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New printhead manufacturer launches in China

While the main suppliers of existing inkjet heads are clustered mostly in Japan, Western Europe and the US, a new thermal inkjet printhead manufacturer in China, Suzhou Ruifa Printing, is looking to disrupt the market, according to analyst Ron Gilboa of research group InfoTrends.

SUREJet Press event
  Suzhou Ruifa Printing Technology Co. unveils the SUREJet T7680 
               Ron Gilboa

- by Ron Gilboa, InfoTrends

For decades, precise deposition of materials was achieved by utilizing a range of technologies that  produce range of products from graphics arts, decorative, functional, and a host of other applications. Today, several key inkjet technologies drive markets and applications. These are enabled in part by a new generation of micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) deposition / jetting devices, whether continuous inkjet (CIJ), piezoelectric drop on demand, or thermal inkjet drop on demand (TIJ). These technologies have been – for most part – the domain of a handful of companies that had the intellectual property and made the investment in silicone-based printhead manufacturing for several quite some time.

While the main suppliers of existing inkjet heads are almost all clustered in Japan, Western Europe, and the USA, a new competitor is now launching in China. After a significant investment in technology and resources, China’s Suzhou Ruifa Printing Technology Co. has announced its entrance as a supplier of thermal inkjet printheads. The company’s new printhead, SUREJet T7680, is a 41mm/1.6” wide thermal head, with 7680 nozzles. According to Suzhou Ruifa, SUREJet T7680 has two meter per second print speed and is capable of 1800×1200 DPI print resolution.

Suzhou Ruifa Printing Technology is part of the Annoqi Group (Anoky) and represents the group’s transition toward digital technology and sustainability. Annoqi, established in 1999, has its roots in chemical technologies – specifically, it provides dying and related chemistry for textile and a range of other industries. In 2018, Annoqi established the Shanghai Anoky Digital Technology Co., Ltd., comprised of Suzhou Ruifa Printing Technology Co., Ltd.(founded in 2013), Shanghai Shangyu Digital Technology Co., Ltd., and Yantai Shangyu Digital Technology Co., Ltd. These groups form the foundation of the company’s entrance into the inkjet world through its Suzhou Ruifa Printing Technology team. Annoqui group has a 10% interest in Suzhou Ruifa Printing Technology after an investment of about $4.4 Million (30 Million Yuan) with future options.

 The SUREJet T7680
    The SUREJet T7680

 Suzhou Ruifa Printing Technology revealed its new printhead the SUREJet T7680 in a press release dated December 16th. According to that announcement, the Chinese company aims to use the new technology as a means to disrupt the existing printhead market by reducing manufacturing cost and by offering a new Annoqi-formulated inkset aimed at the textile industry. In other words, the new supplier is looking to provide “domestic replacement” for digital inkjet printer heads and marking materials that now come from manufacturers outside of China.

Suzhou Ruifa intends to provide full writing engines, i.e., printhead, driver board and fluid management combined into integral units. Their technology extend to nozzle firing controls that uses their SURE-Temp thermostatic technology. The new thermal inkjet technology will support uniform printing in both single pass and scanning modes.  The company claims a current manufacturing capacity of 20,000 heads per year, and that that capacity will ramp up to about 500,000 heads per year within three years.

While Suzhou Ruifa is a Chinese company, its leadership reflects deep experience and training in digital imaging in the US. The company founder, Xie Yonglin, earned a Ph.D. in physics from Boston University, an MBA from the University of Rochester, and a master of physics from Peking University in China. According to his resume, he was formerly: Principle scientist of Xerox Corporation; manager of new technology development department of TRIDENT-ITW; and Senior Chief Scientist, Project Leader at Kodak Company.

InfoTrends’ Opinion

This new announcement is coming at the heels of several years where Chinese-based inkjet printing technologies have become commonplace, not only in China, but around the globe or adopted by Western suppliers and branded as their own. China is ramping up MEMS foundries for the chip industry, thereby becoming a credible candidate to engage in MEMS manufacturing for inkjet head technology. Chinese-made inkjet printheads from Suzhou Ruifa and, conceivably other Chinese companies, have the potential to disrupt the current balance of power among the existing suppliers. The new SUREJet printheads could impact the price of printheads in textile and other applications, which collectively address a broad range of solutions around the globe. Yole Dévelopment’s MEMS printhead manufacturing is just shy of a billion today for established players. This new introduction from China looks to add a player and, in turn, change this dynamic.

This article first appeared in InfoTrends, a division of Keypoint Intelligence.

Ron Gilboa is a director of InfoTrends’ Functional Printing & Packaging and is responsible for conducting graphic communications market research, market forecasting, custom consulting projects, strategy and planning engagements and creating editorial content for product and market analysis reports.