3D printing? It’s all about colour!

3D sample model

With industrial mass production touted as the next big thing, accurate colour simulation, achieved using the Mimaki 3DUJ-553, will be the key to its success.

There has been a lot of buzz about 3D printing in recent years. While the 3D printing market continues to expand globally, there is a strong sense in the industry that mass production will be the next big thing. Indeed, additive manufacturing is quickly moving from prototyping into full production, with enhancements in workflow, standardisation and automation underway. However, at Mimaki we have reasons to expect another scenario to play out in parallel, with the leitmotiv being “What colour you see is what colour you get”. In fact, we believe that colour will be key to the growth of additive manufacturing across a number of areas in 2019.

It’s 3D-colour time!
The latest developments in 3D printing technology have achieved full colour capabilities, meaning that additive manufacturing can now produce true-to-life, photo-realistic models. Here Mimaki is a pioneer, thanks to its established expertise in colour and colour management within the industrial 2D inkjet printing environment.

The new Mimaki 3DUJ-553 is the first ever polymer 3D printing system that enables more than 10 million different full colours. Based on UV-curable inkjet technology, it builds objects by jetting successive layers of inks that are hardened by LED UV light at each pass. The 3DUJ-553 uses CMYK, white and clear inks to produce photo-realistic products, with rich colour expression including spot colour, shades and gradients. In addition, the use of white and clear inks enables the production of special effects, such as total transparent textures or layered textures with clear on the outside and white or plain colour on the inside (and vice versa), boosting opportunities in applications.

Yet, this is only one side to the story. The other one concerns the support of ICC colour profiles – a world premiere in 3D printing – which is crucial to achieving accurate colour simulation and perfect reproducibility from the design screen to the real printed 3D object. Mimaki has drawn on its knowhow from 2D printing and applied it to 3D: MPM3, a proprietary colour management software, enables colour accuracy, colour adjustments, as well as colour matching among same printer models through equalisation (by measuring colour charts), allowing the same colour output on multiple 3D printers – no matter where in the world they are located. For further quality benefits, Mimaki has also introduced an enhanced waveform control system, which adapts the waveform for each ink that is used. What is waveform? It is the process whereby ink droplets are jetted in near-perfect circles and positioned with absolute precision, resulting in flawless print quality.

Thus, how can Mimaki’s colour-powerful 3DUJ-553 change designers’ lives? Three key terms here: output quality, simulation matching and consistency. The new 3D printing system helps designers ensure that the projects they create on screen perfectly match the printed output, broadening up creative opportunities and enabling time and cost savings – provided, of course, that screen calibration is done properly! Consistency and repeatability bring in further time and cost benefits in terms of less reliance on transportation, thereby decreasing the environmental impact. As soon as the project is ready to be printed, production can run locally with the guarantee that the final product looks and feels the same.

Mimaki 3D Link Software

Beyond colour
Colour is not the only strength of our core 3D printing technology. Mimaki’s long expertise in industrial 2D inkjet printing, as well as in inkjet direct-to-object printing has enabled us to be accurate in every detail of our 3D printing systems.

The 3DUJ-553 is equipped with in-head ink circulation systems, which helps prevent pigment sedimentation and removes air bubbles near the nozzles. With NCU (Nozzle Check Unit), automatic cleaning is performed when a nozzle is missing or damaged. Both technologies are borrowed from Mimaki’s 2D inkjet printing knowledge, ensuring advanced uptime, improved productivity, reliability and production stability is also achieved in 3D printing.

Another feature worth mentioning is the modelling area of 500x500x300mm, which makes the 3DUJ-553 suitable for a wide range of applications, including large-scale prototyping and modelling, with high detail accuracy and efficient positioning of printable objects.

All in all, we expect new frontiers to open up for 3D applications across the coming years. Technology-wise, Mimaki is ready to take on the 3D printing challenges. Application-wise, there are different market segments that can be addressed with the new 3DUJ-553. Ranging from scaled models, mock-ups and prototyping, to 3D art, tools and equipment, figurines, and medical and educational applications: colour-powerful 3D printing technology is set to enhance the way those industries envision creativity and improve the overall production process.