Piezo inkjet printhead technology is the enabling technology force that has made many of the new, fast growing digital printing solutions possible. It is the engine that propels wide format printers, ultra-high speed production document printers, digital textile printers, label printers, and many other often decorative or manufacturing related applications. For the purposes of this report we are excluding thermal inkjet and continuous inkjet printheads
With its origins as a component for consumer inkjet printers, inkjet printhead technology has evolved over the last decade into a market of its own right. Piezo inkjet print heads in particular have attracted the interests of a group of mainly dedicated divisions of larger manufacturers. Epson, FujiFilm, KonicaMinolta, Kyocera, Ricoh, Seiko Instruments, ToshibaTEC and others all offer their piezo inkjet printheads for sale to other companies whom integrate them into mainly industrial printers. Xaar is the sole commercially active publicly traded independent piezo printhead manufacturer left in the market. Brother, Canon/Océ, Hewlett-Packard, and Xerox also manufacture piezo inkjet heads, but mainly for their own branded products. There are several other manufacturers trying to commercially develop inkjet printhead technologies (not all piezo), including MemJet, ToneJet, PicoJet, and others, but it is a race against time as the development cycles tend to be far longer than most can imagine.
The total investment sunk into developing industrial piezo inkjet printhead technology over the last decade now totals well over $1 billion. This economic hurdle (along with time/experience) has created a high hurdle for now potential entrants, including some of the internally-focused manufacturers of piezo inkjet heads who face the difficult decisions of determining whether a better return-on-investment is offered by purchasing inkjet heads from the dedicated divisions of large manufacturers (with whom they often compete in other segments of the digital printer market).
But the lure of control and revenue has maintained a steady group of players, leading to acquisitions but few exits from this market even during the economic recessions that occurred during the last decade. Averaged over 10 years, revenues for dedicated divisions selling piezo printhead and the sole independent manufacturer, from piezo inkjet heads; royalties, licensing, and other associated income streams (test kits, integration services, deposition printers, etc.) have grown about 14 percent annually. There are very few other segments within the printer market that have this type of growth record.
With piezo inkjet printheads on average accounting for 10 precent of the total cost of the print system sold, this means that they generated over $5 billion in revenue for printer hardware manufacturers (and that excludes revenue from consumables, which when included would nearly double this number). Despite the success of piezo inkjet head technology, it is not immune from economic recessions. In fact, because the piezo inkjet printheads are incorporated into products typically priced from $30,000 to $5,000,000 demand for these high-cost capital goods fell faster than the economy in general during the 2008-2009 recession, with unit volumes plummeting about 30 percent. At the same time, recovery has also been faster than the general economy, with unit volumes growing about 26 percent from 2009 to 2010.