Among the most popular media and with the greatest expressive power, wood has been confirmed as the principal material for interior decoration and more, thanks to new opportunities offered by finishing using digital printing.
Wood is both an ancient and modern material at the same time. Featuring great expressive power that meets the requirements of contemporary users, wood in its iridescent forms is a major feature of our everyday life, in the environments in which we move, in the objects we use, and in the signs and furnishings that capture our attention. Aided by technology: thanks to the latest generation of UV and UV LED digital printers, it is now possible to decorate the surface of different types of wood. We can thus choose from an infinite variety of images, designs, and shapes, having an unprecedented colour range available to us that makes on-demand production and even the most intricate customisation possible.
This trend is also confirmed by the numbers. The market for digital printing on wood recorded – at a global level – a total turnover of 4.6 billion dollars in 2020 and, according to forecasts, will reach a value of just under 6 billion dollars by 2030. The CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the reference period (2021-2030) is estimated at 2.8 percentage points. The European market is currently the second largest in the world for digital printing on wood – after North America – and is expected to see further significant development during the coming years.
A question of technology
Among the driving factors within the market, there is certainly a growing demand for customised interior decoration solutions. Planners, designers and architects are looking for decorated surfaces to create unique environments, within which each element is studied in detail, from wooden floors with special finishes to furniture and furnishing elements with captivating workmanship of exceptional quality, and decorative objects with an instant wowing effect. On the one hand, the increasing spread of engineered – and therefore high-performance – woods have certainly contributed to the boom in demand within the wood finishing market. On the other hand, the real enabling tool that has made a difference compared to the past is digital printing.
The latest generation of digital UV inkjet printing systems allows for direct printing onto prefabricated wooden boards, printing onto small wooden objects, or coating boards and wooden objects with vinyl graphics or melamine materials. The quality achieved is now very high, enabling the printing of logos, images and text with photographic quality directly onto wooden surfaces. The only limit to decoration? The creativity of the designer.
Digital inkjet printing in direct mode is normally applied to wood fibreboard, laminated wood, hardwoods, softwoods, and to panels characterised by a uniform surface generally, thus offering great flexibility in the choice of media. UV and UV LED printing technologies are the most used for this type of application, as they allow for high performance both in terms of print quality and durability to be obtained. The production process is very simple to manage. As a first step, wood surfaces undergo pre-treatment – generally carried out using polymer, acrylic or polyurethane-based substances – to improve the consistency of the colour range and the quantitative yield of UV ink. In addition, depending on the intended end-use, post-treatments can be applied after the printing process to increase resistance to factors such as abrasion, moisture, scratching and foot traffic. Digital printing provides several benefits within the wood finishing market, as in other sectors, from the possibility of creating infinite patterns and designs to the extreme flexibility, which allows for on-demand production, and thus for warehouse costs to be eliminated.
With regard to printing onto objects, advanced flatbed printers are ideal for finishing small wooden decorative elements such as photo frames, decorative boxes and storage bins, or for adding customisation or special effects – such as special reflectiveness, contrast, glossy and matte finishes, and unique textures – to parts of furnishing elements or larger items.
Ad hoc and cost-effective solutions for finishing wood
Among the main suppliers of digital printing systems, Mimaki offers a wide portfolio of inkjet printers that are ideal for printing onto wood. Equipped with Mimaki’s proprietary core technologies, the company’s printing systems guarantee top-of-the-range performance in terms of quality and productivity, and are competitive in terms of initial investment and operating costs.
The JFX200, JFX500 and JFX600 series solutions are particularly effective for digital printing directly onto wood. The JFX200 series of UV LED flatbed printers – JFX200-2513, JFX200-2513 EX and JFX200-2531 – allow for extreme operational flexibility, as well as a top-quality finish and high production capacity. These printing systems offer a wide choice of types of UV inks – including highly opaque white and transparent for glossy, matte and relief finishes – and enable users to print onto a wide range of media, with thicknesses up to 50mm.
Another particularly effective solution for finishing wood is the JFX500-2131, a 2m x 3m large format UV LED flatbed printer. With a productivity of 60m2/h using CMYK (up to 45m2/h using white ink), this solution is equipped with an intelligent micrometric feed system that enables accurate printing, with perfectly legible precision to 2-point type. The wide range of rigid and flexible UV inks and six offset print heads also contribute to the high image quality.
Mimaki’s flagship solution is the JFX600-2513, the first large-format, high-quality flatbed capable of meeting extreme productivity requirements (up to 200m2/h). This solution is equipped with advanced 2.5D printing technology, which prints graphic textures on any substrate with a simple “one-touch” workflow.
For the finishing of objects of varied shapes, Mimaki’s wide portfolio offers the UJF series of small format UV flatbed printers. The latest generation printing systems, the UJF-3042 MkII e, UJF-3042 MkII EX and UJF-6042 MkII e are characterised by productivity, quality, reliability and flexibility. Designed and developed for direct digital printing onto various objects with thicknesses up to 153mm, and onto non-planar materials (with unevenness up to 4.5 mm), they offer unlimited opportunities for customisation. With the addition of Mimaki’s Kebab option, these printers also enable printing onto cylindrical objects. Equipped with different UV inks, the UJF series printing systems also have high-coverage white ink and transparent ink for glossy and matte finishes, and relief effects with great visual and tactile impact.