Ahead of InPrint 2018, I recently interviewed Ronald van den Broek who is the General Manager of Sales at Mimaki Europe about the industrial print innovators background and view of the development and future of industrial printing.
1. What is the background and story of Mimaki – explain how Mimaki came to be a big name in digital printing?
Mimaki was founded in 1975 in Japan. In the 80’s, we started to develop our first product, an A2 size pen plotter that was unique because of its precision movement and high quality output. Soon after, Mimaki made quite a name, becoming the leader in innovation and in the digital printing industry.
In the 90’s and early 2000’s, Mimaki brought digital printing to the textile and sign graphic markets.For the textile industry, Mimaki made it possible to produce on demand and one-offs. For the signage industry, we brought outdoor resistant prints to the market. These two products have put Mimaki on the map.
Since then, Mimaki has been further developing its technologies and has maintained its reputation as a leading innovator in the industry. We have brought many innovations to the markets, in Sign Graphics, Industrial UV Products, Textile & Apparel and our newest business unit; 3D printing solutions.
2. Mimaki has a strong name and brand in Sign and Graphics, and a growing one in textiles, where in the future do you see growth coming from?
We do have a strong base in these markets (sign graphics and textile), but don’t forget about the Industrial UV printing market. We have the ambition to grow every single one of these business units.
The Sign Graphics sector is not really growing—in fact, people might say it has matured. However, this market is looking for new technologies, to produce more efficient or to use different types of ink that will offer new applications to the print buyers.Our new UCJV range of UV LED roll-to-roll printers, which we brought out to the market earlier this year, has become the best-selling printer in recent quarters within a short period. Why? Simply because we switched the solvent inks being used in the Sign Graphics market with UV inks. By doing so, we are able to add white and clear ink that was previously not available.This ink and colour set, makes it possible to print on transparent and coloured media, offering a completely new application portfolio.
The textile market is developing rapidly and Mimaki has been actively growing this market in the last decades. In recent years, customised designs, shorter runs, and faster deliveries have become the standard. As a result, there has been a continuous shift from traditional technologies to digital in order to accommodate shorter lead times and to reduce stocks.
To get back to the question; Mimaki is preparing to make a big leap in the textile industry. With our recent acquisitions of La Meccanica and Rimslow, we are now able to provide full workflow solutions to the growing textile market. Mimaki now offers a complete line-up of products from Software, Pre-treatment, Printing and Post treatment solutions to produce any types of textile.
What is important to sustain Mimaki’s growth, is to continuously look for new opportunities, be innovative and to adapt to current and future market demands. This has put Mimaki on the map in the past and will guarantee our future growth.
3. Mimaki has been part of InPrint since 2014, and Industrial inkjet is growing in many areas – what application area/s does Mimaki see as offering the greatest growth?
For the industrial markets, we can define several growing markets such as promotional products and printing on other consumer products. I believe many companies have adopted this technology or are currently exploring the possibilities of in-house digital printing in their companies.
Besides adopting digital printing, it is also important for companies to take a critical look at their production processes. The big buzzword here is IoT (Internet of Things). Integrating our printers into an automated workflow is where the growth is waiting for us. In this digital era, people order a large part of their product needs from webshops. From that specific order moment, Mimaki has to make sure it converts this order directly into printable data and that all devices in this workflow communicate with each other. There is a very exciting challenge waiting for us here and we’re ready for it.
4. The recent InPrint Survey and Report suggests that the challenge ahead for inkjet is both a commercial and technical one. What in your opinion is the biggest single challenge for industrial inkjet into new markets?
This is a bit connected to the previous question. In the promotional market, digital printing has become quite a standard already. But in any other product developments, we are still bringing digital printing to new customers. We believe automated workflows are becoming crucially important.
5. 3D Printing has gone through a hype cycle but is now appearing to have found a true role in industrial applications. How do you see future growth for 3D printing and what is the response to Mimaki multicolour printing?
There are many different technologies available in the 3D printing market. Mimaki has identified a market where high quality printing and full colour printing are the main requirements.Potentially, any kind of object can be printed by using 3D technologies. Just imagine; the majority of the items that are currently laying on your desk.
The barrier for fast expansion of 3D printing technologies is the speed. By removing this barrier in the future, 3D printing technologies will rapidly take over traditional production methods. Needless to say, the ability to print high quality and in full colour, as well as the ability to print in a production environment will open the door to a whole new market. Currently, the response to our 3D full colour solution has been great. The high quality and colour accuracy of our 3D printer is unmatched.
6. What will Mimaki be showing at InPrint 2018 in Milan?
We believe that UV printing is the key technology for the industrial markets. Therefore, at the show, we will display a wide array of our innovative UV inkjet printers.
Our UV flatbed printers will be shown in various sizes, from as compact as 30cm x 42cm print area all the way to grand format of 2.5m x 3.1m. Furthermore, these highly versatile printers will be shown together with features that will expand creative possibilities and business opportunities even further. These include a new metallic ink and an optional unit that enables precise 360 degree printing on cylindrical objects, such as glass bottles or jars.
In addition, we will also showcase our best-selling UCJV300 UV LED roll-to-roll inkjet printer/cutter.The Mimaki UCJV300 offers in-line cutting capabilities and features layered print technology, such as four-layer and five-layer for transitional or double facing images. Prints are instantly-cured at even the highest production speeds, allowing customers to quickly print and immediately move to the finished product. The Greenguard Gold certified LUS-170 inks are environmentally friendly and energy efficient. The flexibility of the ink makes it ideal for a wide range of applications, including those with curved surfaces like vehicle wraps and fleet graphics. What’s more, we have recently announced an additional clear ink for this machine, which will surely offer a host of new design possibilities by creating compelling displays using gloss, matte or textured finish.
Finally, we will also bring many samples from our high quality, full-colour 3D printing technology, which allows bureau, designers and product developers to reach unparalleled levels of photo realism due to its fine detail and extensive colour capability.