For Ricoh, Agility is the Key to Future Inkjet Growth

Graham Kennedy, Ricoh Europe

Graham Kennedy, Ricoh Europe

In recent years Ricoh has burst onto the Industrial scene launching high-quality Inkjet print machinery displaying technical expertise, quality products and impressive speed to market. As a result, Ricoh has rapidly become a rising star in wide format, décor and DTG sectors. Ahead of FESPA, we caught up with Graham Kennedy, Head of Commercial Inkjet Business, Ricoh Europe and asked him some questions about Ricoh, their products and their vision for Inkjet’s future in wide format and beyond.

Graham, Ricoh has become a key player really quickly, explain how this came about?

Ricoh is committed to innovation. We have always been a leader in inkjet head technology with our industrial Inkjet heads which have been hugely successful in wide format and textile markets amongst others.  As our existing customers in commercial print looked for new application possibilities it was a natural choice for us to use that core technology into creating a portfolio of our own.

Our portfolio in wide format, UV flatbed, and DTG demonstrates how we can innovate and bring to market new technology that performs new roles in the market, sometimes disrupting but ultimately adding value and new possibilities for print service providers of varying types; the Ri100 is a great example of market disruption as it creates a new entry-level category, breaking the barriers to entry for DTG.

Additionally, the recently launched flatbed Pro TF6250 offers display or decor printers the option to print onto an array of surfaces including wood, metal, and glass as well as standard sign and display materials such as Forex, Dibond and acrylic boards.

To enable this, we give the option of two UV ink sets. Pro TF6250 users will be able to choose an ink type designed to assure high colour gamut for the sign and graphics market or an ink type with high adhesion ideal for industrial applications.

This demonstrates how we develop products that perform unique roles in the market.

Ricoh also produces customised industrial printing technology for individual companies, how does this work?

Perhaps what many people do not realise is that Ricoh is even more than a supplier of Inkjet components or standardised printing hardware. In a fragmented development supply chain we want developers to understand that they can come to us as a single source supplier, or a one-stop-shop if you like, to partner in developing digital print engines that serve a very specific purpose in manufacturing sectors such as décor, packaging and many other sectors. What is key is that by doing so we can accelerate the time to market and importantly de-risk their development cycles.

With a modular approach, Ricoh can develop Inkjet solutions quickly as we have the expertise, competence, resource, the core technology, and manufacturing capacity to deliver. Our customers really like this fact as speed is of the essence and by working with Ricoh they don’t have to work with multiple suppliers. Ricoh has all the elements they need from a single partner.

So Ricoh can provide a complete Inkjet solution quickly?

Yes, at one end we could start as simple as supplying a print head as a component and at the other delivering a completed printer, but in between, we can be involved in the development as much or as little as is required.  This could involve ink development, software, process development, and engineering meaning that a development partner can use our blend of expertise, technology, and experience to suit their individual needs.

We already work with a number of customers with projects in a wide array of different markets. We do this at our European Customer Experience and Development Centre in Telford, UK which is developing Inkjet machinery and technology in diverse applications from 3D, to Biomedical through to decor and textiles.

Could you provide an example?

A current project we have running is with a leader in wood décor, Hymmen who manufacture printing machinery for laminate wood flooring. The need was for a new Inkjet production process as their customers wanted a water-based solution. Here, a combination of market and technical expertise from Hymmen combined with technical expertise, process development and resource from Ricoh has enabled the first MH5421MF  (Gen 5 with flowthrough)  based system to be developed. The new Saturn platform will offer new performance attributes previously not possible so we are both excited about its potential when it is officially launched into the market in around 1 year from now.

So your new inkjet head, the Gen 6 will be launched in Europe next week?

Yes, it will be. The Gen 6 is an exciting development because of its enhanced performance characteristics. It will enable higher jetting accuracy, higher productivity and higher tolerance to aqueous inks, which continue to drive many new developments across many vertical sectors.

In previous surveys we have conducted, available ink chemistry is always the single biggest challenge for inkjet into new markets, would you agree with this?

Yes of course. Ink chemistry isn’t easy to get right when a new market opportunity is presented and it should always be the starting point of any project, whether that’s internal at Ricoh where we develop ink tuned specifically to our head technology, or in the OEM community where we test our partner inks to ensure strong compatibility to provide higher confidence in the go-to-market.

Anything else that is new from Ricoh?

There will be other new printheads besides MH5320 (Gen6), both based on thin film technology – this is very exciting for the future.  We’ll also be demonstrating some of the print bar technology used in our partner developments, which can hopefully open up some new and exciting partner project opportunities.

So to conclude, at FESPA, we will be able to see Ricoh Europe’s key products relevant for display and textile?

This is our fourth FESPA and each year our stand gets bigger and bigger to make room for our expanding portfolio. The latest additions have been developed to ensure they have the functionality, quality, and capability to match clients’ developing needs. We are also excited to show how the latest technologies enhance and complement each other. In turn, they allow our clients to investigate new markets and pursue new ventures, confident they can deliver and safe in the knowledge that Ricoh’s expertise is on hand if required.

For further information on Ricoh’s latest news check out this link