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Mutoh Europe introduces Bio-Lactite solvent ink to replace lackluster MuBIO ink with a completely different bio-solvent ink Print E-mail

Mutoh Europe introduces Bio-Lactite solvent ink to replace lackluster MuBIO ink with a completely different bio-solvent ink

It was nice to see the new Bio-Lactite bio-solvent ink in the Mutoh Europe booth at FESPA Munich in late June 2010.

The earlier MuBIO ink gradually acquired a reputation for inadequate adhesion on some materials, and more embarrassing, needing lots of purging to keep printheads from clogging. The samples of Bio-Lactite look attractive and hopefully this ink adheres better. The main question, however, is how much more “solvent” was required to add to the chemistry to gain this better adhesion. I thought the idea of a bio-anything was to get rid of solvents, not add them.

But if MuBio ink has this many issues, why is it still being promoted in America?

MuBio ink is not even featured by its own manufacturer InkWare and VUTEk! And now MuBio ink has been replaced by Mutoh Europe. This raises the question of why is it still offered in USA?

Yes, we agree that every printshop owner has the right to decide what ink to use, and if they find something good about MuBio ink, then they should use MuBio ink as much as they wish.

But with all the other innovative new inks coming out, at least it is crucial that printshop owners, managers, and printer operators see what else is available. And if Mutoh itself gets rid of this ink in their new printers, might perhaps this be a tip that their new ink is better than the old ink?

Mutoh MUBIO bio-solvent ink in hybrid ValueJet 1608-64 replaces Biojet flatbed solvent ink printer with Vutek BioVu ink

During the period when Mutoh had no UV printer (2006-2007), Mutoh experimented with finding alternatives for UV-curing, especially Mutoh America. Now that Mutoh Europe has its own UV printer, the Zephyr, however, Mutoh America is still continuing with its alternative MUBIO bio-solvent ink in a hybrid flatbed printer, the hybrid ValueJet 1608-64 ”. It turns out this is a great printer for Sepiax resin ink and for Jetbest alcohol-based ink. These inks offer several capabilities not possible with Mutoh's own bio-inks.

Through 2008-2011 Mutoh America rarely if ever exhibited the Zephyr UV-cured printer: it was considered too expensive for the typical printshop which is a satisfied Mutoh client in North America. Plus, a pinch-roller system can't move all thick and rigid materials (as HP learned after it bought ColorSpan's hybrid concept).

Mutoh Biojet eco-solvent flatbed printer evaluations
Mutoh hybrid ValueJet 1608-64" printer with MUBIO ink bio-solvent ink was exhibited at FESPA Digital 2008.

Bio-ink of another flavor existed before MuBIO

Mutoh BioJet98
Mutoh Biojet flatbed solvent ink printer
Mutoh BioJet98
Mutoh BioJet Printing Samples

In 2006, when I first saw bio-ink, VUTEk had a nice brochure on their BioVu ink, but there was no brochure whatsoever on the Mutoh Biojet flatbed printer that was using this remarkable bio-ink in a prototype printer in the Mutoh booth. But I was sufficiently impressed that I wrote a series of articles on the potential of this ink. But then I did not see the flatbed or the ink at any trade show for a season or so, and by then UV - curing flatbeds had so thoroughly taken over the market that there was not time to keep up with each new change in the formulation of the bio-ink.

I am curious to learn more about the MUBIO bio-solvent version of BioVu ink and why the Mutoh ValueJet hybrid 1608-64 replaced the earlier Mutoh Biojet printer. It is normal for any new ink chemistry to go through many iterations. Look how long it took Eco-Solvent ink of the 2003, 2004, and 2005 formulas to reach a satisfactory result (from 2006 onward, third-generation eco-solvent ink worked very nicely, as the FLAAR Reports documented from testing this ink at Mutoh Europe).

But the deciding factors will be abrasion resistance, adhesion, how bio-solvent works on cheap uncoated signage materials, and whether cleaning fluids can wipe the ink off the surface of normal signage materials. Every single industry analyst that I ask about bio-solvent ink comments on the need for testing.

The most important test for each new ink (all inks, not just bio-solvent) would be a basic scratch test, an alcohol wipe test, and other cleaning fluids if what you print might be exposed to cleaning fluids. If what you print will never be wiped with any liquid, then that of course helps too.

A second test would be to determine whether the materials to be printed on need to be coated (inkjet coated with ink receptor layer) or whether the ink can print on any uncoated basic material. Some early solvent flatbed printers failed in the marketplace after a season or so because the range of materials they could print on adequately was only a few. I remember one solvent flatbed where I was told in the booth that it printed adequately only on one or two materials. But this was about three or four years ago and was not bio-solvent ink. Plus the bio-solvent ink of 2009 is surely (hopefully) reformulated from the original experimental beta version that was first presented in 2006.

Some other different inks such as Lumocolor (a water-based ink, not bio-solvent), had adhesion and abrasion issues on some surfaces if not laminated. If the new formula for MUBIO ink passes these tests, this will be a good feature. In the meantime Mutoh is featuring 3M's performance guarantee. It is unclear if the warranty is primarily for materials that are top-coated or protected with over-laminates.

Mutoh MUBIO bio-solvent ink in hybrid ValueJet 1608-64 replaces Biojet flatbed solvent ink
Sample printed by the Mutoh hybrid ValueJet 1608-64" printer at ISA 2007.

An additional question is the viability of third-party after-market bio-solvent inks. MegaInk (Sakata INX) has launched a significant advertising campaign to announce its bio-solvent inks. Ink companies in Israel and elsewhere also offer inks with a “bio” label. However the same question arises: does alcohol smear some solvent inks? Does it scratch off easily with your fingernail or with a ballpoint pen? I hear totally conflicting reports. The best way to be sure is to find another printshop near you that is already using a flatbed printer, and ask them what materials the printer works best on, what material the ink wipes off.

