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

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Scientists develop new method to 3D print tools using Martian, lunar dust

By: PTI | Washington | Published:April 14, 2017 7:20 pm

Researchers from the Northwestern University in the US have demonstrated the ability to 3D-print structures with simulants of Martian and lunar dust. (NorthWestern University)

Scientists have developed a new 3D-printing technique that can be used to create everything from small tools to large buildings with dust from the Moon or Mars, an advance that could enable humans to build colonies on extraterrestrial bodies with limited surrounding resources.

Researchers from the Northwestern University in the US have demonstrated the ability to 3D-print structures with simulants of Martian and lunar dust.The research uses an extension of their “3D-painting process,” which they previously employed to print hyperelastic “bone”, graphene and carbon nanotubes, and metals and alloys.

“For places like other planets and moons, where resources are limited, people would need to use what is available on that planet in order to live,” said Ramille Shah, assistant professor at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “Our 3D paints really open up the ability to print different functional or structural objects to make habitats beyond Earth,” Shah said.

Also Read:  Scientists create new beating 3D heart tissue which is stuck together with glue

Researchers used NASA-approved lunar and Martian dust simulants, which have similar compositions, particle shapes, and sizes to the dusts found on lunar and Martian surfaces.They created the lunar and Martian 3D paints using the respective dusts, a series of simple solvents, and biopolymer, then 3D printed them with a simple extrusion process. The resulting structures are over 90 percent dust by weight.

Despite being made of rigid micro-rocks, the resulting 3D-painted material is flexible, elastic and tough – similar to rubber. This is the first example of rubber-like or soft materials resulting from lunar and Martian simulant materials. The material can be cut, rolled, folded, and otherwise shaped after being 3D painted, if desired.

Also Read:  3D printed ‘laugh star’ becomes first major sculpture made in space

“We even 3D-printed interlocking bricks, similar to Legos, that can be used as building blocks,” Shah said. Researchers are working on optimising ways to fire these 3D-painted structures in a furnace, which is an optional process that can transform the soft, rubbery objects into hard, ceramic-like structures.In the context of the broader 3D-painting technology, this work highlights the potential to use a single 3D printer on another planet to create structures from all kinds of materials, researchers said.

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