact member is in contact with the supporting member within a nip area, the nip area being a portion of an inner periphery surface of the endless fixing member in a direction perpendicular to a surface of the recording sheet in which the nip forming unit comes into press-contact with the pressing member.

19. The fixing device of claim 15, wherein the heater is configured to heat the fixing member using radiant heat.

20. The fixing device of claim 19, wherein the heater is configured to heat the fixing member via a metallic pipe, the metallic pipe configured to radiate the radiant heat.

21. A fixing device comprising:an endless fixing member; a heater inside the fixing member, the heater configured to heat the fixing member; anda nip forming unit configured to come into press-contact with a rotationally driven pressing member with the endless fixing member interposed therebetween so as to form a nip through which a recording sheet is conveyed, the nip forming unit including, a first member having a first end and a second end in a recording sheet width direction, the first member including at least one planar contact surface, and a second member including a plurality of protrusions protruding towards the first member such that two or more of the plurality of protrusions are configured to contact one of the at least one planar contact surface, each of the plurality of protrusions having a height associated therewith such that the height of the plurality of protrusions increases in a direction from ends of the second member towards a center of the second member.

22. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the plurality of protrusions protrude from a surface of the second member towards the first member, the height of one of the plurality of protrusions at the center of the second member being greater than a height of the plurality of protrusions at the both of the ends of the second member.

23. The fixing device of claim 22, wherein the height of the plurality of protrusions gradually increases towards the center of the surface of the second member.

24. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the second member is supported by the first member such that the second member is in contact with the first member within a nip area, the nip area being a portion of an inner periphery surface of the endless fixing member in a direction perpendicular to a surface of the recording sheet in which the nip forming unit comes into press-contact with the pressing member.

25. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the heater is configured to heat the fixing member using radiant heat.

26. The fixing device of claim 25, wherein the heater is configured to heat the fixing member via a metallic pipe, the metallic pipe configured to radiate the radiant heat.

27. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes stainless steel (SUS).

28. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes nickel (Ni).

29. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes a resin.

30. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the fixing member is a belt, the belt including a separation layer, the separation layer configured to prevent toner from adhering thereto.

31. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the second member is formed of a material that includes a resin.

32. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the first member is formed of a material that includes one or more of iron and stainless steel.

33. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein the first member includes a plurality of planar contact surfaces.

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Claim Tree

  • 1
    1. A fixing device comprising:
    • an endless fixing member
    • a heater inside the fixing member, the heater configured to heat the fixing member
    • anda nip forming unit configured to come into press-contact with a rotationally driven pressing member with the endless fixing member interposed therebetween so as to form a nip through which a recording sheet is conveyed, the nip forming unit including, a supporting member having a first end and a second end in a recording sheet width direction, the supporting member including at least one planar contact surface, and a contact member supported by the supporting member, the contact member including a plurality of protrusions protruding towards the supporting member such that two or more of the plurality of protrusions are configured to contact one of the at least one planar contact surface, each of the plurality of protrusions having a height associated therewith such that the height of the plurality of protrusions increases in a direction from ends of the contact member towards a center of the contact member.
    • 2. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the plurality of protrusions protrude from a surface of the contact member towards the supporting member, the height of one of the plurality of protrusions at the center of the contact member being greater than a height of the plurality of protrusions at the both of the ends of the contact member.
    • 4. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the contact member is supported by the supporting member such that the contact member is in contact with the supporting member within a nip area, the nip area being a portion of an inner periphery surface of the endless fixing member in a direction perpendicular to a surface of the recording sheet in which
    • 5. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the heater is configured to heat the fixing member using radiant heat.
    • 7. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes stainless steel (SUS).
    • 8. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes nickel (Ni).
    • 9. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes a resin.
    • 10. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the fixing member is a belt, the belt including
    • 11. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the contact member is formed of a material that includes a resin.
    • 12. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the supporting member is formed of a material that includes one or more of iron and stainless steel.
    • 13. The fixing device of claim 1, wherein
      • the supporting member includes a plurality of planar contact surfaces.
  • 15
    15. A fixing device comprising:
    • an endless fixing member
    • a heater inside the fixing member, the heater configured to heat the fixing member
    • anda nip forming unit configured to come into press-contact with a rotationally driven pressing member with the endless fixing member interposed therebetween so as to form a nip through which a recording sheet is conveyed, the nip forming unit including, a supporting member having a first end and a second end in a recording sheet width direction, the supporting member including a plurality of contact surfaces, and a contact member supported by the supporting member, the contact member including a plurality of protrusions protruding towards the supporting member, the plurality of protrusions being arranged in sets of two or more protrusions such that each of the sets of the plurality of protrusions are configured to contact a respective one of the plurality of contact surfaces of the supporting member, each of the plurality of protrusions having a height associated therewith such that the height of the plurality of protrusions increases in a direction from ends of the contact member towards a center of the contact member.
    • 16. The fixing device of claim 15, wherein
      • the plurality of protrusions protrude from a surface of the contact member towards the supporting member, the height of one of the plurality of protrusions at the center of the contact member being greater than a height of the plurality of protrusions at the both of the ends of the contact member.
    • 18. The fixing device of claim 15, wherein
      • the contact member is supported by the supporting member such that the contact member is in contact with the supporting member within a nip area, the nip area being a portion of an inner periphery surface of the endless fixing member in a direction perpendicular to a surface of the recording sheet in which
    • 19. The fixing device of claim 15, wherein
      • the heater is configured to heat the fixing member using radiant heat.
  • 21
    21. A fixing device comprising:
    • an endless fixing member
    • a heater inside the fixing member, the heater configured to heat the fixing member
    • anda nip forming unit configured to come into press-contact with a rotationally driven pressing member with the endless fixing member interposed therebetween so as to form a nip through which a recording sheet is conveyed, the nip forming unit including, a first member having a first end and a second end in a recording sheet width direction, the first member including at least one planar contact surface, and a second member including a plurality of protrusions protruding towards the first member such that two or more of the plurality of protrusions are configured to contact one of the at least one planar contact surface, each of the plurality of protrusions having a height associated therewith such that the height of the plurality of protrusions increases in a direction from ends of the second member towards a center of the second member.
    • 22. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the plurality of protrusions protrude from a surface of the second member towards the first member, the height of one of the plurality of protrusions at the center of the second member being greater than a height of the plurality of protrusions at the both of the ends of the second member.
    • 24. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the second member is supported by the first member such that the second member is in contact with the first member within a nip area, the nip area being a portion of an inner periphery surface of the endless fixing member in a direction perpendicular to a surface of the recording sheet in which
    • 25. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the heater is configured to heat the fixing member using radiant heat.
    • 27. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes stainless steel (SUS).
    • 28. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes nickel (Ni).
    • 29. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the fixing member is a belt formed of a material that includes a resin.
    • 30. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the fixing member is a belt, the belt including
    • 31. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the second member is formed of a material that includes a resin.
    • 32. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the first member is formed of a material that includes one or more of iron and stainless steel.
    • 33. The fixing device of claim 21, wherein
      • the first member includes a plurality of planar contact surfaces.
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Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a fixing device and an image forming apparatus.

