I recently spoke with Marvin Jensen at Mankiewicz who have developed CyconJet. We had an interesting discussion surrounding industrial inkjet innovation and I discovered some interesting and exciting facts about the development of inkjet into the automotive and aviation sector.
Tell me more about Mankiewicz?
“Mankiewicz was established in 1895 in Hamburg at the back end of the industrial revolution as an independent subsidiary of an English paint manufacturer for the sale and production of high-quality paints for coaches. The company logo in the shape of the wheel of a stage-coach remains a reminder of that tradition.
In 1930, paint manufacturer Ottmar J. Grau acquired the company from the Mankiewicz family. Since the 1980s the company has been managed by the current managing partner Michael Ottmar Grau. Mankiewicz currently employs 1100 people globally and is a classic Mittelstand business which develops and sells innovative paints for high-tech sectors such as the aviation, automotive and general industry markets."
In your experience is inkjet in demand for aspects of automotive production?
“CYCONJET® is a UV Inkjet system specifically developed for the application in the industrial sector. For a few years now our customers in the automotive, aviation and general industry sector have been asking for more individualisation and customisation in their production. We are in the paint business so a key objective is that we protect products with our paint. But on top of that they wanted the possibility for individualisation. Therefore we needed to be able to print on it. However products that were available were not sufficient for their needs. It is a different proposition to print onto paper and foils than it is directly onto curved shapes and metal based products. For a more individual and digital world we thought about digital inkjet and the possibilities that it could create.
In the early stages we started by jetting ink then using primers and top coat solutions in order to protect the ink. These were standard coatings applied and they were applied with a spray gun. This was not bad, but still this was a solution our customers were not comfortable with because they wanted the process to be quicker and simpler and did not want to have the further steps of primer and then top coat.
We and our customers just wanted a direct inkjet solution that was able to produce the right quality for the industrial sector. We simply needed to create a solution that they could live with so we started developing inkjet inks and jet-able primer and topcoat solutions that could be jetted directly onto a substrate using inkjet technology. This of course was a challenge as the fluids have to be 100% correct. So we had an awful lot of development work to do and as each customer has different requirements, there really isn’t a standard ‘one size fits all approach’ but it is now in production, it is fast, efficient and the finish is excellent.
Direct printing with ink straight to the substrate is indeed challenging and is always dependent on the requirement of the individual customer. For instance, for automotive and aviation we have a surface that is exposed to all sorts of chemical and mechanical stress. Standard inks are just not resistant enough and do not fulfil the OEMs specifications therefore we need to put some functionality into the inks to enable it to withstand. Since every application has its own requirements we are always kind of customising chemistry to suit new applications in order for them to work 100%. On top of that this decoration is not going to be taking place in a print shop somewhere but actually in an automation production line so the reliability of the process is just as important as fulfilling the specification.”
Is customisation the main driver for adoption for CYCONJET?
“Although it is important customisation is not the only driver. Manufacturers want solutions that reduce cost and improve efficiency as well. So if we can create a system that enables this, the customer is happy and will adopt the technology as it saves time and money, two of the most precious commodities.”
When one considers that speed is of the essence in the manufacturing line, is inkjet fast enough?
“Yes it has to be fast enough. If it is not fast enough then it simply is not a solution. Adoption simply will not occur if for instance an automotive OEM has to slow down their production line just to suit the inkjet printing process.”
As a business do you deal with the brands themselves or their tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers when integrating CYCONJET?
“We are used to talking directly to the people who use our products. We must talk to our end customers, because only by understanding their process can we get it right. Who this person is will be different from brand to brand, sometimes it is the OEM, and sometimes it is tier 1 and tier 2 depending on the company and the project. Although we cannot go into detail about how our different customers use our product, what we can say is that the interest in inkjet from all of the automotive producers that we know is very strong indeed.”
What about Aviation, is the interest as strong in this sector?
“We believe that inkjet in aviation manufacturing will be the next big thing after automotive. Some of the large OEM’s in the market think that this technology is very appealing and could be one of the next aviation steps to get an improved process for decoration. It’s very interesting for both interior and exterior aviation décor.
The overall aviation production process is much slower when compared with automotive. Precision is absolutely paramount. So if there is a possibility to speed up production without compromising precision then manufacturers are very interested. This development remains a challenge but imagine that there is a vision to print a whole aircraft in one go using inkjet printing! This challenge is being worked on now and could remove the need to individually spraypaint each colour of a livery reducing manufacturing time.”
Do you also see an opportunity in direct to shape packaging printing?
“Yes we do. Imagine if you don’t need a label anymore but you can individualise the product at the last stage of production by printing directly onto your product.This is the latest point of individualisation in the process and this makes the supply chain process before a lot easier and a lot cheaper. This is something that all of the players in the market are looking for. However I think it is only right for certain segments because in some areas it doesn’t make commercial sense. In our opinion it will gain adoption from the premium end of the market as the top brands will see the value of inkjet in this field as they can see how it helps them to differentiate and distinguish their product from their competitors.”
So interest is high and work is being done in a number of markets but how do we accelerate this adoption?
“The one thing slowing us down is the lack of the right machine builders for certain markets. For those markets we are in you always need special machines and technologies in order to print onto 3D shaped objects and it is a diverse challenge, from automotive to packaging. This naturally slows progress of adoption. The best way to approach a project like this is to have the machine builder, customer and ink manufacturer to talk about the project together. You need those three partners working closely together as this really achieves things. We need to increase this activity in order to improve productivity of the machine itself, but also the time it takes to develop it in the first place.”
For more information on Mankiewicz http://mankiewicz.com/
For more information on CyconJet http://www.mankiewicz.com/english/products-markets/uv-inks-inkjet/