For example, there is one major brand of UV-cured ink that does not adhere well on Coroplast (unless you personally pre-coat (prime) each piece of Coroplast. This same brand of UV ink flakes off the edges of Sintra if you cut or trim the Sintra. Yet this same printer is excellent for other materials and is quite popular. So every printer and every ink has its benefits on some material, and inability on other materials. If the material that you and your clients need is handled well by Brand X, Model Y printer, then by all means consider acquiring this printer. But if no one notifies you of which features to check on, you may be disappointed when your new printer arrives and a client asks for a material that your new ink is not ideal for.

Fortunately ink chemistry improves every year. So an ink that smears and scratches one year, by the time the ink is improved these issues can be overcome with a new chemistry. There are progressive ink companies now in India and I have inspected the ink factory, R&D labs and facilities of an ink company in China. Indeed when I visited an end-user in Latin America that used this Chinese ink, he said that it worked better (clogged the printheads less) than the major international name brand of European ink that he used before (these are solvent, not bio-solvent, but the point is that after-market inks are becoming better). Nonetheless, many printshop owners say they prefer to stay true to the original recommended ink, especially during the first year, when the original warranty may be voided if you use an unproven ink. Staying with the original ink is especially valid for UV-cured inks, since every brand of ink reacts differently to the ink delivery system and to the printheads. The original equipment manufacturer has prepared the entire system to handle one ink as best as possible.

BioWare ink in the Biojet flatbed printer was originally anticipated to be a potential competition for UV-cured flatbed inkjet printers, mild-solvent flatbed printers such as Mutoh's own LT Board Printer, and solvent-based inkjet flatbed printers that still existed in 2005. But none of these alternative solvent flatbed printers has lasted on the market long enough to evaluate it. Plus, now in 2008 through 2010 so many new flatbed inks are appearing from Europe that it is a challenge to keep up. There is an exciting new alcohol-based ink from Europe that prints on a diverse range of surfaces and materials. There is another ink, entirely water-based, a nano-dye ink, that prints on an impressive amount of materials but needs a topcoating (which is cleverly simultaneously applied by the same printer). And there are other water-based inks that “print on everything” that are so new that no printer yet utilizes them. So far these innovative flatbeds have been exhibited primarily in Europe, though the alcohol-based ink was displayed at SGIA '08.

2012 will be a year to watch for new flatbed technologies and completely new and different ink chemistries. It is possible that by DRUPA 2012 the flatbeds featured at that epic event may be as innovative to us then as the Sias Digital UV and PerfectaPrint Mechatron (Zund) UV printers were innovative prototypes at DRUPA 2000.

But it is not suggested or recommended to wait until then; your clients need a flatbed output from your sign shop today. Your competitors across town are already installing flatbeds of various inks and technologies. Just be sure to test the specific materials that you and your clients need.

The advantage of an ink which is not hazardous and has no VOCs is that some Fortune 500 companies, and some other clients prefer to find a printshop that uses ink other than full-scale heavy solvent ink. For example, during autumn 2010, two major brands, one a Fortune 500 corporate name, each independently selected Sepiax resin ink to print their advertising posters and banners. They had the option of HP latex ink and Sepiax resin ink, and both companies selected Sepiax.

Also, you can sometimes earn a higher price for ecologically friendly inks.

So if a bio-solvent ink meets the local ecological needs, and if the Mutoh printer can handle the specific materials that you and your client wish, then you should test this Mutoh ValueJet Hybrid 1608-64” system.

But the question still remains, if Mutoh itself has replaced MuBio ink, and if the manufacturer (InkWare) stopped featuring it after one year, it would seem that this original bio-solvent ink may indeed have deficiences that were recognized, but since so much time, PR, and money was spent promoting MuBio ink, it would be embarrassing to admit it had issues. Is this fair to printshop owners, managers, and printer operators?

It should also be asked, why in the last two years has no trade magazine raised questions about an ink that seemingly is not quite as good as early PR releases were claiming.

I hope that the new bio-solvent ink is indeed better in all respects. Indeed perhaps this new bio-solvent ink is worthy of testing, evaluating, and reporting by the FLAAR Reports. But at present, we are very occupied with other projects and have not yet received any requests to evaluate the new Mutoh Bio-Lactite bio-solvent ink.

The ink that replaced Mu-BIO: Bio-Lactite, has also not been successful

It is sad that the new ink has not been very successful. At a major trade show in Europe the main Mutoh booth did not even exhibit the Bio-Lactite ink. And I have seen other Mutoh distributors totally skipping the Bio-Lactite ink, and featuring the old eco-solvent or mild-solvent inks.

I hope during 2012 that Mutoh can recuperate from the closing of the Mutoh Europe factory and two uninspiring inks. Mimaki has advanced considerably in market share as a result, especially since Mimaki has been the most successful with UV-cured printers, selling more than Roland and Mutoh combined.

What keeps Mutoh alive at all is the popularity of its ValueJet line, plus the DrafStation is a great entry-level printer.

 

FLAAR Reports on mild & lite-solvent printers
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Seiko Infotech Teriostar LP1020MF

 

Most recently updated January 6, 2012.

First posted June 1, 2006. Updated April 25, 2008. Updated January 23, 2009 to keep up with all the other flatbed inks that are coming out. Updated July 2, 2010 after admission of all the things that MuBio ink is not good at. Updated Nov. 23, 2010.

 
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