Ricoh boosts productivity by replacing metal tools with 3D-printed lightweight tools

Japanese office automation equipment manufacturer Ricoh Industries is replacing traditional metal tooling with customized, lightweight 3D printed jigs and fixtures for its Production Technology Center assembly line – improving manufacturing efficiency while minimizing manual tooling errors. The assembly line, located in Miyagi prefecture in northeastern Japan, is dedicated to manufacturing large-format 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)
Ricoh’s 3D printed jigs and fixtures boost assembly line productivity. These manufacturing aids were produced on the Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer using ABS plastic (Photo: Ricoh)

By producing the tools in durable acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) thermoplastic resin on a 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 different part types each day.

Ricoh develops and manufactures high quality office equipment such as copiers, fax machines and projectors. 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. This leaves the workers more time to attend to other stations. Moreover, 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 all the tools. The jigs and fixtures are also 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 ABS 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

Crafty/Mighty 14mm 3D-Printed Adapter

NamasteVapes have produced this awesome 14mm adapter which is compatible with both the Crafty and the Mighty.

Now you can use the two best portable vaporizers in the world with any standard 14mm ground glass products. When you order this part you will actually receive an adapter which was created on a 3D printer.

Please note that any parts created on the printer require support structures which hold the part in place while suspended on the printer’s build platform. Therefore, you may see some small imperfections or structure marks on the adapter which are natural and are what make this piece so unique.

Each adapter has the structures clipped and hand sanded to finish once the print is complete.

Please Note: This adapter is made from a hard cured resin safe and non toxic for this application.

1 x Crafty / Mighty 14mm 3D Printer Adapter (Water Tool Sold Separately)

Product Features

  • Compatible with both the Crafty and the Mighty Vapes
  • Stunning original 3D printed part!
  • You can use the two best portable vaporizers in the world with any standard 14mm ground glass products
  • For aromatherapy use only – no nicotine included

Visit The Website For More Information…

Australian scientists create 3D-printed brain-like tissue from stem cells

Australian scientists have used a 3D printer to create nerve cells found in the brain using a special bio-ink made from stem cells.

Key points 3D brain tissue

Key points:

  • Stem cells from adult cells used to make “bio-ink”
  • Bio-ink printed into 3D scaffold and then stem cells turned into nerve cells found in the brain
  • Process could be used in the future to make replacement brain tissue from patient’s own skin cells

The research takes us a step closer to making replacement brain tissue derived from a patient’s own skin or blood cells to help treat conditions such as brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and schizophrenia.

The bio-ink is made of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which have the same power as embryonic stem cells to turn into any cell in the body, and possibly form replacement body tissues and even whole organs.

Jeremy Crook, who led the research, said the ability to customise brain tissue from a person’s own body tissue was better for transplantation.

“That circumvents issues of immune rejection, which is common in organ transplantation,” said Dr Crook, from the University of Wollongong and ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science.

Correcting chemical imbalances

Dr Crook said many neuropsychiatric disorders result from an imbalance of key chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are produced by specific nerve cells in the brain.

For example, he said, defective serotonin and GABA-producing nerve cells are implicated in schizophrenia and epilepsy while defective dopamine-producing cells are implicated in Parkinson’s disease.

The team used 3D printing to make neurones involved in producing GABA and serotonin, as well as support cells called neuroglia, they reported in the journal Advanced Healthcare Material.

In the future, they plan to print neurones that produce dopamine.

“That’s absolutely achievable.”

To make the neurones, Dr Crook and colleagues used their bio-ink to print layers of a hatched pattern to create a 5 millimetre-sized cube.

They then “crosslinked” the cube into a firm jelly-like substance.

Growth factors and nutrients were then fed into the holes of this spongey “scaffold”, encouraging the stem cells to grow and turn into neurons and support cells, linking up to form tissue.

Waste was also removed via the holes in the scaffold.

Dr Crook said once scaled up, blood vessels would be needed, but small transplants could be theoretically possible using the tissue developed so far.

Impressive but risky too

Tissue engineer Makoto Nakamura from Toyama University in Japan said the study was “very impressive”.

“This article indicates the good feasibility of 3D bioprinting with human iPS cells to engineer neural tissues,” said Professor Nakamura, who recently wrote an overview on the use of 3D bioprinting in the journal Tissue Engineering.

But he said there were also risks with the technology.

One of the challenges of using iPSCs is that, like embryonic stem cells, they have the potential to develop into teratomas — disturbing looking tumours that contain more than one type of tissue type (think toenails growing in brain tissue, or teeth growing in ovary tissue).

According to Professor Nakamura, it would be important to ensure all the stem cells had turned into nerve cells in the final transplanted material.

“Undesired tissue may grow if even only one immature [stem] cell contaminates [the tissue to be transplanted],” he said.

Dr Crook said the team was currently carrying out animal experiments to test if teratomas developed from the 3D printed nerve cells.

3D brains?

While this is a first step towards 3D printing of whole organs, Dr Crook said a whole functioning brain would be a much more complex task.

“That’s a whole different scale. The tissue we print is uniform, and not made up of different regions like a brain,” said Dr Crook.

Still, it is a goal the researchers are heading towards.

Apart from providing customised transplants, 3D printed tissue could be useful for medical research.

For example, tissue from a patient with epilepsy or schizophrenia could be created, specifically to study their particular version of the condition.

“You can compare how neuronal networks form differently compared to healthy patient,” said Dr Crook.

And the tissue could also be used to screen for effective drugs or electrical stimulation treatments.

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3D-printed artificial heart beats just like the real thing

The devices currently used to pump blood around the body in lieu of a healthy heart have their drawbacks. Whether huge washing machine-sized devices that keep patients anchored to a hospital bed or mechanical implants that cause other complications, there is plenty of room for improvement. With this in mind, scientists have now developed a soft silicone heart that beats much like the real thing, and could provide a safer and more comfortable way to keep the blood pumping.

Artificial hearts and other devices designed to keep blood flowing typically take the place of damaged heart, while the patient awaits a donor organ or for their own heart to recover. There is a great need for new devices in this area, as on any given day, around 3,000 people in the US alone sit on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

So scientists are continually looking for ways to develop new solutions and improve existing pumps, something that includes searching for more biocompatible materials to use, such as malleable foams. This led scientists at ETH Zurich to create an artificial heart out of silicone that is designed to mimic the natural heart as closely as possible.

It is around the same size as a human heart, weighs 390 g (0.85 lb) and was created using 3D printing and a lost-wax casting technique. Just like the real thing, it has a right and left ventricle, which is separated by a chamber that serves as the organ’s muscle. As the chamber is inflated and deflate by pressurized air, it pumps the fluid from the chambers.

In testing the device, the researchers used a fluid with similar viscosity to human blood and found that fundamentally, it functioned in a similar way to a human heart. There is one pretty serious limitation, however, in that the material can only withstand around 3,000 beats which equates to around 30 to 45 minutes of usage. With that said, the team says this proof of concept shows a possible path forward when it comes to artificial hearts.

“This was simply a feasibility test,” says Nicholas Cohrs, a doctoral student at ETH Zurich and member of the research team. “Our goal was not to present a heart ready for implantation, but to think about a new direction for the development of artificial hearts.”

The video below shows the artificial heart in action, while the research was published in the journal Artificial Organs.

Source: ETH Zurich

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