Discovering the 10 000 possibilities of colour 3D printing at the heart of Mimaki

[3D ADEPT Media Tour]

We always keep in mind that technology can be used for a different market”, Ronald van den Broek, General Manager Sales EMEA.

Colour 3D Printing is something unique, and, surprisingly very rare in this industry. There are only a few ways to 3D Print in full colour and we now have the confirmation that Mimaki’s technology is part of them.

We first saw the industrial-sized full-color 3DUJ-553 3D printer of the manufacturer at Formnext 2017. The company made a real splash with this European launch, announcing this way, its official entrance on the 3D Printing market. Lost in this euphoria and the myriad of the technologies launched at the time, it was hard to remain neutral. A visit to the European Headquarters of the Japanese company in the Netherlands, brought a different view of the company.

Mimaki Europe is located at Diemen, in Amsterdam. The offices are very accessible – about 30-40 minutes from the central station for those who are coming by train from another city. Amsterdam is seen as another tech-driven city and a prime area for companies to start, grow, and flourish.

10 000 possibilities

Mimaki’s reputation in wide-format inkjet printers and cutting machines for the sign/graphics, industrial and textile/apparel markets has become an undeniable fact for the industry. Indeed, it is hard to not mention this expertise when we know that this giant leap into 3D Printing has been inspired by UV-curable 2D inkjet printing devices.

During the presentation of their company, Ronald van den Broek, General Manager Sales EMEA, explained that they learned about colour on the serigraphy market, a market that represents their most important sales so far (43% of their turnover), followed by Industrial Production (32.3% of the company’s turnover) where we find 3D Printing. “Textile & Apparel” and “Factory automation”, complete this board.

According to van den Broek, the company has succeeded in acquiring decades of experience in different markets because they have always kept in mind, they should launch a new product every year. That’s how they develop a cross-platform that combines their 3 business units as well as their integrated solutions that include: product, ink and software.

Full Colour 3D Printing 

At Mimaki’s offices we have been able to (re)-discover realistic 3D Printed samples made with the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 3D printer. The company is able to reproduce this level of photorealism thanks to several elements including a clear resin that they developed. The resin allows for the realization of fully transparent and semi-transparent colours. Jordi Drieman, the company’s 3D Specialist spoke about the possibility to realize approximatively 84% of FO GRA 39L color gamut. For those who do not know, color gamut refers to the entire range of colors available on a particular device. A color gamut of 72% – 75% is typically considered normal. Being able to achieve 84% of color gamut therefore means that we are not only talking about simple colors, but lifelike colors.

The result of such printing result is backed by the company software, Mimaki 3D Lite that facilitates the import of 3D Files, and their rendering.

To clean up the model after the printing process, the specialist recommends water-soluble as support material during the post-processing stage.

However, based on Marketiger’s experience, a customer of the company that shared his experience with the 3D Printing solution, it is possible to use a different post-processing solution to get the desired finish surface.

A colourful 3D Printing experience

Maikel de Wit, Founder of Eindhoven-based 3D printing company, Marketiger, delivers full-colour 3D objects, including figurines (statuettes) and maquettes while leveraging the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 3D printer.

De Wit said they “have been working for two years with a printer that could do 5 colors, and then they discover another one that could print 10 000 colors.”

Investing in such a 3D printer (whose cost is around 200 000$) was a huge investment for a start-up like Marketiger, that has to integrate new services in its business model to be able to make the most of it. However, before diving into Mimaki’s experience, the entrepreneur had already experienced single-colour Prusa 3D printers for the production of various marketing tools.

However, for de Wit, collaborating with Mimaki goes beyond investing in a performant 3D printer, it’s also embracing a new culture:

The company has a Japanese culture, which is reflected in everything it does. It takes time to get used to it, but we have quickly learnt to appreciate it. For example, sales managers will never promise something that they can’t deliver. Their customers are important to them and they’ll really go out on a limb for you, especially when disaster strikes. For instance, once they even removed a part from their own demo machine to help us out with our malfunctioning device.”

We have been able to attest to the importance of this culture in the way they work through the warm welcome we received. 

Prior to the full installation of Mimaki’s 3D Printer into their offices, Marketiger tested the printer extensively for two months, with the support of Mimaki to see if it could handle the desired production volumes. 

Despite the process that he depicts as quite long for some services such as figurines (3D Scanning, optimization via a software, printing and post-processing stages to achieve), de Wit remains satisfied with the quality of each print.

At the technical level, the only constraint he is still watching for today is the space optimization in the 3D Printer. Indeed, the capacity of the 3D Printer is limited, so the user always has to optimize its capacity to make the most of it.

In his own business, Maikel de Wit mentioned his struggles in convincing clients – but that’s not really surprising as based on the experience of various companies (be it users or manufacturers of 3D printers), it takes time to help clients take a giant leap into a “new technology”.

Lastly, apart from the applications mentioned by Marketiger, Mimaki’s road to 3D Printing also enables various applications in prototyping, 3D art, tool and equipment design, as well as medical & education.  

This article has initially been published in the 2019 November issue of 3D ADEPT Mag.

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