MIMAKI USA: A story of inventiveness - an interview with Josh Hope

So Josh, your job title clearly defines your responsibility as ‘Industrial Printing’. There is a lot of discussion regarding the definition of industrial print and what the term means for Mimaki? How do you see it?

"I see this as the evolution of digital print as it moves from sign and graphic into other applications. In the US, particularly where screen and pad printing were traditionally being used for personalizing print or customizing products, that digital machines are now offering the ability to deliver high quality print with great flexibility and quick turnaround on products of all shapes and sizes with lower minimum run lengths.

We describe this as ‘’just-in-time’ production. Whether it is printing on 100 USB drives or 150 cell phone covers with unique designs or personalization, digital gives us the ability to respond to a customer’s need, quickly, easily,with little or no set up time. Our customers can respond to their clients’ needs at a moment’s notice, 24 hours a day, without having to hold stock or waste inventory. It also means new companies are buying our machines and entering or creating new markets. I genuinely see a new sense of creativity and inventiveness in the US market.

America has a long history of inventiveness. From our early days early on – when necessity was the mother of invention, to periods like the Great Depression when citizens had to ‘make do,’ to wartime when new technologies were fabricated on the spot, to the recent boom when new money was re-invested in ideas such as craft brewing – the US has a solid history of the ‘maker’ philosophy. We see a more open community of ‘makers’ that works together to make things better, stronger and faster at a lower price point.

Changes in customer demand, plus the relative ease and low level of investment involved in buying some of our machines means that these new applications offering more opportunities become far more accessible to the small business or ‘maker’ community. It also means our existing customers can start to expand their customer base.. The maker market is huge in the US, with entrepreneurs creating new products and services seemingly anywhere.  It’s not legend – it’s fact – that several technology companies in the US started in basements, college dorm rooms or garages with an idea and a plan to make it work. It is enabling these individuals to make a profit quickly and respond to demands that are often driven by their own social media activity or by Internet trends.

I see our technology as offering customers opportunity to respond quickly to needs and find a niche that is not currently being addressed.  For example, the stainless steel cups – Yeti tumblers. Our Mimaki UJF-3042HG tabletop UV-LED flatbed printer with the Kebab option enables a print service provider to print on cylindrical objects like the Yeti tumblers. It enables short run, quick turnaround flexibility with high print quality for the customer either as a one-off or for longer runs. Our improved head technology and higher jetting force means that we can now print directly to curves or on shapes. I previously mentioned the craft brewing market being an area where we are seeing growth for our products. Where breweries need the flexibility to print either short run labels or directly onto a short run batch of beers, is where a savvy print service provider can step in and deliver all those items with complimentary Mimaki technologies including printing and cutting devices."

So when you visit your customers now, have you seen a change in attitude towards new ideas ?

"Yes, I now see us as ‘half time teacher, half the time being student.’ We go to our customers to teach them about the things they can do with a Mimaki machine, such as ‘did you know you can create textures or print on a curve?’ – however, I come away with new ideas  after hearing their stories of how they have experimented with our products.  When I visit a customer, the feeling is much more of an ‘open source’ business environment. Here’s another example:  our four-by-eight-foot Mimaki JFX200-2513 UV-LED flatbed printer initially is seen very much as sign machine, but realizing users can print two-inch thick items means they can actually print on objects such as pens or lighters using jigs. This would have traditionally been done by screen printing or pad methods, but now print service providers can replace this analog approach with digital at a very competitive price.

The market is definitely evolving and certainly there is a sense of ‘experimentation’ that opens new avenues to respond to customer needs in different ways, and offers new solutions. I see this as an exciting prospect for the digital print market in the US, and Mimaki will be at the heart of this change."