Josh Hope and Jaime Martinez discussed color 3D printing, the possibilities of 3D printers and their company's hardware, in particular, and explained the creation process based on one of Mimaki's 3D printers.
Josh Hope and Jaime Martinez from Mimaki USA joined us for a new episode of 80 Level Round Table to talk about 3D printing and how this industry works. The duo talked about the things that define the quality of prints, solutions available, software needed, setting up different maps for prints, and more.
Josh Hope: I am Sr. Manager for 3D Printing and Engineering Projects at Mimaki USA. My background is in 2D printing and color management. I am responsible for the sales and marketing of the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 full-color 3D printer.
Jaime Martinez: I am a 3D Applications Specialist for Mimaki USA. I also come from the 2D printing world but have been neck-deep in 3D for the last 2+ years. I am responsible for the file preparation, printing, and finishing of the 3D color prints as well as end-user training and support for the color 3D printer.
We are both located at the Mimaki USA corporate headquarters about an hour North of Atlanta, Georgia in the US.
About the Company
Our parent company is Mimaki Engineering out of Nagano, Japan, which has been around since 1975. Mimaki has been focused on 2D color inkjet printing and related technologies since the beginning of the company. We have only been involved in 3D printing since around 2017. Mimaki brings a lot of color printing technology and knowledge to the 3D world.
Color 3D Printing Technology
I wish we could say that Mimaki invented color 3D printing, but it was actually invented at MIT back in 1993 as a powder-based printing system that could print with CMYK inks coloring gypsum-based material. Jump ahead 25 years and Mimaki releases the 3DUJ-553 which is a liquid resin-based UV cured technology capable of producing over 10 million unique colors. The difference between the two technologies besides the huge gain in color gamut is that we are essentially producing a plastic model with the look at feel of an ABS material. So, the surface is smoother, the model is stronger, and the color and detail are far superior to what is possible with a powder-based machine.
The Possibilities of 3D Printers
The possibilities of what can be done with 3D printers are endless. We currently have customers with the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 that are doing industrial tool prototyping, medical training models, consumer electronics prototyping, packaging design, etc. In the toy and collectible world, we have companies doing both prototyping and short-run production work. The build area of the printer is 503mm x 503mm x 308mm (20 x 20 x 12 inches) so we can do many small pieces or one large piece. The largest print we have done in-house was the Nemesis model from d0pep0pe. Jaime put in a ton of hours to get that model ready to print which included hollowing it out and making the tail a separate piece so it could be lit from the inside to show off the tinted clear parts which looked amazing! The entire print took almost 170 hours to complete but it was totally worth it.
How Mimaki 3DUJ-553 Works
Our printing process starts with pre-pigmented photopolymer resins. We have Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, White, and Clear resins along with a water-soluble support material. The resins and support material are all in liquid form and are jetted out of industrial inkjet heads as liquid droplets. Once the droplets land, we use LED-UV lamps to cure the liquid droplets to a solid. In a basic sense, it is very similar to how your home inkjet printer works but on a much larger scale.
The actual shape of the model and the coloring of the model are all printed at the same time, and this is the part that most people are surprised by. Imagine an M&M candy. If you cut one in half you will see that the shape is made from the chocolate, and the color is from the candy coating on the outside. In the 3DUJ-553 printer, each model is sliced into very thin layers by the software – down as small as 19 microns (0.019mm). That slice is then printed using mostly White and Clear resins, but the outside edge of each slice is printed with the CMYK as well. Once the layers are all printed on top of each other the result is a full color 3D print. The combination of the very thin build layer thickness and the highly accurate ink droplet placement are really the secrets to how the printer is able to produce such amazing 3D prints.
Availability and Cost
Currently, the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 is priced at $179,995 USD so it is definitely an industrial level printer and not something most people are going to have in their office. The best way for an artist to be able to get these kinds of prints is to go through a service bureau that has a Mimaki 3DUJ-553. It’s hard to estimate the print cost since there are a lot of variables involved such as the size, complexity of the model, amount of finishing required, etc. It also makes a huge difference if you are looking to get one model or a run of multiple prints. My suggestion would be to reach out to a service bureau provider who has a Mimaki 3DUJ-553 and get a quote on your specific model.
What Changes in the Industry Can We Expect?
Artists have been taking advantage of 3D printing for some time now, and full color 3D printing is starting to be embraced by more and more people and companies. The Hero Forge 2.0 full color miniature project is a great example of what can be done with full color 3D printing. We certainly expect that as more of these printers are available in the field, the less expensive the prints will become. How soon or how much it will come down to is anyone’s guess at this point. I will say that Mimaki has some exciting things coming up that we can’t talk about yet, but 2021 is going to be an exciting year for color 3D printing!
If You Want to Learn More About Color 3D Printing
On the technical side, learning about color texturing is a great start. Substance, Blender, ZBrush are all excellent products with a lot of resources. If you are interested in learning more about the printer itself, reach out to your local Mimaki dealer or feel free to shoot us a message. We love talking about the 3DUJ-553, it’s an amazing machine!