2. Description of the Related Art

Japanese Patent Application Laid-open No. 2010-096782 discloses a fixing device including a heating unit. The heating unit includes a pipe-like metallic heat conductor disposed so as to face an inner peripheral surface of a fixing belt serving as a fixing member, and a heater which heats the metallic heat conductor. The heating unit heats the entirety of the fixing belt through the heating of the metallic heat conductor. Further, the fixing device disclosed in Japanese Patent Application Laid-open No. 2010-096782 includes a nip forming unit which is disposed near the inner peripheral surface of the fixing belt and comes into press-contact with a pressing roller serving as a rotationally driven pressing member with the fixing belt interposed therebetween so as to form a fixing nip. The driving force is transmitted to the fixing belt by the friction against the pressing roller, so that the fixing belt slides on the outer peripheral surface of the metallic heat conductor.

Since both ends of the nip forming unit in the width direction of a recording sheet (hereinafter, referred to as a main-scanning direction) are fixed and supported by the side plates of the fixing device, the center of the nip forming unit in the main-scanning direction may be largely bent in a direction in which the center moves away from the pressing roller due to the pressure which is applied from the pressing roller. As a result, both ends in the main-scanning direction of a contact surface of the nip forming unit, which comes into contact with the pressing roller with the fixing belt interposed therebetween, protrude outward and the center is pulled inward, thereby causing a phenomenon in which a nip width formed by the pressing roller and the nip forming unit is largely narrowed at the center compared to at the end in the main-scanning direction. As a result, there is a problem in that unevenness of an image occurs at the center and at the end in the main-scanning direction or a conveying failure occurs.

For this reason, in the fixing device disclosed in Japanese Patent Application Laid-open No. 2010-096782, the nip forming unit is formed so that the center of the contact surface of the nip forming unit in the main-scanning direction protrudes toward the pressing roller in relation to both ends in the main-scanning direction in no-load state. As a result, when the nip forming unit is bent, the contact surface of the nip forming unit becomes flat. That is, in this related art, the center of the contact surface of the nip forming unit in the main-scanning direction protrudes toward the pressing roller by a bent amount. Accordingly, when the nip forming unit is bent by the pressure of the pressing roller, the contact surface of the nip forming unit may be made to be flat, and a deviation between the end and the center in the main-scanning direction may be solved.

However, in the fixing device disclosed in Japanese Patent Application Laid-open No. 2010-096782, a problem is found in which a defective image is obtained or a conveying failure occurs depending on the type of a sheet which is conveyed to the fixing nip, for example, a recording sheet having a smooth surface. The inventors could find out the following result by carefully studying the problem. That is, in a case where the recording sheet is conveyed to the fixing nip, a sheet passing portion which comes into contact with the recording sheet at the center of the fixing belt in the main-scanning direction comes into contact with the surface of the recording sheet, and the rotational driving force of the pressing roller is transmitted to the sheet passing portion with the recording sheet interposed therebetween. However, in the recording sheet having a smooth surface, the friction between the recording sheet and the pressing roller or the friction between the recording sheet and the fixing belt decreases, so that the rotational driving force which is transmitted from the pressing roller to the fixing belt decreases. Further, in non-sheet passing portions at both ends which directly come into contact with the pressing roller in the main-scanning direction, the contact pressure decreases due to the thickness of the recording sheet. Accordingly, a sufficient friction may not be obtained even from the non-sheet passing portions, so that the rotational driving force which is transmitted from the pressing roller to the fixing belt decreases. As a result, it has been found that the driving force which is transmitted from the pressing roller to the fixing belt decreases, and the sliding resistance against the outer peripheral surface of the metallic heat conductor increases, so that the fixing belt slips producing the unevenness of the image or the fixing belt stops its rotation causing a conveying failure of the recording sheet.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to at least partially solve the problems in the conventional technology.

According to an embodiment, a fixing device includes: an endless fixing member; a heating unit that is provided inside an inner peripheral surface of the fixing member that heats the fixing member; and a nip forming unit that comes into press-contact with a rotationally driven pressing member with the fixing member interposed therebetween so as to form a nip to which a recording sheet is conveyed. Both ends of the nip forming unit in a recording sheet width direction are fixed and supported. The nip forming unit has a shape in which a center of a contact surface, coming into contact with the pressing member with the fixing member interposed therebetween in the recording sheet width direction, protrudes toward the pressing member compared to both ends in the recording sheet width direction in no-load state, wherein a toner image on the recording sheet conveyed to the nip is fixed to the recording sheet. The nip forming unit has a protruding amount at a center, in the recording sheet width direction, of the contact surface of the nip forming unit toward the pressing member compared to both ends of the nip forming unit in no-load state is set to be less than a bent amount of the nip forming unit when the nip forming unit comes into press-contact with the pressing member with the fixing member interposed therebetween.

According to another embodiment, an image forming apparatus includes: a toner image forming unit that forms a toner image on a recording sheet; and a fixing unit that fixes an unfixed toner image formed on the recording sheet onto a recording member. The fixing device mentioned above is used as the fixing unit.

