With less than a week to go until formnext powered by TCT makes its debut in Frankfurt, leading names in the additive manufacturing and tool making industry are gearing up to unveil their brand new technologies and innovations to the world.
One of those companies is established imaging and electronics company, Ricoh set to launch its first branded industrial 3D printer, the RICOH AM S5500P, next week.
Designed in collaboration with Aspect, the RICOH AM S5500P is capable of producing high-definition, durable parts. Boasting a large build area of 550 mm (W) × 550 mm (D) × 500 mm (H), the machine can produce large parts or different kinds of parts in a single build.
TCT caught up with Peter Williams, Executive Vice President at Ricoh Europe ahead of the launch to find out about the new selective laser sintering machine and where it fits in to this ever expanding manufacturing landscape.
Ricoh 3D printer
Hi Peter - why has Ricoh decided now is the time to launch into the 3D printing market with its own machine?
Ricoh was an early entrant to additive manufacturing, initially as a supplier of inkjet technology to the industry and more recently with a broad range of hardware and AM-adjacent services including application consulting, material science and rapid prototyping through Ricoh Rapid Fab. In addition, Ricoh has two decades experience of using 3D CAD technologies in its product design processes. The launch of the Ricoh AM S5500P is the next stage of Ricoh applying its vast experience and knowledge to accelerate innovation directly with its manufacturing customers.
What does this new machine bring to the industry? Is there a gap it aims to fill?
Ricoh AM S5500P is on par with the best hardware in the market in terms of speed and quality – it is market leading in terms of the provision of PA6 and PP materials
In addition to market-leading hardware, Ricoh also provides the most comprehensive end-to-end support for organisations that want to explore what AM can do for their business and how to extend the value of their investment in it. These services include design and application/engineering services, rapid prototyping, material science expertise, AM manufacturing capabilities, finishing services and after-sales support
Can you tell us about which industries you believe will benefit most from this new machine?
SLS technology and PA6 and PP materials are well suited to a broad range of manufacturing processes, including those in the automotive and aerospace industries; so manufacturers and service bureaus in these sectors will be a key market for Ricoh AM S5500P. Ricoh also offers a wide range of additive manufacturing technologies and services that would be appropriate for use in a number of other sectors, such as education and medical, among others.
Last year, Ricoh announced the launch of its AM Business - what developments can we expect to see from that?
There have been several significant developments in Ricoh’s AM business since we initially announced it last year. Since 2014 Ricoh has opened three Rapid Fab centres – two in Japan and one in Europe – to offer production capabilities and consultancy to manufacturing customers looking to explore the possibilities of additive manufacturing. In early 2015, we announced a partnership with Leapfrog 3D Printers that has seen Ricoh become an official reseller of the award-winning Leapfrog Creatr HS 3D printer and other models in Europe.
Ricoh’s ambition is to clearly demonstrate the value that we can bring to the AM market through our experience and expertise. In the long term, our ambition is to use our unique combination of products, services and partnerships to become a key player in AM and the partner of choice to manufacturers in this space.
Back in January, Ricoh became an official reseller for Leapfrog - will the consumer, desktop market still remain a focus alongside this more industrial approach?
Ricoh is constantly evolving its hardware and services portfolio to suit the needs of its customers and the market as a whole. The application space for products such as the Leapfrog range are, of course, markedly different than those of a large-scale machine such as Ricoh AM S5500P but there is room in the market for both. For instance, we have seen significant interest from sectors such as Education for the type of capability a Leapfrog device can offer and we work with many customers in this space accordingly. With the Ricoh AM S550P, and our broad ranges of services and support, we are looking to extend the industrial applications that additive manufacturing can enable.
Where do you think we will see key growth areas in the 3D printing industry in the next few years?
The market for AM originated primarily from a need for rapid prototyping – today we see the need evolving towards functional prototyping, rapid tooling and flexible manufacturing models; as well as a need for guidance in designing and materials for additive manufacturing.
There is also a distinct separation between the needs of the low end, desktop 3D printing market and those of high end, large scale production. As manufacturers start to embrace the possibilities that can be enabled by enhanced materials (both plastics and metals), AM-specific design and flexible production runs, the variety of technologies developed for and used in additive manufacturing grow. This, in turn, drives further uptake of new ideas, methods and opportunities for the industry.
Visitors to formnext can find out more about the machine on stand D20. formnext will take place on 17th-20th November 2015 in Hall 3, Frankfurt am Main. Register for your free ticket.