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Powering the future of ‘painting’ cars

Inkjet is, by its nature, an innovative technology, and at Xaar our unique portfolio of printheads and technologies is continually advancing new print and manufacturing possibilities.

Our partnership announced in August 2023 with Axalta is just one of those. Using our recirculating TF Technology, we can print in multiple orientations – including upside down. This ability to print across 360 degrees has opened a whole range of innovative inkjet printing applications, one of which is replacing robotic spray painting for vehicles.

Inkjet printing offers vehicle manufacturers significant savings in terms of paint use. Currently around 40 percent of paint is lost when spray painting a car for example, not only wasting valuable materials but also significant amounts of energy. The efficiency and accuracy of inkjet changes this and, unsurprisingly, has stimulated significant interest from car manufacturers not only for reducing these costs and waste but also for the manufacturing flexibility that a digital inkjet solution offers.

Xaar has been working with leading global coatings company Axalta, and we recently announced our partnership with the launch of Axalta NextJet™, a next generation, sustainable digital paint technology for the transportation industry.

The initial task was to convert a paint suitable for use with a spray gun to a ‘paint’ which is suitable for inkjet printhead without losing any paint functionality. Here appearance, adhesion and wear resistance are all critical and we have demonstrated that Xaar’s innovative inkjet printing technology is a feasible solution for digital paint, also referred to as overspray-free application. This advanced paint application that will allow for precise paint placement through Axalta and Xaar’s patented technology.

Axalta NextJet™ enables design flexibility for two-tone vehicles and allows customers to create patterns, details, and images in a sustainable way. The award-winning digital paint coating technology also eliminates masking and reduces labour, increasing productivity and efficiency rates. Axalta has already reported that this can contribute to a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and significant cost savings for two-tone vehicle manufacturers.

While the use of innovative inkjet printing for decorating cars has many challenges, such as eliminating joins between print swathes and avoiding ‘sagging’ on sloped or vertical surfaces with the application of thick layers of paint, our Ultra High Viscosity Technology ability to handle highly pigmented and viscous fluids is leading the way in replacing wasteful spray coating.

These are therefore exciting times as the opportunities to print creative graphic designs across vehicles becomes a reality.

And innovative inkjet printing is at the core of this.

Perhaps in a few years we will all be used to seeing individually designed car graphics, knowing that inkjet is how all cars are now painted. While timescales are to be seen what we do know is that this application is just one of the many our printheads and technologies are enabling.

So, whether we are picking the artwork for our next vehicle in five years’ time, we’ll have to see, but truly we are now entering a world where you can print anything you imagine.

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