Delivering the right image! An interview with Yair Kipman

Yair, tell us where the idea for ImageXpert came from?

Over 30 years ago, I was working in R&D at Xerox developing a reading machine for the blind.  The machine had to be able to scan over text from any source and be able to understand it. During development of the machine, we found that the quality of printed text on the variety of documents that we were trying to scan was often terrible. This made it clear to me that there was a need for image quality analysis software to quantify image quality objectively.

 What kind of company is ImageXpert?

ImageXpert is a small team of highly-technical, skilled people who love to solve complex problems in machine vision that most companies cannot or are unwilling to try. We started in 1989 making custom inspection solutions for large companies in the printing industry. We discovered that there was opportunity to turn some of these custom solutions into general products that everyone in the printing industry could use.

Today, our off the shelf systems provide complete solutions for analysing every step of the printing development process, from automated quality assurance inspection of nozzle plates during the manufacturing process, to inkjet drop-in-flight measurement, to universal lab printers that can use any printhead, to print quality analysis. Despite all this progress in product development, we still enjoy taking on new and challenging custom projects.

Our focus is on distilling down a highly complex process into an easy user experience for our customers. We want anyone from a chemist to an electrical engineer to a printing technician to be able to use our equipment confidently. To do this, it is important that an ImageXpert system be a total solution – all the hardware, software, and support is from one company in a single package. We work hard to get the entire system up and running for a customer immediately, so that their R&D team doesn’t have to worry about instrumentation and can be efficient and effective right away. With 700 units on the market (including 300 JetXpert systems), the feedback we have gotten about this approach has been very positive.

So who is the perfect customer?

The perfect customer for us is interested in developing new technology or optimizing existing technology in the inkjet space, and values accuracy in their instrumentation and quality in their product.

Currently, our three largest customer groups are ink, printhead, and printer manufacturers, who rely on our industry standard JetXpert drop analysis system to speed the design or selection of printheads, inks, and waveforms. For these kinds of development, it’s obvious that drop-in-flight analysis is necessary.

As the inkjet market matures, we are also seeing more and more companies interested in analysing and quantifying print quality on finished products. ImageXpert, with our long history of developing all the necessary tests for image quality, stands ready to provide useful solutions.

Truly, we feel we have something to offer almost anyone doing development in the inkjet space. And, when we don’t, we are happy to work with the customer to develop it.

So what particular applications are relevant and do you see as the future for your business?

There are two categories of the inkjet markets that shape the future of our business. The maturing industrial inkjet markets, including graphics and ceramics, will drive our inkjet optimization systems, as print quality analysis will become more and more important. The new and growing applications for inkjet, including textiles, packaging, décor, printed electronics, and bio-printing, will shape our inkjet development systems. We see the inkjet market growing in new directions, and we’re excited to grow with it.

Geographically, where do you see most demand for your products as this helps us to see where growth in this area is occurring?

Our biggest demand has been from Europe, followed by the United States, Japan, and Korea.

On that note, how do you see the business growing? What is the next stage of development for you?

We are growing and expect to continue to grow as more and more companies move from analog to digital. But, we also are working on finding new ways to serve our existing customer base. We now have an all-in-one inkjet development station, including drop-in-flight analysis, printing, and print quality analysis, which works with virtually every printhead on the market, saving our customers money and time. We’re working on providing new tools to save time by automating common analysis procedures for our customers. And, we are expanding our presence in Asia, including our new partnership with Altech, who is now representing us in Japan.

We are at a stage in our size and development where we are ready to go to the next level. We understand that we need to continually develop and innovate as a business, and it may be that we need to look at possible partnerships, mergers, or acquisitions to go to the next level. We are a small business that has worked hard to build strong roots within the inkjet market, and are now looking for opportunities to take our expertise into new applications and industries.