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New ValueJet model that combines the benefits of eco-solvent and UV inks.

What does it do?
This is a relatively low-cost hybrid roll/sheet wide-format inkjet that uses a new MP31 ‘resin’ CMYK plus white inkset in place of the more usual UV-cure type. It’s a 1,627mm wide machine with a roll-to-roll feed for flexible media, plus removable front and back tables to support rigid media up to 16mm thick. 

When was it launched and what markets is it aimed at?
The European launch was at the end of November and shipping started immediately. According to Mutoh Europe marketing manager Nick Decock, it “addresses the needs of people wanting to move to direct-to-rigid printing but who do not have the budget nor the volume to equip themselves with a true flatbed printer. Plus they have the benefit of white inks.”
Target users include sign and display printers, graphics firms for proofing or short-run pack prototypes, custom labels, or industrial printers for thermoforming.
Customers in UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain & Oman shall get the Mutoh products from the only official distributor Graphic International Centre LLC.

How does it work?
The hardware is based on the long-established ValueJet series, which uses eco-solvent inks. The new development is the MP31 ink, which Mutoh describes as “multi-purpose”. It doesn’t need special ventilation and is said to be odourless.
This is a resin-based solvent ink that works with both plastics and non-absorbent rigid media, which normally cannot be used with solvent inks because they will not bond with the surface. Mutoh’s list of compatible rigids include foam board, cardboard, aluminium panel and acrylic sheets, as well as thermoforming plastics.
Its flexible media range includes heat-sensitive materials such as shrink film and recyclable non-PVC media as well as conventional self-adhesive vinyls. They are stretchy enough for vehicle wraps.
Normally UV inks are used for rigid media, though HP has recently introduced hybrid printers that use its Latex aqueous-resin inks with heat curing. Mutoh stresses that MP31 has completely different characteristics to Latex.
Even so, both use a sticky resin formulation to bond to the media, with heat to quickly drive off the liquid carrier before it runs. However, Decock says that the hot ‘air knife’ used to dry the MP31 only acts to evaporate the solvent and substrate temperatures do not exceed 50°C. The whole printer uses 2.5kW when running. Current third-generation HP Latex inks use much more heat to activate the resins, and an ‘Optimiser’ primer ink is usually needed. An HP R1000 needs 8 to 10kW.
Mutoh claims that outdoor durability of the MP31 inks is better than UV: “We currently state two years but are confident that two-and-a-half to three years should be possible,” says Decock. The ink film is thinner than UV, so preserves the gloss level of the substrate. As with eco solvent (but not UV or Latex), a waiting time is needed before lamination.

How does it differ from previous models?
The 1627MH replaces the 1617H model. Apart from the inks and drier, it runs 20% faster, while accepting slightly thicker media (up from 15mm). New features include automated media height measurement, a head protection sensor to avoid crashes, semi-automated cleaning cycles and maintenance covers left and right.

What’s the USP?
Primarily the MP31 inks, which Mutoh says combine the benefits of conventional eco-solvent inks with the versatility of UV, while avoiding most of the problems.

How fast/productive is it?
This depends on the material being printed, as well as quality/resolution and whether white ink is printed. This is certainly not a fast printer, particularly if printing dual-white as well as CMYK, but it costs a lot less than typical UV hybrids, or HP’s R1000. The non-white CCMMYK version is the fastest.

Alternatives
HP Latex R1000
The only other hybrid or flatbed that can print on non-absorbent rigid media without using UV-cure inks. It’s faster, but four times the price of the Mutoh.
Ink type HP Latex aqueous-resin;    Max media width 1,625mm;    Max sheet length 1,220mm;    Max sheet thickness 50.8mm

Roland DG VersaUV LEJ-640
The LEJ-640 is a hybrid with CMYK plus white and optional clear inks. The clear UV ink can build up raised and textured effects. Like the Mutoh, performance is fairly modest, but so is the price.
Ink type Roland UV-LED;    Max media width 1,625mm;    Max sheet length 1,625mm;    Max sheet thickness 13mm

Mutoh ValueJet 1626UH
Another entry-level hybrid from the same stable as the new 1627MH, but with UV-LED inks. Apart from the heads, ink feed and UV curing, it’s pretty well the same hardware.
Ink type UV-LED;    Max media width 1,625mm;    Max sheet length 1,200mm;    Max sheet thickness 15mm