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Mimaki: The Little Known 2D Printer Manufacturer with the Colorful 3D Printer

by Pete Basiliere  |  December 1, 2015  |  5 Comments

As the number of 3D printers grows daily, two manufacturers of “2D” printers have entered the market. And, no, HP is not one of them.

The providers, one a company that most people have not heard of — Mimaki Engineering — and another that is well-known worldwide — Ricoh, are employing very different go-to-market strategies.

My colleague Tomoko Mitani and I visited with Mimaki in Japan last month. Mimaki is well-known in the wide format printing market, where its printers are used by printing companies that produce large signs, billboards, point-of-sale advertising and more. Mimaki 2D printers include wide format all-in-one printer-cutters, flatbed cutting machines, and flatbed printers that use solvent, latex and ultraviolet inkjet technology.

Mimaki leveraged its inkjet technologies to create a full-color, UV-cured material jetting 3D printer. Its binder jetting printer prints with incredible brightness and realism.

Mimaki 3D-printed Vegetable Still Life

Mimaki Engineering Vegetable Still Life

Source: Mimaki

Additive, full-color 3D printing (where cyan, magenta, yellow, black and special inks are combined to create a rainbow of colors) is currently available from 3D Systems (binder jetting), Mcor Technologies (sheet lamination), Microjet Technologies (binder jetting) and Stratasys (material jetting). Among those three companies, the most vibrant prints are available from Mcor, which uses bright white sheets of office paper in its process. The plaster-like material that 3D Systems prints with and the current Stratasys plastic material jetting systems produce prints that have a muted appearance. To my eye, Mimaki’s prints were on a par with Mcor’s prints but with the detail and flexible materials that Mcor cannot presently achieve.

Mimaki Material Jetting Schematic

Mimaki Engineering Material Jetting UV schematic as blogged

Source: Mimaki

According to the company, Mimaki’s proprietary coloring method enables it to print more than 10 million colors. Accurate color is the result of utilizing ICC profiles (see footnote) and precise, accurate ink droplet placement in 32 micron layers. Very fine detail, including text and thin lines, are possible. Coupled with thin and flexible layers of transparent ink, the result is incredible:

Mimaki 3D-printed Dragonfly

Mimaki Engineering Dragonfly

Source: Mimaki

Based on the samples that we saw and handled, Mimaki’s claims that 3D-printed parts can be bent, twisted, drilled and tapped are believable. As a result, the prints could eventually be found in applications ranging from prototypes to focus group samples to figurines to medical models and more.

Mimaki is already using the printers in its 3D printing service bureau to produce customer orders. Their plan is to learn about customer quality expectations and support requirements before rolling out the press to its existing base of printing companies worldwide. It is safe to say that these companies — who print and sell 2D marketing materials today — will use the printers for not only prototyping but also three-dimensional point-of-sale items of all types.

In 2013 Gartner predicted that by 2016, two of the major 2D printer manufacturers will be selling 3D printers under their own brand names. Only one 2D (paper) printer manufacturer had marketed 3D printers under its own name prior to 2013. HP sold Stratasys printers with its “Designjet” model designation in 2012 but abandoned that program. At the time of the prediction, the reason that 2D printer manufacturers were willing to be on the sidelines or to participate as OEM providers to 3D printer manufacturers was that the 3D printer market was much too small and insufficiently mature.

Nevertheless, we saw the 3D printer space as an adjacent one that logically leverages the 2D printer providers’ imaging, deposition, software, material science, manufacturing and workflow capabilities. Our prediction was largely on target. Mimaki Engineering brought its 3D printer to market in the fall of 2015 in its Mimaki 3D Print Service business but will not begin selling them until the fall of 2016 (when HP plans to introduce its first Multi Jet Fusion printer). In the meantime, Ricoh partnered with longtime supplier Aspect on its AM S5500P selective laser sintering device. Ricoh’s 3D printer, which prints with plastic resin materials, is an Aspect’s RaFaEl printer and entered the market in fall 2015.

 

Footnote:

Quoting Wikipedia, “In color management, an ICC profile is a set of data that characterizes a color input or output device, or a color space, according to standards promulgated by the International Color Consortium (ICC).” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICC_profile

 

Category: 3d-printing  

Tags: 3-d-print  3d-print  3d-print-service-bureaus  3d-printer  3d-systems  additive-manufacturing  aspect  binder-jetting  cad  computer-aided-design  digital-press  digital-printer  inkjet  material-jetting  mcor-technologies  microjet-technologies  mimaki  mimaki-engineering  multi-jet-fusion  ricoh  stratasys  

Pete Basiliere
Research Vice President
10 years at Gartner
16 years IT Industry

Mr. Basiliere provides research-based insights on 3D printing, digital printing systems and software applications, customer communications management (CCM), strategic document outsourcing (SDO) and automated document factory (ADF) best practices, go-to-market strategies, and technology trends. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Mimaki: The Little Known 2D Printer Manufacturer with the Colorful 3D Printer


  1. Guy Millward says:

    Addative manufacturing has plenty of development to come, however I for one am already playing with different versions of these machines, I see huge markets for this technology, where the danger is, is if designs start to get licenced in a ristrictive way like fonts once were. This will stiffle the market and move it quickly into the domestic market which will ignor such restrictions.
    just like MFD’s have pushed the market place away from central printing opperations so will this. If a printer wants to carve out a market they will have to make more than can be made at home; they must have a USP and that is where the skilled investment will pay dividends.
    The other problem is the likes of Rowland and HP are busy trying to capture and tie in their customers requiring maintanence and consumables to bo bought from them, where is the USP in buying from these companies? Effectively printers who buy from these types of company are just buying into a franchise.

    • Pete Basiliere says:

      Hello, Guy, and thanks for your comments.

      Unique selling propositions are critical to the printing industry, which has the largest number of manufacturing installations of any industry. Just as there are large in-plant printing operations yet most printing is done by specialist providers, so will the 3D printing business develop. Manufacturing companies of all types will have 3D printers in-house while most will use 3D printing service bureaus.

  2. alex says:

    Wow that is extremely nice detail coming from a 3d printer, very impressive. A lot of companies are starting to integrate 3d printing into their business to create new things. I really want a 3d printer, ill probably end up getting one haha. Nice article btw!

    Cheers!

  3. rizwan says:

    Dear Director,

    I have read many papers and searched many sites. Now I am intended to buy Multijet for educational purposes at small scale. I have some queries to clarify myself and my Professor as well.

    1: Multijet has their own resins as mentioned on many places, but is it possible to use my polymer resin instead of your available resin.
    2: If I cannot use my resin then can you modify Multijet according to my resins? In my case, I have to keep some points in mind, like when I mixed my 2 resins, after some time of almost 40 minutes they converted liquid to glassy state.
    3: Can I also mix carbon powders in my shape memory polymers using Multijet? If not then can you modify according to my conditions, like 2 nozzles and mixing of powder with resins or something else to use Multijet effectively.
    4: If you are unable to modify then do you have any polymer resin with shows a shape memory effect?

    I am thankful and waiting for further information.

    Regards,

    • Pete Basiliere says:

      Hello, Rizwan, and thanks for following my blog.

      I will briefly answer your questions to the best of my ability. However, you will do well to contact HPI directly: http://www8.hp.com/us/en/printers/3d-printers.html

      1) It is not my resin but HPI’s or one of its partner’s resins. In theory your resin could be used but it has to be packaged by HPI in order for it to run in their 3D printer.
      2 & 3) As with answer (1), you will have to work with HPI to modify a resin.
      4) I do not know the answer. I recommend contacting HPI.

      Good luck,

      Pete



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