Why Ricoh is 3D Printing Historically Metal Jigs & Fixtures


Ricoh is known for developing and manufacturing office equipment, and chances are you have a Ricoh copier or fax machine in your office, that is, if you still have a fax machine or even an office nowadays. The electronics industry, and office equipment, in particular, is a competitive landscape, and companies are always looking for ways to accelerate time-to-market while keeping costs down.

It appears as if Ricoh has found a pathway to substantial time savings. The company recently turned to 3D printing to replace metal tooling. Previously, the company had outsourced the fabrication of their metal tooling, and the parts averaged a two-week lead time. Ricoh brought in a Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer to take over the work, and now it creates customized jigs and fixtures in about a day.

The fixtures are printed using an antistatic ABS plastic, and they're used on the company's Production Technology Center assembly line, which assembles electronic components for the company's large-format printers.

By 3D printing the tools, Ricoh has completely modernized its manufacturing process. Prior to the purchase, the company would spend a lot of time manually looking for the correct jigs and fixtures. This became increasingly difficult as the number of components in each large-format printer grew, and it was a point of frustration for the operators. Now, instead of searching for jigs and fixtures, Ricoh is 3D printing them on demand.

As an added benefit, the 3D printed fixtures are also lighter, and Ricoh noticed that employees have been able to use them for a prolonged period without fatiguing. Now that Ricoh has bought into digital manufacturing, the company is looking for other parts of the business where 3D printing can cut more time out of the process, particularly in the areas of molding and low-volume production.

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