Like many other producers of traditional office equipment, Ricoh has made clear its intentions to enter the 3D printing market. The reasons for doing so are clear; the demand for equipment like 2D printers and fax machines is stagnating, so these companies need to find another way to be competitive. 3D printing is the obvious next step for many of them. In addition, Ricoh has seen firsthand how effective 3D printing can be in its own daily operations.
Ricoh’s Production Technology Center assembly line is located in Japan’s Miyagi prefecture and is dedicated to the manufacture of large-format 2D printers. Recently, 3D printers have become involved in the work, particularly the Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer. Ricoh employees have been using the printer to manufacture jigs and fixtures, replacing traditional metal tooling with lightweight, customized 3D printed alternatives.
Ricoh turned to 3D printing as one way to accelerate production while maintaining or even lowering costs. By 3D printing the jigs and fixtures in durable ABS material, the company has been able not only to reduce the weight of the tools, making them easier to handle for long periods of time, but to customize them for each specific part’s geometry.
“Because we are producing an enormous number of parts, it takes a lot of time and effort to identify the right jigs and fixtures for each one. This manual process has become even lengthier as the number of components grows, requiring that an operator examine the shape, orientation and angle of each part before taking out a tool and placing it back in its original fixture. The operators were occasionally annoyed with the many different tools, and we were looking for a way to accelerate tooling to match our manufacturing schedule,” said Taizo Sakaki, Senior Manager of Business Development at Ricoh Group. “Now with Stratasys 3D printing, we are able to customize the tools according to the part and produce them on demand which is helping us restructure and modernize our production process.”
Using 3D printing makes the whole production process much faster, too. Before, Ricoh was outsourcing the machining of tools, which could take at least two weeks. Now the tools can be 3D printed in-house in one day. It’s much quicker for new hires to adapt to the tools and workstations, as well.
“The Stratasys Fortus 900mc 3D printing solution enables us to realize designs that are difficult for conventional cutting methods to replicate, such as hollow interiors, curves or complex shapes,” said Sakaki. “The material used to 3D print the tools is very strong and anti-static which is important due to the large number of electronic components we are assembling, adding to the advantages of Stratasys 3D printing.”
Ricoh is pleased with how using 3D printing has improved its production processes, and is continuing to look into other areas where the technology can be implemented, such as molding and low volume production.
“Ricoh embraces technology and we are delighted to lead the industry in adopting innovation in our business,” said Masami Hirama, Director of Production Innovation Center at Ricoh. “Our workbench has become more flexible and more efficiently organized, and our operators are all happy about that.”
Stratasys, for its part, is pleased that its technology has played a role in improving production for Ricoh.
“At Stratasys, we are committed to helping our customers overcome the constraints of traditional workflows and processes with a complete ecosystem of 3D printing expertise, technologies and services. Ricoh illustrates perfectly how manufacturing aids 3D printed with Stratasys additive technology empower manufacturers to increase their efficiency and flexibility while ultimately becoming more competitive,” said Omer Krieger, President of Stratasys Asia Pacific & Japan.
“Customized 3D printed jigs and fixtures can play an important role in enabling companies to get products to market faster and are a great example of how Stratasys applies purposeful innovation to manufacturers’ goals and aspirations. Whenever you can reduce a process from weeks to days – that is a solution worth exploring.”
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