Founded in 1975, Mimaki is a leading manufacturer of wide-format inkjet printers. At formnext 2017, the company made a splash with the European launch of its industrial-sized full-color 3DUJ-553 3D printer. As Mimaki moves into the 3D printing industry, we take a closer look at the Japanese company.
“Making the leap from UV-curable 2D inkjet printing devices to 3D printing was a logical step for Mimaki,” says Ronald van den Broek, Sales Manager EMEA at Mimaki Europe.
“Mimaki has dedicated significant R&D resources to our 3D development efforts, and the 3DUJ-553 is our first foray into the 3D market.”
Based on the same UV inkjet technology as its 2D predecessors, the 3DUJ-553 now stands out for its boast of bringing 10 million possible color combinations to the mainly monochrome 3D printer market, including a number of features showing decades of experience in the industry.
Inside Mimaki’s full-color 3D printer
Development of Mimaki’s first full-color 3D printer was initially announced in 2015 following the launch of the company’s UJF-7151 plus model capable of directly printing onto plastics, metal, wood, leather and glass.
Now around 6 years into maturity, the UV cure/inkjet printing technology at the core of the UJF-7151 has been used as a base for 3D material jetting.
Inside Mimaki’s 3DUJ-553 is a proprietary 3D printing method combining a traditional inkjet print head with an economical UV-LED lightsource. Successive layers of ink are jetted, and instantly cured, to build-up a full color 3D object.
Support material has a different composition to the colored inks, making it straightforward to remove when dissolved in water.
The max build envelope in the 3DUJ-553 is 500 x 500 x 300 mm, a size competitive with many other systems on the market.
3D printing the rainbow
Different colors are created in the 3DUJ-553 by mixing inks as in a common office paper printer. A clear ink is used in the system to create transparent half color sections and to turn up the saturation of inks.
The resulting color-range is International Color Consortium (ICC) comparable – a standard color index in circulation since 1993 – avoiding the “sandy” appearance of some other color 3D printers.
Adding to vibrant colors, the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 system has a number of features clearly developed as result of 40 years in the printing business.
The system has an ink circulation system to prevent the common problem of nozzle clogging, and Nozzle Checking Unit (NCU) for the printheads. With these core technologies, printheads are automatically checked for malfunctions, and the machine can adjust accordingly to keep 3D printing stable.
The future of Mimaki 3D printing
Mimaki’s focus for 2018 will be reaching more customers with 3DUJ-553 machines. The company is already working with distributors across Europe in Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.
In the long term, according to a company spokesperson, “a 10 year strategy” for 3D printing will respond to emerging trends in the industry by introducing “a wide range of 3D printers with different capabilities.”
Focus areas for the technology so far are production of high quality, functional prototypes for industrial users, and products for the consumer goods category including spare parts.
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Featured image shows a doll sample 3D printed on the 3DUJ-553. Photo via Mimaki