Xaar has boosted its 3D printing know-how with the appointment of a new high-profile lead for its nascent business, and plans to set up a specialist “world-class” team for 3D.
Professor Neil Hopkinson will join the inkjet printhead manufacturer in the new role of director of 3D printing in March.
He is tasked with building a world-class team to develop his High Speed Sintering (HSS) technology and accelerate its use by Xaar’s OEM partners. Xaar described the technology as “transformational”.
Hopkinson invented HSS in 2003 while at Loughborough University. It involves a combination of inkjet printing, polymer powders and infra-red heat to create 3D products at speeds that are claimed to be “much higher” than other 3D printing processes.
Xaar chief financial officer Alex Bevis said: “It needs a commercial organisation like Xaar to take it on and accelerate its use, and also widen the adoption across different sectors.
“We think it’s a good combination of Neil’s technical and academic expertise and our contacts in the industry.”
Bevis said Xaar was investing around £1m per annum in 3D printing and was likely to take on a hand-picked team of around half a dozen experts to support Hopkinson.
Key applications for the HSS technology include packaging, aerospace and apparel such as footwear.
Hopkinson has nearly 20 years’ experience of additive manufacturing technology, most recently at the University of Sheffield, and was part of the three-year, Innovate UK-funded Factum Project, in which Xaar is also involved. Key partners in the Factum Project are Unilever, BAE Systems and Cobham Technical Services. The three-year project concludes later this year.
He said he was excited to be joining Xaar and said industrial 3D printing was entering “an important phase of maturation”.
This is the latest in a string of high-profile appointments made by chief executive Doug Edwards since he joined the business a year ago.
Four weeks ago the group announced that former Stratasys and HP executive Chris Morgan was joining as a non-executive director, also bringing considerable 3D printing expertise to the business.
Edwards said he was “thrilled” about Hopkinson’s appointment and said Xaar wanted to exploit the opportunities for HSS and other additive manufacturing techniques.
Last summer Edwards also appointed Keith Smith as director of advanced manufacturing from Chinese touch-sensor manufacturer Token ITO, while former Kodak chief human resources officer Jim Brault joined Xaar in the same role last spring.