The above and other objects, features, advantages and technical and industrial significance of this invention will be better understood by reading the following detailed description of presently preferred embodiments of the invention, when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic configuration diagram illustrating an image forming apparatus according to an embodiment;

FIG. 2 is a schematic configuration diagram illustrating a fixing device according to the embodiment;

FIG. 3 is a diagram illustrating a contact member and a supporting stay when viewed in the recording sheet conveying direction;

FIG. 4 is a diagram illustrating the contact member and the supporting stay of the embodiment when viewed in the recording sheet conveying direction;

FIG. 5 is an enlarged diagram illustrating the contact member and the supporting stay within a range from the center to one end thereof in the main-scanning direction;

FIG. 6 is a diagram illustrating an example in which a subject fixing portion of the supporting stay is made to have different heights;

FIG. 7A is a diagram illustrating an example in which a stay facing surface of the contact member is formed as a curved surface;

FIG. 7B is a diagram illustrating an example in which a contact surface of the contact member is formed as a curved surface;

FIG. 8 is a diagram illustrating an example in which a fixing portion at an end of the contact member in the main-scanning direction is made to be higher than a fixing portion at an end of a sheet passing portion; and

FIG. 9A is a diagram illustrating an example in which an elastic layer is exposed in a non-sheet passing portion of a pressing roller; and

FIG. 9B is a diagram in which a high-hardness member is used in an end.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Hereinafter, an embodiment will be described by referring to the drawings.

FIG. 1 is a schematic configuration diagram illustrating an image forming apparatus according to the embodiment. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the image forming apparatus has a configuration in which an image forming apparatus body accommodates an intermediate transfer belt 1 which is an intermediate transfer member serving as an image carrier used to form a color toner image of plural colors, yellow (Y), cyan (C), magenta (M), and black (K) thereon and toner bottles 2Y, 2C, 2M, and 2K which replenish toner of respective colors for the color toner image. The intermediate transfer belt 1 is rotatably suspended on a suspending roller 1a, an intermediate transfer belt driving roller 1b, or the like. Accordingly, when the intermediate transfer belt driving roller 1b rotates in the counter-clockwise direction of the drawing, the intermediate transfer belt 1 also rotates in the counter-clockwise direction of the drawing.

Further, the image forming apparatus has a configuration as below. A recording sheet S which is stacked and accommodated in a paper feed tray 8 provided at the lower portion of the image forming apparatus body is conveyed to a secondary transfer position where the recording sheet faces the intermediate transfer belt 1 at a predetermined timing, the color toner image which is formed on the intermediate transfer belt 1 is transferred onto the recording sheet S, the color toner image which is transferred onto the recording sheet S is fixed, and then the fixed recording sheet S is discharged from the upper portion of the image forming apparatus body. That is, the image forming apparatus includes the following constituents which are arranged from the lower portion of the image forming apparatus to the upper portion thereof. Here, a feed roller 7 which feeds one recording sheet is disposed. A pair of registration rollers 6 which ensures a conveying timing for transferring a toner image is disposed. A secondary transfer roller 5 which faces the intermediate transfer belt driving roller 1b so as to come into contact with the intermediate transfer belt 1 and forms a secondary transfer nip with a predetermined pressure ensured between the intermediate transfer belt 1 and the secondary transfer roller is disposed. A fixing device 4 which performs a predetermined heating and pressing operation is disposed. A pair of ejecting rollers 3 which discharges the recording sheet S to the outside of the apparatus is disposed. During a time when the recording sheet S is conveyed through a sheet conveying path which is formed by rollers, the following operations are sequentially performed so that the toner image is transferred from the intermediate transfer belt 1 onto the recording sheet S by the secondary transfer nip and the toner image which is transferred onto the recording sheet S is fixed by the fixing device 4.

Process cartridges 101Y, 101C, 101M, and 101K are formed as four color image forming units which serve as image stations. Then, the process cartridges are in charge of respective colors for forming a color image and form the toner images of the respective colors. These process cartridges are arranged in the longitudinal direction of the intermediate transfer belt 1 which is disposed at a slant in the oblique left-up direction of the drawing. The respective image stations formed as these process cartridges 101Y, 101C, 101M, and 101K respectively include photosensitive elements 21Y, 21C, 21M, and 21K which serve as image carriers.

Further, the respective photosensitive elements 21Y, 21C, 21M, and 21K come into contact with primary transfer rollers 11Y, 11C, 11M, and 11K with the intermediate transfer belt 1 interposed therebetween by ensuring a predetermined pressure therebetween. Charging devices 15Y, 15C, 15M, and 15K, developing devices 10Y, 10C, 10M, and 10K which serve as developing units, and photosensitive cleaning devices 14Y, 14C, 14M, and 14K which serve as cleaning units used for cleaning the photosensitive elements are provided around the photosensitive elements 21Y, 21C, 21M, and 21K.

A writing unit 9 which writes an electrostatic latent image on the surfaces of the respective photosensitive elements 21Y, 21C, 21M, and 21K through the exposure using a predetermined laser beam is disposed below the process cartridges 101Y, 101C, 101M, and 101K.

Further, a belt cleaning device 12, which serves as a cleaning unit used to collect residual toner on the intermediate transfer belt 1 so that the surface of the intermediate transfer belt is cleaned, is provided near one end of the intermediate transfer belt 1 in the longitudinal direction so as to face the suspending roller 1a with the intermediate transfer belt 1 interposed therebetween.

Plural toner bottles 2Y, 2C, 2M, and 2K which supply toner to the developing devices 10Y, 10C, 10M, and 10K are sequentially arranged from the left to the right of the drawing in the upper portion inside the apparatus, and are removably provided in the image forming apparatus body so as to be replaced later. Yellow toner, cyan toner, magenta toner, and black toner are respectively charged in the plural toner bottles 2Y, 2C, 2M, and 2K. The toner bottles 2Y, 2C, 2M, and 2K are respectively connected to the developing devices 10Y, 10C, 10M, and 10K of respective colors corresponding to the respective toner bottles 2Y, 2C, 2M, and 2K so that the toner can be supplied from the respective toner bottles to the respective developing devices through a conveying path (not illustrated), and the toner of respective colors is supplied thereto by a predetermined amount.

In the image forming apparatus with such a configuration, when the recording sheet S is fed to the feed roller 7 and the front end of the recording sheet reaches the pair of registration rollers 6, the front end of the recording sheet S is detected by a sensor (not illustrated). Then, the recording sheet S is conveyed by the pair of registration rollers 6 to the nip which is formed between the secondary transfer roller 5 and the intermediate transfer belt 1 at a synchronized timing based on the detecting signal, so that an image which is formed on the intermediate transfer belt 1 is secondarily transferred from the intermediate transfer belt 1 onto the recording sheet S.

