Xaar was spun out of Cambridge Consultants in 1990 and has since gone on to develop and manufacture a broad range of specialist print head technologies. Xaar is now a PLC with an impressive commercial performance and an equally impressive Cambridge office and a global presence.
Print head technology is still evolving and Xaar is working hard to remain at the front of the race. It’s customers are striving for improved print speed, improved print quality and constant cost reduction, as well as a requirement for technologies that can print on new substrates using new ink formulations. To help it’s engineers address these challenges, Xaar invested in SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software that enables engineers to not only visualise the components that they are developing but also provides a number of other important engineering benefits critical to their commercial success. Working with East Anglian SOLIDWORKS supplier Innova Systems, Xaar has now established a talented in-house team of engineers fluent in SOLIDWORKS.
“When Xaar chose to adopt SOLIDWORKS back in 1997, the big change was that we moved from designing in 2D to designing in 3D,” said Robert Ison, Project Leader for Platform 1 products. “This is a much more powerful way to develop products and to communicate between engineering teams, the customer and manufacturing. Indeed, for us SOLIDWORKS has become as much a business tool as a design tool”
Each print head is a combination of Xaar’s patented fluid delivery technology, control electronics and an enclosure. The fluid delivery system is a complex microscale multi-channel system machined from piezo electric ceramic that controls the delivery of the ink, providing a ‘drop on demand’ printing solution. SOLIDWORKS is not only used in this development but also in the design of the enclosure. The circuit board is also formed into a SOLIDWORKS model and integrated into the overall design. Print head designs have a requirement to be highly compact and extremely robust, so being able to model and analyse the design in SOLIDWORKS helps accelerate new product delivery and reduce the risk of manufacturing and performance problems.
“The fluid delivery actuator and the chips that drive these systems can generate a lot of heat. At the same time, we are working in a harsh environment, so we have to have a sealed enclosure. In this respect we have to be careful to model the heat behaviour and material behaviour whilst we are undertaking the design project. For this we use the Simulation package that exists within the SOLIDWORKS design suite. “This is a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) package that helps us predict the behaviour of the design in the real world, in terms of heat but also in terms of strength and other physical properties.”
Robert Ison has been working with SOLIDWORKS since the first beta version back in 1995. In 1997 he joined Xaar to help implement SOLIDWORKS and train other engineers. Today Xaar has 19 seats of SOLIDWORKS that contribute to the design effort of print heads and special developer kits that help engineers integrate the print heads into complete printing systems.
“Although we consider SOLIDWORKS to be easy to use and pretty intuitive, we still prefer to send new engineers to Innova for training, “ said Robert. “We’ve found that Innova’s excellent SOLIDWORKS training accelerates their understanding and experience of the technology and also helps us develop a more disciplined approach to how we use the software within the company.”
Innova Systems is a leading UK reseller of SOLIDWORKS and provides sales, technical support and training to a broad range of SOLIDWORKS based developers and designers. Based at Histon near Cambridge, Innova works closely with many of this region’s technology companies.
“ Speed of response is an important factor for us,” said Robert. “If we have a design issue, we need it fixed right now. We can’t afford to wait; we couldn’t work like that. I’m pleased to say that Innova are very responsive and very expert when it comes to technical support. We also use Innova as a resource to undertake the on-site installation of new SOLIDWORKS systems and for engineer induction into new tools and features.”
Innova’s clients work in sectors such as the oil industry, furniture design, playground equipment and automotive. Innova’s expertise in 3D engineering design and design analysis systems has recently won them some key industry awards as well as enabling them to grow the company year on year.
“We are very proud to have Xaar as a customer,” said Mark Bradford, Managing Director at Innova. “They are an engineering company of excellence and their success is well deserved. We are also proud of the contribution that SOLIDWORKS and our team are making to their design effort. It’s been very rewarding to be a part of this success.”