Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Epson to Target Mass Volume Manufacturing Opportunities in 3D Printing Market–Within the Next 4-5 Years

ST Medical Devices

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Epson_logo_tagline_r_287Seiko Epson’s Global President, Minoru Usui, was in India recently, as the Japanese company celebrates 25 years of good business there. This is a man who is passionate about printers. More so though, he is passionate about making sure the customer is top priority, and as we all know–all too often that is something large corporations lose sight of as they worry more about the cutthroat competition at hand. And while that is a consideration, when you put the clientele first and remain dedicated, it shows. Today, however, the company is working to strike a balance in terms of industry and ‘market need’ as well. Part of staying relevant often means breaking out of the current mold.

“In areas like printing and projection, we realized there was a lot of scope beyond our traditional consumer area,” said Usui. “That is why we have put a lot of effort into creating innovation in the business industrial area where previously we had a wide business portfolio.”

Mr.-Minoru-Usui-Global-President-Seiko-Epson-CorporationThis means giving business customers what they want today. With technology, that takes many forms, but in the printing industry, the 3D printer is surely at the top of the list–and is actually relevant on many consumer levels–and for all ages. So does this mean…? Yes. Most likely. In the near future.

“We don’t have anything on the 3D printer market at the moment. But we are doing basic developments on the R&D side and hope to have something in four to five years,” Usui told Business Today.

Upon discussing all the areas Epson has excelled in like today’s highly affordable Inktank printer, very popular in India, as well as the inkjet and Micro Piezo technology, it’s obvious that their goal is to create products that make life easier and more affordable for their customers while also offering greater speed and performance too. With 3D printing, Usui points out that Epson wants to focus on a unique area where production of the popular technology is not being met: in mass volume manufacturing.

“Just as we decided to focus entirely on Inkjet rather than laser, we would like to focus on 3D printing. Our aim is to focus on an area where our competitors simply can’t easily enter,” said Usui.

Pointing out the all-too-common observation that 3D printing is still too concentrated on producing plastic toys and figurines, Usui also boils down the problems in 3D printing quite succinctly: the materials aren’t good enough yet, the hardware is far too slow, and it’s not accurate enough.

“…We are looking to make dramatic increases and improvements in all these three areas to produce a printer that can be used in manufacturing situations.”

25640f0Considering the topic of India and their focus on foreign markets, Usui discussed plans for the future, such as to invest heavily in projectors for areas like India, where they love movies. They plan to expand their watchmaking division, but with more of a traditional bend than companies like Apple, who have connected the wristwear with technology. That does not mean they aren’t interested in products like wearables, however. Robotics and automated wares seem to be on Epson’s horizon as well, and especially in India.

“Our robots are relatively small that we use for high precision assembly. We developed the robot business initially for use in our own company, then we expanded to outside customers,” said Usui. “Also, as you know, the software side is extremely important for robots. There is a lot of potential to actually work with Indian companies on the R&D side.”

While 3D printing is definitely in the works in terms of R&D, other projects focused on meeting customer needs are that of faster printers operating at 100 ppm or more, massive factory printers for textiles, robots that ‘release’ people from manual labor, and more.  Discuss this story in the Epson 3D Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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