Ricoh Using 3D Printing to Make 2D Printers

Assembling an electronic component using a 3D printed fixture produced in anti-static ABS plastic on the Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer improves manufacturing efficiency (Photo: Ricoh)

As far as we know, only HP Inc. is actually using 3D printers to make printers (its HP MultiJet Fusion 3D printers), but Ricoh of Japan reports that it’s using 3D printing to make its 2D large-format printers, courtesy of 3D printer-maker Stratasys.

Using customized and lightweight jigs and fixtures 3D printed in one day, compared to two weeks for outsourced metal tools, Ricoh says it’s making its large-format printers faster.

According to Stratasys, Ricoh Japan is replacing its traditional metal tooling with customized, lightweight 3D printed jigs and fixtures for its large-format printer assembly line, improving manufacturing efficiency while minimizing manual tooling errors. The assembly line, located in the northeast branch of Ricoh Industries in the Miyagi prefecture, Japan, is dedicated to manufacturing large-format printers.

The firm states that by producing the tools in durable ABS thermoplastic on its Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer, Ricoh is able to customize each tool precisely according to the part geometry, while reducing the tool’s weight. This has enabled Ricoh to accelerate the manufacturing process in which an operator typically handles more than 200 parts each day.

The competitive nature of the electronics industry led the company to look for new ways to accelerate product launches while maintaining or lowering its production costs.

“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.”

Prior to 3D printing, Ricoh had to outsource machine-cut tools, which could take two weeks or more. Now, Ricoh’s operators can determine the shape and geometry of a fixture that corresponds to its associated part through 3D CAD software and 3D-print it in one day. New hires can now adapt to the tools and the workstations in two days, when previously a new worker had to spend at least one week to learn how all of the tools are used. The jigs and fixtures are also said to be much lighter, so that workers can use them for a prolonged period of time without fatigue.

“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. 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,” explained Sakaki.

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