Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
3D design on demand
3D design on demand
Keywords: Xaar, Printing, Solidworks, 3D, CAD
Xaar plc is a creative technology based company that develops and exploits novel printing technologies relating to multiple jet, drop-on-demand, ink jet processes. Based in Cambridge, UK, the company not only licenses and manufactures products based on its proprietary technology, but also offers an extensive range of support services to its partners and customers through its offices in Europe, the USA and the Far East. Xaar currently licenses a portfolio of over 400 patents to major corporations - Brother, Konica and Dai Nippon Screen of Japan figure amongst Xaar's printhead licensees.
Xaar was formed in 1990 with the mission to commercially develop a new piezo ink jet printing technology that would take digital printing forward dramatically.
In 1997, Xaar was successfully launched on the London Stock Exchange and established its three divisions: Xaar Technology licenses patents to major global corporations; XaarJet manufactures high performance and specialised printheads and inks to OEMs for industrial applications; and Xaar Digital designs and supplies page-wide printheads and inks to OEM partners such as Agfa for commercial applications. At this time, the manufacturing division, XaarJet, decided to launch the XaarJet500 printhead for the semi-industrial market.
Under pressure to improve design methods
The advent of the XaarJet500 project prompted Xaar to re-examine its current design process closely. At that time, Xaar was using a 2D design package. However, with the commercial pressures of designing complex, new technologies with a very tight acceptable tolerance level, Xaar realized that it would have to improve its design methods to maintain market leadership.
The design team began the search for a 3D package to help produce the extremely accurate and complex assemblies it required, with the added consideration that Xaar would be introducing brand new machining and processes not previously attempted. Xaar short listed two packages for evaluation: Pro/ENGINEER and SolidWorks. The company chose SolidWorks for two main reasons - its easy to use, intuitive Windows interface, and its comparatively low cost per seat. "At the time we were looking for a 3D solution, we could get five seats of SolidWorks for about the same cost as Wi of Pro/ENGINEER", recalls Robert Ison, project leader at Xaar.
Getting up to speed quickly
Xaar's decision to change to SolidWorks was finalized and the benefits of the new system quickly became apparent. The SolidWorks system reportedly proved extremely quick and easy to learn, so much so that Xaar's users could fully exploit the software's powerful capabilities with just one week's training and a further week's hands-on experience. This rapid learning curve is still paying dividends. Robert Ison explains, "New users and contract staff who work with Xaar and have no previous experience of 3D modelling are able to pick up the system rapidly and easily. They become productive much faster, which is great news for the company".
In its day-to-day design operations, Xaar has also witnessed remarkable gains in productivity and the quality of the designs it can produce using 3D modelling methods. "We can do so much more with SolidWorks' 3D design methods than we ever could in 2D. Also, everything can be done in far greater depth. As a result, we are seeing a 40-50 per cent increase in productivity", continues Robert Ison.
Photorealistic images add impact to presentations
The technical sales department of Xaar has also made extensive use of PhotoWorks - the photorealistic rendering software from SolidWorks. Integrated seamlessly with SolidWorks, PhotoWorks enables the creation of images that add impact to Xaar's presentations and proposals to potential customers. "They say a picture paints a thousand words, and that's certainly the case with PhotoWorks. The combination of SolidWorks and PhotoWorks gives us an exceptional sales tool", comments Robert Ison.
As part of its long-term goal to become a mainstream printing technology supplier, Xaar needed to review and update its design processes with a 3D modelling package. Xaar found the solution in SolidWorks and is reaping the benefits in time saved, quality of design and increased productivity. Xaar plc was established in Cambridge, UK, a decade ago to meet a growing world-wide demand by large, multinational corporations for new printing and ink jet technologies. Following a successful launch on the London Stock Exchange, Xaar's manufacturing division decided to launch a new printhead aimed at the semi-industrial market. Xaar's existing 2D design software could not accommodate the complexity and accuracy demanded by the product's design. Xaar chose SolidWorks for 3D modelling, based on a compelling combination of performance, affordable price and ease of use. The SolidWorks solution proved easy to learn and users were quickly able to exploit the system's capabilities. Xaar has seen an estimated 40-50 per cent increase in productivity, as well as significant time and cost savings.
Details available from Solidworks UK, Tel: +44 (0) 118 931 0436; Fax: +44 (0) 118 931 3177.