Mimaki expands 3D printer range

Mimaki has extended its range of 3D printers with a new model, the 3DUJ-2207, following feedback that the company’s first foray into 3D printing, the 3DUJ-553, was too expensive.

Mimaki’s 3DUJ-2207 3D printer is based on the chassis from a UJF-3042 industrial printer

Ronald van den Broek, general sales manager for Mimaki Europe, explains: “We found out there was a need for smaller, easier to use machines. So we went back to the drawing board to design a product that was more entry level.”

Consequently, in order to save on costs, Mimaki has built this new machine on the chassis of its existing small industrial flatbed printer, the UJF 3042. Thus the new 3DUJ-2207 has a build size of 203mm x 203mm x 76mm, roughly a third the size of the bigger 3DUJ-553 which is 508 x 508 x 305mm. As a result, it has a small footprint and can easily be installed just about anywhere. There is even an optional deodorizer for use in office environments.

The main feature of the Mimaki printers is that they can produce high resolution objects in colour, and can reproduce over 10 million colours or around 84 percent of the Fogra 39L colour gamut and 90 percent of the SWOP gamut. The printer uses ICC colour profiles so that the colours can be reproduced accurately. 

This ability to print in colour is particularly useful in the medical market, where, for example, surgeons use 3D models of patients to practise complex procedures with the colours helping to distinguish between blood vessels, muscles, organs, bones and so on. But Mimaki says that it has customers using its printers for packaging prototypes and that it sees a market in prototyping for everything from toys to architectural models and home appliances

There are other 3D printers that can produce colour objects but Mimaki is claiming that it can produce much higher resolution than binder jetting machines. Both Mimaki’s new 3DUJ-2207 and the existing 3DUJ-553 use inkjet printing with UV LED curing, not unlike the flatbed printers that Mimaki has been producing for the display graphics and industrial printing markets for many years now. 

The main fluid – ‘ink’ in the graphics world or ‘material’ in the 3D printing business – is an acrylic binder resin. It works in a very similar way to UV ink in that there’s a photo initiator and it’s cured through LED lamps. Mimaki says that it has the same strength as ABS, making it possible to drill holes and attach screws, which can withstand a pulling force of 5kg. 

According to Mimaki, the new 3DUJ-2207 is roughly three to four times slower than the more expensive 3DUJ-553 printer, though the actual speed does depend on what’s being printed and the thickness of the layers. This is partly down to the curing, which requires two passes. The first pass of the head carriage pins the drops to ensure that the drops stay in the right place and form a round dot, with the second pass responsible for the full cure for each layer. 

The new 3DUJ-2207 can print in six colours with CMYK plus white and clear. The clear ink can be used to produce transparent objects and can also be combined with the colours to create translucent effects. The idea is to print the clear and white inks in the body of the objects, with the colours on the outside. The colours are supplied in 1 litre bottles.

Ther new 3DUJ-2207 is fitted with two piezo printheads arranged inline. Interestingly, these are the same type of printheads that Mimaki has used on the two new 100-series wide format printers that I covered last week, albeit with some slight differences in implementation due to the nature of the fluid. These heads do not allow for full recirculation, though Mimaki says that it does have a recirculation system on the printer itself. Mimaki has also used most of its core technologies such as the nozzle check unit though not the system for recovering failed nozzles. 

Mimaki is still working on the layer building mode so there’s no further information such as resolution or drop sizes. Nonetheless, the fact that Mimaki is using a head capable of 1200 dpi and jetting an ink-like fluid suggests that it should be able to reproduce very finely detailed objects. 

The printer can also jet a water-soluble support material though this takes roughly three hours to dissolve completely. There’s also an overcoat that can be added to objects after printing, which can give the objects a smoother surface appearance as well as some protection from weather.  The 3DUJ-2207 comes with a driver software and a layout slicer program that can take STL, OBJ, VRML, PLY, 3MF files. 

Mimaki clearly has big hopes for this printer, with Van den Broek saying: “We think that 3D is a technology of the future. We want to disrupt the market by offering it at a price level that would be acceptable for everyone.” He says that the 3DUJ-2207 should be priced below €40,000, roughly a fifth that of the 3DUJ-553 model. He claims that comparable machines from competitors are closer to €100-200,000 and comments: “We believe this is the right price level to start the adoption trend for a lot of customers. Prototyping is expensive and you can have a 1-1 copy of a real prototype with this technology.”

Mimaki Japan says that the printer should be available from January though van den Broek says that although he expects to have a demo printer in January, it won’t be commercially available in Europe till next April.

It’s worth noting that besides the two home-grown devices, Mimaki also rebadges two other 3D printers from other vendors. These include the 3DFF-222, that is really a Sindoh 3DWOX1, and which is a desktop FFF printer. It’s useful for producing plastic items such as tools and jigs and demonstrates the cross over point between industrial printing and 3D printing. 

Mimaki also announced its 3DGD-1800 earlier this summer, which is actually a Massivit 1800. The Massivit machine was developed specifically for producing 3D display advertising so it makes sense that Mimaki would want to offer this alongside its existing wide format printers. According to van den Broek, there is added value in combining it with a roll to roll printer in order to print a suitable graphic with which to wrap the 3D objects. This is an obvious area where the graphics world can take advantage of 3D printing though he also noted that the current market conditions with the pandemic have limited the demand for this printer, which is perhaps to be expected.

Nonetheless, Mimaki’s basic approach – building upon its core strengths in the graphics and industrial printing markets to develop a new competence in additive manufacturing – seems quite sensible. You can find further details on Mimaki’s 3D printers at mimaki.com.

…with a little help from my friends

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