Since 1936, Ricoh keeps telling its customers: “Imagine. Change.”, an advice that the Japanese manufacturer thoroughly follows over the years and that has led to his entrance into the additive manufacturing industry. However, the overarching message during this year’s Formnext edition is: “We’ll take you there”.
For Ricoh, it is about taking the customers to what they need – a thoughtful approach that reflects how AM is sill a growing sector and how many potential adopters might find themselves overwhelmed by the technology, or might doubt of its actual potential.
First of all, Ricoh can perhaps operate in several countries, but the company keeps in its DNA a Japanese culture that might be reflected, sometimes in the way they are doing business. Indeed, those who have a little experience with this country, will know that “discretion” & “discipline” are part of their DNA. This cultural trait might explain the relatively “quiet” journey of the company in the additive manufacturing industry.
“This is not our first time at Formnext”, Doris Laurent recalls. “We wanted and needed to gain enough experience before highlighting our developments. A simple presence on such an event enabled professionals to know that we exist. However, today, we are proud to show the industry how much we have evolved, what we have done during the past five years – since our entrance into the AM market -, and where we can take customers”, continues Laurent.
We agree with Laurent on this point: it makes no sense to speak about an expertise you don’t have yet. However, a quick snap at Ricoh’s booth at Formnext shows they are ready to take customers to their next stage in the additive manufacturing industry:
While she walked us through their innovations and developments, we discovered a technology showcase displaying a 3D Printer that is making use of some of RICOH’s core competencies being its ink head technology and material science expertise. The showcased 3D Printer, which will not be commercialized is solely being used to support RICOH’s internal development activities for the wide array of products the company is manufacturing“
Furthermore, through the various 3D printed parts displayed, we noticed the company’s strong ability to produce additive manufacturing materials, viable prototypes and end-use parts. At 3D Print Lyon, Kris Verelst, Engineer & Consultant for Ricoh AM Business – Benelux & France, had already showed us a few applications of the polypropylene (PP) material. At Formnext, the AM Sales Manager takes us to a second technology showcase where the company is displaying metal objects printed in Aluminum (Al), Titanium (Ti) and Stainless Steel (SS). The innovation here relates to a special coating technique, originating from our 2D printing expertise, that eliminates the risk for explosion when handling metal powders.
“ The showcased parts reveal some of RICOH’s internal activities. Innovation which is taking place behind closed doors at RICOH’s Technology Development Center in Ebina (JPN) . Noteworthy to mention is that the experience acquired here enables us to perfectly meet the needs of our customers through our Rapid Fab 3D printing services”, explains Laurent.
Moreover, in this additive manufacturing journey, the company also surrounds itself with partners that can help them deliver breakthrough solutions to the industry. The recent collaboration announced with TIGER illustrates such a type of partnerships.
RICOH and TIGER join forces to develop new applications based on SLS Technology
Known for its coating solutions - powder coating and digital inks designed for industrial printing systems -, TIGER also develops and commercializes material solutions for additive manufacturing.
The partnership with RICOH consists in a combination of TIGER’s TIGITAL Inks and Drylac® & Wetlac® surface coatings, with Ricoh’s hardware expertise to deliver an end-to-end Additive Manufacturing (AM) service.
Classified as “thermoset materials”, TIGER’s products remain in a permanent solid state. This means that they deliver good isotropic performance to parts. They are ideal for the production of flame-retardant components, in other terms, parts that are used in an environment where there is a danger of flammability. In a nutshell, the main advantages of 3D printed parts produced with these materials include exceptional mechanical, thermal, electrical and chemical properties at an economic cost.
This collaboration will certainly be of a great benefit for manufacturers that would like to develop functional and spare parts in the electrical, rail, automotive and aerospace industries.
Lastly, both partners will go one step further in their partnership by conducting a series of 3D workshops in 2020 for beginners and advanced AM users. The workshops will address the challenges encountered in AM, with a key focus on thermosets – from design and machine competence; to material processing, coating and digital print.
More than just “signs”, Ricoh is showing that they are ready to take [us] there - [to the industrialization of AM]-. The company is emerging from its silent period with tangible expertise and actions to foster the adoption of additive manufacturing. They are now fully part of this race for the “AM Industrialization”, and they will certainly not have the last place in the rankings.
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