The photosensitive elements 21Y, 21C, 21M, and 21K are evenly charged by the charging devices 15Y, 15C, 15M, and 15K in advance, and are scanned by a laser beam based on image data in the writing unit 9, so that electrostatic latent images are formed on the photosensitive elements 21Y, 21C, 21M, and 21K. The respective electrostatic latent images are respectively developed by the developing devices 10Y, 10C, 10M, and 10K of respective colors, so that toner images of yellow, cyan, magenta, and black are formed on the surfaces of the photosensitive elements 21Y, 21C, 21M, and 21K. Then, a voltage is applied to the primary transfer rollers 11Y, 11C, 11M, and 11K, so that toner on the respective photosensitive elements 21Y, 21C, 21M, and 21K is sequentially transferred onto the intermediate transfer belt 1. At this time, the image forming operations of respective colors are performed at different timings from the upstream toward the downstream in the advancing direction of the intermediate transfer belt 1 so that the toner images are transferred to the same position of the intermediate transfer belt 1 so as to be superimposed to each other. The toner image which is formed on the intermediate transfer belt 1 is conveyed to the secondary transfer position where the toner image faces the secondary transfer roller 5, so that the toner image is secondarily transferred onto the recording sheet S. The recording sheet S onto which the color toner image of respective colors is transferred is conveyed to the fixing device 4 so that the toner image is fixed thereto by pressure and heat generated in the fixing device, and the recording sheet is discharged by the pair of ejecting rollers 3.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged diagram illustrating the fixing device 4.

The fixing device 4 includes therein a pressing roller 41 which is a pressing member configured to be rotationally driven, a fixing belt 42 which is an endless fixing member, or the like. Further, the fixing belt 42 includes therein a heating unit 43 and a nip forming unit 44.

The heating unit 43 includes a metallic pipe 43a and a heater 43b which serves as a heating source used for heating the metallic pipe 43a. The metallic pipe 43a is formed of nickel or stainless steel (SUS), and fluorinated lubricant is coated on the outer peripheral surface which comes into contact with the fixing belt 42. The metallic pipe 43a is formed so as to directly face the inner peripheral surface of the fixing belt 42 at a position where the fixing nip is eliminated, and is provided with a concave portion which is formed at the position of the fixing nip so as to be depressed inward and have an opening portion. Then, a contact member 44a of the nip forming unit is provided by being inserted into the concave portion of the metallic pipe 43a with a clearance therebetween, and a supporting stay 44b of the nip forming unit 44 is provided by being inserted into the opening portion. Both ends of the metallic pipe 43a are fixed and supported to the side plates of the fixing device 4.

The heater 43b (the heating source) is formed as a halogen heater or a carbon heater, and both ends thereof are fixed to the side plates of the fixing device 4. Then, the metallic pipe 43a is heated by radiation heat that is generated by the heater 43b of which the output is controlled by the power supply unit of the apparatus body. Furthermore, the fixing belt 42 is heated at the entire position except for the nip portion by the metallic pipe 43a, and heat is applied from the surface of the heated fixing belt 42 to the toner image T on the recording sheet S. Furthermore, the output of the heater 43b is controlled based on the temperature detection result of the surface of the belt that is obtained by a temperature sensor (not illustrated) such as a thermistor which faces the surface of the fixing belt 42. Further, the temperature (the fixing temperature) of the fixing belt 42 may be set to a desired temperature through the control of the output from the heater 43b.

With regard to the fixing device 4 of the embodiment, only a part of the fixing belt 42 is not locally heated, but almost the entire part of the fixing belt 42 is heated in the circumferential direction by the metallic pipe 43a. Accordingly, even when the fixing device is operated at a high speed, the fixing belt 42 may be sufficiently heated, and occurrence of a fixing failure may be suppressed. Further, in the embodiment, since the heating unit 43 may effectively heat the fixing belt 42 with a comparatively simple configuration such as the metallic pipe 43a and the heater 43b, a warming-up time or a first printing time may be shortened and the fixing device may be decreased in size.

The fixing belt 42 may be a metallic belt such as nickel or stainless steel (SUS), an endless belt formed of a resin material such as polyimide, or a film. The surface layer of the fixing belt 42 is provided with a separation layer such as a PFA layer or a PTFE layer, so that the surface layer has a separating property of preventing toner from adhering thereto. Further, it is desirable that the fixing belt 42 come into contact with the outer peripheral surface of the metallic pipe 43a with almost no gap formed therebetween. Accordingly, the area where the metallic pipe 43a slides on the fixing belt 42 increases, which may suppress a problem in which the abrasion of the fixing belt 42 is accelerated. Further, the above-described configuration may suppress a problem in which the metallic pipe 43a and the fixing belt 42 are separated from each other too much so that the heating efficiency of the fixing belt 42 is degraded. Furthermore, since the metallic pipe 43a is provided near the fixing belt 42, the circular posture of the flexible fixing belt 42 is maintained to a certain degree, so that the degradation and the damage of the fixing belt 42 due to the deformation thereof may be reduced.

Further, in order to reduce the sliding resistance between the outer peripheral surface of the metallic pipe 43a and the inner peripheral surface of the fixing belt 42, a back surface layer which is formed of material containing fluorine may be formed on the inner peripheral surface of the fixing belt 42. Furthermore, in the embodiment, the cross-sectional shape of the metallic pipe 43a is a substantially circular shape, but the cross-sectional shape of the metallic pipe 43a may be a polygonal shape.

The nip forming unit includes the supporting stay 44b which serves as a supporting member supported by the fixing device 4 and the contact member 44a which comes into contact with the pressing roller 41 with the fixing belt 42 interposed therebetween. The supporting stay 44b is used to rigidly support the contact member 44a which forms the nip portion, and is fixed to a position near the inner peripheral surface of the fixing belt 42. The supporting stay 44b is formed so that the length thereof in the width direction of the recording sheet S (hereinafter, referred to as a main-scanning direction) is equal to the length of the contact member 44a, and both ends thereof in the main-scanning direction are fixed and supported to the side plates of the fixing device 4. It is desirable that the supporting stay 44b be formed of a metal material such as stainless steel or iron with high mechanical strength in order to satisfy the above-described function. Further, a heat insulating member may be provided on or a BA process or a mirror finishing process may be performed on a part or the entirety of the surface of the supporting stay 44b which faces the heater 43b. Accordingly, since the heat which is transmitted from the heater 43b to the supporting stay 44b (the heat which heats the supporting stay 44b) is used to heat the metallic pipe 43a, the heating efficiency of the fixing belt 42 (the metallic pipe 43a) may be further improved.

