3D Printers

Ricoh Formally Makes the Jump to 3D Printing — aaS, For Now

Amid speculation of when and how the big imaging companies will fully embrace 3D printing, the Japan based Ricoh Company has just announced the launch of an additive manufacturing business centered on 3D printers. It is not entirely clear how much proprietary technology is involved in this announcement, but it looks like there is some.

Ricoh’s announcement indicates that this new business is primarily focused on providing a service — directly to manufacturing customers — as well as providing consulting services to these customers using first-hand knowledge and experience of its 3D printing technologies. The service will be supplied via two new ‘RICOH Rapid Fab’ facilities in Yokohama and Atsugi, Kanagawa prefecture and initially, sales will be focused on the Japanese market through Ricoh Japan Corporation. However the company is also clearly signaling plans to roll the service out globally.

There are no specifics on the technology held in-house by the company, or how much of it is proprietary, rather the company reports that it: “has a number of technologies in prototyping and molding, in addition to its accumulated experience utilizing 3D printers for its product design over the past 20 years.” So it is clear that Ricoh is fully intending to apply its own considerable knowledge of using 3D printers for the benefit of its clients with the RICOH Rapid Fabs. These facilities have been established to research and develop manufacturing innovations using 3D printers, primarily for design and manufacturing businesses. Customers are also invited to use the Rapid Fab(s) as a showroom to experience 3D printing products, and also take advantage of the 3D printer output service using their own data.

However, where it gets a little more interesting is with this statement from the company: “There are a number of 3D printing methods, including inkjet, material extrusion, and laser sintering. Ricoh has its own technologies related to inkjet, materials, and powders, which are necessary elements to produce these outputs. In particular, Ricoh directly sells inkjet heads utilizing laminated piezoelectric technology to industrial customers worldwide, which are widely used for paper printing and a variety of media, including signage, graphics, and three-dimensional fabrication. Ricoh will continue its research and development, leveraging its experience and technologies, while also consider in-house production and sales of 3D printers.”

It’s still fuzzy, potentially buzz generating rhetoric, but it does point to the company exploring how to move forward with 3D printing within its vast operations.

The RICOH Rapid Fab in Shin-Yokohama opened on September 8 and the Fab in Atsugi will be opened later this month and will be within Ricoh’s Atsugi plant also in Kanagawa prefecture.