I talked with Doug Edwards, CEO of Xaar, at the InPrint show and he dropped a few hints about the next generation printhead that Xaar is currently developing, which is due to be shown at Drupa next year.
The main thing is that it will work with aqueous inks, addressing a major shortfall in the Xaar line-up to date. The new head is based on thin film technology and has 5400 nozzles and resolution of 1200 dpi, with the head apparently capable of producing extremely small drop sizes down to two picolitres. It will be suitable for commercial print and textile applications. Naturally Xaar is now looking for partners that might want to develop solutions in these areas.
Xaar will also likely develop a print bar with the new heads, similar to the one shown at the recent Label Expo with the 1002 print heads. This would be small enough that it could then be added to an existing offset sheet-fed press.
Edwards wouldn’t comment on speeds other than to say that it would keep up with a standard offset sheet-fed press at full resolution, though he looked a little uncomfortable when I suggested the 18000 sheets per hour speed that a modern Speedmaster produces. Nonetheless, if the head is capable of matching litho quality and speed then it would be a significant step forward.
It’s also worth noting that there is growing recognition amongst several suppliers that webfed digital presses might have been suitable for transpromo applications but that commercial printers would prefer the flexibility of a sheet-fed press. But it’s much harder to transport a sheet rather than a tensioned web through a press in a way that can guarantee the accurate placement of the many millions of inkjet droplets. A sheetfed system normally involves greater distance between the printheads and the substrates, but presumably Xaar is confident the new head can handle this.
The other major market that uses water-based inks, textile printing, is potentially even more important to Xaar’s future, given that the growth of industrial-scale textile printing is still continuing. Xaar is late coming to this particular party but with many vendors now looking to develop high volume textile printers for the garment market, this head might prove to be very attractive.
No doubt more details will emerge over the next six months or so. Watch this space.