Within just a few years of its founding in 1975, Mimaki Engineering Co. Ltd, a publicly listed company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, reached a leading position as a manufacturer of wide-format inkjet printers and cutting machines for the sign/graphics, industrial and textile/apparel markets. The company’s solutions cover the entire value chain, from hardware, to software, to the associated consumable items, such as inks and cutting blades. Mimaki’s UV-curable inkjet technology, developed since 2005, has garnered particular interest in recent years and was on display at Formnext 2018 in Frankfurt.
Bert Benckhuysen, the Senior Product Manager of EMEA, took us through the development of the company and its Formnext booth theme, “Shape the Future in Colour.”
The key attraction in Germany was the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 3D printer, which – as per Mr. Benckhuysen’s words – “allows bureaus, designers and product developers to reach unparalleled levels of photorealism due to its fine detail and extensive colour capability” while “the colour range and vibrancy combined with the ability to match colours with such accuracy opens up some very exciting application possibilities.” Price-wise, the system places itself in the mid-range, costing under €200,000.
One astonishing application of the repeatable ten million color plus range capability (which is thanks to Mimaki’ s unique use of ICC colour profiling) is related to skin tones (seen above). The slightest variations can easily be detected and are reproduced with photorealistic quality. As the company says: “product developers striving for accurate representations of their designs get extraordinarily smooth colour gradations, minimizing granularity, and special spot colours can be created for brands with exacting requirements.”
Mimaki has also developed a clear resin, allowing for the realization of fully transparent and semi-transparent colours. Printing in 19, 32 or 42 µm layers, the 3DUJ-553 3D printer delivers super fine details and smooth surfaces, which are preserved during post-processing as the support material is water-soluble and simply dissolves in water.
In terms of distribution, Mimaki 3D printed models are currently available via i.materialise under the name Multicolor+. This refers to the material that allows users to “create smooth surfaces with vibrant colours that enhance the value of a finished object. Multicolor+ offers more vivid and intense colours and enables stronger, sturdier materials with a minimum wall thickness of 1mm. It also allows for printing interlocking parts. As a result, Multicolor+ is ideal for printing decorative parts such as figurines, avatars and architectural models.”
Industrial partnerships, such as the one with Materialise, represent a useful means to develop applications and Mimaki is open to new cooperation opportunities.
Mimaki’s 3D printing material has a strength comparable to ABS plastic. Printed in UV-cured photopolymer resins with inkjet printing heads, models can be handled directly from the print build tray, which is as large as 500 x 500 x 300 mm. The 3DUJ-553 3D printer is easy to operate either remotely or through a touch panel and the Mimaki 3D Link software also allows colours to be changed continuously.
Mimaki’s expertise in inkjet, UV and colour management is derived from the company’s heritage in 2D printing.
According to Mr Benckhuysen: “Our history in 2D printing is fundamental because it’s given us proficiency in colour management, ink circulation for maximum uptime of the printer and operability. We also understand the importance of continued investment in R&D; not only that, but it means we have excellent technical support and customer service already in place in over 100 countries and for more than 20 years, even as we look to expand our sales infrastructure. Further than prototyping and the toys industry, also entertainment, tools, medical, consumer products, signage, architectural, art and packaging are our valued markets of reference.”