The contact member 44a is formed by wrapping fluorine rubber or heat-resistant resin, for example, liquid crystal polymer using a lubricant sheet such as a PTEF sheet. A contact surface 44c of the contact member 44a which comes into contact with the pressing roller 41 with the fixing belt 42 interposed therebetween is formed in a concave shape in the axial direction so as to follow the curvature of the pressing roller 41. Accordingly, since the recording sheet S is sent from the fixing nip so as to follow the curvature of the pressing roller 41, a problem in which the recording sheet S subjected to the fixing process is inseparably absorbed to the fixing belt 42 can be suppressed. Further, the shape of the contact member 44a in the axial direction may be a planar shape. With such a configuration, the shape of the fixing nip is substantially parallel to the image surface of the recording sheet S, the adhesiveness between the fixing belt 42 and the recording sheet S improves, and the fixing performance thereof improves. Furthermore, since the curvature of the fixing belt 42 at the exit of the fixing nip increases, the recording sheet S which exits the fixing nip may be easily separated from the fixing belt 42. Further, in a case where the contact member 44a is formed as an elastic member such as fluorine rubber, the contact member may follow the minute unevenness of the toner image of the recording sheet S which is conveyed to the fixing nip, thereby obtaining a satisfactory fixed image. Further, since the contact member is wrapped by the lubricant sheet, the sliding resistance between the contact member 44a and the fixing belt 42 is reduced.

The pressing roller 41 is formed in a manner such that an elastic layer 41b formed as a silicon rubber layer is made to adhere to the surface of the metallic roller which is a cored bar 41a, and the separation layer (a PFA layer or a PTFE layer) is formed on the outer surface of the elastic layer 41b in order to obtain a separating property.

Further, the pressing roller 41 is pressed against the fixing belt 42 by a spring (not illustrated) or the like, and when the pressing roller 41 and the fixing belt 42 come into press-contact with each other so that the contact member 44a is pressed and deformed, a predetermined nip width is obtained at the fixing nip.

The pressing roller 41 is configured to rotate by a driving force that is transmitted from a driving device including a motor, a driving roller, and the like which are not illustrated in the drawings and are provided in the image forming apparatus, and when the driving device is controlled by a control unit including a CPU, a memory, and the like provided in the image forming apparatus body, a process linear speed which is a rotating speed of the pressing roller 41 may be arbitrarily changed at a predetermined timing.

The fixing belt 42 rotates by being interlocked to an external roller. In the embodiment, the pressing roller 41 rotates by the driving device, and the driving force is transmitted from the pressing roller 41 to the fixing belt 42 at the fixing nip, so that the fixing belt 42 rotates.

FIG. 3 is a diagram illustrating the contact member 44a and the supporting stay 44b in the recording sheet conveying direction. A stay facing surface 442a of the contact member 44a which faces the supporting stay 44b is provided with plural fixing portions 441a which are provided in the main-scanning direction so as to be fixed to the supporting stay 44b (through a lubricant sheet not illustrated). Further, a facing surface 442b of the supporting stay 44b which faces the contact member 44a is provided with plural subject fixing portions 441b which are provided in the main-scanning direction so as to protrude from the facing surface 442b where the plural fixing portions 441a of the contact member 44a are fixed (through the lubricant sheet not illustrated).

As described above, the supporting stay 44b is a plate-like member which is formed of stainless steel, and both ends thereof in the main-scanning direction are fixed to the side plates of the fixing device 4. With regard to the supporting stay 44b, the transverse center which receives a pressure from the pressing roller 41 and is not supported and fixed is bent (by a bent amount: δ) in a direction moving away from the pressing roller 41 due to the pressure of the pressing roller 41. Due to the bending of the supporting stay 44b, the transverse center of the contact member 44a which is fixed to the supporting stay 44b is also bent by the same bent amount δ in a direction moving away from the pressing roller 41. That is, the center of the nip forming unit 44 is largely bent in a direction moving away from the pressing roller due to the pressure of the pressing roller 41. As a result of the large bending of the nip forming unit 44, the center in the main-scanning direction of the contact surface of the nip forming unit 44 (the contact surface of the contact member 44a) which comes into contact with the pressing roller with the fixing belt 42 interposed therebetween largely moves away from the pressing roller. Accordingly, the nip width at the center of the fixing nip in the main-scanning direction is largely shortened compared to the nip width at the end thereof. As a result, there is concern in that the image may be uneven between the center and the end and a conveying failure may occur.

Therefore, in the fixing device disclosed in Japanese Patent Application Laid-open No. 2010-096782, the center of the subject fixing portion 441b of the supporting stay 44b in the main-scanning direction protrudes further toward the pressing roller by the bent amount δ than the end of the subject fixing portion 441b in no-load state. Accordingly, when the nip forming unit 44 is bent by the pressure of the pressing roller 41, the contact surface of the nip forming unit 44 (the contact surface of the contact member 44a) which comes into contact with the pressing roller with the fixing belt 42 interposed therebetween may have a flat shape in a direction in which the recording sheet S is conveyed. Accordingly, a deviation in nip width between the end and the center in the main-scanning direction may be improved.

However, in the fixing device 4 disclosed in Japanese Patent Application Laid-open No. 2010-096782, when the recording sheet S having a smooth surface is conveyed to the nip portion, the fixing belt 42 may slip, so that the image on the recording sheet may have a defect or the rotation of the fixing belt 42 may stop, which may cause a conveying failure. Specifically, in the sheet passing portion of the fixing belt 42 through which the recording sheet S is conveyed, the rotational driving force is transmitted from the pressing roller 41 to the sheet passing portion with the recording sheet S interposed therebetween. However, in a case where the surface of the recording sheet S which is conveyed to the fixing nip is smooth, the friction between the fixing belt 42 and the recording sheet S and the friction between the recording sheet S and the pressing roller 41 reduce. For this reason, a sufficient driving force is not transmitted from the pressing roller 41 to the sheet passing portion of the fixing belt 42. On the other hand, in the non-sheet passing portion of the fixing belt 42 through which the recording sheet S does not passes, the nip pressure decreases due to the thickness of the sheet which is conveyed to the fixing nip. Accordingly, even in the non-sheet passing portion, a sufficient friction may not be obtained, and hence a sufficient rotational driving force is not transmitted from the pressing roller 41 thereto. As a result, the sliding resistance of the fixing belt against the metallic pipe 43a becomes larger than the driving force which is transmitted from the pressing roller 41, so that the fixing belt 42 slips or the rotation of the fixing belt stops.

