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Ricoh Sees Importance of 3D Printing, Digital Fabrication in Education, Business Strategy

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88% of the 787 higher education leaders and decision-makers around the world questioned in a new study commissioned by Ricoh Europe and conducted by Coleman Parkes said that new skills they learned through modern technologies, like 3D printing and digital fabrication, were extremely important to the educational success of their students, as well as in helping to prepare them for life after the classroom in the graduate job market. That’s roughly nine out of ten respondents who say that innovative technologies such as 3D printing are an important addition to their curriculum.

“Digital fabrication and 3D printing provide the ability to illustrate complex concepts across a variety of subjects,” said David Mills, the CEO of Ricoh Europe. “As the way people and machines work together continues to evolve, integrating technical abilities into the learning process helps ensure the skills required of the future workforce become second nature for today’s students.”

3D printing is often discussed in education as a way to make STEAM classrooms focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics more hands-on and fun, make technology more visible to students, teach students the importance of iterating, and give them a better understanding of what engineering and mathematics do.

According to the report Ricoh completed after receiving the results of the survey, “As printing technology becomes of greater strategic importance to businesses, executives are looking at how it can help them respond to the urgent challenges they face right now.”

The skills required for students preparing to enter today’s workforce are very important for expressing design and prototype concepts in disciplines and applications ranging from textiles and medicine to engineering and automotive. For instance, the survey showed that 74% of healthcare professionals are lowering mortality rates and improving diagnostics thanks to 3D printing – a graduate looking for a job in the medical field who has 3D printing experience is probably more likely to get hired than a graduate without these skills.

“Rising tuition fees across much of Europe have had a fundamental impact on the role of educational institutions,” Mills said. “Encouraged to act more like ‘service providers’, universities and colleges must continually raise the bar in both student satisfaction and accessibility. Responding to this by using print in new ways to offer increasingly diverse courses and tailored syllabus content is fast becoming essential.”

In the last few years, the student population in Europe has increased by more than 10%, and due to demographic and technological changes, the need for different types of education is growing continuously.

“As we work for longer and pursue different careers over that time, more of us will become ‘life-long learners’, perhaps returning to study several times during our lives. With the rise of online learning, we can increasingly study from our homes or workplaces, rather than spending years at a traditional campus,” the survey states.

“All of this means that the traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of university education simply isn’t suitable any more. Higher education establishments need to provide a more personalised approach to their students, with tailored content that reflects their individual circumstances and requirements.”

65% of the survey respondents said that 3D printing is, as Ricoh puts it, “an increasingly important component of STEM-based learning,” which is definitely observable.

In order to get their students on the right track early, 84% of educational facilities have already invested, or are planning to invest, in what are referred to as Maker Education practices over the next two years. The practices in this educational movement incorporate 3D printing so students can support their learning by constructing and personalizing their own prints.

Many institutions are working to appeal to prospective students from all ages and backgrounds by offering flexible learning options and more tailored courses, and adding 3D printing. 66% of the survey respondents agreed that one of the best ways to attract new students and improve student satisfaction is by investing in the technology. 48% are making it easier to access course content and resources with personalized syllabus materials, while 43% offer students flexible, on-demand 3D printing from any location.

Now that it’s completed this survey, Ricoh, which operates in about 200 countries and regions, is beginning to work on expanding its own 3D printing horizons by setting things up for a multi-year growth strategy that plans on creating new use cases for 3D printing, among other goals.

“We have put together a three year journey and growth strategy specifically on commercial and industrial printing and printing on more than paper. We have to do a better job to articulate our IT network and support capabilities too,” said Joji Tokunaga, the President and CEO of Ricoh America.

Tokunaga also said that manufacturing is “a key area” and that the company plans to invest in 3D printing; mergers and acquisitions will most likely occur as part of the plan.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 


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