Sep 12, 2017 | By David

3D printing giant Stratasys’ influence on the manufacturing world is continuing to grow, as it provides a broad range of impressive additive solutions tailor-made for companies in a huge variety of sectors. The latest company to take advantage of its groundbreaking work is office electronics manufacturer Ricoh. The Japanese multinational is now using Stratasys 3D printing systems to produce custom jigs and fixtures for its Production Technology Center assembly line. This new approach to its production line has succeeding in improving Ricoh’s manufacturing efficiency as well as minimizing assembly errors.

Headquartered in Tokyo, Ricoh Industries has a major assembly line in its northeastern branch in Miyagi Prefecture dedicated to manufacturing its range of large-format printers. Photocopiers, fax machines and projectors are also part of the company’s portfolio of products, competing in an increasingly difficult traditional electronics marketplace. Ricoh was thus motivated to apply new innovations like 3D printing technology in order to give it an edge, and took the bold step of replacing all its machine tooled assembly line jigs and fixtures with 3D printed equivalents.

According to Taizo Sakaki, Senior Manager of Business Development at Ricoh Group, “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... 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.”

3D printing technology enabled the company to produce components that were customized according to the exact geometry required for particular assembly tasks, made directly from a digital 3D design that corresponded to the printer part. This means that manual errors made by operators, who typically handle 200 individual parts in one day, will be significantly reduced due to improved precision. New employees can also get to grips with the customized, highly task-specific components in a couple of days, as opposed to a week learning the older machined jigs and fixtures. The company is also able to make the parts to order and get them printed within a day, as opposed to outsourcing their production and waiting up to two weeks.

The new 3D printed parts are also much less heavy than the ones previously machine cut. More lightweight parts mean that their operation is much easier for the manual assembly line workers to cope with physically. Making their everyday tasks less strenuous in this way also drastically improves efficiency. The jigs and fixtures are made from a durable ABS thermoplastic material, and are printed on the Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer.

“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. Stratasys has an entire 3D printing ecosystem available to manufacturers like Ricoh, looking to exploit the potential of 3D printing as much as possible in order to expedite its workflows and more effectively manage its resources.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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