Xaar turns 30
Published: 1 July 2020 | No comments yet
Xaar founder member Mark Shepherd marks the company's first birthday back in the early 1990s
Inkjet printhead pioneer Xaar is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020.
Based at Cambridge Science Park, Xaar was initially founded in 1990 by a team of four including Mike Willis and Mark Shepherd. The goal was to commercialise the work done at Cambridge Consultants by Steve Temple and David Paton, the inventors of Xaar’s piezoelectric drop-on-demand (DoD)technology. Mr Temple and Mr Paton both joined the company shortly after its creation.
The company signed its first commercial agreement in 1991 with Brother Industries, which licensed the technology to develop home office printers and fax machines. By 1992, Xaar had reached a significant milestone in surpassing £1 million in sales achieved from license fees, the sale of evaluation kits and technical consultancy.
Alongside licensing its technology, the development and manufacture of inkjet printheads became an equally important part of Xaar’s success. The company’s early product range, which included the Xaar 128 and Xaar 500, is seen as instrumental in the growth of the digital graphics, and the coding and marking industries around the world.
The launch of the Xaar 1001 represented another significant advance in inkjet technology. The printhead’s unique architecture, Xaar’s Hybrid Side Shooter, enabled ink recirculation both behind the nozzle and throughout the entire channel using Xaar’s unique TF technology. These delivered a step change in printing reliability and drove the digital transformation of the ceramic tile manufacturing market in the 2000s.
The company’s first printheads were manufactured in Järfälla, Sweden, and in 2007, Xaar opened a state-of-the-art factory in Huntingdon, UK, initially for the manufacture of the Xaar 1001 and where over £60 million has been invested since production first began.
A deep focus on R&D has resulted in over 2000 patent applications being filed by the company during its 30-year history, and the development of ground-breaking inkjet printheads and technologies that have contributed to the global expansion of inkjet printing.
Recent innovations have included high laydown (HL) technology, which enables deposition of large quantities of fluid at high line speeds, and ultra-high viscosity, which allows fluids with significantly higher viscosities – up to 100 centipoise at typical operating temperatures of around 40-50 degrees C – to be jetted. Such developments have increased the flexibility of the Xaar ceramics portfolio and opened growth in new cutting-edge sectors such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing.
Despite the ongoing impact of COVID-19, the milestone anniversary has been market with each team member having been sent a bottle of champagne to toast the business.
Xaar CEO John Mills said, ‘30 years is a significant milestone for any business, and we were all extremely keen to mark the occasion and celebrate our accomplishments as a team – despite many of us still working in separate locations.’
He continued, ‘While I have only recently joined Xaar as CEO, it is clear to me that the team at Xaar has always been fundamental to delivering our vision, and I have been extremely impressed with their expertise and commitment. Celebrating our 30th birthday recognises all their efforts.
‘We are proud to be a leader in inkjet technologies and very much look forward to achieving our next significant milestones.’