Therefore, in the embodiment, the protruding amount, in which the center and both ends of the nip forming unit 44 in the main-scanning direction protrude toward the pressing roller in no-load state, is set to be less than the bent amount of the nip forming unit 44 when the pressing roller 41 presses the nip forming unit 44 with the fixing belt 42 interposed therebetween. Hereinafter, this will be described in detail.

FIG. 4 is a diagram illustrating the contact member 44a and the supporting stay 44b of the embodiment in the recording sheet conveying direction, and FIG. 5 is an enlarged diagram illustrating the center and one end of each of the contact member 44a and the supporting stay 44b in the main-scanning direction.

As depicted by the arrow X of FIG. 4, the line which connects the apexes of the respective fixing portions 441a of the contact member 44a is formed as a quadratic curve, and the protruding amount at the center of the fixing portion 441a in the main-scanning direction from the stay facing surface 442a is set to be larger than the protruding amount at the end. On the other hand, as depicted by the arrow Y, the line which connects the apexes of the respective subject fixing portions 441b of the supporting stay 44b is formed as a linear shape.

As illustrated in FIG. 5, in the embodiment, when the protruding amount of the subject fixing portion 441b from the facing surface 442b at the center of the supporting stay 44b in the main-scanning direction is denoted by Sc, the protruding amount of the subject fixing portion 441b from the facing surface 442b at the end is denoted by Se, the protruding amount of the fixing portion 441a from the supporting stay facing surface 442a at the center of the contact member 44a in the main-scanning direction is denoted by Nc, the protruding amount of the fixing portion 441a from the supporting stay facing surface 442a at the end is denoted by Ne, and the bent amount of the nip forming unit 44 is denoted by δ, the nip forming unit 44 is formed so as to satisfy the following two conditions.

δ>(Sc+Nc)−(Se+Ne)  1.

(Sc+Nc)−(Se+Ne)>0  2.

In the embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 5, the above condition 2 is satisfied in a state where Sc=Se and Nc−Ne=0.4 (mm). Further, since the bent amount δ is about 0.5 [mm], the above condition 1 is satisfied.

Since the above conditions 1 and 2 are satisfied, when the nip forming unit 44 is pressed and bent by the pressing roller 41, the center of the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit 44 (the contact member 44a) in the main-scanning direction is slightly curved in relation to the end thereof in a direction moving away from the pressing roller 41 (so as to have a concave shape). Accordingly, the nip pressure at the non-sheet passing portion may be made to be larger than the nip pressure at the sheet passing portion. Thus, a decrease in nip pressure at the non-sheet passing portion when the recording sheet S is conveyed to the sheet passing portion may be suppressed compared to the case where the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit 44 (the contact member 44a) is flat when the nip forming unit 44 is pressed and bent by the pressing roller 41. Thus, even at the time when the recording sheet S is conveyed to the sheet passing portion, a sufficient rotational driving force may be transmitted from the pressing roller 41 to the non-sheet passing portion, and hence the fixing belt 42 may be suppressed from slipping and the rotation thereof may be suppressed from being stopped.

Further, in the embodiment, the nip pressures of the non-sheet passing portions at both ends of the fixing nip are about 1.2 [kgf/cm2]. If the nip pressures at both ends are set to 1.2 [kgf/cm2] or more, even when the recording sheet S having a smooth surface is conveyed to the fixing nip, the rotational driving force of the pressing roller may be satisfactorily transmitted to the fixing belt in the non-sheet passing portion at the end of the fixing nip in the main-scanning direction. Accordingly, slipping of the fixing belt or a sheet conveying failure can be suppressed.

Further, when there is a large difference between the nip pressure at the end and the nip pressure at the center in the main-scanning direction, the upstream portion of the recording sheet, which is conveyed to the fixing nip, in relation to the fixing nip may be corrugated, the image of the rear end of the recording sheet S may have a defect, or the rear end may be wrinkled. In the embodiment, when the nip pressure at the end in the main-scanning direction is less than about 2.2 times the nip pressure at the center, the corrugation may be suppressed. In the embodiment, the nip pressure at the center in the main-scanning direction is about 0.7 [kgf/cm2], the nip pressure at the non-sheet passing portion at both ends is about 1.2 [kgf/cm2], and the nip pressure at the end in the main-scanning direction is about 1.7 times the nip pressure at the center.

Further, in the embodiment, the center of the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit 44 (the contact member 44a) in the main-scanning direction protrudes further by 0.4 [mm] than the end in no-load state. Then, since the bent amount δ when the nip forming unit 44 is pressed and bent by the pressing roller 41 is 0.5 [mm], both ends of the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit 44 in the main-scanning direction protrude further by about 0.1 [mm] than the center thereof. In this way, since the curved degree of the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit when being pressed by the pressing roller 41 may be suppressed compared to the case where the contact surface 44c is not curved toward the pressing roller in no-load state, too much increase in a deviation of a nip width between the end and the center in the main-scanning direction may be suppressed. Further, it is desirable that the protruding amount at both ends of the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit 44 in the main-scanning direction when the nip forming unit 44 is pressed and bent by the pressing roller 41 be smaller than the protruding amount at the center by 0.3 [mm] or less. When the protruding amount becomes more than 0.3 [mm], a deviation in nip width between the end and the center in the main-scanning direction increase too much, the image becomes noticeably uneven.

Further, in the description above, the protruding amount of the fixing portion 441a of the contact member 44a from the supporting stay facing surface 442a at the center in the main-scanning direction is larger than the protruding amount at the end. However, as illustrated in FIG. 6, the protruding amount of the subject fixing portion 441b of the supporting stay 44b from the facing surface 442b at the center in the main-scanning direction may be larger than the protruding amount at the end. In this case, when the bent amount δ=0.5 [mm], (Sc−Se)=0.4.

Further, in the description above, the height of the fixing portion 441a from the supporting stay facing surface 442a is adjusted by forming the fixing portion 441a which protrudes from the supporting stay facing surface 442a of the contact member 44a. However, as illustrated in FIG. 7A, the supporting stay facing surface 442a of the contact member 44a may be formed as a curved surface of which the center in the main-scanning direction protrudes toward the supporting stay in relation to the end. Further, conversely, as illustrated in FIG. 7B, the contact surface 44c of the contact member 44a may be formed as a curved surface of which the center in the main-scanning direction protrudes toward the pressing roller in relation to the end.

