Commentary & Analysis
Drupa 2012, the Inkjet Drupa…again? A closer look at Founder Electronics
By David Zwang
Published: July 27, 2012
The Founder Group is a Chinese conglomerate that focuses on technology. It was created in 1986 by Peking University initially as a technology incubator. It has over 80 wholly funded companies in China and abroad, and today includes 6 public companies listed on Asian exchanges, making it a formidable organization.
Founder Electronics, one of the core subsidiaries of the group, has been a provider of media communication technology since its inception. It’s early roots are strong in the graphic arts, and that focus continues today. In the early 1980’s, development was started on a Chinese Laser Typesetting system to be used in newspaper production. In the mid 1980’s, Beijing Science and New Technologies Inc. was created to produce this system for commercial use. In the early 1986, the Founder Group was formed out of this company and began research and production in information technologies, including broadcast, publishing, printing, TV and radio.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s, and Founder became the largest domestic manufacturer of PCs in addition to other technology in China. its graphic arts products have included page layout, RIP and workflow software; proofers; plate setters; and production inkjet presses that compete in the world market. Founder’s installed base has remained primarily in China, with the largest market potential in the world, although the company has been slowly making inroads outside of its local market.
Founder’s in country distribution and understanding of the graphic arts and technology has also proven to be a valuable resource to other non-Chinese technology companies who want to sell in China. Some of the distribution relationships Founder has developed over the years include Océ, HP, and many others.
At srupa this year, Founder showed a number of interesting production inkjet presses that are comparable to many of the other products also available in the market today.
A primer on Founder Production Inkjet technology
Like many of the other production inkjet equipment suppliers, Founder uses third-party DoD piezo inkjet heads. In this case, the company partners with XAAR for its UV printheads and Panasonic for its water based printheads. Panasonic is also the head provider to Kodak Versamark, IMPIKA, and others.
Thanks to the resources of China’s national lab of inkjet digital printing technology, Founder owns more than 40 patents in digital printing with more than 60 patents pending, and more than 20 international patents. Founder’s core inkjet technologies include inkjet printhead control, ink supply control, automatic printhead cleaning, ultra-fast parallel RIP and variable digital process technology.
Currently Founder offers three production inkjet platforms, each targeted at different applications. Its flagship products are the EagleJet P5000/P5200, which is targeted at high speed color and monochrome printing. These continuous feed printers can print at width of 18.7 inches at up to 492 ft./min. depending on resolution. They print at up to 1200 x 1200 dpi in up to 4 colors in both simplex and duplex mode. They support both dye and pigment water-based inks. They do not have a pre coating station, and as a result support uncoated paper, newsprint, and inkjet papers.
The EagleJet H300 which is targeted at variable data printing, marking, coding and packaging printing, can print widths up to 10 in. at speed of up to 400 ft./min. It can print at resolutions of up to 510 dpi depending on speed. Depending on the configuration, it supports up to 6 colors supports oil- or solvent-based UV inks. This provides support for most substrates including paper, synthetics, PET, PVC, PE, film, etc.
The EagleJet L1400 is a UV inkjet label printer designed to be used in conjunction with a conventional print solution. It uses an industrial level UV DoD piezo head that supports 8 levels of grey. Interestingly, it supports up to 6 colors including white, making it ideal for many label applications. It supports media at a width of 9.8 in., but prints at a width of up to 5.5 in. at speeds up to 157 ft./min. It prints at resolutions up to 720 x 360 dpi depending on speed. It supports printing on paper, PET, PVC, PE, PP, and most other media since it is UV ink.
Founder Press Transport(s)
In addition to internal design and manufacturing, Founder partners with other in country engineering companies to create its transport solutions. All of the solutions have servo-based tension controls systems, but each of the transport solutions are distinctly different for each press model.
The continuous feed EagleJet P5000/P5200 presses are designed to be configurable to support monochrome and two color duplex mode up to four color duplex mode by adding another transport unit inline. The P5000 includes a shaft-based web transport, while the P5200 uses a shaft-less transport. Both include auto maintenance and cleaning for the heads and a fully automatic speed adjusted IR and hot air drying system. They support an optional image detection system to monitor content and quality as well as inline finishing including, roll to sheet and folder.
The EagleJet H300 Digital Inkjet Printing System variable data printing system has two transport solutions; the first is a roll-to-roll solution, designed to compete with both conventional and digital printing at one time. The second is single-sheet printing, with speed of 6,000 sheets per hour. It includes automatic printhead cleaning. As a UV printer, it also includes UV curing.
The EagleJet L1400 is a continuous feed machine that supports multiple configurations. One optional configuration is a self-standing roll-to-roll label printing press. Another configuration is a modular upgrade configuration for conventional web offset printing presses. An example configuration supports variable data imprinting inline on a web press. Another configuration is designed to print personalization or anti-counterfeit information inline. A further configuration is designed to be integrated inline with a narrow web label printing press. Based on the configuration chosen, there are various security and data checking options available.
Founder Front End(s)
Founder has been making RIPs, computers, and workflow software since its early days. So it is no surprise that the company is using internally developed solutions to drive its printers as well as the workflows that support them.
Founder uses scalable computer hardware running MS Windows OS, and minimally a Founder RIP. This includes its own FM screening as well as font edge sharpening technologies to enhance text printed on lower resolution devices. Based on the model and application use, Founder supports variable data, encryption printing, automatic layouts, etc.
Putting it to use
Founder has developed an interesting range of products. They are all very flexible in their design and configuration to support a full range of applications. The range of supported applications is almost equivalent to those supported by all of the other non-Chinese production inkjet press vendors combined. Granted, the Founder products might not have the highest competitive feeds and speeds, but the range of solutions is formidable.
In the next article, I will continue this production inkjet educational series by looking at Komori production inkjet offerings and applications. In each subsequent article we will look at a different vendor’s offerings, and how they are being used in production.