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The flatbed that changed the game

Brendan Perring analyses a piece of flatbed print technology that has become a flat-out record breaker

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(Above and below) The JFX200 is one of Mimaki’s most successful systems to date, and has achieved that by packing high-end technology into a small footprint to suit the needs of the market

There are millions upon millions spent on research and development by the big players in the wide-format print technology industry, and from that spend there is only a small number of truly successful products that have been a sustained major hit. One of them is the Mimaki JFX200, and with this tight little package continuing to dominate its market segment, Signlink thought it was well worth investigating why.

John de la Roche, national sales manager at Hybrid Services (Mimaki’s exclusive UK and Ireland distributor), helps shed some light on how it has managed to succeed where other projects have crashed to earth: “The JFX200 was a stroke of genius, and key to its success over and above its stand-out capabilities is its sheet size capabilities. For the USA and UK markets, 8 x 4’ (approx. 240 x 120cm) is the standard size for almost every conceivable type of rigid media.

"This makes it very attractive for print-service-providers in the UK, as it has a compact floor space, affordable investment level, but can still cater for the vast majority of day-to-day jobs that are specified by clients on this 8 x 4’ sheet size culture.”

Mimaki has been in the UV technology sector for a long time, and de la Roche cut his teeth at Hybrid eleven years ago with it. At the time, the investment levels on this type of technology were substantial, and although they were highly productive, it was only the very biggest players that could afford the price tag and had the work to feed it.
“So, the desire was out there to bring UV printing to the masses. Our competitors were very successful with their systems,” continues de la Roche, “but they were still in the £100,000 category depending on specification, and they all used metal halide lamps. At that time Mimaki were pioneers in the development of cold-cure LED technology and the clear benefits that brings.”

We knew after the first “behind closed doors” viewing that the JFX200 was going to be a recipe for success

Indeed, they were the first to market with LED cold-cure in the form of the UJF A3 seven years ago, which has done phenomenally well in the personalisation and promotional products sector. Mimaki then transposed this into a much larger flatbed while developing an appropriate range of inks to suit many applications.

Hitting the nail on the head

De la Roche continues: “The JFX200 was born, and Hybrid played an important role in supporting Mimaki to bring this to market. We knew after the first “behind closed doors” viewing that the JFX200 was going to be a recipe for success. It was 100 percent reliable from day one. It just worked. It was easy to use, no frills, a price point of around £60,000 depending on specification, and within a very short space of time I really would go as far as saying it has become an icon.”

The JFX200 certainly seems to have hit the nail on the head. It plugs straight into your domestic socket, there is no ozone, perfectly opaque white, it offers instant cure, prints onto glass without issue, there is no extraction, and its LED UV lamps last up to 10,000 hours. In addition, you can turn it off at night, walk back in the next morning, turn it on and it will run without issue.

De la Roche expands; “From a standing start, the JFX200 was the product to go and see and buy. In fact, there were many cases where we weren’t even doing full demos; people would just walk in the showroom and want one after seeing the first print.

A key market research statistic paints a picture, “Unit sales in our first year were almost approaching the expected yearly total from all manufacturers,” claims de la Roche. This is indicative of Mimaki rewriting the rule book in terms of price/performance, making high-end technology more affordable for a larger audience.

In many ways the JFX story is similar to what happened to the USA’s car market in the late 1970’s and 80’s. Dominated by highly-fuel inefficient and unreliable power house V8 muscle cars and sedans, the fuel crisis changed the game. Suddenly the 4-cylinder, highly-efficient, reliable, economical, affordable, and solidly performing Japanese marques such as Toyota, Datsun (Nissan), and Honda swept the board in new car sales, and continue to do so. Raw power and speed is necessary sometimes, but for many in the market, the Mimaki JFX is just the right fit.

If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@printmonthly.co.uk

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