Xaar making a Comeback in China Wide Format

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Jul 14, 2014

Rapper L.L. Cool J has a lyric that goes “don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years” and that is kind of what Xaar would probably say about its new print head launch:  that Xaar is a major supplier to the wide format digital graphics market and China is an important part of that. However, Xaar led the emergence of the large wide format graphics business in China in its early days, but as the segment became increasingly commoditized many Chinese wide format printer manufacturers expanded their wide format equipment portfolios.


As they moved on from solvent into eco-solvent inkjet, UV-curable inkjet, and water-based inkjet printers, and even beyond the wide format business many Chinese vendors moved on from Xaar as a print head technology supplier in favor of lower-priced and higher-resolution print heads. Likewise, Xaar has spent much of its development time and money designing print head technology that is used in multiple industrial applications such as ceramics where the company is having great success. Still, there remains a large and active wide format market in China with dozens of manufacturers and a huge installed base of equipment (the installed base of wide format solvent, eco-solvent, and UV-curable inkjet printers in China is about 43% of the world’s total). So it is fitting that Xaar announced last week, at the opening of the 2014 Shanghai Sign & Advertising Show, that it has launched its newest print head platform, the new Xaar 501 GS8.

Figure 1: The new Xaar 501 GS8

The Xaar 501 GS8 uses robust design technology that brings together improved print quality, added ease-of-integration, and the durability of an industrial inkjet print system. Print quality is the key feature of the Xaar 501 GS8, so in addition to the small 8pl drop size and greyscale capability, the head uses a new, more rigid design that Xaar calls its PrecisionPlusâ„¢ architecture, which reduces variability  thereby improving the accuracy of dot placements. In addition to the standard gravity-fed print modethe head also has two optional print modes — one that recirculates the ink through the head constantly, and one that only recirculates when the head is not printing. By recirculating the ink when the printer is not working the printer can run more efficiently, which is very important in the price-sensitive Chinese market. Also, based on customer feedback and its own competitive review Xaar has designed the new 501 GS8 to be easily and accurately integrated and to work with current ink delivery systems. By making some of the features of the new Xaar 501 GS8 optional, Xaar has designed its new head to meet the needs of low-end, mid-range, and high-end wide format printer manufacturers.

The company has also promised that it will be “competitive” from a pricing standpoint. The chart below illustrates where we expect Xaar to compete. The measure of “pumping power” equals the drop size multiplied by print head firing frequency multiplied by the number of nozzles on the print head. The table shows how this new Xaar 501GS8 print head is positioned against some of the most popular heads in the market that are commonly used in wide format indoor/outdoor printers from leading Chinese wide format printing equipment manufacturers.

Print Head/Pumping Power (Liters/hour)

  • Epson DX7 – 0.15
  • KM512M – 0.33
  • Xaar 501GS8 – 0.39
  • Ricoh Gen4 – 0.62
  • Seiko SPT508GS/12 – 0.79
  • Dimatix Polaris PQ512/15AA – 0.83
  • Kyocera KJ4A – 1.15
  • Ricoh gen5 – 1.94

InfoTrends believes Xaar has an good chance to recapture some of its share of the global print head market utilized in wide format based on this new print head technology. The price of this Xaar head was unavailable, but with significant competition on the print head side Xaar will be pressed to deliver a very competitive price/performance value proposition in the ever-changing AP market. Some of Xaar’s customers are already developing with the new 501 GS8 so InfoTrends would expect to see the fruits of Xaar’s efforts within a year.

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