Further, although the facing surface 442b of the supporting stay 44b which faces the contact member 44a may be formed as a curved surface, it is difficult to process the curved surface. That is, since the supporting stay 44b is used to reinforce and support the contact member 44a, it needs a certain degree of strength. Thus, in order to ensure the strength, stainless steel (SUS) with a thickness of 3 [mm] or more is desirable. In this way, since the supporting stay 44b is metal with a certain degree of thickness, it is difficult to process the facing surface 442b into a curved surface by a pressing process in consideration of the dimensional precision, and hence it is formed by a cutting process. In this case, when the facing surface 442b which faces the contact member 44a changes like a curve, it is slightly difficult to process the shape of the portion.

On the other hand, the contact member 44a may be formed as an elastic member capable of following the minute unevenness of the toner image of the recording sheet S which is conveyed to the fixing nip, and the elastic member may be formed of resin, rubber, or the like. Since the resin or the rubber may form the elastic member by an injection molding process or the like, when a mold with high precision is manufactured once, the mold may form a curved surface with high precision later on. Thus, it is desirable that the contact member 44a have a curved surface in that manufacturing cost may be decreased.

Further, as illustrated in FIG. 8, the protruding amount of a fixing portion 441a-E from the stay facing surface 442a at the end of the contact member 44a in the main-scanning direction may be larger than the protruding amount of a fixing portion 441a-T from the stay facing surface 442a at the end of the sheet passing portion. Accordingly, the nip pressure at the non-sheet passing portion may be further increased, and a sufficient rotational driving force is transmitted from the pressing roller 41 in the non-sheet passing portion, thereby suppressing the fixing belt 42 from slipping or the rotation thereof from being stopped. Furthermore, when the fixing portion 441a-E at the end in the main-scanning direction protrudes too much in relation to the fixing portion 441a-T at the end of the sheet passing portion, there is a possibility that the nip pressure at the end of the sheet passing portion may be decreased or a fixing failure may occur in the toner image of the recording sheet passing through the end of the sheet passing portion. For this reason, it is desirable that the protruding amount of the fixing portion 441a-E at the end in the main-scanning direction be smaller than the protruding amount of the fixing portion 441a-T at the end of the sheet passing portion by 0.3 [mm] or less.

Further, as described above, since the pressing roller 41 needs a separating property due to paper and toner passing thereon, the separation layer is formed on the outer surface of the elastic layer 41b. However, since neither paper nor toner passes through the non-sheet passing portion, the separation layer is not particularly needed at that portion. For this reason, in the configuration in which the driving force is transmitted from the pressing roller 41 to the fixing belt 42, it is desirable that the non-sheet passing portion be formed of a material with friction higher than that of the separation layer. As a simple configuration, as illustrated in FIG. 9A, both ends of the pressing roller 41 corresponding to the non-sheet passing portion are not provided with a separation layer 41c, and the elastic layer 41b formed of silicon rubber is exposed to the surface. Further, a high-friction member may be coated on the separation layer 41c of the non-sheet passing portion. However, in this case, cost increases compared to the case where the elastic layer 41b is exposed. Further, since the outer diameter of the pressing roller 41 increases as much as the thickness of the high-friction member, the sheet conveying amount during the fixing operation increases, which is disadvantageous in the fixing operation. Specifically, when the diameter of the pressing roller of a position (both ends) with a high-friction member is set to 30.5 [mm] and the diameter of the other position (the center) is set to 30 [mm], the sheet conveying amount is 30.5 [mm] in both the end and the center per one revolution of the roller. However, since the diameter at the center is 30 [mm], the sheet may be sent only by 30 [mm] even when the pressing roller 41 rotates once. That is, the center rotates slower than the speed at which the recording sheet advances (so that slight slipping occurs). As a result, there is concern that a defective image may be obtained or the recording sheet may be corrugated.

In this way, since the friction coefficient of the non-sheet passing portion of the pressing roller 41 is set to be larger than the friction coefficient of the sheet passing portion, the rotational driving force may be satisfactorily transmitted to the fixing belt 42 in the non-sheet passing portion, and hence the fixing belt 42 may be stably rotated.

Further, as illustrated in FIG. 9B, the hardness of an elastic layer 411b of the non-sheet passing portion of the pressing roller 41 may be set to be higher than the hardness of the elastic layer of the sheet passing portion by forming the elastic layer at both ends as the non-sheet passing portion of the pressing roller 41 and the elastic layer at the center as the sheet passing portion of the pressing roller 41 from different materials. The elastic layer of the sheet passing portion is formed of a rubber material of 5° in Asker A, and the end is formed of a rubber material of about 15°. When the hardness of the rubber of the non-sheet passing portion increases, the nip pressure at the non-sheet passing portion may increase. Accordingly, the rotational driving force may be satisfactorily transmitted to the fixing belt 42 in the non-sheet passing portion, and hence the fixing belt 42 may be stably rotated. Further, FIG. 9B illustrates a configuration in which the elastic layer 411b of the non-sheet passing portion is exposed. However, a configuration may be used in which the elastic layer 411b of the non-sheet passing portion is coated by the separation layer 41c.

Further, the embodiment may be applied to a configuration in which the driving force is transmitted from the pressing roller 41 to the fixing belt 42 in the fixing nip. Further, in the embodiment, the pressing member is a roller member, but the pressing member may be a pressing belt which is suspended on plural rollers.

As described above, according to the fixing device 4 of the embodiment, the fixing device includes: the fixing belt 42 which serves as an endless fixing member; the heating unit 43 which is disposed inside of the inner peripheral surface of the fixing belt 42 and heats the fixing belt 42; and the nip forming unit 44 which is disposed inside of the inner peripheral surface of the fixing belt 42 and comes into press-contact with the rotationally driven pressing roller 41 as the pressing member with the fixing belt interposed therebetween so as to form a nip to which the recording sheet S is conveyed. With regard to the nip forming unit 44, both ends in the width direction of the recording sheet S (the main-scanning direction) are fixed and supported. Then, the protruding amount at the center in the recording sheet width direction of the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit 44 toward the pressing roller in relation to both ends in no-load state is set to be less than the bent amount of the nip forming unit 44 when the nip forming unit 44 comes into press-contact with the pressing roller 41 with the fixing belt 42 interposed therebetween. Accordingly, as described above, the slipping of the fixing belt or the conveying failure of the recording sheet may be suppressed. Further, it is possible to prevent the image of the recording sheet from being corrugated or unevenly formed.

