Mimaki updates JFX200 flatbed printer

Mimaki used last week’s Fespa show to launch a new variation of its entry level JFX 200 UV LED flatbed. The new JFX200-2513 EX boasts improved productivity and a new 2.5D textured print mode and will replace the older JFX200-2513.

Mimaki showed off a new EX version of its JFX200-2513 flatbed.

The basic specifications remain the same, so that the printer has a print area of 2.5 x 1.3m and takes substrates up to 50mm high and 50kg/sqm in weight. It will print to a wide variety of materials including wood, cardboard, and metal. The vacuum table is split into just two zones and this new version gains a footswitch to control the vacuum pump, a small but useful detail for improving the overall working around the machine. 

The main hardware change is that this new EX version gains an extra printhead so that it now has three heads. The heads themselves are Ricoh Gen5 with four channels per head. These are arranged with two inline, which can be loaded with double CMYK or CMYKlcLm, and one staggered for white and special ink such as primer or varnish. Mimaki is claiming improved productivity, up to 100 percent faster in some modes. There’s also a new draft mode, which gives a maximum printing speed of 35sqm/hr. The resolution for the printer ranges from 300 to 1200 dpi, depending on print mode.

There’s a choice of four different inksets. These include LUS 120 and 350, which both use CMYK plus white and varnish, as well as LUS 150, which has CMYK plus light cyan, light magenta and white, and LH 100, which has the same colours plus varnish. This printer will also take the PR 200 primer, though not with the LUS 350 inkset, and in any case that inkset won’t be available until later, possibly the end of this year. The white ink channels use recirculation through the ink supply system but apparently not the head itself. 

Mimaki has also added its Nozzle check unit, which was not fitted to the older machine. This uses sensors to automatically monitor individual ink droplets by shining light through the ink path. If a nozzle is blocked and doesn’t produce ink droplets then the light is picked up by a receiving sensor. Mimaki USA has put together a useful videoto explain how this works. Yuji Ikeda, managing director of Mimaki Europe, adds: “When the missing nozzles are found, the carriage returns to the station for cleaning. When this is done, it continues with the printing.”

This is complemented by an NRS – Nozzle Recovery System – which maps the image around the failed nozzles so that the printer can carry on printing. Inevitably, as more nozzles fail the head will eventually have to be replaced but it’s a useful way of buying time until a service engineer calls in.

Perhaps the most striking new feature of this version is a 2.5D Texture Maker mode for creating embossed prints and textured effects. Essentially Mimaki has borrowed some techniques from its 3D printer to build a three-dimensional effect by dropping multiple layers of UV ink in place. This can be used to create various effects such as woodgrain texture, an elevation of thick ink of an oil painting, or embossed letters for signage applications. 

There’s nothing new about the ability to create textured images with a UV inkjet printer – it is after all one of the reasons why so many large format printers include a clear ink or varnish. The image quality for any inkjet printer comes down to the degree of accuracy that the printer can place the ink drops, and any modern UV-curable inkjet printer should be capable of putting tiny drops of ink on top of other cured drops to build up a textured effect. I can certainly remember Bill Baxter, one of the founders behind Inca Digital and the company’s first managing director, demonstrating this to me and other journalists some ten or 15 years ago by printing small stalactites made up of UV ink. Indeed, I can still remember Baxter telling me all those years ago that the two most important things to remember were 1) that the only thing that matters in inkjet is drop placement accuracy “and everything else is bollocks”, and 2) never to tell Inca’s head of marketing that Bill used words like ‘bollocks’ when talking to journalists. 

It is true that not all printers specifically allow their users to do this through the available modes, but plenty do offer varnish or clear inks for exactly this purpose. The main issue is in creating the design files to print these sort of effects in the first place, which does take a certain amount of effort and a degree of skill.

To that end Mimaki has added the ability to create stacked stepped layers in its RasterLink 6 Plus RIP by adding a greyscale image of the original coloured file in the RIP. This is said to give a much smoother suface texture than manually creating the layers

Ikeda explains: “The average sign maker does not have enough knowledge to prepare the data in Illustrator/Photoshop as he or she would need a lot of skill to do so. Just printing multiple layers does not really make a nice 2.5D effect so imagine that preparing each layer of print data, adjusting the brightness on Photoshop and so on… We just made it very simple and efficient with our software. The operator needs to prepare the greyscale file plus the original coloured file, chose some setting on our RIP and then the RIP generates the file in layers.”

Mimaki can build up to 17 layers automatically using this approach though obviously the more layers you use, the more this will slow down the printer. This does not appear to be available to other printers in Mimaki’s range though there’s nothing in Mimaki’s explanation that suggests it couldn’t be added to other printers running the RasterLink 6 Plus RIP. 

It’s worth noting that the JFX200-2513 EX has been designed as an entry level machine and although it’s not the fastest machine around this is actually a really useful feature to have in a budget machine and should enable print service providers to offer additional, value-added applications. Mimaki demonstrated it at Fespa printing to a range of promotional items, and that certainly seemed to draw a crowd, though there are far more interesting examples, such as simulated oil-paintings on Mimaki’s main website. 

This printer is scheduled to start shipping in early June. Mimaki also sells a larger version of the JFX 200 flatbed, the 2530 with a 3.1 x 2.5m bed. Ikeda says there are no plans to bring out an EX version of this at the moment, adding: “We would like to hear the market demands and study if it is needed.”

You can find more details at www.mimaki.com.

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