China is a major manufacturer of ceramic tiles (responsible for just over 45% of the world’s total production in 2010) and the introduction of digital inkjet technology has had a positive impact on the industry over the past few years.
“Our philosophy is ‘Customers First, Quality First’, we strive to provide customers with the best products and service. Thanks to Xaar, we can do this.” Mr Sheguang Deng, Board Member and General Manager, Hope Ceramics Machinery Co., Ltd.
Hope Ceramics Machinery Co Ltd, based in Foshan in China, has made a significant contribution to the expansion of digital inkjet technology – and to the creation of China’s powerful domestic ceramics machinery industry in general. Established in 1996, Hope’s first products were ceramic decoration presses employing a variety of contact printing technologies, for example flatbed and rotary screen. The company’s first encounter with the application of digital inkjet to tile decoration came in 2006, at Tecnargilla, an Italian ceramics exhibition, where it first met Xaar.
Mr Sheguang Deng, Board Member and General Manager of Hope, recalls the impression that Xaar made on his company. “We were very impressed, not only with Xaar’s printhead technology but also with the company’s understanding of the ceramic tile industry and the needs of tile manufacturers for a new approach to decoration. It was a logical decision to start working with Xaar on a digital inkjet machine of our own.”
In 2008 the result of the Xaar-Hope co-operation came to market in the shape of the Hope Jet – the first Chinese digital inkjet ceramic decoration machine. The Hope Jet quickly proved successful, not least because it incorporated the newly-developed Xaar 1001 piezoelectric drop-on-demand printhead, featuring Xaar’s revolutionary Hybrid Side Shooter™ (HSS™) architecture and patented TF Technology™ ink recirculation.
Today the Hope Jet family comprises eight different models and Hope Jets can be found in many of the top ceramic tile producers in China and worldwide. Marco Polo operates dozens of production lines and is acknowledged as one of China’s flagship ceramic manufacturing companies. The company bought the first two Hope Jet machines and quickly ordered a further five Hope Jet printers. Nabel and New Pearl are other notable customers.
These and other users praise Hope Jet printers for their quality construction, productivity, reliability and excellent after-sales service and technical support. “The printers’ reliability is especially vital”, says Mr Deng. “The ceramic tile production environment is extremely harsh, yet the production lines have to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Customers like the Hope Jet series because the Xaar 1001 printheads can guarantee reliability and stability.”
The key to the Hope Jet’s high level of reliability is Xaar 1001 printhead’s HSS™ architecture and patented TF Technology™ ink recirculation, two complementary technologies that work together to deliver maximum uptime. The HSS™ architecture has a nozzle in the side of the ink channel, through which the drop of ink is fired perpendicular to the flow of the ink.
Added to this, Xaar’s unique TF Technology™ – the only true ink recirculation system, underpinned by 54 patents worldwide – provides ink recirculation past the back of the nozzle, carrying any air or particles away from the nozzles during drop ejection at a very high flow rate, keeping the channel primed and operational. If a printhead is knocked or impacted in any way, nozzles that are lost will quickly recover. TF Technology™ combined with Hybrid Side Shooter™ architecture is a significant step forward in running inkjet systems reliably for a full shift with minimal maintenance.
“Xaar’s digital printhead technology is quickly becoming mainstream in the ceramics sector,” says Mr Deng. “Digital inkjet decoration has so many capabilities that meet the needs of ceramics manufacturers. It’s a high-speed, non-contact process capable of printing a wide range of substrates. Turnaround is fast, so it’s ideal for short runs and personalised print-on-demand, and digital decoration reduces the need to hold stocks of finished tiles and work-in-progress. In addition, the Xaar 1001 delivers outstanding print quality. Given that the cost of acquiring inkjet technology is also low, it isn’t surprising that digital inkjet is the technology choice for tile manufacturers.”
The Xaar 1001 printheads are the results of the 20-plus years Xaar has been researching, developing and supplying industrial printheads, inks, system components and solutions to commercial printing and industrial manufacturing markets. The Xaar 1001 printhead family consists of two variants: the Xaar 1001 GS6 and the Xaar 1001 GS12. The established Xaar 1001 GS6 model jets 6-42 picolitre drops, ideal for the production of pale shades and detailed tile designs viewed at close quarters such as wall tiles. The Xaar 1001 GS12 can jet larger 12-84 picolitre drops, delivering even more ink for deep colour intensity and bolder tile colours and effects.
Alternatively, the Xaar 1001 GS12 can give the same ink coverage as the Xaar 1001 GS6, but at double the print speed. With both printheads ceramic tile producers can achieve stunning replication of natural materials. In addition, Xaar’s printheads are industrial strength and are designed for robust, reliable operation in manufacturing environments.
Hope’s partnership with Xaar continues to reap benefits, with strong sales of the Hope Jet machines and steady expansion into new overseas markets: Hope currently exports to over 20 countries, including India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Turkey. “Our company philosophy is ‘Customers First, Quality First’”, says Mr Deng. “This means we strive to always provide customers with the best products and service. Thanks to Xaar, we can do this.”