A long-awaited change is happening in the imaging industry, as 2D printer manufacturers as well as camera manufacturers are hedging the bets at the dawn of the digital age. Among the latest holdouts, Seiko Epson Corporation (TSE: 6724, “Epson”) introduced its first 3D printer.
Although the company didn’t name the system, Epson said the printer relies on a flat screw, like those found in the company’s injection molding machines, to extrude third-party materials. This includes resin and metal pellets. Epson says that “the amount of injected material is precisely controlled by regulating the pressure inside the head and by regulating the action of a valve in concert with the modeling speed. The surface temperature of a part being printed must also be controlled in order to achieve the required resistance. Epson uses a unique mechanism to precisely control this temperature and achieve both strength and precision.
Epson claims the technology is capable of producing “strong and precise industrial parts”. The company aims at the production of final parts and mass customization in the production of small batches. The printer is being improved as Epson itself uses the technology in-house to 3D print commercial and industrial equipment parts in volume. Beyond industrial 3D printers like this, Epson aims to work with partners to create high-throughput production machines that “reduce environmental impacts”.
A number of others in the imaging sector have gradually moved into 3D printing, with HP obviously investing the most with its Multi Jet Fusion and Metal Jet ranges. Canon and Konica Minolta have long partnered with 3D Systems to sell its products. Canon in particular has explored the development of at least one 3D printer. More recently, Konica Minolta started selling 3D printing services with Markforged technology in Australia.
Mimaki has moved from industrial 2D printing to inkjet 3D printing. Ricoh is expanding its AM business, offering 3D printing services for medical and industrial applications. Sindoh, formerly a partner of Ricoh, has developed a variety of 3D printers, including a selective laser sintering machine and a composite extrusion system. Xerox had been in trouble for some time, selling its stake in Fuji Xerox to Fujifilm. Today, however, its metal 3D printing technology could reinvigorate the legendary company.
Outside of 2D printing is imaging company Nikon, whose market share for cameras has been steadily eaten away by digital photography as smartphone cameras improve. Nikon entered the 3D printing market with the acquisition of 3D printing services bureau Morf3D.
Although the news was made quietly, it is a big step for one of the world’s largest manufacturers of computer printers and imaging equipment. It may not be as big as HP, but it generated $9.5 billion in revenue in 2019. As we move from print to digital, these companies are shifting their resources to higher growth areas. profitable.
For Epson, this decision lasted at least seven years, as the company announced its intention to develop mass production 3D printing technology in 2015. What is more interesting is that it wants to partner to another company to develop high throughput production technology. . Perhaps, as editor Joris Peels suggested in our Dream Mergers and Acquisitions series, a printing company like Canon (or Epson) could pick up the mass-production-oriented Evolve Additive. If anyone is at the International Robot Exhibition 2022 in Tokyo Big Sight this week, they can visit Epson in person and ask these questions.
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