Mutoh has announced an interesting new wide format printer, the ValueJet 1627MH, a 1.6m wide printer that uses a new resin ink. This appears to offer quite an elegant alternative to using UV ink.
Mutoh is clearly concerned that people might confuse this resin ink with HP’s latex ink, which also uses resins. However, unlike the HP ink, the resins in this ink are not heat activated. Instead Mutoh has used a solvent as a liquid carrier, and it’s the evaporation of the solvent that causes the resins to bind to the substrate. There are resins included in the ink as an additive, with part of the resin blend also wrapped around the pigments. Nick Decock, marketing manager for Mutoh Europe, stresses that it’s the resin not the solvent that determines the adhesion and media compatibility, and that the solvent in this case, unlike a traditional solvent in ink, is not actually eating into the substrate. He adds: “All ink ingredients are selected with an environmentally responsible mind, meeting all industry standards with regards to health and safety.”
Stephan Heintjens, manager of Mutoh Europe’s application department, says that the ink can be seen as a bit of a chameleon, adding: “Meaning that on substrates where our solvent blend can have an influence, the ink will behave more like a typical solvent blend, assisted by the resins, whereas on substrates on which our solvent blend has no influence, a defendable adhesion will be the sole responsibility of the resin mix, creating a thin layer on top of the media surface, similar like a UV ink.”
As with many Mutoh printers, the VJ1627MH is a hybrid device, designed around a roll-fed chassis for flexible media but can also be configured with foldable tables to print to rigid boards. It can handle rigid substrates up to 16mm thick and up to 15 kg in weight.
Mutoh says that the new MP31 resin inks (MP stands for multi-purpose) will print direct to foam board, cardboard, alu panel and acrylic sheets. It can also be used with heat sensitive media, shrink film and recyclable non-PVC media. Mutoh’s official position is that this ink will last for up to two years outdoors without lamination though Decock is confident that up to two and a half or even three years should be possible. Decock comments that this ink “enables the widest possible roll and rigid media compatibility on the market, but moreover is extremely suited for high stretch and high shrink applications.”
Decock adds: “Another unique feature of the MP31 inks is that, as opposed to UV inks, the ink layer is very thin and blends with the substrates, keeping the look and feel of the original substrate intact.”
Despite the solvent, Heintjens says that the ink has a very gentle odour that has not caused any issues in a year and a half of field testing. There are no high boiling solvents in this ink so that theoretically it should be possible to laminate the prints straightway though Heintjens points out that most media manufacturers typically will recommend a 24-hour waiting time regardless of the ink type used.
The printer is fitted with a hot air knife drying system, which is essentially a pressurised chamber that directs a concentrated blast of hot air over the surface of the media. This type of approach is generally quite an energy-efficient way of drying media. Decock says that this is the only form of drying used on this printer, adding: “As opposed to latex, substrate temperatures do not exceed 50°C meaning you can comfortably process any heat sensitive substrate and moreover the intrinsic characteristics of the loaded media and/or adhesive layer will not be negatively affected nor will they cause undesirable fumes to be emitted by the substrates by applying excessive heat.” This hot air knife system not only evaporates the solvent but also removes air that is saturated with evaporated solvent.
This ink will withstand thermoforming and is said to be very stretchable. Mutoh has conducted tests in the UK with Formech, a company that manufactures vacuum forming machines, printing the MP31 inks to PETG sheets from Brett Martin. You can see the result here: https://we.tl/t-JqIn6WWRD5
The basic inkset is CMYK with white as an option. The white can be laid down either as an undercoat, on top of the coloured inks, or as the middle of three layers for window graphics. The MP31 inks are supplied in 500ml packs.
This printer uses a single Epson DX7 piezo printhead with 720 x 1440 dpi resolution. There’s an ink recirculation system for the white channels. It can produce up to 12 sqm in CMYK at 720 x 720 dpi though DeCock says that the print speed also depends on the substrate used. There’s a sensor to automatically set the height of the print carriage, and a further sensor to prevent damage to the heads from media crashes.
There are a couple of optional extras including an automated take up system for roll-fed media that can take rolls up to 30Kg. There’s also an optional media alignment system that can be mounted to align rigid media at the front of the machine to help with double sided printing.
Mutoh has said that this printer replaces the older VJ1617H, which used the MP11 ink, an environmentally-friendly solvent ink based on corn as its main carrier liquid.
The VJ 1627MH is available now across Europe. The pricing starts at around €25,000 including rigid tables though this may not include tax and installation, depending on your dealer. Further details from www.mutoh.eu.