Further, the nip forming unit 44 includes the supporting stay 44b which serves as the supporting member having both fixed and supported ends in the main-scanning direction and the contact member 44a which is fixed to the supporting stay 44b and comes into contact with the pressing roller 41 with the fixing belt 42 interposed therebetween. Then, the height of the fixing portion 441a of the contact member 44a which is fixed to the supporting stay 44b is made to be even in the main-scanning direction. Further, the center of the subject fixing portion 441b in the main-scanning direction of the supporting stay 44b to which the contact member 44a is fixed protrudes further toward the pressing roller than both ends in no-load state. With such a configuration, when the contact member 44a is fixed to the supporting stay 44b, the center of the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit 44 in the main-scanning direction may protrude further than the end. Further, the length of the contact member 44a in the direction perpendicular to the recording sheet is made to be even in the main-scanning direction, thereby forming the fixing portion 441a of the contact member 44a by a simple process compared to the case where the length of the contact member 44a in the direction perpendicular to the recording sheet is made to be different.

Further, on the contrary, the height of the subject fixing portion 441b serving as the fixing portion of the supporting stay 44b to which the contact member 44a is fixed is made even in the width direction; and the length at the center of the contact member 44a in the main-scanning direction in the direction perpendicular to the recording sheet may be longer than the lengths at both ends. Even in such a configuration, when the contact member 44a is fixed to the supporting stay 44b, the center of the contact surface 44c of the nip forming unit 44 in the main-scanning direction may protrude further than the end. Further, the height of the subject fixing portion 441b of the supporting stay 44b is made to be even, thereby forming the fixing portion 441a of the contact member 44a by a simple process compared to the case where the height of the subject fixing portion 441b is made to be different.

Further, when the nip forming unit 44 comes into press-contact with the rotationally driven pressing roller 41 with the fixing belt 42 interposed therebetween, the nip pressure at both ends of the fixing nip in the main-scanning direction is set to be higher than the nip pressure at the center. Accordingly, the rotational driving force transmitted to the fixing belt at the non-sheet passing portion serving as both ends of the fixing nip may be increased, and hence the fixing belt 42 may be stably rotated.

Further, since the nip pressure at both ends in the main-scanning direction is set to 1.2 [kgf/cm2] or more, the rotational driving force transmitted to the fixing belt at the non-sheet passing portion serving as both ends of the fixing nip may be increased, and hence the fixing belt 42 may be stably rotated.

Further, since the friction coefficients of the surfaces at both ends of the pressing roller 41 in the main-scanning direction are set to be higher than the friction coefficient at the center, the rotational driving force transmitted to the fixing belt in the non-sheet passing portion may be increased, and hence the fixing belt 42 may be stably rotated. As an example, the elastic layer is exposed in a part of the surfaces at both ends in the main-scanning direction. Accordingly, the friction coefficients of the surfaces at both ends in the main-scanning direction may be made to be higher than the friction coefficient at the center compared to the configuration in which the high-friction member is coated on both ends of the pressing roller 41 in the main-scanning direction.

Further, the pressing roller 41 includes the elastic layer 41b, and the hardness of the elastic layers 41b at both ends of the pressing roller 41 are set to be higher than the hardness at the center, which may increase the nip pressure at the non-sheet passing portion as both ends of the fixing nip. Accordingly, the rotational driving force which is transmitted to the fixing belt in the non-sheet passing portion as both ends of the fixing nip may be increased, and hence the fixing belt 42 may be stably rotated.

Further, the printer which is the image forming apparatus of the embodiment may obtain a satisfactory image without any defect by equipping with the above-described fixing device 4. Further, the printer may stably perform a printing process avoiding occurrence of a paper jam.

According to the embodiment, since the center of the contact surface of the nip forming unit in the recording sheet width direction protrudes toward the pressing member compared to both ends in no-load state, occurrence of the curved contact surface of the nip forming unit may be avoided when the nip forming unit is bent compared to the fixing device in which the contact surface of the nip forming unit is flat in no-load state. As a result, occurrence of an uneven image may be avoided by reducing a deviation between the end and the center of the nip width in the main-scanning direction compared to the fixing device in which the contact surface of the nip forming unit is flat in no-load state.

Further, the protruding amount at the center in the recording sheet width direction of the contact surface of the nip forming unit toward the pressing member in relation to both ends in no-load state is set to be less than the bent amount of the nip forming unit. Accordingly, when the nip forming unit is bent by the pressure of the pressing member, the contact surface of the nip forming unit is not flat and the center thereof in the recording sheet width direction is slightly curved in a direction moving away from the pressing member when seen from the recording sheet conveying direction, unlike the fixing device which is disclosed in Japanese Patent Application Laid-open No. 2010-096782. As a result, the contact pressure between the non-sheet passing portion of the fixing member and the pressing member when the recording sheet is conveyed to the fixing nip may be set to be higher than that of the fixing device which is disclosed in Japanese Patent Application Laid-open No. 2010-096782 in which the contact surface of the nip forming unit is flat in a state where the nip forming unit is bent by the pressure of the pressing member. Thus, even when the recording sheet having a smooth surface is conveyed to the fixing nip, a sufficient rotational driving force is transmitted from the pressing member to the fixing member at the non-sheet passing portions at both ends. Accordingly, slipping or stopping of the fixing member can be avoided, and occurrence of a defective image or a conveying failure of the recording sheet can be avoided.

Although the invention has been described with respect to specific embodiments for a complete and clear disclosure, the appended claims are not to be thus limited but are to be construed as embodying all modifications and alternative constructions that may occur to one skilled in the art that fairly fall within the basic teaching herein set forth.

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18.0/100 Score

Market Attractiveness

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100.0/100 Score

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70.23/100 Score

Technology Quality

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78.0/100 Score

Assignee Score

It takes the R&D behavior of the company itself into account that results in IP. During the invention phase, larger companies are considered to assign a higher R&D budget on a certain technology field, these companies have a better influence on their market, on what is marketable and what might lead to a standard.

13.54/100 Score

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Citation

Patents Cited in This Cited by
Title Current Assignee Application Date Publication Date
定着装置及び画像形成装置 株式会社リコー 14 October 2008 30 April 2010
定着装置、画像形成装置、及び、加熱部材 株式会社リコー 26 February 2008 08 January 2009
画像定着装置 富士ゼロックス株式会社 27 December 2005 27 April 2006
加熱定着装置および画像形成装置 キヤノン株式会社 11 January 2000 19 July 2001
定着装置 SEIKO EPSON CORP 03 March 1992 21 September 1993
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